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How Leaders Can Build an Autonomous Work Environment

Jane Frankel

IN HIS BOOK Thank You for Being Late, author and award-winning journalist Tom Friedman argues that to understand the twenty-first century, you must realize that “the planet’s three largest forces”—technology, globalization, and climate change—are accelerating all at once.

As a business leader, you already get that. But, at the same time, you need to navigate other realities, too—like, for starters, figuring out your own goals and understanding and performing well in your job.

Not to mention that the pandemic caused unprecedented distress among workers. Being displaced from their physical work environments, missing their colleagues socially and collaboratively, and losing much of their managers’ usual support, they became increasingly disengaged. They also grew unsure of how to take control of their purpose at work—and in life.

Today, however, workers have no choice other than to rise to the occasion: to do their jobs well, to make good and relevant decisions, and to clearly contribute to their organization’s mission and success. And to do all that and more autonomously.

But, as reiterated by recent research by Boston Consulting Group, workers first need agency and control—the tenets of autonomy. And, importantly, agency and control require what I call the three selfs: self-confidence, self-accountability, and self-sufficiency. And those selfs must be built and nurtured to take hold.

Leaders Must Rise to the Occasion, Too

As a leader, your role in creating an autonomous work environment cannot be overstated. You alone have the power to build and nurture workers’ three selfs, and to foster their agency and control.

Moreover, to be autonomous in their work, people need to really feel your trust as their leader. And that, in turn, can help them become more and more invested in their own growth and contributions.

To get started, here are seven ways to create an autonomous work environment.

1. Reinforce an autonomous narrative. Share your organization’s mindset and narrative around autonomy. Be sure to include current goals for workers’ performance and the ways in which they’re trusted and free to go about doing their jobs.

2. Keep people fully informed. Communicate all relevant information to employees, partners, and other stakeholders on a regular, if not real-time, basis.

3. Have a digital nervous system. Supply workers with a framework of fundamental data and information for analysis in areas such as organizational strategy, industry trends and events, and potential revenue opportunities.

4. Create a project structure. Foster a learning orientation, including an ongoing analysis of prior projects, workflows, and results and outcomes.

5. Recognize and reward value creation. Spotlight key creators and contributors, sharing exactly how they’re adding value to the enterprise.

6. Hold regular reflection sessions. Help people reflect on new business ideas and ways of working, always reinforcing opportunities for intrapreneuring.

7. Balance independence with dependence. Tap into a variety of management theories to emphasize the importance of both working independently and collaborating with others to benefit from their unique expertise and contributions.

In closing, as a business leader today, it’s an imperative to create an autonomous work environment. Amid accelerating change, your people need agency and control—imbued by the three selfs—in order to work autonomously, to uncover new opportunities to add value, and to grow and thrive in the 21st-century workplace.

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Leading Forum
Jane Frankel is the managing principal of The Art of Performance LLC, an innovation and workforce consultancy, and an adjunct professor in economics at Temple University. She is the author of The Intentional Mindset: Data, Decisions, and Your Destiny (Business Expert Press). To learn more, visit artofperformance.net.

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Culture is the Way Culture Rules

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:54 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Overcoming Feedback Apprehension: Dos and Don’ts of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Overcoming Feedback Apprehension

FEEDBACK — often described as a cornerstone of growth — possesses the potential to really inform and shape our professional and personal growth. When we’re open to receiving it and thoughtful in providing it to others, feedback can be very powerful while deepening and enriching relationships overall.

So why do so many shy away from asking for or giving feedback? Because being vulnerable and open to what others have to say can be scary. And, if we’re unsure how to provide constructive feedback thoughtfully to others, fear of their reactions will hold us back for sure.

Regardless of how you feel, getting input from others and providing it is important, so here are some ways to make it a little easier.

The Power of Constructive Feedback

A key misconception about constructive feedback is that it’s a critique. It should not be at all; advice like this should bring about thoughtful and productive dialogue. When in a trusted or safe environment, conversations of this nature can serve as a mirror, reflecting our actions, choices, and behaviors, and helping us to see ourselves more clearly.

This mirrored reflection, although sometimes uncomfortable, opens avenues for discussion and a supportive environment for improvement. These conversations can guide us toward more effective approaches to things and innovative solutions.

Additionally, the impact of constructive feedback extends beyond individual development. In the realm of teamwork and collaboration, this form of feedback becomes a bridge that connects individuals, fostering open communication and shared understanding. When offered in the spirit of improvement and shared success, constructive feedback cultivates an environment where team members feel valued, respected, and motivated to contribute their best.

Providing Effective Feedback

Giving team members feedback requires sensitivity, finesse, and purpose. When providing someone with information that could be taken as criticism or potentially put them on the defensive, one must proceed with intention, care, and authenticity. When advice and insights are given in a meaningful and thoughtful way, not only does it support the individual, but it builds and fosters trust between people.

Here are some things to do or avoid when providing feedback in a way that empowers and fosters learning and growth.


Be human: Seems obvious, I know, but too often, one goes in just with an agenda of what behaviors or actions need to be addressed without thinking about how the other person will respond or react. Before you go into these conversations, ask yourself what you want the other person to walk away with and then think about them and what approach for them individually will bring about the most productive, healthy conversation.

Embrace a coaching approach: Too often, these conversations are one-sided; start the conversation with an open conversation. Ask the other person what they think is going well and where they see opportunities for growth. Letting someone self-identify is the best way to empower them towards change. Once they have shared, you can have a more productive conversation around their thoughts and layer in anything else from your side, positive or constructive.

Be specific and objective: Effective feedback is rooted in clarity. When offering feedback, focus on specific actions, situations, or behaviors rather than vague generalizations. Objectivity is key. Present observations in an unbiased manner — supported by information or examples — to ensure that the feedback remains constructive rather than subjective criticism.

Focus on behavior, not personality: Constructive feedback centers around actions and outcomes, not personal attributes. Address behaviors that can be altered, steering clear of judgments about an individual’s character. This approach maintains a supportive tone and encourages change without causing defensiveness.

Always conclude with an action plan: When both individuals leave a conversation of this nature, it’s key to ensure that everyone is on the same page with what was talked about, that there is no confusion, and that clear next steps are in place. Additionally, set a time to regroup a few weeks in the future to check in and provide any support.


Generalize: Feedback loses its impact when it relies on vague statements or generalizations. Avoid phrases like “You always” or “You never,” as they oversimplify complex situations and hinder productive communication.

Blame: Effective feedback promotes accountability and solution-finding rather than assigning blame. Avoid pointing fingers or accusing, as this can create defensiveness and undermine the purpose of the feedback. The individual will shut down and walk away with no tangible or actionable paths to improvement.

Make assumptions: Feedback should be based on facts, not assumptions or hearsay from a third party if at all possible. Avoid making guesses about someone’s motivations or intentions. Instead, ask questions, learn from their perspective, and focus on observable behaviors or actions.

Receiving Feedback with Confidence

Receiving feedback can be hard because we are human, and vulnerability is hard. Having areas of opportunity reflected back to us can feel imperfect, which can be uncomfortable for many. Even when one is praised, some might feel awkward or vulnerable. These are normal emotions and feelings.

The good news is that with an open mind and some confidence, feedback can be the foundation for personal and professional growth. The principles of receiving feedback with grace and confidence pave the way for transformative change while nurturing our relationship with self-improvement. You’ve heard the cliché that “feedback is a gift,” so embrace it.


Cultivate an open mindset: Approach feedback with an open and receptive mindset. Recognize that receiving feedback is an opportunity for growth, regardless of whether it confirms strengths or highlights areas for improvement.

Seek clarity: When feedback is given, ask clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand the observations and perspectives shared. If certain points are unclear, ask for examples or further explanation. This demonstrates your openness and commitment to learning and understanding.

Show appreciation: Express gratitude for the feedback received, regardless of its nature. By acknowledging the effort someone has taken to provide insights, you create an environment of mutual respect and encourage ongoing constructive dialogue.


Become defensive: This is a business maturity check. When confronted with feedback, avoid the instinct to become defensive. Defensive reactions can hinder understanding and close the door to growth. Instead, take a moment to absorb the feedback before responding.

Disregard or dismiss: Even if the feedback seems unfamiliar or contradictory to your self-perception, resist the urge to disregard it outright. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand what is being said. It’s good to remind yourself that every perspective has value, and the insights offered might help uncover blind spots or overlooked opportunities for improvement.

Over-personalizing: Receiving feedback is not an evaluation of your worth as a person. Avoid over-personalizing feedback and instead focus on the specific actions and behaviors being discussed. This perspective shift enables you to embrace feedback without it becoming a source of anxiety.

The Path to Growth and Success

Fostering a culture of growth and continuous improvement lies at the core of effective feedback dynamics. Encouraging an environment where feedback is not only accepted but actively sought, creates a fertile ground for learning and enhancement. In this arena, feedback isn’t seen as criticism but rather as a valuable tool that empowers individuals to excel.

In the sphere of personal and professional development, the navigation of feedback — both providing and hearing — is an indispensable element guiding individuals toward growth and success. When provided with good intention, authenticity, and caring, as well as absorbed with receptivity, feedback becomes a powerful catalyst for improvement, refining skills, and strengthening relationships and sets the stage for a growth-minded workplace for all.

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Leading Forum
Paul Bramson, CEO of The Paul Bramson Companies, is considered an authority and thought leader in the areas of leadership, sales & communication. With over 25 years of experience in educating, speaking, and coaching, Paul has a unique ability to connect with professionals, leaders, and teams at all levels, providing them with valuable insights and empowering them with the most relevant knowledge and skills. His sincere and passionate approach to his work is evident in his ability to engage and inspire audiences. Paul grew up in Boston, graduated from Boston University, and currently lives in Atlanta, GA

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Great Feedback Feedback

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:02 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Are Relationships Your Top Work Priority? Here’s Why They Should Be

Positive Communication

IT’S AN AMAZING FEELING: When you walk into Rob Ulmer’s office, he instantly lets go of whatever he’s doing. He turns to you with a warm greeting and gives you his undivided attention.

As colleagues who worked under Rob’s leadership for years, we can’t recall a single instance when we felt pushed out, nudged to leave, or disengaged. Rob simply gives you his full self. He’s a master at creating high-quality moments for his people.

Today, Robert Ulmer is dean of the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Originally from Canada, Rob is a leader who brings enthusiasm, positivity, and a total commitment to people—all day, every day. We interviewed him recently for our book, Positive Communication for Leaders, to understand how he does it.

“As a leader, I have to be sensitive to the human equation,” Rob explained on a Zoom call. “People really do matter to me,” he added. “You’re hiring people, and you have to give them time and attention. You have to be interested in who they are and what they’re about. You have to care.”

“People signal to you whether you matter or not, whether they’re more interested in you or more interested in themselves,” he explained. He briefly paused and added: “I know what that feeling is like when people don’t care about you, and I don’t want [anyone I work with] to have that feeling.”

“The default for most people,” Rob continued, “is to be impersonal. Many people will treat others transactionally. It’s very easy to focus on the role and the position. Everybody will tell you that you can’t take the time to spend with people, that it’s about something else.”

He paused for clarity. “That’s all nonsense,” he said as he shook his head. “Investing in relationships can be done at all leadership levels.”

In the interview, we stepped in and played devil’s advocate. We argued that most people would say, “I can’t do that all the time. I’ve got emails to attend to, another meeting to go to.” What about all the things that could take a person away from the encounter?

Rob responded, “Out of all the things you’ve mentioned, what could be more important than the person you have with you in that moment?”

Relationships Should Be a Leader’s Top Priority

Rob’s rhetorical question reveals the mindset that drives his approach to work. As he put it in the interview: “Relationships are the most important priority.” There’s nothing above that.

From Rob’s vantage point, there’s no internal leadership conflict about his priorities. He’s living his principles. “I’m not using a focus on relationships as a way to get to some other outcome,” Rob concluded. “The end outcome is the relationship.”

With this philosophy in mind, Rob makes lots of small and big decisions that bring this philosophy to life. At one point in the conversation, he reflected, “Sure, we have a whole bunch of problems today. We’ll have them tomorrow. I don’t go to work with the expectation that I’m going to have a perfect day. So, when I’m talking to people, I go in and have those meaningful conversations for as long as it takes. Those other extraneous issues don’t really matter. What gets us where we’re going is the relationships that we’re developing.”

What can you do today to build on Rob’s approach and create quality moments with others? Here are some easy-to-do strategies you can implement today:

  • Control your calendar. It’s tempting to let someone else manage your time. “Most bosses aren’t in charge of their calendars, but I am,” Rob noted during our interview. Rob’s advice? Take control of your meetings, don’t let people populate your calendar, and leave significant time to meet with people.
  • Say “no” to nonstop meetings. Forget back-to-back meetings. As Rob says, “I schedule meetings with space and latitude so I can spend time with people.”
  • Visit people in person. How many people are you connecting with as you sit behind your desk? Instead, take a page from Rob’s book. “I’m out of my office and going to other people’s offices daily. If somebody comes to see me and I’m not available,” Rob explained, “I’ll come find them that day.”
  • Leave your phone behind. Don’t let calls, texts, and a deluge of notifications interrupt your quality time. Be like Rob: “I don’t bring my phone with me, so it’s not buzzing me. That means there’s nothing that’s coming in during conversations to interrupt us.”
  • Limit emails. During our interview, Rob explained his counterintuitive approach: “I don’t send a lot of emails, so as a result, I don’t get a lot of emails.”
  • Catch up later. If you have another meeting or can’t interact, make a commitment to that person to catch up in the near future. Tell them, “Let’s grab a coffee later on” or “Let’s catch up later on.’” Then follow through and meet with the person one-on-one.

Positive leaders draw on the fundamental understanding that leadership is about relationships. It’s based on the process of initiating contact with people, getting to know them, enjoying those interactions, and being fully present with them.

Saying hello, catching up with people, sharing jokes, and updating others about our lives collectively weave the fabric of our relationships, create mutual understanding, and increase our influence as positive leaders. And when you do that, you can create an amazing feeling.

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Leading Forum
Julien C. Mirivel, Ph.D., is an award-winning teacher, author, and professional speaker recognized as a founding scholar of positive communication. Alexander Lyon, Ph.D., is a professor, author, consultant, and speaker known for his popular YouTube channel, Communication Coach Alex Lyon. Their new book is Positive Communication for Leaders: Proven Strategies for Inspiring Unity and Effecting Change. Learn more at PositiveCommunicationForLeaders.com.

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Maxwell Connect Everyone Communicates What Are Good People

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:53 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Calling Out Unconscious Bias in the Workplace – Transcending the Problem

Buki Mosaku

STATISTICS show that minorities and marginalized groups repeatedly experience career-stifling unconscious bias at many points throughout their working lives.

Women and ethnic monitories, for example, often find it hard to climb the career ladder — a fact borne out in the significant underrepresentation of both groups in senior leadership roles. Minorities also report being passed over in favor of white or male counterparts when the “good” assignments are given out. They’re also less likely to be given access to the multitude of career development opportunities that make a difference in earning potential.

Across sectors, minorities report that they:

  • Are victims of insidious career-stifling impacts of everyday micro-aggressions
  • Suffer from gender, racial, sexual orientation, disability, and other biases based on immaterial differences
  • Must work twice as hard to build trust due to negative stereotypes and perceptions of what “credible” looks like to their superiors, colleagues, and the wider public

Certainly, many employers have taken some important steps to deal with career-stifling bias. While top-down initiatives will bear fruit in the long term, the trickle-down effect is too slow for those already falling victim to unconscious workplace bias.

So, what’s the answer?

Here are three power actions that differentiate high-performing minorities in calling out and navigating career-stifling unconscious bias in the workplace:

1. Understand the Problem of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

On the basis that you can’t successfully address or tackle a problem that you don’t fully understand, it behooves everyone in the organization to be cognizant with this topic.

There are two forms of career-stifling unconscious bias:

Directional bias is unconsciously directed toward minorities in the workplace by leaders, potential clients, and clients based on conditioned negative stereotypes. This could show up as a lack of trust when potential clients hear an untraditional accent or are confronted with a female as opposed to a male practitioner. It can also reveal itself when minorities are overlooked for senior roles or for high-profile projects.

Reverse bias, is when a minority misinterprets unfavorable decisions or behaviors as driven by unconscious bias when they aren’t, in which case they become the perpetrator of bias as opposed to the victim.

For instance, an employee representing a marginalized group may presume a colleague has a problem with their accent when in reality, there’s no problem. Or, a minority senses unconscious discrimination when not being tapped for a promotion when it’s a case of simply not meeting the requirements of the role.

With this understanding, minorities can allow for misinterpretations of sensed bias and, in doing so, more effectively navigate sensed directional bias without turning into a perpetrator of bias themselves and invoking defensive fragility from the presumed perpetrator — in other words, getting the other person’s “back up.”

2. Call Out Sensed Unconscious Bias

Whenever you sense unconscious bias towards yourself or others, call it out in the moment. Don’t wait. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem. If you do, you’re part of the solution.

Here’s a step-by-step way to effectively call it out:

  • Leave your own biases baggage (that you may understandably have every right to be carrying) at the door.
  • Give the presumed perpetrator(s) the benefit of the doubt but call it out anyway. Start by turning this three-word statement into a question, asking: “I don’t understand?”, which allows for any misinterpretations of bias, but invokes an explanation or elaboration from the sensed perpetrator. Engaging in this dispassionate, developmental inquiry will eventually illuminate either directional bias or reverse bias.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not the problem of sensed bias. If, for example, you’re a minority and you sense discomfort regarding your accent from a client, focus on the client’s discomfort — not their problem with your accent.
  • Agree on collaborative next steps, seeking “worthy recompense” if you are indeed the victim of unconscious bias, and move on.

3. Transcend the Problem

The first two practical steps are focused on navigating everyday bias in the moment, however, transcending workplace bias rapidly dissipates the issue in real time and completely removes the problem.

To do that, accept the unequivocal multidirectional nature of workplace bias. This means always allowing for the potential that you’ve misinterpreted the situation regardless of your certainty — that you might be engaging in reverse bias. When you do this, you strategically position yourself to advantageously call out bias any time you sense it without being accusatory in your approach and invoking defensive fragility in the sensed perpetrator.

When you apply these three powerful actions, your vision, and wisdom are unimpaired by majority guilt or minority pain and retribution. You focus on collaborative, progressive bias navigation in the moments you sense career-stifling workplace bias.

Practice navigating everyday bias until the approach becomes second nature. Don’t be shy — give it a try!

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Leading Forum
Buki Mosaku is the Founder and CEO of London-based DiverseCity Think Tank, a workplace-bias and diversity-and-inclusion consultancy. He is one of the world’s foremost bias-navigation experts. Mosaku has cracked the code for calling out unconscious workplace bias and stopping it in its tracks, which he details in his book, I Don’t Understand: Navigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace (Business Expert Press). Learn more at www.bukimosaku.com.

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All Are Welcome 10 Questions to Ask Your Employees

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:14 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Culture is the Way: 5 Steps to Building a World-Class Culture

Culture is the Way

YOU CAN CHANGE the results your organization is getting by changing its culture. And every organization has a culture whether it is by design or by default. “Whether an organization has a world-class culture or a toxic one, its future depends on how much attention and focus it puts on growing its culture,” writes Matt Mayberry, the author of Culture is the Way: How Leaders at Every Level Build an Organization for Speed, Impact, and Excellence.

Culture serves as the internal compass for an organization’s fundamental beliefs, how the organization behaves daily, and its level of market performance.

To begin, let’s look at the five most common roadblocks that stop us in our pursuit of cultural excellence that Mayberry addresses:

1. Lukewarm leadership buy-in. “Most senior leadership teams consist of accomplished leaders with a wealth of experience, and the last thing the majority of them will want to do is shift their leadership style or change how they have done things for the past ten to twenty years.”

2. All slogans and no action. “Words don’t build culture or change culture by themselves. It takes action. Culture is not about turning values into behaviors. It’s about turning values into repeatable behaviors, into actions that become daily habits that are shared across the organization.”

3. Temptation of instant gratification. “When we have a strong desire for something, our patience is severely tested. Any goal worth achieving, whether it’s a personal goal, a professional aspiration, or building a great workplace culture, requires a delicate balance of tenacity and extraordinary patience.”

4. Distortion and distraction. Just throwing ideas around and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t isn’t going to get you any closer to a solution, and it could actually do more harm than good. You must use caution when rushing to adopt and implement an idea that you read about.”

5. Lack of cascading change. There is no end date. It is an ongoing commitment. “Being interested is not the same as action taken. Being interested in creating a great culture is exactly that. Interest. It will never progress unless consistent action is taken.”

5 step culture

Here is an overview of his five-step process:

Step One: Define Your Culture

You must be ruthlessly clear about who you are as an organization. The culture has to be clearly defined so that everyone knows what you mean when we say, “our culture is.” Everyone must see the culture in the same way. “Great cultures are defined cultures. This means that every leader, manager, and employee can describe the culture and what it stands for, and the descriptions will be very similar to a large extent.”

Step Two: Discovery Through Collaboration and Inspiration

“Changing culture begins with changing one person’s mindset and behavior at a time. And changing mindsets and behaviors, especially at scale, necessitates making people feel like they are a vital part of the process rather than relying on old engagement methods.” Take a bottom-up approach. “Culture needs to be top-down directed but then bottom-up created.”

Step Three: Launch, Cascade, and Embed

If you want to drive culture change, you need a playbook. That playbook should ensure management team alignment, have an official launch date, a communication strategy, a plan to cascade the message throughout the organization, create a behavioral manifesto, and a plan for feedback. “You must convey a moving and compelling message that sends shockwaves throughout the company.”

Step Four: Drive Long-Term Impact

Creating a sustainable culture “demands unwavering fanaticism to the ongoing process and journey.” Building a culture requires consistent focus for the long term. Mayberry’s Five-Step Fanatical Framework helps you do just that. It entails continuous fanatical attention, development, and nurturing, fanatical focus on the vital areas of improvement, fanatical about alignment, fanatical about follow-through, and fanatical about the why.

Step Five: Leaders Must Blaze the Trail

How well the organization’s leaders practice what they preach will determine the long-term success of the desired culture. Nothing makes up for poor leadership. Leaders should coach for excellence. “The best leaders who get the most out of their teams identify as coaches rather than managers or leaders.”

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Culture Rules Dare to Serve

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:59 AM
| Comments (0) | Culture , General Business , Human Resources


Culture Rules

Culture Rules

BUILDING a high-performance culture is like setting the rules of a game, says Mark Miller in Culture Rules: The Leader’s Guide to Creating the Ultimate Competitive Advantage. If you don’t “play” the organization will make up their own rules which can and will have unintended consequences.

Culture is “a place, physical or virtual, where you set the parameters in which people work. A place where the organization established the rules of conduct and its values, how the game will be played, the options and variables to play, the desired activities and boundaries that govern the game, and more.”

In the game of Culture, Miller offers three rules but says there are infinite moves you can make. There are an infinite number of ways to get it done when we think about how we want to shape and build the culture of our organization. You will find many examples others have used in building their culture.

Rule #1: Aspire

To aspire, you need to create more than a catchy statement. You need a clear purpose. Why does your organization exist? What do you aspire to? What do you value? You must know exactly what you are trying to create. When there is a gap between where you are and where you aspire to be, closing the gap moves you forward.

Leaders must constantly share, reinforce, and celebrate their values, as well as challenge those who fail to uphold them. Leaders determine the value and impact of core values in an organization.

Rule #2: Amplify

Once you have clarity on your aspirations, you amplify them by continuously reinforcing them. “A message not heard consistently is a message without impact.”

It’s important to recognize the power of mundane moments, the seemingly trivial actions, and the ordinary encounters. These mark our leadership. These moments happen all day, every day. Without thoughtful actions on our part, these opportunities will be wasted, missed, or worse. If we respond in a fashion contrary to our Aspiration, we can unwittingly undermine our efforts to create the culture we’ve been dreaming of.

Rule #3: Adapt

Success today is no guarantee of success tomorrow. The world changes, so there must be an ongoing effort to measure and improve the culture. “When leaders are willing to Adapt, not react, to a changing world, they can build or rebuild a High Performance Culture.”

Adapting your culture requires continuous listening, learning, and changing.

Miller reminds us that the “greatest obstacle to creating a High Performance Culture is a lack of focused attention.” Without the attention, a culture will degrade and succumb to indifference, paranoia, mistrust, counter cultures, and self-deception, to name a few.

If people came to your organization because of what they could do and then stayed because of who they could become, I think you would be well on your way to creating your own High Performance Culture—a place known for its unity; life-giving, sold-enriching work; and elite levels of performance.

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Culture Engine Culture Renovation

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:37 AM
| Comments (0) | Culture , Human Resources


Embrace the New Norm by Listening to Your Employees

Shaara Roman Embrace the New Normal

AFTER a tumultuous couple of years, the majority of the U.S. workforce is disengaged, burned out, and fed up. The work-life balance mindset has become increasingly prevalent, and people are taking major steps back from the workplace bustle. Many people are becoming less motivated in their jobs and leaders are stuck wondering what to do.

The answer is simple - listen. Listening to your employees’ complaints, wants, and needs goes a long way. It’s very obvious what the workforce needs to stay motivated because they are being very vocal about these shifts in priorities.

When Millennials entered the workforce, they prioritized “work to live” and did not want any part of the “hustle culture” that prioritizes face time, long hours, paying your dues. Gen Z feels the same way. In addition, research continually shows that Millennials and Gen Z’s in particular, plus an increasing number of other generations, are wanting to work in places that are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. They want their voice and opinions heard, they want to feel valued for their contributions, and they want flexibility to work how, where, and when they want. People have always wanted to do interesting work, they want flexibility, they want to grow their skills, they want to work in places where the culture allows them to thrive. The difference now is that people have seen that that’s a real possibility, so they are having a hard time going back to ‘the old norm.’ They are fighting for what they want, and organizations that don’t meet them in the middle will simply be left behind.

COVID has made everyone examine their relationship with work and now millions of workers are opting out – whether it’s to take a sabbatical or join a new firm or start their own gig or do something totally different. The old-time view of grinding your way to the top is not only outdated it also puts you on the fast train to burn out, and no one wants that. Our world is also moving at a rapid pace and the constant barrage also adds to the burnout we are all experiencing.

Right now, the power rests with the workforce – and will continue to do so even through a predicted recession. They are telling us in many ways that the status quo is not acceptable. Droves of women left the workforce in 2020. Millions have joined the great resignation, and over two-thirds of the workforce is disengaged or a part of the “quiet quit.” This is an opportunity for leaders to step up, lean in, and engage their staff to ask what would work for them and then work to make it a reality.

Organizations that stand any chance of making it to the future of work will do the following:

  • Prioritize DEI and make it a clear part of your ongoing way of doing work - you have to walk the walk.
  • Be conscious of your culture so it can be the culture you want, not the culture you get.
  • Live your values. It’s very easy to come up with a few cool-sounding words and phrases. It is much harder to live them and to live them through adversity.
  • Offer flexibility and put trust in your team. Showing your employees that you believe in their ability to self-regulate will give them a sense of independence that will likely boost both their morale and their work.
  • Foster a collaborative work environment and do away with any outdated formalities (think unbending hierarchy and jumping through hoops)
  • Take steps to prevent burnout by reassessing workloads, expectations, and deadlines. Employees shouldn’t feel like every task is urgent or like they have to respond to emails on a Saturday.

We are on the heels of the future of work. Our nation’s workforce is undergoing a major transformation in attitude and priorities. What motivated someone 5 years ago - even two or three years ago - is not the same thing that motivates that same person today. Organizations that continue to ignore/resist this shift and try to force old processes are setting themselves up for failure. In order to motivate your employees, you just have to listen and embrace change.

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Leading Forum
Shaara Roman is the author of The Conscious Workplace: Fortify Your Culture to Thrive in Any Crisis, and the founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consulting firm that aligns people, strategy, and culture to optimize organizational performance. As an award-winning entrepreneur, board member, speaker, author, and experienced chief human resources officer, Shaara and her team consult with leaders to create healthy workplaces by helping them build inclusive workplace cultures, design effective organizations, and align their company values and people programs to achieve business goals. Born in India, schooled in Nigeria and England, and having lived in Greece before coming to the US, Shaara uses her global experience as the foundation for her distinctive expertise in crafting strategies to improve culture, workforce quality, and operations across a multitude of disciplines in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She received an MBA from Georgetown University, where she is also an adjunct professor. Today, Shaara serves on several advisory and nonprofit boards. Connect with Shaara on LinkedIn and at shaararoman.com

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Nido Qubein on Listening Connectable

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:27 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


How to Get Along with Difficult People

Getting Along with Difficult People

LEADERSHIP is all about relationships—even difficult ones. It would be great if we got along with everyone, but not everyone we encounter makes that easy. At one time or another, we all run into difficult people. Sometimes they are just difficult, and sometimes we make them that way.

Amy Gallo shares insights and approaches for dealing with the difficult people in your life in Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People). In this excellent reseource, she offers research-based advice to help us not just to navigate the situations made difficult by people in our lives but to transform them into positive, constructive relationships. All relationships can change over time, even the good ones. And most can be transformed for the better if we are willing to put in the time and effort.

The general lack of empathy we see today only complicates this situation. It is important to reframe the difficult situation to see it from the other person’s point of view. In this key insight, Gallo says when faced with a difficult person, “You must create the necessary space to choose a response that will result in growth instead of conflict.”

Gallo covers in detail eight types of difficult people we might encounter. And some people display more than one. She provides helpful dos and don’ts for dealing with each type.

The Insecure Boss – “I’m great at my job … right?”

We all have times when we wonder if coworkers think we’re smart, if we have what it takes to nail a presentation, if we said something wrong in a meeting, or if strangers are judging the way we dress or look. While feeling insecure at times is natural, problematic behaviors include micromanaging, unfairly criticizing others, or constantly seeking reassurance when people attempt to conceal or compensate for their self-doubt.

The Pessimist – “This will never work.”

There are a lot of reasons that pessimists see the world the way they do, and gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them tick can help. For instance, defensive pessimists—those with a negative outlook who feel they can do something about it—can be helpful. Their worry enables them to take preventative steps. It’s easy to get dragged into a pessimistic colleague’s outlook. You may become demoralized, worry about negative consequences more than ususal, or start to feel like your actions won’t make a difference at work.

The Victim – “Why does this always happen to me.”

People who think of themselves as victims share several key traits with pessimists, but they believe other people or circumstances are at fault for the disappointing or distressing outcomes. Victims are often consumed by who is to blame, which never happens to be them.

The Passive-Aggressive Peer – “Fine. Whatever.”

Gabrielle Adams, a professor at the University of Virginia who studies interpersonal conflict at work, defines passive aggression as not being forthcoming about what you’re truly thinking and using indirect methods to express your thoughts and feelings. Often it’s driven by the fear of failure or rejection, s desire to avoid conflict, or a drive to gain power.

The Know-It-All – “Well, actually …”

Unfortunately, this archetype has likely persisted, not just in workplaces but in society, because we often reward overconfidence. If people who were humble and admitted that they didn’t always have the answers regularly rose to power, perhaps fewer of us would have stories to tell about know-it-alls in our lives. But we love confidence—in ourselves and in others.

The Tormentor – “I suffered, and you should too.”

A “tormentor” is a senior person (sometimes your boss and sometimes not) who has earned their way to the top, typically making sacrifices along the way, and then mistreats others below them. They appear motivated by the idea that because they suffered, you should too.

The Biased Coworker – “Why are you so sensitive?”

Prejudice can be expressed in explicit and implicit ways. Deciding if, when, and how to confront discrimination is complex, especially because you may fear that you’ll be penalized for how you handle it. However, the responsibility for addressing bias shouldn’t fall to those who are on the receiving end, and delivering feedback can sometimes be the right thing to do.

The Political Operator – “If you aren’t moving up, you’re falling behind.”

Everyone must engage in office politics to some degree. We need to advocate for our ideas and our accomplishments to secure support and funding. However, it’s different if your colleague is fixated on getting ahead and has a take-no-prisoners approach.

She offers nine principles for getting along with anyone, and for me, this is the essential section of the book.

Principle 1: Focus on what you can control

People change if they want to change, so focus on what you could do differently. Gallo writes, “I’ve been in many situations where I thought, If I can just explain this to the other person, surely, they’ll understand. We’ve all fantasized about saying or doing the perfect thing that forces a rival to see the light, to realize the error of their ways and vow to completely reform.” It is a fantasy. She adds a thought from Adam Grant, “All I can do is try to understand their thinking and ask if they’re open to some rethinking. The rest is up to them.”

If your strategy for getting along with another person depends on them changing, good luck with that.

Principle 2: Your perspective is just one perspective

It is not realistic to expect that you will see eye-to-eye on everything with others. “Naïve realism is the tendency to believe that we’re seeing the world around us objectively, and if someone doesn’t see it the same way, they’re uninformed, irrational, or biased.” Then there is the fundamental attribution error that assumes a person’s behavior is a result of their personality rather than the situation they find themselves in. As a result, we tend to make assumptions about others that are not true, and reaching an agreement on the “facts” is highly unlikely. My view is just that—my view.

Gallo recommends, “Instead of rehashing the past—a tactic that usually leads to nothing but hard feelings and deadlock—try to focus on what should happen going forward.”

Principle 3: Be aware of your biases

Our interactions are shaped by our biases. “Even our definition of ‘difficult’ behavior can be shaped by the prejudices that we carry into the workplace.” Know your biases, so you can monitor them more closely.

Principle 4: Don’t make it “me against them”

“If it is ‘me against you,’ the situation becomes polarizing. There’s someone who’s being difficult and someone who isn’t, someone who is right and someone who is wrong.” To move past this thinking, “Imagine that there are three entities in the situation: you, your colleague, and the dynamic between you.” In this way, you can separate the people from the problem.

Principle 5: Rely on empathy to see things differently

“We often perceive slights to be worse than they intended to be.” We make ourselves the victim. We all “make erroneous attributions about each other’s intent to do harm, how much harm was caused, how severe the issue is, how guilty the other person feels, etc.” This is not only unfair, “But it nudges you toward wallowing, revenge, or other unproductive responses rather than getting along.” Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. See the situation from the other person’s perspective.

Principle 6: Know your goal

When addressing a difficult situation, know what you want. “Identifying your goal will help you avoid getting pulled into any drama and stay focused on constructive tactics.”

While you may say your goal is to get along, your hidden agenda—payback for example—will “color your interactions, causing you to use language or a tone that is excessively critical or condescending, compromising your ability to achieve your stated goal.”

Principle 7: Avoid gossip, mostly

Notwithstanding studies that indicate, on a positive note, that gossip may keep people from behaving selfishly or badly because they don’t want others talking badly about them, I believe gossip should be avoided at all costs. Gossip divides, diminishes others’ ability to change, infects others with your biases and interpretations, and can destroy your ability to heal a relationship. Gossip is not a good basis for building and maintaining relationships.

Principle 8: Experiment to find what works

There isn’t one right answer. Improving a relationship will “feel far more manageable if you start coming up with two or three ideas you want to test out. Often, small actions can have a big impact.”

“Keep refreshing the approaches you try and be willing to abandon ones that aren’t producing results.

Principle 9: Be—and stay—curious

In any relationship problem, “it’s easy to tell yourself, ‘This is the way it’s always going to be’ or ‘Why should l expect them to change?’ or ‘We just don’t get along.’ I won’t tell you that it is going to be fun or even pleasant to do what you need to do to salvage a troubled relationship, but complacency and pessimism will get you nowhere. Instead, adopt a curious mindset.”

Gallo advises, “Assume you have something to learn and believe that the negative dynamic can turn around.” Approach difficult relationships with a growth mindset.

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Have a Nice Conflict Conflict Without Casualties

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:00 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


The 6 Types of Working Genius

Working Genius

WORK is a process, and we all contribute in different ways. When the work we do is aligned with our gifts, we perform to our potential.

The 6 Types of Working Genius by Patrick Lencioni is a business fable that goes behind the scenes of a team working out the frustrations they are having at work. We struggle when we are called upon to perform in ways that not consistent with what we do best. Naturally, we all have to take on tasks in ways that drain us, and that’s not a problem unless it is something we have to do all the time. If that’s the case, it leads to burnout.

Judgement is similar, except that it’s what we do when we see a colleague struggle in some kind of work and incorrectly attribute their struggle to their lack of effort, intelligence, or virtue. “I don’t know why he can’t get that done. I think he just doesn’t care. Or maybe he’s just not as smart as we thought he was. Or is it possible that he just isn’t committed to the team?” We’ve all done this, and it’s dangerous and destructive. It causes people to feel hurt and rejected, and it adversely impacts teams, organizations, even families.

This is a critically important issue. We should first begin by looking at the three phases of work as it forms the framework for the 6 Types.

The first phase is Ideation and this is where we identify needs and propose solutions. This is the first step in any kind of work.

The second phase is Activation and is about evaluating the merits of the ideas or solutions proposed during Ideation.

The third phase is Implementation and this is all about getting things done—bringing it home.

The 6 Types of Work Genius


Working Genius


Within the first phase, Ideation, we have the Genius of Wonder and the Genius of Invention.

The Genius of Wonder identifies the need to improve of change. “Involves the ability to ponder and speculate and question the state of things, asking the questions that provoke answers and action. People with this genius are naturally inclined to do these things.”

The Genius of Invention confirms the importance of that need and generate an idea or solution. “It is all about coming up with new ideas and solutions. People with this genius are drawn toward origination, creativity, and ingenuity in the truest sense of those words, even with little direction and context.”

Moving to the second phase, Activation, we have the Genius of Discernment and the Genius of Galvanizing.

The Genius of Discernment assesses the merit and workability of the idea or solution. It “is related to instinct, intuition, and uncanny judgment. People with this genius have a natural ability to assess an idea or situation, even without a lot of data or expertise. Using pattern recognition and gut feel, they are able to provide valuable advice and feedback around most subjects in a way that transcends their levels of specific knowledge or information.”

The Genius of Galvanizing generates enthusiasm and action around the idea or solution. These people rally, motivate, and provoke people to take action around an idea or an initiative. “People with this genius are naturally inclined to inspire and enlist others to get involved in an endeavor.”

In the last phase, Implementation, are the Genius of Enablement and the Genius of Tenacity.

The Genius of Enablement initiates support and assists in the implementation of the idea or solution. This “Involves providing people with support and assistance in the way that it is needed. People with this genius are adept at responding to the needs of others without conditions or restrictions. They are naturally inclined to help others accomplish their goals and often can anticipate what people might need before they even ask.”

The Genius of Tenacity commits to ensuring that the idea or solution gets completed and that results are achieved. “It is about the satisfaction of pushing things across the finish line to completion. People with this genius are not only capable of, but naturally inclined to, finish projects and ensure that they are completed according to specification.”

It is helpful to see where each of the Geniuses enter the work process as it gives insight into their thinking. As depicted in the chart below, the Wonder Genius comes in at the 30,000-foot level. As we move through the work process, the focus becomes narrower down to 1000 feet for the Tenacity Genius.

After testing thousands of people for their genius, The Table Group has found that we have two geniuses, two areas of competency, and two areas of frustration. Areas of competency are activities that don’t do much for us one way or the other, and we may be quite good at them. But if we engage in them too long, we are drained if we are not also working in the areas of our genius. We need to be aware of our areas of frustration, so we don’t spend too much time engaged in them.

To find out your genius take the assessment at WorkingGenius.com. There are 42 questions, and it takes about ten minutes to complete.

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Being Smart is Not Enough Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:10 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


The Role of Wellness in Leadership Development

Jim Davis Wellness

IS IT POSSIBLE that we overlook the role of the body in our professional lives? Habits of health and wellness play a larger role in workplace culture than one might initially think.

In a recent article for Northwestern University’s Leadership Magazine, I highlighted a client, “Brian,” who was working his tail off but fell into a state of exhaustion. At first, it was hard to name. He was doing everything he thought he was supposed to. Working late, trying hard, committing fully to his organization and the people around him. Slowly, his motivation waned. He became more irritable and less satisfied with his work; communication broke down, and stressors stacked up.

From the article: “he had raised his voice at a coworker, sent an angry message to his wife, and was caught in the fumes of varied frustration. Things seemed to be crumbling around him. By noon he decided to call off for the day. He had not taken a sick day in years.

He says he does not remember the drive home, but he does remember making himself some tea and sitting down on the couch. The tea was too hot, so he set it down for a moment. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the dark, laying down now, after an unintentional five-hour nap. He brushed his teeth, went to bed, and slept through the night.

The next day he was fine.

Simply, Brian was exhausted. Sometimes we use the term ‘exhausted’ to describe a long day, to add emphasis to our fatigue. Brian was actually exhausted – drained of physical and mental capacity. In this state, physical and emotional health fail, as do our relationships and our potential to lead.”

Brian’s experience was relatively benign. But when a steady state of exhaustion persists for a career, the outcomes can be far worse. And if the fear of long-term health outcomes is not enough to sway the leader toward prioritizing his or her own wellness, they might want to consider the impact it has on their business.

The Impact of Wellness on Workplace Success

Brian was part of a leadership team that was focused on strong company culture. We conducted a survey of the leadership team, which catalogs – among other important components of healthy culture – habits of physical health and wellness.

As we processed the data, we noticed that one health variable was having a powerful impact on people’s cognitive and emotional state: sleep. We looked closer. We split the group into two categories: Well-Rested (WR) for those with 8+ hours of sleep, and Sleep-Deprived (SD) for those who slept 6.5 hours or fewer. What we found was incredible.

Sleep played a major role in KEY areas of the company’s culture:

Negative Stress. Although members of the team were experiencing similar stressors during their workday, the Sleep-Deprived group interpreted those stressors to be 54% more negative than their Well-Rested peers. Same challenge, different perception, and sleep seemed to be a key piece of that difference.

Motivation. The SD group reported 30% lower workplace motivation than the WR group.

Communication. The SD group found it more difficult to maintain optimistic assumptions in communication with their peers, with scores 28% lower than the WR group. Additionally, the WR group found it easier to clarify difficult ideas with their peers than the SD group, reporting scores that were 21% higher than their sleepy peers.

Our next step was clear. Before moving on to the complex dynamics of a healthy workplace environment, we had to create goals around sleep health and hygiene.

Leaders and teams aim for a leg up on the competition with strategy-based professional development opportunities. Strategy always falls victim to implementation. If a group is not motivated, communicating poorly, and has a negative perception of shared work, then implementation of strategy will surely be challenged… if sleep deprivation is associated with all, then it seems like the first lever to pull.

Teaching high-level strategy to a sleep-deprived team is like icing a cake that is not fully baked.

Having identified the what (sleep) and why (impacting stress, motivation, and communication), we started in on the how. The results were amazing, if not predictable. When we began tackling individual challenges with sleep, motivation and communication went up almost immediately. Here’s a write-in from one of our team surveys:

“Thank you. I didn’t even see [my sleep habits] as a problem. Now that I do and I can work on them I feel better in all areas of my life, especially my work. I’m more patient for sure.”

Improving sleep is not a workplace cure-all. There was still plenty of work to do regarding workplace culture and communication. But recognizing the role of physical health and wellness was an important place to start.

Next Steps

The human condition is not linear. Pulling one lever does not automatically result in the outcome we might want. We are all, leaders and otherwise, in a constant state of skill-building, problem-solving, evaluation, and re-imagination. Health and wellness is one component of our leadership development work.

We have multiple methods of maximizing leadership potential for individuals and teams. Our methods have been influenced by the best in the business (Marshall Goldsmith methods, Harvard Business School’s Organizational Development strategies) as well as decades of success implementing these methods.

The journey toward improved leadership will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

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Leading Forum
Jim Davis is a leadership expert with special emphasis on mental and physical wellbeing. Jim received the US Marine Corps’ Excellence in Leadership Award in 2020. He has also been recognized with the Semper Fidelis All-American Mentor award, named National Coach of the Year by multiple organizations, and made Coach & AD Magazine’s 40 under 40 list. He studied Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University and has put that understanding into action while building programs, managing high performing staffs, and training elite teams. He has written extensively in the areas of leadership, psychology, and education while presenting at conferences all over the world. Jim combines a unique understanding of research and practice to support leaders in maximizing their potential.

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Wellbeing At Work 8 Steps to High Performance

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:36 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


We Are Designed to Connect


DO YOU feel like you belong at work? Seventy-two percent of workers feel lonely at least monthly. It is estimated that loneliness shaves 15 years off of a person’s life. Ouch.

We are designed to connect with each other. And when we don’t, we react in much the same way as physical pain. The brain processes physical pain and loneliness in similar ways. Our lives become significant when we connect.

In Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Teams from Isolated to All In, authors Ryan Jenkins and Steven Van Cohen write that “Connection is the default state of humans. We not only feel good together, but we feel normal.” Loneliness should not be shameful to admit. “It’s a signal. A signal that we need each other.”

The bandit of belonging isn’t difference but distance. When someone else’s point of view, perspective, or behavior is unknown, unfamiliar, or unexplored, distance is created. Understanding and empathy grow with proximity. Abraham Lincoln once wisely said, ‘I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.’ Distance is the bandit of belonging.

They provide the LINK Framework to create belonging at work. Each letter in the LINK Framework represents a sequential step.

LINK Framework

1. Look at Loneliness and identify loneliness in self and others. The well-being of your team members are your business. While you can’t control what they do outside of work, you can control “how seen, safe, and engaged they are at work. How you made them feel while they were at work has the potential to impact their off-work behaviors and ripple across the entire community.” A Less Lonely self-assessment is available online that includes specific recommendations to improve your loneliness level.

2. Invest in Connection and improve the strength of work relationships. This takes time, but they have offered actionable strategies to get you started. “Leaders should serve as ‘normalizers-in-chief’ when it comes to mental health challenges like loneliness. Workers want a more open and accepting culture, and leaders must be the ‘first responders’ to sound the alarm and address the issue.

3. Narrow the Focus and illuminate what’s most important at work. “Loneliness is lessened when a team narrows their focus on purpose, a clear direction, and growth.” As in the example given in the book, astronauts utilize these three elements to thrive in isolation.

4. Kindle the Momentum and inflame what’s working to sustain progress. The first three steps will help create a small fire that will begin to draw people together. “Inflame what’s working to sustain progress.” Go back over the first three steps.

The framework works because prosocial actions like sharing, helping, and cooperating are contagious. Small, intentional, and routine behaviors will lessen loneliness.

It has been said that all relationships have one law: Never make anyone feel alone, especially when you’re with them. And that’s easy to do in our distracted, social-tech world. We must take steps to avoid it. Pay attention to others.

We all need distraction-free times, and we should communicate those times to our team. But we should also encourage those times when we are open to interruptions (and even use them to our advantage). “Interruptions are a free ticket to a renewed perspective, an uncovered blind spot, and possibly a better future.”

Our commitment to lessen loneliness can take as little as 0.6, 1, and 5. “0.6 minutes (or 40 seconds) is how long it takes for loneliness to lesson during a two-person interaction. 1 person is the number of work friends it takes to feel less lonely. 5 minutes is the amount of time it takes in a team meeting to share something personal.”

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Wellbeing At Work Leading with Love

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:52 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


7 Concrete Actions That Can Help You Be a Champion of Workplace Inclusion

All Are Welcome

ENGAGING leaders within your organization may require leveraging several different kinds of elements, depending on what your company’s culture most heavily emphasizes. Data and research in the business case may be enough to convince some leaders that they need to engage in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). For others, it may be how you build a relationship and emotional connection to DEIB through storytelling and trust. For still others, it can depend on how strongly you can integrate DEIB actions into leaders’ business priorities and make this work as low lift as realistically possible. It’s up to you to find out what’s most important to your leaders and connect DEIB into that.

Most of the time, I find that leaders have already bought into the concepts of DEIB. What they lack is a clear understanding of how to make progress. Taking no action at all is considered safer than taking the wrong actions that might cause controversy or inadvertently offend someone. What this means is they need a clear road map of actions to take. This can take the form of a customized DEIB action plan that includes a data dashboard supporting your recommended areas of focus. Or it can be a more generic set of suggestions that any leader across the organization can take, such as stating publicly on social media that they are committed to DEIB and looking for ways to get closer to different communities.

What’s most important is to define a set of actions that are concrete enough to move the firm toward its defined DEIB goals. Simple advice such as “hire more people of color” is not that helpful because the organization would be doing that if they already knew how to do it well. It’s the fact that they don’t know what to do that we need to pay attention to. So I try to give leaders easy, concrete actions that they can do to be a champion of DEIB, such as these:

• Audit your networks. If it is not diverse, start following and connecting with people from diverse backgrounds. For every new connection you make that is in the majority, invite another connection that is not.

• Educate yourself. Either read articles or books, listen to podcasts, or attend webinars on DEIB. Actively participate in trainings offered by your employer.

• Communicate your support. When you post a job, explicitly state that you encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply. Talk to your teams about your commitment to and expectations of DEIB.

• Amplify minority voices. Give credit to ideas shared by underrepresented groups in meetings. Share social media posts from underrepresented talent.

• Make space. Invite people who haven’t spoken during a meeting to share their thoughts. Make sure event speakers are representative of diverse backgrounds.

• Show up. Attend ERG events whether you have an affinity for that ERG or not. Listen and learn.

• Seek input. If you’re leading an initiative that will impact an underrepresented group, make sure you involve their perspective in it as early as possible.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it contains a few basic ideas that I have found to be helpful guideposts for leaders who are seeking to demonstrate their DEIB commitment. Of course, it’s not enough for leaders to show their top-down commitment and role-model inclusive behaviors. It must also be coupled with employee support for DEIB initiatives to truly take hold.

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Leading Forum
Cynthia Owyoung is the author of All Are Welcome: How to Build a Real Workplace Culture of Inclusion that Delivers Results. Owyoung is Robinhood’s Vice President of Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging, partnering with business leaders, employee resource groups, and the people experience team to support Robinhood’s mission to democratize finance for all. She’s also the founder of Breaking Glass Forums, where she develops strategies to accelerate more diverse leaders and inclusive organizations. A recognized diversity leader, Owyoung was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Women of Impact in 2021. Owyoung serves on the Board of Directors for AbilityPath, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people with special needs to achieve their full potential.

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You Can Be Yourself Here Equitable Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


You Can Be Yourself Here

You Can Be Yourself Here

SHORTLY after the first wave of the COVID pandemic hit, I received an alarming text from a colleague of mine. It warned me of a new trend in the Bay Area called the “Slap an Asian Challenge,” in which people filmed themselves slapping Asian people and then posted it to their social channels. My husband, David, is Asian American, and my colleague was alerting us of potential danger.

That same day, while they were walking to work, David was approached and harassed in broad daylight by a man wearing a mask.

While not new, hate crimes (and their not-so-distant cousin, cancel culture) have been on the rise through the pandemic. Also not new and also on the rise are murders and beatings of Black, Brown, Mixed Race, and First Nations people, along with increased attacks on the queer and trans communities. The tragedies associated with the names George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor placed this societal abhorrence in an appropriate spotlight.

How does this violence affect the business world? Organizations now have an opportunity to be a part of the solution. They can commit to education and open dialogue to create what’s called a “trauma-informed workplace.” When implemented effectively, the result is an environment of happy, comfortable, and psychologically safe employees. If the key to any great company is its people (and it is), just imagine how beneficial this can be.

Sadly, hate crime is an ugliness that we must deal with. Another ugliness, however, is cancel culture, which is a term that’s come to light in recent years. Cancel culture is engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure. It tends to happen most when someone from the dominant social group (i.e., male, straight, white, cisgender, middle-aged, or non-disabled) is ostracized for saying or doing something hurtful to a member of a community that’s historically excluded (i.e., female, Black, Brown, Mixed race, First Nations, queer, transgender, elderly, or disabled).

If we want to level-up human consciousness and create a more equitable, inclusive world (which I, of course, think we do), then we have to let people feel safe in making mistakes and saying the wrong thing — without the threat of becoming canceled. Only under these conditions can learning and open dialogue about privilege and difference take place. If we don’t allow people with identity-privilege to feel safe enough to muck things up and get things wrong, they won’t be willing to learn about diversity, inclusion or equity and we’ll have no hope of creating a deeper sense of belonging in the workplace. With the threat imposed by cancel culture, why would they? They feel safer staying away from those discussions because when they get involved, they risk exposure and, ultimately, getting voted off the island.

People need to feel a psychological safety net when taking part in the discussions of a trauma-informed workplace. They need to act with intentional bravery to step into that space. Then, it’s up to organizational leadership to make sure they’re not canceled for saying or doing something unacceptable.

We don’t need to just cancel hate crimes. We also need to cancel cancel culture.

Leaders of organizations must create trauma-informed workplaces to help those who have suffered a hate crime, been subject to cancel culture, or who have dealt with the challenge of being excluded in some way. Concepts like employee resource groups and safe rooms have recently been proven effective to help people process tragic events.

Companies that create “safe rooms” and “intentionally brave spaces” where the delicate (and oftentimes messy) conversations can take place give their staff the psychological safety net necessary for processing complex trauma and the harm inflicted by systemic oppression and day-to-day microaggressions.

But simply declaring a space as “intentionally brave” and explaining to folks in the room a requirement for them to consciously, willfully, and intentionally bring courage, vulnerability, patience, and empathy isn’t enough. An additional step of co-creating rules for the room can encourage commitment.

Here is a simple method for setting the stage to process trauma and oppression at your workplace:

  1. Briefly introduce the topic of psychological safety.
  2. Invite each member of the group to write down qualities that they would like to be present in the room to enable the experience of psychological safety.
  3. Ask each person to read one of their qualities while writing it on a flip chart.
  4. Facilitate a conversation around questions concerning each quality.
  5. Ask the group by show of hands if they’re able and willing to bring each of the qualities into the room.
  6. Lastly, invite each person to place their signature on the flip chart to “seal the deal” in terms of commitment.

I’ve seen safe rooms and intentionally brave spaces effectively emerge in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery as a way for Black employees to process and share their thoughts and fears. Similarly, they provided space to process the 2016 massacre at Pulse Nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Safe rooms allowed folks to share their sorrows and anxieties, to be seen and heard, and to be held in their grief.

While some leaders may think of safe rooms and intentionally brave workspaces as a distraction from work, I see it as a necessary component for processing these tragedies in the workplace that actually leads to employees being more available for their job, not less. It gives staff a sense that their organization supports them, nurtures them, and provides them with the kinds of opportunities that they need and want. What’s more, this step can go a long way in helping all of us to understand each other better and create not just a better place to go to work but a better world in which to live.

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Leading Forum
DDS Dobson-Smith is a licensed therapist, author, executive coach, speaker on leadership and growth and Reiki master — all in service of helping others grow and become who they are. Dobson-Smith is the Founder and CEO of SoulTrained, an executive coaching and leadership growth consultancy and the author of You Can Be Yourself Here: Your Pocket Guide to Creating Inclusive Workplaces by Using the Psychology of Belonging Learn more at www.soultrained.com.

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Culture Counts Culture Renovation

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:26 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Leadership Agility

Zides Leadership Agility

WHY do you think agility is a term used when talking about successful leadership? Is it because you will need to make decisions and act quickly as a leader? Is it to keep up with the ever-changing work environment we see these days? Is it because you need to be able to understand all sides fast and decide with only what you have? The reality is the answer is all of the above.

Leadership agility is your ability to move, think, understand, act, and decide fast as a leader. You have to know your workspace, identify motivations and values that drive not only you and the organization, but your team, maximize creativity, and transition your leadership style and team to a self-organized system.

Assess Your Workspace

As leaders and managers, we need leadership agility to help us understand the needs of the organization and the needs of all our employees. In order to do so, you have to know the ins and outs of your workspace. Who is the go-to employee people rely on for information? Who acts fast and has a “let’s get it done now” attitude? Who steps back and asks all the right questions? Who can you count on for a creative touch?

Getting to know your workspace is more than knowing the layout of your office and the chain of command to the top – it’s also about identifying talent and using individual skills to yield best results.

If you need a catchy flyer created, and an employee in Education Services happens to be great a photoshop and creating copy, you may want to ask that person to help, even if it’s not part of their job description. You have a prospect who wants a deep dive of your sales pitch and the products and services you sell, and the Business Analyst on the product development team can explain the intricacies of the product without being too technical, ask that person to present to the potential client.

You may have people who do not want to work outside of their job description, and that’s part of getting to know your workspace. People often can give you more than what they signed up.

Identify the Motivations and Values

While assessing your workspace, it is important to figure out what motivates your team. Is your team motivated by their commission checks? Are your employees motivated by collaboration with other departments? Is your team motivated by paid time off / vacation days?

Whatever it is, figure it out and use it to get everyone’s blood flowing. If you are able to offer additional vacation days to the person that presents the best outcomes for a project, do it. If you can do quarterly commission check additions that help your sales team compete for the highest revenue for the quarter, do it. If you can get other departments to work together to increase the productivity and attention given to a project, do it.

When your employees see that you are trying to help them grow and push them to be better versions of themselves, you will see results.

Maximize Creativity

Leaders tend to have creative minds, and creativity is not a one-size-fits-all term. Some people are artistically creative, some are organizationally creative, and some are creative with their problem-solving. Maximize yours. Put your creativity on display. Lead by example.

If your employees see you using your creativity, showing that “no question is a stupid question” and that you’re thinking outside the box, they will more than likely be less afraid to put their ideas idea out there.

It’s all about leading by example.

Transition to a Self-Organized System

A strong, agile leader is organized. That leader will then share their organizational knowledge with others to create a system.

A self-organized system is one that does not depend on or wait for a manager to assign work or give instruction. This is something extremely important because it enables the team to find their own work and manage their timelines and responsibilities with minimal handholding.

Transition your leadership style and team to a self-organizing system will streamline processes, let people know who and where to go with they need something, and will inspire creative and collaborative solutions – no matter what type of job you have.

As a leader, you want to remove roadblocks. You want your employees to succeed, to be more productive and effective in their roles. It relies on trust, transparency, and a team that is open to constructive criticism. An agile leader shares his vision with his team, and they execute on all levels together.

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Leading Forum
Mark Zides is the author of The #Pace Process for Early Career Success. Zides is the founder and CEO of CoreAxis Consulting, an award-winning learning and development, and talent management firm. He has a passion for helping companies mold their future, drive growth, and create things that matter, and for helping individuals find the success they’ve always desired. He lives in Boston with his wife, three kids, and two labradoodles. Please visit markzides.com

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Promotions Avoid the 5 Career Derailers

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:01 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources


Who the Hell Wants to Work for You

Eisenhauer Who the Hell

EMPLOYEE engagement is primarily a matter of how you think about your employees. It is natural think that they are generally the problem and as a result you need to “force, trick, or bribe them into mending their ways.”

Tim Eisenhauer asks in Who the Hell Wants to Work for You, “What if you assumed that people naturally love to work? That they long to contribute? And they are only truly happy when working together towards something they see as bigger than themselves?

If you look at it this way, there is nothing to fix. People are already wired to work with passion if … their work environment calls for it. Who is responsible for your employees’ work environment? That’s right, you are.

Eisenhauer shares workplace principles that express the common needs of most people at work. These are the result of not only the lessons he has learned but those he has learned vicariously and shares through countless examples.

To give you a flavor of the book, here are five:

On doing something offbeat with a job candidate because you can learn so much more about people from their response to the unfamiliar than from their doctored life story: You don’t need to take every job candidate on an African safari, but do give them the chance to learn, react, process information, think on their feet, empathize, make decisions, make requests … In other words, engage in all those activities that, on a very basic level, determine success. Look for spontaneous responses. Any time you exchange canned questions and answers, you are wasting an opportunity to get to know your candidate.

If you want people to pay attention and learn fast, the best way is to let them see what’s going on inside the company. With a small company like Axero, it’s pretty easy. For example, we let everyone listen in on customer interviews. That means everyone gets to learn why different customers hire us and how they use our software.

The difference between managing and micromanaging is compulsion. Of course, you cannot blindly trust people to do the job right. They need to earn your trust. Until they do, you need to stay on top of projects and pay attention to detail. The question is—is it possible for another person to satisfy you? If your record says, “not really,” it means that you check on people compulsively, whether or not it’s necessary, and even when it makes things worse.

When insecurity strikes, resist the temptation to cover it up. Speak your mind and make it okay for everyone to do the same. For example, if you are feeling silent tension in the room, don’t explain it away in your head. Ask what’s going on. What is everyone thinking and not saying?

Freedom and trust must grow with the culture, not ahead of it. The trick is to set your intention. Are you waiting for employees to become trustworthy before you defer to their judgment? Or, are you actively seeking ways to support and empower people as they are?

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Engagement Uncovered Fun At Work

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:08 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources


Redefining Ambition and Career Development


MANY definitions of “leadership” exist; but the ones that always resonate for me involve an element of bringing people along, helping them grow and progress, facilitating the development of them as people and their careers. And I have the feeling that similar definitions are deeply held by many leaders – especially given the frequency of one question I’m asked over and over:

“What should I do with my ‘I’m good where I am’ employee who lacks ambition, doesn’t seem to want to grow, and is completely disinterested in moving up, over, or anywhere?”

My answer to these leaders – who can’t help but feel that they’re shirking their responsibility if they aren’t motivating people to aspire to more – often is, “celebrate them… then get right to work challenging your own career development mindset.”

It’s easy to impose our values, priorities, and aspirations on others. But the truth is that we each have a unique definition of what success looks like and how to achieve it. Appreciating and acting upon these differences is key to unlocking potential, motivation, and growth – even with those who appear outwardly disinterested in career development. And doing this involves going deep and wide – deep into understanding the individual and wide in terms of expanding your definition of career development.

Understand the Individual

Let’s face it, employees may be satisfied where they are for any number of reasons. Perhaps they’re deeply self-aware. They know what they’re good at, what they’re interested in, and what they love. Maybe they’ve found a comfortable niche within which they experience a sense of purpose and meaning. They might have figured out how to make work fit within their broader lives and other priorities. Or maybe they’ve gotten a glimpse into the headaches that you and other leaders experience on a regular basis and have consciously decided to take a pass. Disinterest in moving up doesn’t mean someone is unambitious; it simply means the leader needs to become more interested in understanding what’s important to the person and where their ambitions lie.

Expand the Definition of Career Development

When leaders engage with employees in candid conversations aimed at deepening their understanding of the individual, they frequently discover that the problem isn’t that these people lack ambition. Instead, it’s that we all have lacked the language – concrete ways to talk about career development – that aren’t inextricably connected with promotions, positions, and moves which don’t interest all employees.

Careers and development are far bigger than the traditional trajectory up the org chart. Many employees recognize that careers operate between and beyond the artificial markers of new positions. One’s current role can become a rich sandbox for continuous growth… if we reframe the conversation and introduce seven other dimensions that are deeply meaningful to people who may not want to go anywhere but would welcome the opportunity for growth in place.

Research I conducted for my new book, Promotions Are So Yesterday, suggests that there are seven other development dimensions that offer more interesting ways for employees to grow the than the classic climb up the corporate ladder. They include:

  • Contribution: Making a difference, being of service, or aligning with purpose
  • Competence: Building critical capabilities, skills, abilities, and expertise
  • Connection: Cultivating relationships, deepening networks, elevating visibility
  • Confidence: Enhancing confidence, certainty, and trust in one’s talents and abilities
  • Challenge: Stretching beyond what’s known and comfortable
  • Contentment: Finding satisfaction, ease, balance, and joy in one’s work
  • Choice: Exercising control, autonomy, flexibility, and decision-making authority

These seven dimensions offer leaders who are committed to ensuring that everyone grows the tools they need to facilitate meaningful development – even with those who have little interest in promotions. For instance, a new role is not required to introduce interesting and meaningful challenges into someone’s work life. People don’t need a different title to expand their network and learn from and through different people. A position change isn’t a pre-requisite for changing up one’s work to offer greater value or contribution. Employees don’t have to go anywhere to experience the powerful learning that comes along with making greater or more complex decisions.

And the good news is that these seven dimensions – unlike promotions – are completely within your control. You and the employee can agree upon countless ways to tap their interests, motivations, and ambitions with development opportunities that are available right within their current role.

So, if you’re a leader who measures your success by the growth of others, these seven dimensions will help you promote career development without promotions. Unlocking new possibilities may turn some ‘I’m good where I am’ responses into ‘I’m ready to get even better where I am!’

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Leading Forum
Julie Winkle Giulioni is a champion for workplace growth and development and helps leaders optimize talent and potential within their organizations. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, she’s the co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go and author of Promotions Are So Yesterday. Julie is a regular contributor to numerous business publications.

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Help Them Grow Growth

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:38 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management , Motivation


8 Meticulous Hiring Tactics to Land the Best People

Building a Better Organization

YOUR organization’s success comes down to who you hire. Just as great coaches don’t win many games without great players, great managers aren’t successful without the right people on their team. Finding, hiring, and developing great performers is the most important part of every manager’s job.

One of the primary reasons for turnover in any organization is that the person who leaves or gets fired shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. A very structured process is essential for hiring the right people who are not only qualified to do the job but are also compatible with your organization.

A meticulous process may require extra time on the front end but will save enormous time, energy, and money on the back end.

Use these tactics to ensure success in your hiring process:

1. Conduct multiple interviews – When filling a position, conduct multiple interviews with each candidate, and recruit staff members to take part in the separate interviews. Following the interviews, bring together all the interviewers to discuss the candidate. You would be surprised how often a candidate answers the same question with a different answer. Look for unanimous consensus from all the people who participated in the interviews.

2. Account for “must-haves” and “preferreds” – For each job, establish “must-haves” and “preferreds.” A must-have is an absolute requirement on which you are unwilling to compromise. A preferred is a bonus attribute of a candidate. For example, an attorney who is licensed to practice in your state is a must-have, but a preferred qualification might be that he or she is licensed in adjoining states.

3. Examine past behavior – In interviews, the focus is on learning about past behavior because it often predicts future behavior. To better assess whether a job applicant might be a good fit, examine how the applicant behaved in the past. That’s not to say that people can’t change, but, in general, most people will continue to approach situations as they have in the past. To get reliable answers, ask situational questions. Examples could be: “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever made?” followed by “Tell me about that decision.” Or, “Have you ever fired anyone?” followed by “Tell me about the circumstances.” The goal is to understand how each candidate approaches or has approached situations and may act the next time a similar situation arises.

4. Check references – Rather than delegating the responsibility, the hiring manager should conduct the reference checks. Further, the hiring manager should make it a point to contact the former bosses from the candidate’s two most recent jobs. A boss can provide specific information about the candidate. Always ask a previous boss: “What areas did you ask the candidate to improve on in the most recent performance review?” You’d be surprised how often answers from the boss differ from those of the candidate in the interview. Reference checking is very important because the former bosses may provide insights that your interviews with the candidate won’t reveal.

5. Ask stress questions – Stress questions are those that test an applicant’s ability to perform under pressure. They require the candidate to react spontaneously to a stressful situation. Some examples of stress questions include: “How would you handle a customer who has verbally insulted you?” or “Why should I hire you?” or “How would you rate your performance in your previous role?”

6. Define the answers you’re looking for – As a good trial lawyer would tell you, “Don’t ever ask a question for which you don’t know the answer.” Similarly, you should always have a good idea of what constitutes a good answer to the questions you ask in an interview. Probe into any answers that you find either cursory or confusing.

7. Determine cultural compatibility – Every organization has its own culture. You know what it’s like to work at your organization and the kind of people who will fit in well. It’s important to ask questions that can reveal the potential compatibility of the candidate with the corporate culture. Specific questions could include: “How did you feel about your customers in previous jobs?” or “How did you feel about the people you worked with?” or “Tell me about your intensity in performing your job.”

8. Eliminate lukewarm candidates – From time to time, you may think you’re hiring the perfect candidate but later discover that you were wrong. But if your impression of a candidate is only lukewarm, you should refrain from hiring that person. Organizations hire lukewarm candidates because the hiring process is time-consuming and difficult, and they don’t wish to prolong it if no exceptional applicant surfaces. But making do with a mediocre candidate never works. You will be wrong every time.

Hiring the right people is critical for your organization’s success. Use this structured, meticulous process to ensure that you hire well.

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Leading Forum
Robert J. Kohlhepp joined Cintas Corporation in July 1967 as controller. Over a span of 50 years with Cintas, he was promoted to positions of general manager, vice president and treasurer, executive vice president, president, and CEO, then served as Vice-Chair and Board Chair until retiring in 2016. Additionally, Kohlhepp has served on several association, corporation, nonprofit and university boards. His new book is Building a Better Organization. Visit robertkohlhepp.com.

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Who The A Method for Hiring Hiring for Cultural Fit

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:53 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Need More Fun at Work? 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts

Fun At Work

THERE’S much more to workplace fun than having a Ping-Pong table in the employee break room, free soda in the refrigerator, and an occasional office party. Prioritizing fun at work is really about embedding fun into the work culture.

According to the employees who work for firms listed in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” the most defining characteristic of these organizations is they’re all “fun” places to work.

Yet, there’s effort involved in making work fun, and it’s important to be intentional when crafting and tailoring fun to your employees’ desires! Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” to help guide you in navigating workplace fun:


Happy employees make for more productive employees. The University of Warwick conducted a study of more than 700 participants and concluded that increased happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity. And, according to research by Ben Waber, companies can increase productivity by up to 25% by making small changes that increase employees’ sense of fun and satisfaction. Take note of these “do’s” as you strive to implement a fun workplace culture:

  • Do #1: Be playful and choose to have fun. We believe having fun at work is a matter of choice. Take your work seriously, but yourself lightly.
  • Do #2: Be open and flexible. We know it’s easy to have fun at work if you put your mind to it, but you also need to be open to what your co-workers feel is fun.
  • Do #3: Experiment and try new things. Part of what makes something fun (and funny) is the element of surprise, freshness, and creativity.
  • Do #4: Learn, refine, and reapply. No matter what you attempt as a way to have fun, you can learn from it. What worked and what didn’t? If you choose to do it again, what would you change or improve upon?
  • Do #5: Be patient. If the people you work with don’t readily accept your idea of fun or don’t participate—hang in there! Invite and encourage their ideas. What would be fun for them?


What’s fun to some may not be fun to others, so you need to get to know the people you work with and allow them the freedom and flexibility to have fun in ways they appreciate. Take note of these “don’ts” as you strive to implement a fun workplace culture:

  • Don’t #1: Don’t force fun on others. Fun has to be safe; it can’t be forced on others. No one should be made to participate in an activity deemed “fun” by others if they don’t want to join.
  • Don’t #2: Don’t be rigid and predictable. Don’t dictate what is fun or when it can occur at work. Don’t impose rules on others about fun.
  • Don’t #3: Don’t keep doing the same things. If variety is the spice of life, then fun is your chance to add some seasoning!
  • Don’t #4: Don’t overlook learning from the fun things you’ve tried. To get better at anything, you have to debrief what was done, what went well, and what could be improved. So is the case with fun at work. Take time to consider what you did and how you could make it even better the next time.
  • Don’t #5: Don’t give up. The more fun you attempt, the easier it will be for others to join in. At some point, fun will become an ingrained part of your work culture that everyone will come to appreciate and expect!


  1. What’s fun for some may not be for others. You can’t force fun on anyone. Instead, allow people to participate as they are comfortable—and support them in the process.
  2. Know thy people well. Allow people to be who they are and do what they prefer to have fun.
  3. Make it safe and fun for everyone. How do you ensure people feel comfortable and experience fun? Get to know them and learn what they enjoy, and encourage them to do more of those things.

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Leading Forum
This is a post by Bob Nelson and Mario Tamayo. Bob Nelson, Ph.D., president of Nelson Motivation Inc., is the world’s leading authority on employee recognition and engagement. He has worked with 80% of Fortune 500 companies and authored over 30 books, including the multimillion-copy bestseller 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. Mario Tamayo, a principal with Tamayo Group Inc., has more than 30 years of experience in maximizing human performance, working with organizations such as Genentech, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Petco, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball team. They are co-authors of Work Made Fun Gets Done! Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results.

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Great Workplace Drive

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:26 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Culture Renovation

Culture Renovation

WE hear a lot about changing the culture. And the successful are more like renovations than they are like rebuilding the culture. Kevin Oakes advocates that mindset in Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company

Companies that effectively changed their cultures were successful because they were renovating what they had, not starting from scratch and completely rebuilding or transforming.

Furthermore, he notes that the best time to renovate your culture is when all is well.

Rarely do companies set out to change their culture when everything is calm and running smoothly, even though that is probably the best time to do it.

Making the point that culture renovation begins at the top he replays the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft after Steve Balmer in 2014. Cultural change at Microsoft began on day one. The key change was instilling a growth mindset.

Microsoft’s culture had been rigid. Each employee had to prove to everyone that he or she was the smartest person in the room. Accountability—delivering on time and hitting numbers—trumped everything. Meetings were formal. If a senior leader wanted to tap the energy and creativity of someone lower down in the organization, she or he needed to invite that person’s boss, and so on. Hierarchy and pecking order had taken control, and spontaneity and creativity had suffered as a result. The culture change I wanted was actually rooted in the Microsoft I originally joined. The culture change I wanted was centered on exercising a growth mindset every day.

The turnaround at Microsoft has been remarkable, and it started at the top.

Oakes offers an 18-step culture change blueprint organized equally into three categories: Plan, Build, and Maintain.


Step #1: Develop and Deploy a Comprehensive Listening Strategy. “Before an organization embarks on a culture renovation, it needs to first understand how the current culture is perceived. Too often, the senior team assumes they know what the culture represents. Too often, they are dead wrong.”

Step #2: Figure Out What to Keep. Know what stays and what goes. Listen to employees (Step 1) is so important because “it not only illuminates what the culture is today, but it also helps determine the most positive and valued aspects of the company’s historical culture to carry forward.”

Step #3: Set Your Cultural Path. “In the spirit of renovation, the new direction should acknowledge and embrace past successes, but set up the organization to forge new ground into an unknown future.” A carefully crafted purpose statement.

Step #4: Define the Desired Behaviors. Once you have a short, pithy, and memorable purpose statement, the question is what behaviors will best support that statement.

Step #5: Identify Influencers, Energizers, and Blockers. Know the informal organization using an organizational network analysis.

Step #6: Determine How Progress Will Be Measured, Monitored, and Reported. “Ultimately, the reason for a culture renovation is to enable the organization to execute on its go-forward strategy. Because this change can sometimes take years, it’s important to define upfront what the indicators of a successful renovation should be, and to put in place mechanisms to monitor progress.” Oakes offers a number of common measures and methods.


Step #7: Clearly Communicate That Change Is Coming. “To kick off a culture renovation, the CEO must articulate the purpose of the organization (whether new, old, or renovated), and that purpose must resonate with employees.”

Step #8: Ferret Out Skeptics and Nonbelievers Early. This is the hardest step. “It’s the consistently de-energizing people that ultimately slow down or take down cultures. Ferret them out as early in the renovation as possible.”

Step #9: Paint a Vision for the Future. The story matters. “73 percent of successful change efforts relied on stories.” A go-forward vision of the future. Most CEOs of corporate change failure attack previous leadership and focus their messages on the past.

Step #10: Consciously Collaborate. Strong internal collaboration is important to drive change. The group must understand why they are coming together and what they are doing. Collaboration can go too far as in the case where “connectivity is through the roof because everyone believes they need to be consulted on decisions.”

Step #11: Establish a Co-creation Mindset. “Though almost all successful culture change efforts begin top-down, it is critical to also get the buy-in of the workforce by creating a bottom-up (and middle-out) contribution mechanism.” Consider a Culture Hackathon. Ford “held a two-day event where employees worked in randomly selected teams to generate ideas to either fortify elements of the culture they loved or fix elements that weren’t serving the company well - #hackFORDculture.

Step #12: Provide Training on the Desired Behaviors. Train leaders at all levels on the desired behaviors so that they can model them. “While leaders as teachers is one of the most effective ways to reinforce behaviors, it’s clear that successful culture change relies on overall leadership training across the organization.”


Step #13: Make Onboarding About Relationships Versus Red Tape. “If you want to maintain that culture renovation you worked so hard to put in place, you can start by improving your onboarding process.” The most overlooked aspect of onboarding: “Helping the new hire establish a network of trusted subject matter experts who will contribute to that person’s career success.”

Step #14: Promote Those Who Best Represent the New. Behaviors that support the renovated culture should be rewarded. Showcase the “career advancement of individuals who best represent the new.”

Step #15: Change Performance Management Practices. Most important is the “frequency and usefulness of feedback, clearly defining the business purpose of the performance process, and aligning it with the culture and values of the organization.”

Step #16: Leverage Employee Affinity Groups. Interestingly, their research found that two-thirds of companies felt Employee Resource Groups were “more effective than other leadership development forums at developing leadership skills and competencies.” An ERGs primary benefit is to “raise awareness of the different groups of people that make up the workforce of most organizations.”

Step #17: Increase the Focus on Talent Mobility. “During a culture renovation, one of the most successful talent initiatives an organization can focus on is rotating talent to strengthen ‘the pack’ and ensure the desired behaviors are exhibited throughout the organization.”

Step #18: Don’t Underestimate the Value of External Sentiment. Use external feedback from places like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and social media to monitor the progress of efforts to renovate your culture.

Culture Renovation is less theory and more how to. You will find case studies and interviews with the participants of successful culture change.

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Netflix Patty McCord Culture Eats Strategy

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:35 AM
| Comments (0) | Change , Culture , Human Resources , Management


2020: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

2020 The Opportunity of a Lifetime

I AM A BIG BELIEVER that growth and transformation happens outside of our comfort zones. And this year has been anything but comfortable. Transformation is coming. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our country in more ways than one. We are being forced to grow and adapt or fall by the wayside. While I am not advocating that a crisis is something to pursue, I do believe it forces us to grow in ways we would not have otherwise.

This will be the greatest opportunity in our lifetimes to start over. A complete reset, to create, cultivate and maintain a cohesive culture at work. It can be a fresh start forced upon us by something out of our control. What has been a tragedy on many levels can be used for good. This can be life changing for so many.

In order for transformation to come, we need to face reality for a second. If your company culture was toxic before, I can’t imagine what it will look like when you get back into the office. Dysfunction isn’t static. It’s either being addressed and fixed or it’s growing. Communication, which was likely already at a minimum in the workplace, became even quieter and more distant. If people were cynical and unhappy before, then what will getting back together look like? If they didn’t like their coworkers before, they won’t like them now. If they didn’t like their leadership before, they won’t now. Six months at home with their family, away from the drama around the office, and limited distractions has only reinforced their desire to stay as far away from the office as possible.

A cohesive culture is impossible to achieve when your people aren’t at the office. So how do you make your company culture a place people are drawn to and not away from?

Great cultures don’t just happen overnight. You can’t just hire your way to a fulfilled workplace of engaged employees and team members. There’s so much more to be done. It has to be strived for, all day every day. Conversations need to happen to establish what the purpose is, both for the company and the employee. We need to talk about where we want to go together and how we want to treat each other on the journey. Once we can agree to those things then we need to realign to them every single day. Everything we do should be done through the lens of purpose. If we can’t connect the task to purpose, then why are we doing it in the first place? A culture with a good purpose will protect itself.

We need to affirm the intrinsic value in our people, choose to see the diversity they bring to the table and how we can achieve our goals by unifying together. These conversations won’t be casual breakroom talk or quick hallway catch-ups. They will be authentic and real unity driven conversations that foster community among employees and leaders. It is the role of a leader to get to know their people’s passions and soft skills—what makes them unique. Then learn how to apply those passions and soft skills to help us accomplish our purpose together.

If we as leaders do this, we might look back some day and say that the silver lining, in a very difficult year, was the real and lasting change that made the workplace a destination, not just a means to an end.

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Leading Forum
Chris Meroff, is the author of Align: Four Simple Steps for Leaders to Create Employee Fulfillment. He has made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. What he has gleaned from his research has helped him build a fast-growing organization with a diverse and engaged workforce that understands the mission of his organization and their place in it. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they too can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. Learn more at AlignLeadThrive.com.

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Mitch Warner 5 Steps Building Company Culture

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:38 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leading Forum


Want an Ideal Team Player? Find an Introvert

Find an Introvert

WHILE the introverts at the office may not be top-of-mind when it comes to assembling a project team, you could be overlooking valuable contributors. Too often, the ideas of introverts are drowned out, yet when sought out, can have true merit.

Management guru and prolific author, Patrick Lencioni, wrote about the three characteristics of an ideal team player – hungry, smart, and humble. That third trait, which includes sharing credit and defining success collectively rather than individually, is one most often associated with introverts.

A measure of an effective team is that it utilizes all team members’ strengths. Introverts are keen observers, listeners, and deep thinkers. Without unlocking the introverted voice, teams won’t achieve their true potential. Teams involving both introverts and extroverts get exponentially more accomplished. It’s like having one group that can see close up and one that can see into the distance.

Here are five approaches to more inclusive team meetings that insure introverts’ input:

1. Implement a 1-minute rule. Ask that each team member speak for 1 minute on a work-related topic. In structuring team meetings so that everyone has a chance to contribute for the same (short) amount of time, introverts are ensured the same opportunity to be heard as their extroverted counterparts.

2. Pair up. Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow, structures team meetings to be more inclusive by pairing up team members. They can privately check in with each other via chat or a program like Slack to see if either needs more explanation or context. Extroverted team members can advocate for introverts if they want to make a comment and are having trouble interjecting their thoughts. Additionally, the buddy system helps to increase compassion and understanding among team members and build one-on-one relationships.

3. Create team member user manuals. Consider the creative technique of asking team members to write their own user manuals that help others understand how they like to work. It can include their collaboration style, ideal times of the day for group and solo work, their motivations and stressors, and their interests in and outside of work. User manuals are a great tool for introverts – who often prefer written communication – to let the rest of the team know their preferences.

4. Consider teams of two or three. Introverts often prefer one-on-one or small-group meetings to larger ones. Instead of all-person team meetings all of the time, consider breaking up your team into smaller groups. These groups of two or three can focus on specific tasks. Encouraging these smaller groups to take walking meetings may also make it easier for introverted team members to speak up. Walking while talking helps to get introverts out of their head and facilitates the flow of ideas as they think on their feet (literally).

5. Foster transparency. Consider using a design or system map to get both introverts and extroverts involved. According to Service Design Tools, this is a representation showing in a single frame all the different actors involved and their mutual links – such as flows of materials, energy, information, money, documents, and more. You can display it and add or remove Post-it notes to provide supplementary information.

Too often, introverts are expected to yield the floor to extroverts who are very comfortable with speaking up. Teams who include everyone’s voice will engage the introverts on the team. The team will find a well of resources in their quiet, calm contributors as well as their expressive, energetic ones.

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Leading Forum
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, is an author, Certified Speaking Professional, and one of the top global leadership speakers on introverts. She helps organizations harness the power of introverts. Her new book is, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance. Watch a short video about it here. Her previous bestselling books include The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, and The Genius of Opposites. Her books have been translated into 18 languages. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune. Learn more at jenniferkahnweiler.com.

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Fearless Organization Changing Your Nature

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:10 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Teamwork


Stay Indispensable by Cultivating These Key Ingredients

Stay Indispensable

IN 1984 a typical business competency would last 30 years. Today, it’s more akin to five. We’re changing jobs more than ever and pursuing multiple careers and projects simultaneously. Take a moment to consider how many jobs you’ve had and how many careers you’re yet to embark upon?

The ability to adapt and thrive at work, also known as your adaptability quotient, demands continuous learning and cultivation. The paradigm shift in work is, first and foremost, a mental one. As humans, what we crave are open, fluid, and personalized systems. And the world of work is gradually opening to provide just that.

Enter the shaper. A shaper is someone who gets energized by work. How they work provides for the highest creative expression of self. What shapers do every day serve themselves and the greater good. They are on a path that embraces their uniqueness so as to lead deep and fulfilling lives.

Taking a Cue from a Comedian

“No one is any one thing,” sums up Martin Short’s outlook on life.

He’s one of the few people in comedy who’s capable of laughing on both the outside and the inside. The youngest of five children, when he was 12 years old, his eldest brother died in a car accident. Six years later, his mother died of cancer, and two years after that his father passed away from a stroke. His wife of 30 years died of cancer at age 58. Despite all this, Short still demonstrates an unparalleled joie de vivre—he just keeps moving forward.

Whether performing a duet with Steve Martin, embarrassing Drake, or playing a host of oddball characters, he’s always experimenting and learning. He welcomes change and regularly takes risks. The comedic chameleon may well be the funniest man alive.

It’s this same strain of continuous reinvention that helps the shaper thrive.

Stoicism and Modern Modalities

Work is now a process and practice to improve. We must demonstrate the fortitude that comes with owning a growth mindset. We need to play, invent, and create—because in order to build more resiliency.

A marked departure from the rigid ways of the past, the new mode of work is much more fluid. It begs us to deal with more ambiguity and complexity. Modern ways of working require us to consistently tap into our cognitive powers, creative energy, and collective genius. The hallmark modality of the new world of work it this fluidity—the ability to move quickly and with dexterity amid constant change.

A learned practice that ebbs and flows being fluid is a sign of strength in times of uncertainty. Those that shine in the workplace move with a similar ease to water—flowing in harmony with everything they encounter. Cultivating this practice means seeking change, always improving, and expertly navigating towards a future that’s only coming at us faster.

Vital Ingredients

Many workers now function like Apps on a smartphone, sitting pretty on top of a company’s operating system (OS). They are selected, downloaded, updated, shared, and deleted on demand.

The robustness of this OS and the fluidity of the Apps have become an intricate dance to crack. The onus falls on us to safeguard our positioning. We want to ensure we’re featured on the homescreen, all the while protecting our freedoms.

While companies continue to shimmy and shuffle to attract talent, we continue to search for meaning and challenge. These are the vital ingredients to help insulate against existential dread and stay featured on the home screen:

Intuiting: Sometimes working things out by intuition and learning to trust our gut.

Noting: Bear witness, observe, pause, respond, refuse, and choose from a place of wisdom. Practice self-awareness so that we can direct our focus to those things that makes our minds soar and our hearts sing. Remain cognizant of our teammates and the entire organization.

Giving: Commit to something greater than ourselves. Dedication can’t be faked, and companies can smell it from miles away. Let the care we have and the quality of our work do the talking.

Relating: Connect with others for depth, not breadth. Building meaningful relationships is enlightened self-interest at work. It helps us build a safety net that provides the confidence to create our personal flywheel for doing our best and deepest work.

Expanding: See the world with wide eyes and remain open to possibilities, understand situations from another’s point of view, and let go of our egos to curiously engage with the unknown.

Discerning: Time is finite. The trick is to be ruthless in managing our energy so that it can expand and become boundless.

Integrating: Give life to a myriad of projects that we are valued for, and that fuel our inner working lives. Combine and recombine as needed.

Expressing: Be a good steward to our unique gifts. Create, experiment, and serve ourselves and others with gumption.

Navigating: The tenacity to engage with the unknown and constantly stretch our capabilities through training, novel experiences, high contrast conversations, experimentation, and feedback. Showing courage to step out of our comfort zones and never rest on our laurels.

Trusting: Nothing fruitful in the long term comes without integrity. Trust is earned with courage over time, and by reputation. There is no quick hack.

Sensing: At the individual, collective and global level, appreciating what’s needed in any given moment—and then having the audacity to show up wholeheartedly.

These qualities are embodied by shapers and are always in flux, regularly being flexed, and always improved upon. The intention is to become unflappable and adapt to change with grace. Like Martin Short, taking a diverse and nimble approach to work is one way to deal with volatility. And while having a solid skill set is a great start, it’s really the ability to move fluidly between different disciplines while learning new skills on the go that differentiate shapers from the crowd.

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Leading Forum
Jonas Altman is the author SHAPERS: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future. He is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur on a mission to make the world of work more human. As the founder of award-winning design practice Social Fabric, he creates learning experiences to elevate and grow leaders at the world’s boldest organizations.

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Sohn Sweet Spot Game Changer

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:15 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Leading an Emotionally Traumatized Workforce in the Midst of a Pandemic

Leading an Emotionally Traumatized Workforce

YOUR COMPANY has begun its phased reopening. You are excited to be back in the office and a more normal routine. However, things are not as normal as you thought they would be. Not everyone shares in your enthusiasm, and the culture of your team seems to have changed. Your team is easily distracted and anxious. Even your top performers are not themselves. You are struggling to understand what the issues are and how to address them. Should you allow performance to seek its own level? Should you remind everyone of the previous performance standards and enforce them rigidly? How long do you let the faltering performance continue?

The issue you, as the leader, are experiencing is the complexity of grief caused by a global pandemic. Grief is triggered any time a person faces the loss of what they considered to be their normal reality. The pandemic has caused many realities to shift. Some genuine, and some perceived. Many of these changes are losses. Here are some your people may be experiencing:

  • The loss of the family’s second income due to their spouse’s layoff
  • The loss of their sense of safety as they question the steps the company is taking to protect them
  • The loss of the control they had over their lives as they worry about how their children will return to school and how that will impact the need for childcare
  • The loss of contact from an elderly parent who is locked down in a care facility since the pandemic began
  • The loss of a loved one during the pandemic with no one around to comfort them or support the grieving family

Grief takes on many shapes and forms. When the global pandemic struck the United States, it was sudden and unnatural. This generation has never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. When losses of loved ones, employment, a home, or anything people have a deep relationship with are sudden and unnatural, the grief experienced is more profound, more prolonged, and more complex. Our psyche does not know how to process these types of losses. All of the instances cited above are the result of the sudden shift in people’s reality. This scenario is playing out in every business and at every level across the country. The result: people are in denial, people are angry, people are bargaining, and people are depressed—all stages of the grief cycle. Professional sports are not even immune to this as players are electing to sit out the abbreviated seasons as a result of the fear that their team will not be able to keep them safe.

So how should a leader deal with this situation? As a leader, it is up to you to adapt your leadership style to help guide employees through their new life and work reality. Adaptive leaders are versatile and adept at balancing the five evaluation attributes of their people: stewardship, trust, empowerment, collaboration, and communication frequency. By adjusting your leadership style across these five elements, the adaptive leader helps grieving or emotionally traumatized employees excel at work through times such as these. Adaptive leaders understand that employees who experience an emotionally traumatic event are not the same people when they return to work as they were before the event. Emotionally traumatic events impact both the person's ability to perform and their potential while they work through the event and the subsequent grief emotions.

Here are four tips for leading through these times:

  1. Understand that people are likely not going to be the same as they were before the stay-at-home orders.
  2. Recognize that you, as the leader, will need to engage more with your team collectively and individually.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Have the courage to engage in your people’s emotional well-being even though that will involve having awkward, emotional, and uncomfortable conversations about what is troubling them. Also, be open about what your organization is doing to provide for their safety.
  4. Incorporate what people tell you into the work systems that accommodate employees’ needs, and clearly explain why some changes may not be feasible.

We are not suggesting leaders relax performance standards or take a soft approach to leading—quite to the contrary. What we are recommending is the most challenging form of leadership. We are suggesting the leader should confront the issues head-on, but only after genuinely seeking to understand what the issues are from the employee’s point of view. It takes a strong and confident leader to engage people on a personal and emotional level. If you implement these four tips, your team will see you as a compassionate leader who is willing to adapt your style to meet them where they are as they navigate their new realities.

Now more than ever, people are looking to their employer to demonstrate that they care about them. How a leader deals with these difficult situations sends a highly visible message. The result will be higher levels of trust in you and the organization, higher morale, higher productivity, and higher levels of loyalty and engagement.

We would enjoy hearing about your leadership experiences as they relate to this topic. Visit our website, www.griefleaders.com, and share your story on our contact page.

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Leading Forum
Guy Casablanca and Anthony Casablanca are the cofounders of GriefLeaders, a training and consulting organization devoted to educating leaders on how to help grieving employees excel at work. Guy is a dually licensed funeral director and mortician, highly experienced at facilitating healthy grieving processes, who has owned two businesses, consulted for corporations, and led teams of managers. He currently manages a funeral home in Loveland, Colorado. Anthony is a senior executive with 30-plus years of experience and a proven track record of purpose-driven leadership. He has held several leadership roles with Batesville Casket Company, the world’s largest funeral service products provider, and was named the 2009 Human Resource Executive of the Year for Indiana. Brothers, Guy and Anthony Casablanca are the coauthors of The Dying Art of Leadership: How Leaders Can Help Grieving Employees Excel at Work.

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Inner Peace Transpersonal Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:02 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Game Changer: How to Be A 10x Talent

Game Changer

WHAT is a 10x talent?

10x talent, as the label implies, is able to deliver ten times more than is expected, but what makes them so valuable is that they are multidimensional. They are smart, good communicators, and have interests beyond their core specialty. Their curiosity and love of learning drives them to do more and do it better. They love what they do, and they love solving problems.

In Game Changer, authors Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg report that “Tech and digitization have disrupted the very foundation of all ventures, business, government, or otherwise and in doing so have handed over controls to those who have the exceptional skills to provide efficiency and meaningful growth.”

The game has changed, and that puts 10x talent in the driver’s seat. In addition, it demands a new kind of 10x management. There are really two sides to this idea. There is the talent, and then there are the people managing and developing that talent. Importantly, those managing the talent should be working to become 10x talent themselves.

The first part of the book discusses how to become a 10x company and attract 10x talent. Part two is about how you can become 10x talent.

As an organization, you have to give them the opportunity to optimize their whole life—working with the whole person from the inside out. “It’s a level of respect that turns the very concept of boss on its head.”

The authors say the most important thing you can understand about 10x talent is that they love what they do. But 10xers are not only high IQ but high EQ. They work well on teams. “Making it on the team is the new success.” And of course, this means openness to feedback.

Ralph Perrine, the director of the Innovation Garage, highlighted the gap between the excitement of the innovator and well, everyone else. For him, 10x development “means not only finding a way to communicate your passion, but also finding a way to absorb the other party’s skepticism.” He says, “Driving change is hard. Over time, I’ve learned that our products improve when we’re willing to hear others tell us the many ways things might go wrong.”

An important key to all of this is curiosity, humility and therefore, teachability. “Great talent becomes 10x when it develops the quality of manageability—the ability to seek out and internalize powerful outside guidance, built on an invisible desire for growth and improvement.”

Tech problems tend to be interdisciplinary in nature, and if you can only do one thing, your value ends when you hit the border of your skills. True 10xers don’t hit that border—they plow right on through and keep learning.

The authors introduce what they call the Manageability Continuum, and everyone you meet is somewhere on this spectrum. At one end is the Success Impulse. It is the “internal tendency to make positive choices that steer talents toward both their goals and the company’s goals.” At the other end of the spectrum is the Sabotage Impulse. It is victim mentality. It’s denial. When you see it, run from it. Unmanageability looks like this: “If I can’t tell you the truth, no matter how much nonviolent language I use, if I can’t have an honest discussion about something that’s not working without you personalizing it, without you feeling victimized, then we are nowhere.” Talent will never be enough to overcome the Sabotage Impulse.

The manageability test comes down to three questions:

  1. How well did the potential 10xer handle a significant mistake of his or her own making?
  2. How does the potential 10xer handle a situation where a boss or client wants something he or she thinks is a bad idea?
  3. What does the potential 10xer identify as his or her biggest professional weakness?

Wherever you are on the Manageability Continuum, you can improve.

A 10x manager is someone who wants the best for you, is objective, and can see what you can’t see both personally and situationally. They shine a light on your blind spots. “Following tough advice is takes real grit, especially when you’re already experiencing some success.” No matter how good you are, you will need an outside point of view to learn and grow and make your most important decisions.

A 10x manager “dares to study the future in ways you aren’t ready to explore.” They add, “sometimes it’s all about getting a client [a 10xer] to do what he or she does best, but in a new uncomfortable sphere.”

The best 10xers wear two hats: the 10x manager and the 10x talent. Anyone with 10x talent should be able to act as a managerial force for others. “Even those 10xers who are individual contributors by choice still need to interact in ways that require management skills. The great news is, by being the manger for someone whose career you genuinely care about, you are receiving a hands-on education in what constitutes receiving strong management. The better you can manage, the better you can be managed.”

By helping others, you help yourself. “As the future threatens even greater sweeping changes in the workplace, with technology developing an ever more acute ability to replicate human processes, we believe that the accent on empathy, talent, and mutual guidance can be the guiding light for many and a lifesaver for some.”

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100X Leader Talent Wins

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:16 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Five Frequencies That Are Driving Your Culture (for better or worse)

Five Frequencies

IS YOUR CULTURE holding you back? Are the signals you are broadcasting as a leader, creating the culture you want—you need?

Culture experts Jeff Grimshaw, Tanya Mann, Lynne Viscio, and Jennifer Landis say in Five Frequencies that to make a good culture great, leaders must deliberately transmit strong and steady signals. Leaders create culture for better or worse, through the signals they are consciously or unconsciously broadcasting over five frequencies. To change a culture, you need to broadcast a strong, steady signal on each of these frequencies:

Their Decisions and Actions

Example is everything—especially when it is inconvenient and costs you something. If it is truly a “value,” what are you willing to pay for it? Think in the long-term. “Go long-term greedy.” “This can mean avoiding ethical shortcuts, hiring people smarter than you, delegating more, and helping prepare high performers for success beyond your team.”

What They Reward and Recognize

Reward the behaviors you want to see more of. “You are responsible for the dysfunctional behaviors that so bother you.” Everyone brings their emotions to work. “Understand and leverage the emotional algorithms that motivate your people.” Understand that it is all relative, scarcity and timing matter, and everyone appreciates being appreciated.

What They Tolerate (Or Don’t)

“Leaders are ultimately defined by what they tolerate.” Be sure the boundaries are clearly defined as well as the consequences. And don’t make excuses because you don’t want to feel bad or you can’t hold a particular star performer accountable, or because it’s really no big deal. It’s all-important, and consistency is vital.

What you tolerate or don’t tolerate is a balance. “When you decide to become more tolerant of some things (like where people work), you must become, if anything, less tolerant of other things (like the work not getting done). As Harvard professor Gary P. Pisano puts it:”

A tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence. A willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline. Psychological safety requires comfort with brutal candor. Collaboration must be balanced with individual accountability.

How They Show Up Informally

When you show up, you “bring the weather.” People notice a leader’s tone, mood, and focus. They are weather in any organization. What do kind of weather do you bring?

When considering how you show up, the authors advise you to relinquish your raft. They introduce the concept with a story:

A traveler on an important journey comes to a raging river. It seems there’s no way to cross. And that’s terrible news because this is an important journey. Fortunately, she spots a rickety old raft on the bank, off in the brush. With trepidation, she pushes the raft into the water, hops on, and amazingly, uses it to reach the other side. She’s able to continue her important journey. She thinks: I may encounter other raging rivers down the path, so I must keep this raft. So she carries the raft on her back as she continues her journey. It’s a heavy raft, and it slows her down. When fellow travelers point this out, she’s incredulous: “You don’t understand,” she says. “If it wasn’t for this raft, I wouldn’t be where I am today!” And she’s right. That’s literally true. The problem is: If she doesn’t put down the raft, she may not get to where she needs to go on her important journey.

It’s your baggage. It’s your reactive tendencies that may have worked for you in the past that are no longer getting you where you need to be. Reactive tendencies like going with the flow, control, the need to be the hero, or being overly protective of your ego, eventually bring you diminishing returns.

Their Formal Communications

Formal communications don’t work on their own, but they serve to reinforce the other four frequencies. Approach your communications as a story to make it memorable. And say it over and over. “Go past the puke point because that’s often the turning point where employees are just starting to truly get it.”

Have a backstory. Know where you came from. “Look for stories of people demonstrating the behavior you want to see more of, especially when it’s not easy for them to do so.” Fill the communication vacuums. “Don’t push your people to the black market.”

Know, Feel, Do

To establish a reliable culture, you need to measure where you are and where you need to go. The authors call it Know, Feel, Do: what employees know, what they feel, and what they do.

The authors advise us to work backward and forwards. Looking forward, they ask, “What is the culture that makes this outcome possible and probable? What will employees consistently KNOW? FEEL? DO?” Looking at each of the five signals, what will you need to broadcast to your employees in each of the five signal areas?

It is also necessary to look backward and see where your current culture came from. What did each of the signals contribute to your current culture? It will help you to know what to change in order to close the gap from where to are to where you want to be.

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Culturematic All In

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:15 PM
| Comments (0) | Culture , General Business , Human Resources


Full-Spectrum Thinking

Full Spectrum Thinking

FULL-SPECTRUM THINKING is not common, and never has it been. And as the world becomes more complex, confused, and scrambled, it has never been more critical. Bob Johansen describes full-spectrum thinking as “the ability to seek patterns and clarity across gradients of possibility—outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories—while resisting false certainty.”

In Full-Spectrum Thinking, Johansen writes that “the future will punish categorical thinking but reward full-spectrum thinking.”

The future will be a global scramble that will be very difficult to categorize. You will need a full-spectrum mindset to have any hint of what is going on. The scramble will be fraught with toxic misinformation (not necessarily intentional), disinformation (intentional), and distrust. In this future, it will be very dangerous to fit new threats or new opportunities into old categories of thought. Fortunately, new spectrums of thought will become possible in new ways over the next decade. Full-spectrum thinking will be required in order to thrive.

Full-spectrum thinking (FST) combines the “nuances of the analog world with the power and scale of digital.” I like that.

FST is critical thinking that moves beyond binary, simplistic, categorical thinking. It’s questioning assumptions, stereotypes, and categories. Mindless categorizing is harmful and requires very little thinking. It’s dismissive. They create certainties that block us from seeing possibilities. They are, in a word, constraining. Johansen is not against categories “if they are fair and do no harm. All of us need to create structures and categories of some kind that work for us and for others.” He adds, “Rigid categorial thinking is a bad habit we need to break.”

Rigid categorial thinking leads us to certainty, which Johansen and others have declared is the opposite of clarity. And in a narrow sense, I think that is true. Certainty without humility almost certainly, will lead to a lack of clarity. Certainty can blind us to reality—clarity—since we only see things from our own certain perspective. FST demands that we question and take a wider, more inclusive view of the issues before us. But there is a certainty that guides us to clarity and causation and keeps us from adding categories, confusion, and complexity where there are none. And we see that happening all around us.

Johansen spends a good deal of the book applying FST to the future of business, technology, our lifestyle, and our sense of meaning. He noes that a forecast is to be evaluated on “whether or not it provokes a better decision in the present.” Adding, “Strategy lives between insight and action” and “every good strategy is based on a compelling insight.”

Most companies think in terms of Now, Next, Future. Johansen advises us to shift our strategic orientation to Now, FUTURE, Next. Most of our attention should go to Now. But in a highly uncertain future, we need to look to the future (10 years ahead) for clarity then come back to Next to act in the now.

Johansen looks at business development. “Think beyond products. Think especially beyond commodity products where competition is based only on price.”

Organizations of the future will move beyond command-and-control to the U.S. Army’s practice of commanders intent or “direction is very clear; execution is very flexible.”

Leaders will still be a source of clarity, but the leader will not always be on top. The source of clarity should be grounding, and it should flow up and out across the network.

In an interesting chapter on Human-Machine symbiosis, he reimagines the human resources function. Perhaps we need to refer to it as Human-Computing Resources because humans are increasingly augmented by digital resources.

Human resource professionals will need the ability to better understand the capabilities of nonhuman and computer-augmented talent. Intelligent coworkers with powerful digital augmentation will be everywhere.

Collective intelligence—humans working together, augmented by machines—will be required to thrive.

And this. As video gaming as a learning medium becomes more widespread, human resource practitioners will need to be “experts in the medium of immersive learning through digital and in-person experiences.”

Categories themselves will also become “more fluid and cross-spectrum” as opposed to being binary—in or out. “Diversity will become more important even as it becomes more difficult to categorize.”

Creating or finding meaning will become a growth industry. From faith springs hope. Faith has the power to shape our future.

Faith grows out of a learning mindset. Faith allows you to navigate your way through things you don’t have all figured out. Faith helps you make your way through fear. Faith is grounded in a sense of humility and openness to learning in an uncertain future. Faith implies a full-spectrum mindset.

Rituals and habits help to create meaning. “Rituals are a condensed code of meaning, and repeating the code [like saying “I love you” every day] reinforces the meaning.”

Johansen believes that true digital natives (24 or under in 2020) are very good at full-spectrum thinking. “The true digital natives will challenge the social order.” Of course, every generation of young people challenges the social order whether they were brought up on video games and digital content or not. He points out that, “Kids are born with full-spectrum thinking, but adults, schools, and society often force it out of them with education, testing, technology, and culture.” How true. The difficulty for digital natives (like the rest of us) is not relying on soundbites and headlines to form our opinions. Most young people question the status quo and defy categories placed in front of them (or on them) by others. However, they also need to learn to express their thoughts and challenges in an emotionally intelligent way.

Full-Spectrum Thinking does make you stop and think about the categories, boxes, labels we place on people and things. We need to learn to think deeper and broader about the issues before us. It is a valuable and cautionary book.

Full-spectrum thinking will provide powerful ways to make sense out of new opportunities without assuming that new experiences mirror old categories, boxes, labels, or buckets. Full-spectrum thinking will help people avoid thoughtless labeling of others. Full-spectrum thinking will be a technology-enabled antidote to polarization and simplistic thinking.

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Ten Leadership Skills You Need 5 Leadership Literacies

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:56 PM
| Comments (0) | Change , Creativity & Innovation , Human Resources


How to Align Yourself (And Others) Up, Down, Sideways, And Diagonally on the Chain of Command to Improve Outcomes

Bruce Tulgan Indispensable

YOU are likely being asked to “work things out at your own level” in your job more and more. You’ve probably asked your direct reports to work things out at their own level, too. The problem is that, too often, accountability and results suffer because no one has the authority to make decisions and get things done.

You, your colleagues, and your direct reports are grappling with what I call “the authority conundrum.” The goal is to empower collaboration throughout the organization as far down the chain of command as possible. But when there’s a problem and you’re left to work things out at your own level, by definition nobody has the power of rank to resolve things swiftly and efficiently. And the conundrum emerges even when you are a manager. One person might have a higher rank, but no one has direct authority, which complicates the relationship even more.

What can you do?

The solution is all about alignment. How you align yourself in terms of decision making and support—and with whom—is the first core mechanism of becoming indispensable at work.

Remember, somebody is always in charge. Decisions are being made at a higher level. If you are going to have the power to operate without authority and work things out at your own level—what I call working sideways (and diagonal)—then, first, you’ve got to align yourself with the people making decisions: you’ve got to go vertical.

Go Vertical Before Going Sideways (or Diagonal)

At work you deal with so many people from all over the organization chart—up, down, sideways, and diagonal— that in order to keep your priorities straight and set yourself up for success, you must align yourself vertically along the way. You need to know clearly where you have discretion and where you don’t. The only place to get that clarity is from above.

Get in the habit of over-communicating with your boss a little. Clarify expectations, priorities, and parameters. Ask for reviews of drafts or work in progress. Make sure you are maintaining some form of highly-structured, one-on-one communication on a regular basis.

The same goes for your direct reports. You must align with them so they understand what is expected of them and have the authority to make choices and “work things out at their own level.”

What does it take to attain such vertical alignment? Let’s look at managing up (managing your bosses) and down (just plain managing your direct reports), because what needs to happen for alignment in both directions is the same. If you are anybody’s boss, that is a huge responsibility. Do not take it lightly. And if your boss is not managing you, then you had better start managing your boss.

Align with Your Boss to Manage Competing Priorities

Let’s say you’re involved in a special project that requires you to regularly collaborate with others. But over time, this cross-functional work requires more and more of your daily effort. Often, this is because of “scope creep”—the bounds of the project expand. What happens to you, though, is what I call “role creep.” Your role in this special project takes on its own life and starts to take over your job.

You likely try to deal with it. But you can’t pull out of this overcommitment alone: everyone and everything are behind schedule, and it looks as if this project will continue even longer.

At this point, you have three options:

  1. Try to be a superhero and keep doing everything. But you will probably find yourself becoming more and more overcommitted. Maybe you disappoint your boss or your project team. You probably end up disappointing both.
  2. Double down on your commitment to your role in this project and diminish your commitment to your primary job.
  3. Diminish your commitment to this project and double down on your commitment to your primary job.

Regardless of the option you choose, the most important thing is, first, go vertical or manage up. You need to be in dialogue with your boss on the matter, checking in at every step.

Aisha is a marketing executive who found herself overcommitted after being pulled into a seemingly endless project on a cross-functional team. She wisely sat down with her boss to discuss what to do. It turned out that neither saw much of a choice; the project had to be done and so did her regular job. Aisha was the only real candidate for both. But she felt a whole lot better making the choice to play the superhero with her boss’s support. Now they both shared responsibility for the fact that Aisha was carrying an overwhelming workload for an extended period of time.

Aisha kept up the regular structured dialogue with her boss, and at some point, the boss saw that she was doing a spectacular job balancing the overload—and he recommended her for a promotion. But even if Aisha had begun to drown in overcommitment and not handled it well, because she and her boss stayed in dialogue, they were both more likely to have seen that coming. Her boss could have provided her with extra support staff or someone who could backfill part of Aisha’s work in her primary job or on the extra project, or both.

The key is, no matter what option Aisha had chosen, being in alignment with her boss ensured she would have the support and resources she needed to get the work done and be appropriately rewarded and recognized for her efforts.

Align with Your Direct Reports

Just as you must stay aligned with your boss, your direct reports need to stay aligned with you, and you need to take responsibility for ensuring that alignment.

Practicing regular, structured dialogue with every single person who reports to you is how you make sure they have the power they need to work things out at their level—to make decisions and take action. Are there problems that need solving now or that are hovering on the horizon? Are there any needed extra resources you should secure, or any instructions or goals that aren’t clear? Has anything happened since the last time you talked to the person that you should know about?

So, first, closely track your direct reports’ workloads—monitor every individual’s available productive capacity (what many refer to as “bandwidth”—in other words, “Exactly how much more work can you handle?”).

Second, make sure you are not the one who is overcommitting your own direct reports.

Third, when your direct reports do start taking on so much that they risk overcommitment, use your regular structured dialogues with them to help them balance all of their competing priorities by providing the kind of ongoing support Aisha’s boss gave her.

Aligning Yourself Sideways—and Diagonal

If you are doing the work I’ve just described to align vertically, up and down, at every step, then you’ll be in a much stronger position to maintain alignment in your sideways and diagonal working relationships too. You likely are conducting the majority of your communication via email and virtually in structured project meetings. Take this as some good news! Good use of structured meetings mitigates a lot of miscommunications and misunderstandings.

The bad news is, these meetings can start to take on a life of their own. Be rigorous about good virtual meeting protocol. Take detailed notes. Continue conversations one-on-one and in small groups outside of the team meeting, when you can. Make an outline of who needs to know what information, and structure your meetings around that outline with other team members.

My firm’s decades of research show that the more rhyme and reason—substance and structure—that you put into your communication in any working relationship, the better things will go: fewer unnecessary problems occur, and those that do get identified are solved more quickly; resources are better planned and less often squandered; people are more likely to concur about what they’ve agreed on; and fewer conflicts occur within the ranks.

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Leading Forum
This is adapted from Bruce Tulgan’s book The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done, from Harvard Business Review Press. Tulgan is the best-selling author of It’s Okay to Be the Boss and the CEO of RainmakerThinking, the management research, consulting and training firm he founded in 1993. All of his work is based on 27 years of intensive workplace interviews and has been featured in thousands of news stories around the world. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his website at rainmakerthinking.com.

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Lead Your Boss Influencing Up

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:55 AM
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How Do You Create A Sense of Belonging at Work?

Belonging at Work?

IN a Cigna Health report from 2019, 61 percent of people in the study reported feeling lonely. Why? According to the findings, Americans felt that they don’t have enough social support, not enough meaningful interactions, struggle with physical and mental health issues, and can’t find a way to balance the demands in their personal and professional worlds. Well, with a global pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, employees are working from home and are forced to limit their physical interactions with colleagues, family, and friends. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are quite common today. However, companies and their leaders can do something to counteract the deleterious effects of loneliness. In the context of the workplace, loneliness undermines performance and productivity, at a minimum. Leaders can turn to a solution that costs little and has major dividends: a sense of belonging.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Throughout human history, a sense of belonging has been ingrained into our DNA. The comfort of friendships and the safety derived from being part of a community have always been one of the most powerful forces shaping our human experience.

What is belonging at work? It’s the experience of feeling valued, wanted, and welcomed.

Feeling valued at work: When employees believe their contributions, effort, and personal sacrifices are expressly appreciated.

Feeling wanted at work: When employees believe their boss and the organization care about them as a whole person and not simply as a means to an end.

Feeling welcomed at work: When employees believe they have a place in their team When leaders can shape the experience of belonging, employees are positioned to drive better business results. What’s more, in this era of working from home, belonging helps combat feelings of loneliness. My research on belonging in high-performing companies like the Container Store, LinkedIn, and Barry-Wehmiller show that relating to employees as people – and not just resources to get work done – can lead to tightly-knit teams that deliver breakthrough performances and astonishing results.

So how do you create a sense of belonging at work? Here are things to think about:

  1. Make them feel valued. An employee’s curiosity to learn the nuances of his or her job should be treated with the utmost respect. It needs to be encouraged – and required – in any team seeking astonishing results. Also, in these times, when most employees are working from home, leaders need to be intentional in expressing their gratitude for employees’ hard work. Without feeling valued by our coworkers, the story we tell through our performance will be disappointing, and we leave our gumption, passion, and commitment behind. When contributions go unacknowledged, no one shows up to work feeling enthusiastic.
  2. Give them autonomy. To feel valued and believe that we are right where we need to be can bring a calming influence on how we work. While doing research for Work Tribes, one employee at Barry Wehmiller, a global manufacturing company, observed how influential feeling valued is to his performance: “[It] lets people flourish in their own way. I think it’s so easy for a leader of people to impose their will (and push employees to do things) their own way.”
  3. Give voice to appreciation. More employees put in work hours at home, on vacation, on weekends, and during family outings. For this reason, employees need to be recognized when they put the company’s or the team’s interests over their family or personal life. It costs the company nothing and is invaluable when that appreciation is genuinely communicated.
  4. Make it contagious. Positive feelings are infectious. When employees have a sense of wellbeing, their cognitive thinking and creativity are improved, and they are better equipped to respond to stress and setbacks. In the end, a virtuous cycle envelops more people when the focus is on renewing how they are led and creating a place where they feel valued, wanted, and welcomed. Such a workplace is one where talented people will want to be.
  5. Help them be self-aware. In the context of the workplace, jelling with others is honoring a code of conduct that contributes to an unflagging vitality in relationships. Employees that are more self-aware can better connect with others, they are more supportive of their team members, and they are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness can help a team bond more deeply and enable them to quickly learn from disappointments and move on from them rather than wallowing in stress and blame.
  6. Work it. Every team player must do his or her part to help the team achieve success. This means that they quickly clean up any relationship discords, regularly discuss their purpose, focus on what’s possible, and constantly create clarity. Quite simply, it’s about doing the work, investing the time, and being committed to creating astonishing outcomes.

Let me be clear about one thing: We don’t need to make belonging a strategic initiative. It is always available to use in those micro-moments or grand gestures in workplace experiences. And when it comes to feelings of loneliness, leaders simply need to increase their one-to-one interactions with employees who are working remotely. Simple gestures like calling and checking to see how people are doing make a difference. What’s more, when leaders set aside time to talk about non-work-related matters with employees, it signals that their wellbeing is important.

Still, because of human tendencies to make messes, companies do need to be intentional about shaping belonging. The whole of the workforce is likely unaware of how their life is influenced by it. When you decide to co-create a sense of belonging, some might be skeptical. But remember, belonging is something that everyone craves. In a way, that makes it priceless – and a good reason to create experiences for it.

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Leading Forum
Shawn Murphy has nearly 30 years of consulting experience and advising companies on implementing organizational change and culture change. Central to his efforts is applying human behavior and needs to help achieve business results and create a satisfying work experience for employees. Because of his extensive experience and keen insight, Shawn was handpicked to be part of IBM’s elite New Way to Work futurist group. Shawn is currently the Director of Organizational Development and Workplace Trends at a Silicon Valley startup, Bluescape. He is the author of Work Tribes: The Surprising Secret to Breakthrough Performance, Astonishing Results, and Keeping Teams Together, and lives in Northern California.

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4 Design Thinking Tools Responsive Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:32 AM
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Culture Makes the Difference

Hancock Culture Makes the Difference

WHAT differentiates companies? It’s generally not products, services, facilities, or equipment. In our industry, for example, our lumberyard competitors sell essentially the same assortment of building materials that we do. Across New England, our white pine sawmill competitors make products that are very similar to our own. Additionally, we all tend to sell our products at comparable prices. So, what differentiates one company from another?

Years ago, I would have said it was people who make the difference and separate companies. But I have come to realize that’s not the whole story. Certain companies may think they have the "best people," but the truth is, great people are everywhere—the planet is filled with them. For example, the United States has a more productive economy per capita than Europe, but no one would take this to mean that America has better people than Europe does. America is filled with great people, and so is Europe—and, so is every other country on earth. People are inherently great by virtue of their common humanity.

So, if products don’t make the difference, and great people are everywhere, then what separates one organization from another?

The answer is culture. Culture makes the difference. An organization’s culture either creates an environment where great people can flourish, or an environment where people are frustrated, held back, or stymied.

What makes one corporate culture different from another? To me, it’s all about control and where it lives. Some organizations collect leadership power into the bureaucratic center, where a few people can make the majority of the decisions for the many. This is the traditional model of business—and government—leadership and, during a period of time in human history, this may have been optimal. But, that time has passed.

In the 21st century, organizations that disperse power, share leadership, and give everyone a voice are going to win because they recognize and celebrate the capabilities of everyone on the team. These types of cultures don’t see employees as expendable commodities whose purpose is to serve the company. In fact, these types of cultures flip the traditional script by recognizing that the company exists to serve the people who work there. In a great company, profit is an outcome of a higher calling. That higher calling is the celebration of the human spirit and human capacity. In this way, culture makes all the difference.

This is why culture is so important to us at Hancock Lumber. We want our company to be a place where every person on the team is trusted, valued, respected, and heard. Work should serve the people who do it in more than just economic ways. Work should be a place where humans flourish—where people learn, lead, and grow. If the employees of a company have an exceptional experience, they will ensure that customers thrive and will protect and grow their company with loyalty and pride. Culture, it turns out, makes the difference. Great people are everywhere, but great cultures aren’t – that’s what separates one company from another.

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Leading Forum
Kevin Hancock is the author of The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey into the Business of Shared Leadership. The CEO of Hancock Lumber Company, one of the oldest and best known family businesses in America, he is a recipient of the Ed Muskie Access to Justice award, the Habitat for Humanity Spirit of Humanity award, the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen award, and the Timber Processing Magazine Person of the Year award. Hancock Lumber, led collectively by its 550 employees, is a five-time recipient of the Best Places To Work In Maine award. The company is also a past recipient of the Maine Family Business of the Year award, the Governor’s Award for Business Excellence, the Exporter of the Year award, and the ProSales National Dealer of the Year award.

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Building Company Culture Netflix Patty McCord

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:27 PM
| Comments (0) | Culture , Human Resources


All You Have to Do Is Ask

All You Have to Do Is Ask

IF WE ARE HONEST with ourselves, we know there are times we need help. We just don’t want to ask for it. We’re confident we can figure it out. In time.

But here’s the thing. There’s nothing we are going through or trying to figure out that others haven’t blazed a trail for us already. We just need to ask.

Wayne Baker says, “you never know what people know—or who they know—until you ask. Asking for help can mean the difference between success and failure.” In All You Have to Do Is Ask he identifies eight reasons why we don’t or won’t ask. As a result, we leave a lot of answers, solutions and resources on the table for no good reason. And here are eight no good reasons:

  1. We underestimate other people’s willingness and ability to help
  2. We over-rely on self-reliance
  3. We perceive there to be social costs of seeking help
  4. Our work culture lacks psychological safety
  5. The systems, procedures, or structure of our organization get in our way
  6. We don’t know what to request or how to request it
  7. We worry we haven’t earned the privilege of asking for help
  8. We fear seeming selfish

That last reason—the fear of seeming selfish—relates to the proverb that it’s better to give than receive. That’s true. We want to be givers, but that doesn’t make receiving a bad thing. “There’s no giving without receiving, and there is no receiving without giving. And it’s the request that starts the wheel turning.”

Baker offers a quick scientific assessment in the book (or online) to determine what style of asking/giving you tend to choose. And it is a choice. Are you an overgenerous giver, a selfish taker, a lone wolf, or a giver-requester? These types all represent “choices you can make about how you want to operate in the world.”

Asking Giving Scale

The place to begin is to understand and articulate your needs. Know what you are trying to accomplish and when. With that in mind, formulate a SMART request. That is a Specific (“a specific request yields more help than a vague one”), Meaningful (“Why is the request important to you?”), Action-oriented (What action do you want to be taken?), Realistic (it may be a serious long-shot, but within the realm of possibility), and Time-bound (“every request should have a due date”) request.

After you have formulated your request, you need to figure out who to ask. Who knows what you need to know or who you need to talk to? Go outside your usual circle of contacts. Then ASK. And a good piece of advice: “Rejection is just an opinion. And opinions change. In other words, you can find ways to turn a no into a yes.”

Baker offers much more specific advice and examples throughout but let me mention two tools that have proven effective that Wayne Baker and Adam Grant have developed. The first is Reciprocity Rings.

Reciprocity Rings

A Reciprocity Ring is a group activity consisting of 20 or so people that gather together and share a request with the group one by one. “Other members of the group pause to consider how they could help: Do I have the resource the person needs? Of not, do I know someone in my network who might be able to help? Because it’s much easier for people to make a request when they know that everyone must make one, every participant is required to make a request; asking is the ‘ticket of admission’ to the Reciprocity Ring.”

Reciprocity Rings have been implemented successfully at Google, General Motors, IBM, Citigroup, UPS, and others.


Givitas is a collaborative technology platform that provides a safe platform for requesting, giving, and receiving help across boundaries across a vast scale. It helps you share widely beyond the usual suspects.

Platforms like Givitas allow people to get what they need without having to repeatedly tap all the same experts or all the usual go-to people because requests are decentralized and broadcast across the vast network.

Thanks For Asking

We’ve all asked for help only to be rebuffed or made to look stupid. Of course, we recognize and reward people for giving help, but we don’t typically reward people for asking for help. “How our request is received, how we are treated, and how the help is granted determines whether we get discouraged, or encouraged to make asking a personal practice.”

With both organizational and individual success at stake, we need to rethink our responses to asking. “Recognizing, appreciating, and rewarding those who ask is as critical as doing the same for those who answer.”

Baker shares informal and formal ways we can as individuals and organizations recognize, reward, and encourage asking. Asking improves individual performance and effectiveness.

All You Have to Do Is Ask will change your appreciation of asking. It certainly changed my view.

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Give and Take Positive Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:34 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Positive Leadership , Problem Solving


Is a Lack of Intentionality Holding You Back?

Sanborn Intention Imperative

WHAT ARE the defining characteristics of successful leadership?

Mark Sanborn identifies them as clarity and intentionality in The Intention Imperative. Clarity, he says, “tells you where you’re headed” and intentionality is “the consistent action you’ll take to get there.”

To explain, Sanborn takes us back to when Domino’s found clarity and discovered how they were going to get there. With clarity of purpose that took them back to their roots, and intentionality, they became an e-commerce company that happens to sell pizza. As a result, Dominos stock has risen 5000 percent since 2008, outperforming all of the world’s largest tech companies.

Leading with clarity and intentionality makes the difference. He offers the following chart to illuminate the effect of clarity and intentionality on our leadership effectiveness.

Sanborn Intention Imperative

The quadrant of No Leadership is negligent leadership—no direction and no way to get there. Vague Leadership has a bias for action but lacks a clear idea of where they’re going. Wishful Leadership knows where they want to go but haven’t figured out the how or aren’t taking consistent action to get there. Intentional leadership is effective leadership. “Intentional leadership is knowing where you want to go and taking consistent action in the world as it is, not the world as it was, to get there.” There is a lot contained in that last statement and is the subject of this book.

Intentional Leadership consists of three imperatives: Inspiration, Culture, and Emotion.

The Culture Imperative

Culture gets a lot of attention and is considered critical to success, but few organizations actually do much about it. At best, it becomes an HR function.

Sanborn defines culture as “what we think and believe, which then determines what we do and what we accomplish.” He lists six reasons why it matters so much, but this reason caught my attention. I had never looked at it from this perspective. He says, “Culture is a corporate immune system that protects against variance, decline, or abandonment by identifying and combating threatening forces like toxic partners, disjointed processes, and bad decisions.”

Culture often takes a back seat—though we know better—because we focus on the wrong things or think it is all about making employees happy. “Making people happy isn’t the job of an intentional leader. The job of an intentional leader is giving employees the tools—the philosophy, the training, the communication, and the incentives—to be successful.” Sanborn offers five levers to create, change, and/or maintain culture—intentionally.

The Inspiration Imperative

Inspiration comes from purpose and the mission. It’s more than motivation or engagement which are “task-focused and lack the sustaining power of inspiration.”

Inspiring leadership begins with you. You find it in yourself first so that you can bring it out in others. Inspiration can be found in solitude, those you associate with, curiosity, a healthy sense of humor, gratefulness, service and exercise. “To find your purpose is to find your inspiration.” From this foundation you can guide others to their inspiration.

Sanborn offers ten tools for inspiration. Connection with your team, your example, empathy, linking purpose to work, providing challenges and education, appreciation, and a good story are among the ten.

The Emotion Imperative

We have entered the emotion economy. The customer wants to feel successful after the fact, not just happy. “Are you happier you did business with us than with someone else?”

You want customers happy they chose you—to feel successful. “The old notion that a company merely needs to provide a good or service withers away when we start to understand that it is not the product or service itself that matters—what matters is which emotion your company elicits from its customers.”

The intentional leader knows that this goes beyond customer service. That’s part of it. “A customer’s emotions start well before they enter your sales funnel. The new economy has expanded the points at which your potential customers will first interact with your company. Across all levels of your organization, ask yourself how each impacts the customer’s happiness and feelings of success. This includes marketing, product design, sales, and, yes, customer service.”

There are a lot of great insights in this book. Through a series of case studies that go beyond the usual suspects—a parking garage, High Point University, Acuity Insurance, Savannah Bananas baseball, Texas Roadhouse, and Envisioning Green landscaping—and interviews, he walks us through the thinking behind intentional leadership and its three imperatives to see how they connect. Here is a sampling of the comments from organizations featured in the book:

Nido Qubein, president of High Point University: “I just get in front of our team. I walk around and pat people on the back, shake hands, share a laugh. It’s not complicated. I make time for moments of joy each day, and the time I spend in the café talking to students and staff members makes me feel good. Students talk selfies with me. If a student is on their phone talking to Mom and Dad, I grab it and talk to their parents. I’m present.”

Ben Salzmann, CEO Acuity Insurance: “You can’t innovate in a vacuum. If you take the best genius and give them a year, feed ‘em the best food and lock ‘em in a room—a year later they don’t look so smart. Take the same person and let them talk and look around and interact, and they will come up with great innovations. Stimulus is critical.”

Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse: “If we think about a new idea, I run it through twenty people—managing partners, market partners, kitchen managers, service managers, meat cutters. I don’t create ideas in a distant office. When it comes to employees, I am always asking, Are they happy? Do they enjoy their job? That’s important because I believe that happy employees create happy guests, which creates happy accountants!

Erika Johns, co-owner of Envisioning Green: “Our culture is fun and positive. We aren’t afraid to laugh and joke around, but we know how to work hard. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family a lot of the time, so it’s important to have some fun at work.”

All of the examples point to the fact that inspiration, culture, and emotion, are created and maintained with intentional leadership. Sanborn completes the book with thirty things that you can do now to lead intentionally based in reality—the world as it is.

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What is Leadership Culture Engine

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:59 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership


Building Company Culture: Alignment Leadership

Building Company Culture

YOU PROBABLY HEAR the word culture a lot, but what does it mean? We’ll discuss it here but I can definitively tell you this: Without a strong company culture, you can’t create a fulfilling environment for your employees.

In fact, the whole idea of culture is a moving target. Yes, it’s widely discussed, but somewhere between the discussion and the implementation something happens. Oftentimes that something is the watering down of the whole idea in the first place and casting it off as a soft science that doesn’t really impact the bottom line.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What Is Culture?

So, let’s begin at the beginning. What is culture? My definition of culture is the sum of a group of people’s beliefs, traditions, preferences, experiences, and hopes. Any time you put people together, a culture is created. Whether or not you agree with the traits of each person’s worldview—their beliefs, traditions, preferences, experiences, or hopes—that worldview exists. Every person has their own unique worldview, and the way they see the world combines with others to create the culture of that group.

The individual traits of a person affect how they view the world and interact with others. For example, the word “trust” means one thing to one person and something different to another person, based on their experiences. The various meanings of trust within a group define their culture around that word. Imagine if a group of ten people working together had vastly different impressions of trust. What kind of culture would that create? Somebody has to clearly define it so that everyone knows what the end game is and how to achieve it.

And take note that this is just one word and one idea that can be misconstrued. How many others are there that we assume there is agreement on?

Don’t assume. Define. Create a common language and an agreed upon taxonomy that there is no doubt about.

Get this right and your organization wins.

Misconceptions about Culture

Culture cannot be developed by simply creating environments where people congregate together. You’ve been at those events, right? Sometimes it’s a movie night or a day out on a boat or a team building exercise. These are usually great fun and they give us a chance to get to know each other away from the office.

But, truthfully, this is just one step in creating a defined company culture. In my journey of leadership, this is a concept I fell prey to early on. In an effort to improve employee engagement, I created happy hours, pizza Fridays, and a party planning committee. What I didn’t realize was that without the initial investment in people before creating these events that fostered community, the experience would be a shallow attempt at culture. Alignment Leadership requires an intimate pursuit of employees, and this pursuit will never happen at a happy hour or a five-minute interaction while sharing a slice of pepperoni.

As I began to develop this theory of Alignment Leadership, I realized the real win was much deeper—employee fulfillment. A happy hour can actually be an icebreaker to introduce someone into a community and build a deeper relationship. We go into these opportunities with the intention to further discover our employees, which leads to alignment. You want to develop a culture where you’re able to authentically allow your employees to be known, heard, and valued.

Where to Start

Creating a culture starts with conversations between you and your people to clearly define the culture you have—and the one you want to build together. You need to have conversations that clarify the culture of your team, the culture of your department, and the culture of the company. This needs to be perfectly understood both from the leader’s perspective and the employees’ perspective.

Creating a culture won’t happen overnight. People’s worldviews are deeply rooted in who they are, and combining them into a culture that works for everyone will require people to make changes. It may take several years, but if you put in the effort to lead your team and work together, you can develop an authentic, meaningful company culture.

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Leading Forum
Chris Meroff has spent more than 25 years supporting leaders in education at both the campus and district levels and is the author of Align: Four Simple Steps for Leaders to Create Employee Fulfillment Through Alignment Leadership. Through his work in 17 states and across thousands of school districts, he’s seen firsthand the frustration administrators feel when their efforts don’t produce the alignment they desire. He’s made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. You can learn more at AlignLeadThrive.com

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Culture Engine All In

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:44 PM
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Feedback (and Other Dirty Words)


FEEDBACK HAS A LOT OF BAGGAGE associated with it. Feedback is not always well-intentioned and is used to punish, demean, or manipulate. When well-intentioned we don’t always do it right. We dump on people, we’re biased, we miss the overall issues, and present it in a way that doesn’t sound helpful. And we, of course, wanting to be right and accepted don’t see it as the gift that it is.

As a result, you will find people avoiding it altogether—whether on the giving or receiving end of it. Or you will find people trying to take it to a higher lever and state that what we need and really want is attention. Positive attention is the way to go. Build on strengths. But sometimes we need to tame our strengths for our own good, and sometimes we need to manage our weaknesses. And frequently we have no idea unless we are told. We need feedback.

In contrast to the desire of some to dumb down or avoid feedback, authors Tamra Chandler and Laura Grealish have decided to deal with feedback head-on in Feedback (and other dirty words): Why We Fear It, How to Fix It. Done right, feedback is not only a good thing, it is essential to growth and performance. They say we need to do more than tweak our feedback practices, we need to completely rethink the what, how, and why.

They begin by defining feedback as “Clear and specific information that’s sought or extended for the sole intention of helping individuals or groups improve, grow, or advance.” This forms the basis for their Feedback-Fixing Movement.

“Every great feedback experience,” they write, “is anchored in fairness, focus, and frequency.” Fairness is about trust. “When trust and fairness are absent, because either the feedback itself or the Extender [of feedback] seems unfair or biased, the Receiver retreats into protection mode.” We generally associate feedback with criticism because that’s sadly the only time most people speak up.

Focus is about making the feedback specific, targeted, and brief.” When we dump on people, they shut down and the feedback moment is gone. “Dishing out bite-sized portions of off-the-cuff gratitude, recognition, direction, or coaching can move the performance needle much more effectively than hours of training sessions, development seminars, or dismal laundry lists of your rights and wrongs from the past year.”

Frequency is the accelerator. “Connecting frequently speaks volumes. It says, ‘I’m paying attention, what you do is important and notable, and you are a priority.’” Informal and spontaneous is the secret to frequency.

To revolutionize feedback, the best thing you can do right now—especially as a leader—is to become a Seeker of feedback. That is, become a person who proactively requests feedback from others with the intention of self-development or growth. It helps you in a couple of ways. First, you are the example you need to be, and second, to be a seeker lowers the fear associated with feedback because you choose the time and place, the issue and the extender of feedback.

The authors offer the Seeker several tips to effective feedback seeking. First, ask in advance, giving the Extender(s) time to think. (Asking more than one person provides you with a better picture of what is actually happening.) Give them permission to be candid with you. They are most likely as uncomfortable with it as you are. Third, ask them to start noticing based on the nature of the feedback you are requesting. And finally, make the choice to do something with what you have learned.

I found the chart below helpful in wrapping your mind around the proper way to deliver feedback. The considerations are many but going through the chart will help you not only form the conversation but get a handle on your intention for giving feedback in the first place.

Feedback Connect Model

Feedback (and other dirty words) is full of helpful insights and constructive interpretations of the scientific studies and data regarding the issue of feedback. It is a comprehensive look at feedback and well worth reviewing in terms of both delivering and receiving feedback.

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Feedback Can Be Fun You According to Them

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:16 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


Employee Engagement 101: Ask the Holy Question

Ask the Holy Question

HAVE YOU EVER heard a front-line worker say, “I can’t wait to make more money for our shareholders today!” No? In all my years as a consultant, I haven’t either.

It doesn’t matter what your company peddles. Increasing shareholder value, company market share, or worker productivity just doesn’t jazz the average worker.

There is often a vast disconnect between what is important to a company’s executive body and what is important to front-line workers. What matters to the average worker includes career opportunity, meaningful work, a balanced life, a fair wage, and being treated with respect—not increasing output.

As a leader or manager, you have to attend to the goals of your board or bosses and to the career aspirations of your workers. Too many people in charge focus solely on the former, leaving workers’ aspirations in the dust.

A Solution in Four Words

Cueing into your workers takes far less time and energy than you’d think. In fact, it only takes four words. They are among the most important words in the English language, and, together, they constitute what I call the Holy Question: “What do you want?”

Answering those words, in my opinion, should be required of every job candidate, every worker, and every executive on up the line. The answer to those words should be reviewed during every performance appraisal, succession-planning session, and employee-ranking process. Why?

Because when you know what people want, you are in a far better position to match their ambitions and goals to the company’s goals. When company and worker goals are aligned, people pursue organizational goals with the same dedication and passion as they do when driven by self-interest.

Aligning Goals Increases Workers’ Courage

It’s easier to get people to perform courageous (and uncomfortable) tasks when those tasks tie into their personal aspirations. By knowing what people want to get out of work, you can give them stretch assignments that connect project tasks to their own goals.

So, if your boss’s goal is to “repurpose our existing product assets to create new revenue streams and optimize our market dominance on a go-forward basis,” you can tie your boss’s goal to your employee’s own career aspirations by saying, “Hey, John, you said that you want more opportunities to use your creativity. Create ten new business uses for this product by next week.”

Or perhaps you know that your employee Michelle would like to move from a data analyst to an advisory role. Your board has come to you needing an informed opinion on the latest sales metrics—and fast. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring Michelle into the fold, allowing her to provide a fresh perspective while simultaneously gaining experience for her dream role.

The point is this: Before getting workers to carry out tasks in pursuit of the company’s objectives, you have to understand what is important to them individually. How would you answer the question of “What do you want?” How would your boss answer it? Your customer? Each of your direct reports?

Getting each person to answer the Holy Question, with specificity, will help you to know when and how they’ll be willing to be courageous.

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Leading Forum
Bill Treasurer is a workplace expert, courage pioneer, and author of Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results. Founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a consulting and training company specializing in courage-building, he advises organizations—including NASA, eBay, Lenovo, Saks Fifth Avenue, Spanx, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates—on teaching workers the kind of courage that strengthens businesses and careers. Learn more at Giant Leap Consulting.

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Three Types of Workplace Courage Win the Heart

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:09 PM
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Will Artificial Intelligence Take Your Job?

Will Artificial Intelligence Take Your Job

A PEW RESEARCH CENTER study found that Americans are roughly twice as likely to express worry (72%) than enthusiasm about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans. Of course, people have always worried that technology would take over their job.

Gutenberg’s press probably created more social upheaval than any technological advancement has yet to do today. The sixteen-century Vicar of Croydon warned, “We must root out printing or printing will root us out.” A dire situation indeed.

The term artificial intelligence first appeared in an article by Stanford professor John McCarthy in 1979. Ever since, artificial intelligence or cognitive technologies as it is often referred to, have been slowly developing in capability and application. Thomas Davenport states in The AI Advantage that, “AI is a largely analytical technology, and that for most organizations working with AI is a straightforward extension of what they do with data and analytics.” He notes:

Artificial Intelligence isn’t going to transform the work of organizations—or the lives of individuals—as fast as many people seem to expect. It will be one of the many technologies that comply with Amara’s Law (named after the scientist and futurist Roy Amara):

We tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

In the short run, AI will provide evolutionary benefits; in the long run, it is likely to be revolutionary.

While the estimates vary between 5 and 47 percent of jobs to be lost to automation, Davenport believes it will be much closer to 5 percent. What he sees happening is something quite different. Rather than large-scale automation, he believes we will see large-scale augmentation or “smart humans working in collaboration with smart machines.” Why? A few of the reasons he gives are:

First, AI tends to support or automate tasks, not entire jobs.

Second, most managers neither want nor expect large-scale automation. We have seen chatbots and cognitive-engagement apps in customer service and sales, but they are not taking away jobs. Rather they are allowing these functions to handle more without adding staff. “Some organizations are planning to transition customer-support personnel to more complex activities that bots can’t yet do including handling customer issues that escalate, conducting extended unstructured dialogues, or reaching out to the customer before they can call in with problems.”

Third, massive automation will not take place based on our experience from previous generations of technology. For example, there are about the same number of bank tellers despite the introduction of ATMs and internet home banking technologies.

Fourth, what we see are new roles and skills emerging as people find new jobs and tasks to perform when previous tasks are taken over by automation.

Finally, a lot of entirely new jobs will be created. “New jobs created by AI will fall into three categories: trainers, explainers, and sustainers.”

What Can We Do?

Broadly speaking there some skills that will be valuable in the workforce to collaborate and maximize your value.

Being Conversant with How Machines Think

“Knowing the logic and flow of a computer system is important for anyone who works alongside or oversees smart machines. Acquaintance with how systems think can be helpful in troubleshooting, understanding limitations, and explaining the operation of cognitive technologies.”

Having an Understanding of Analytics and Data Structures

“Understanding statistics, data structures, and how to make decisions from them will be of help to anyone seeking to work with AI.”

Becoming Familiar with Different Types of AI

Especially for those who seek managerial roles, this knowledge is essential. “It is impossible for someone to sponsor and implement a project involving image recognition, for example, if they don’t know that deep learning is the most likely method to doing a good job of it.”

Having Domain Knowledge of the Business and Industry

“Anyone who wants to work alongside smart machines in a business will need to understand not only the machines themselves, but also the aspects of the business to which they are applied.”

Possessing A Strong Ability to Communicate

This skill cannot be stressed enough. “As machines take on more decisions and actions, one of the key tasks left for human workers is effectively communicating the outcomes of machine activities to other humans.”

Having High Levels of Emotional Intelligence

Computer systems don’t possess much in the way of emotional intelligence. “That means humans have a competitive advantage in the workplace if they are perceptive, sensitive, and insightful about human emotions.”

To maintain your advantage, you need to always be learning too. Curiosity wards off defensiveness and keeps you ahead of the curve. So always be learning.

Davenport has written an interesting book and covers other aspects of the cognitive technologies such as cognitive strategy, and managing the organizational, social, and ethical implications of AI.

AI is really nothing more than the manipulation of data. Understanding the questions to ask, how to put it together, and interpreting what it means, will be critical functions in the future. Instead of pushing data, the need will be for those who can pull intelligence from it.

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The Mathematical Corporation Emerging Technology

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:49 AM
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Win the Heart: The Four Cornerstones You Need to Build Engagement

Win the Heart

ENGAGEMENT HAS BECOME the Holy Grail of business—highly desired but hard to get. There are a number of moving parts, and it’s hard to get them all aligned. Mark Miller says that “for many organizations, engagement is the final battle to becoming a high-performance organization.”

In Win the Heart, Mark Miller lays out the four cornerstones that engagement is built on. In this business fable, CEO Blake Brown senses his company has an engagement problem. He turns to an old mentor, Debbie Brewster for help. This leads him, and his wife on an international hunt for lessons concerning engagement Blake’s Dad had put together from people and places in history.

Blake and his team define engagement as “a condition of the heart reflecting an individual’s level of genuine care for their work, coworkers, and the organization. And if the level of care is high enough, it will result in energy, effort, enthusiasm, and initiative” or more simply:

Engagement = Level of Care

Traveling to Selma, Alabama, Florence, Italy, Pella, Greece, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and finally, West Texas to complete the picture, they discover the four cornerstones of engagement.


Conversation is the primary driver. “You might even say we—me and my fellow employees—do life together. We talk about triumphs and tragedies, fears, failures, and struggles. We talk about how to help each other.” “Real conversations are the bridge to real connections.” And this includes conversations with all stakeholders.


“Their secret sauce was thank you. Loosely translated they are creating a culture of affirmation when they express genuine appreciation to their employees. They affirm people multiple times a day.”


“Leaders must be willing to actually give people responsibility! Create a culture in which sharing responsibility is the norm, not the exception. Give people real responsibility for goals, methods, and decisions, whenever it makes sense.”


“The how is simply to look at what people really need to win both physically and emotionally, and provide it. The coaches just equipped the team for success.”

From an old friend of Blake’s Dad in West Texas, they learn that “If you just hire a man’s hands, you miss the opportunity to win his heart.

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Leaders Made Here Talent Magnet

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:22 AM
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Creating the Conversations That Help Them Grow

Help Them Grow

FINDING good employees is not enough. Developing them is critical to keeping them.

Everyone has options. If you are not growing and leading your employees, they will look elsewhere.

“Success today,” say Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, “rests upon finding ways to continuously expand everyone’s capacity, engagement, and ability to contribute to the organization.”

While many leaders may feel they don’t have time for career development, it’s not as complicated as we often make it out to be. “Career development is nothing more than helping others grow”—one conversation at a time.

“Quality career development boils down to quality conversations”—frequent, short conversations that occur within the natural flow of work. It is based on good questions, not in having all of the answers.

Go ahead and courageously ask the challenging questions and even end the conversation with a real tough or thought-provoking one that the employee can contemplate for a while. Closure is overrated. Unfinished business … that’s what will cause employees to continue to ponder and will ultimately spark action and feed progress.

They suggest that we “reframe career development in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee and that our role is more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action.”

Their framework for career development is organized around three types of conversations:

Hindsight Conversations

“Hindsight conversations are the foundation of career development.” These conversations are meant to help develop self-awareness—where they have been, what they’ve done, and who they are. This has two parts: self-perception and other-perception—how others perceive them. Encourage employees to get feedback from those they work with. “Helping people look back and inward also provides a reservoir of information that allows employees to move forward and toward their career goals in intentional ways that will produce satisfying results.”

Foresight Conversations

What an employee learns about themselves in hindsight needs to be applied in the context of what is going on around them and the implications of all of the changes they see happening. “When you help your employees develop the ability to scan the environment, anticipate trends, and spot opportunities, you provide a constructive context for career development.” Harness the power of your crowd. Get them asking questions like, what are you seeing and what might these things mean to our industry, our organization, and your career? “Encouraging employees to interact directly with the environment is just an exercise until you debrief their experiences and encourage reflection.” It’ll turn employees into business partners.

Insight Conversations

These conversations leverage what your employee learns from the convergence of the insight and foresight conversations. Here you guide them into practical steps they can take to be where they want to be. “Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.” Today, it’s not about moving up the ladder but moving to the place you want to be. Kaye and Giulioni suggest that we learn to help them grow in place. This requires a shift in thinking. “The challenge of growing in place involves stripping titles from our thinking and instead focusing on what the employee needs to experience, know, learn, and be able to do.”

Reframe the conversation to be about experiences, not position. It creates unseen possibilities and allows them to grow where they are.

Develop a Career Development Culture

Ultimately what you want to create is a career development culture that supports and values the employee. Cultures that actively support career development and enjoy its constructive byproducts share some fundamental characteristics or cultural markers. They tend to be:

  • Information-Rich – Information flows freely. To drive their own development, employees need information about performance, perceptions, and possibilities.
  • Curious – A genuine inquisitiveness with a focus on inquisitiveness, questions, the inclusion of diverse points of view, and exploration of ideas.
  • Patient (with the development process) – Growth takes time. The hallmarks of this culture are flexibility, commitment, and consistency.
  • Results-Oriented – Leadership clarity about the what can allow for more creativity and flexibility around the how creating countless vehicles for growth.
  • Blurry Around Boundaries – Collaboration. A culture that brings a spirit of generosity to development, sharing resources and even being willing to lose good talent as a way to support their development.

We have conversations about the work anyway, so why not make it a teachable moment. “A few minutes of conversation can help others slow down enough to reflect, bring deep insights to the surface, verbalize important messages, and consider how to leverage their expanding skills and knowledge base.”

If you don’t think you have the time to incorporate this vital task in what you do, this book is for you. Kaye and Giulioni offer templates, guidelines, and sample conversations and questions that you can adapt to your own situation. With their approach, career development stays fresh because each employee’s career plan is unique and done in real-time.

Career development should flow naturally out of a leader’s genuine concern for others. The framework work provided in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go provides a way of thinking to make that process happen naturally and effectively and at the most appropriate times.

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Keeping People Front and Center Netflix Patty McCord

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
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How to Bring Gratitude into the Workplace

Stacey Engle

‘Tis the season of gratitude -- for friends, for family, and for delicious turkey dinners. But what about gratitude in the workplace?

November and December are notorious times for organizations to express gratitude to their employees -- holiday parties, annual bonuses, and accolades they save up for this time of year. And while these gestures are appreciated, the truth is gratitude should be practiced all year round. By focusing on giving thanks just one time a year, these overtures become less authentic, and thus less meaningful.

For leaders, practicing gratitude at work is an incredibly valuable tool, and one that shouldn’t be saved for a single season. Here are a few suggestions you can implement today and use all year long, from the most personal, to the most public:

  • Start a gratitude journal: Not all gratitude needs to be expressed outwardly, and recognizing personally what you are grateful for can be very powerful. You may want a journal that encompasses all aspects of your life, or one just for the office. Perhaps every Monday morning you take 10 minutes to write down what work-related people and things you are grateful for. Over time, you can look back and reflect in a meaningful way.

  • Write Thank You notes. Sure, it’s a little old school when we are used to email and texting, but therein lies the magic. There is something powerful about taking the time to thank someone with a physical note - be it your boss, the intern or even the security guard in your building.

  • Incorporate gratitude into you conversations. During 1:1 meetings with both your boss and your direct reports, making a habit of highlighting something you appreciate about them. These conversations can have a lasting impact and will serve to strengthen the relationship. Showing appreciation on a regular basis in many cases also makes conversations around areas of improvement easier, as you have built a stronger foundation with the other person.

  • Make time during meetings for shout outs. Public displays of gratitude can mean a lot to your employees. Make it an ongoing bullet point on the agenda, to call out a person or a team that is doing a great job, and be as specific as you can. Knowing the boss not only appreciates your work but knows exactly what you are doing can be a big boost to an employees confidence at work.

  • Consider an Employee of The Week/Month/Quarter Award: This doesn’t need to be overly formal, but the idea of highlighting someone on a regular basis, either through a newsletter or a larger company meeting is a nice one. Not only does a stellar employee acknowledged, but in deciding who to highlight, you get to see some of the great work being done across the organization.

We all benefit when we take a minute to step back and recognize the good people and things we have in our lives. Study after study shows that gratitude is a key factor in happiness. While we don’t often combine a gratitude practice with work, as you can see there are some easy ways to do just that. Giving thanks feeds the soul, which is as necessary in November as it is in February or June.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce. Fierce is a global leadership development and training company that changes the way people communicate with each other. They drive results for business and education by developing conversation as a skill. They believe that while no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life—any single conversation can. CEO, Susan Scott is the author of Fierce Leadership a Best Leadership Book of 2009.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:11 AM
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Michael Lombardi’s Lessons in Leadership

Michael Lombardi


ICHAEL LOMBARDI has been an American football executive for decades. He has worked on the staffs of NFL legends Al Davis, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick and with Nick Saban while with the Cleveland Browns. He is also a media analyst writing for Bill Simmon’s The Ringer, where he also hosts his top-ten sports podcast, GM Street.

In Gridiron Genius, you will certainly get the inside scoop on the game of football, but it’s much more than that. As a three-time Super Bowl champion, Michael Lombardi provides lessons in organizational culture, team building, strategy, and character. His philosophies on how to build championship teams were foundational for the teams built by both Walsh and Belichick.

Organizations of all types will benefit from the insights found here. “Football is ultimately a business, and as in any successful business the most important ingredients are a sound culture, a realistic plan, strong leadership, and a talented workforce.” So let’s look at some of the leadership lessons to be found here.

The main lesson that comes through his experience with great coaches and owners is that culture comes first. “If you haven’t created an underlying ecosystem of excellence, short-term success is all it will ever be.”

On Bill Walsh building the San Francisco 49ers in 1979: “From the talent on and off the field, to the quality of the workplace, to the practice fields. No detail was too small for Walsh to consider because, to his assembly line way of thinking, only the sum of them all could produce the organization he wanted. As he was fond of saying, if he managed to perfect the culture, the wins would take care of themselves.”

He writes: “Character assessment is by far the hardest challenge for team builders. More than any other factor, inaccurate character assessment is why draft boards are to this day littered with so many mistakes. For starters, let’s be honest, there’s a sliding scale of morality in the NFL (as in every industry), in which the more talented a player is, the more he can get away with.”

“Each player retains information differently, and it’s the coach’s job to determine the best way to instruct him.”

What Makes a Great Quarterback?

A winning way. (Winning is a habit.) A thick skin. (The measure of who we are is how we react to something that does not go our way.) Work ethic. (Your best player has to set a tone for intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.) Football smarts. (A quick mind come with preparation. You prepare so well that you don’t have to think; you just react.) Innate ability. (Born with it quality: Walsh couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it.) Carriage. (Quarterbacks have to inspire. They can always look as if they have it all under control and that somehow they will figure out how to lead the team to victory. No one wants to follow a sulker.) Leadership. (Quarterbacks who fail to gain the respect of teammates leave a team rudderless.)

Building a team: “A big part of Walsh’s genius was his uncanny ability to spot a quarterback in a crowd. Even from a distance and after only a few throws, he could sense immediately if a quarterback could run his offense. Guys like Walsh and Belichick are unusual this way: They can visualize how skill sets fit in their schemes in a way that both maximizes those abilities and fuels the system.”

From Bill Belichick:

“Although practice doesn’t make perfect, it gets you closer to perfection each time you do it.”

“We aren’t collecting talent; we are building a team.”

Mental Toughness: Doing what is best for the team when it might not be the best for you. If players can fight past exhaustion, if they can focus when they’re completely drained, well, that’s mental toughness.

On Bill Walsh:

“His meticulousness was evident everywhere.”

“Walsh opted for less experienced men who shared his curiosity and displayed a willingness to learn his system and methods.”

What Makes a Great Coach?

Command of the Room. Followers need something to commit to. A leader has to have a plan. On Nick Saban at Cleveland: He had a strong plan and an effective way of communicating that plan, and his ability to be self-critical earned the players’ trust in a way that rivaled their feelings for Belichick.

Command of the Message. What good is the plan if you can’t talk about the plan? Players can’t accomplish anything unless they can visualize the path. Delivery isn’t as important as meaning.

Command of Self. Personal accountability is the ultimate sign of strength. Sophocles sums it up best: “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” Ego is the leading cause of unemployment in the coaching world.

Command of Opportunity. Becoming an NFL head coach is a process. You learn on the fly. In the beginning, it is likely you’ll be bad at it. You just have to keep working at it until you get good and pray that you don’t end up a one-hit wonder.

Command of the Process. A leader must be fair and consistent. When rule don’t apply to everyone, the ensuing chaos collapses whatever foundation a leader has tried so hard to build.

In a particularly good section of the book, Combating Complacency he talks about how Belichick and Walsh fight complacency. This was interesting: “Whether the Patriots have just won the Super Bowl or not, the first thing Belichick does is wipe the slate clean. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘To live in the past is to die in the present.’ It’s why you see no Super Bowl trophies as you walk through the players’ entrance and why all the photos from the previous season are removed as soon as the season is over. That clean slate demands a trip back to basic principles and fundamentals after a detailed examination of the current process.” He adds, “What impressed me the most about Belichick and Walsh in their self-awareness. With the same kind of success in the NFL many lesser men have become close-minded, authoritarian, and lazy.”

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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership is Destroying Culture by Michael Lombardi at TEDx
  4th and Goal Every Day

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Teamwork


Three Strategies to Encourage Good Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health Kellerer


ET’S FACE IT: emotions are an inescapable element of the human experience.

Unfortunately, for many people, fluctuating feelings can run on overdrive in response to a society overflowing with negativity – think natural disasters, mass shootings, suicides, and even a heated political environment all occurring with disturbing regularity. There are also stressful personal events in our lives that add to the swinging emotional pendulum, like the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job.

According to a recent study, employees suffering from depression cost employers more than $44 billion per year in lost productivity, with over 81 percent of that decreased productivity coming in the form of presenteeism or the practice of going to work despite illness or anxiety and commonly resulting in reduced productivity.

While it’s not uncommon to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, I believe by recognizing and taking ownership of our sometimes-wavering emotions – especially in the workplace – we can change our course for the better.

By working to shift the residual emotional effects of stressful situations and embracing more positivity, we can strive to achieve enhanced well-being and professional success.

For this strategy to be effective, leaders must start by taking a top-down approach to dealing with mental health in the workplace. By creating and implementing effective mental health programs within their organization, companies can experience greater staff member well-being, boost productivity and contribute to transforming our country’s corporate culture regarding mental health.

Mental Health Defined

Before getting to my tips on how management can get started with this mission, it’s important to review the various definitions of mental health.

At its core, mental health is “the emotional resilience which allows us to enjoy life, create friendships and be productive at our jobs.” This emotional flexibility helps us cope with life’s disappointments and setbacks, such as death, familial conflict or other stressful situations. Protecting our mental health is as essential as protecting our physical well-being.

Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common forms of clinically diagnosed mental health disorders. Fortunately, many of these disorders can be treated with social supports (however, in some cases, some individuals require medical intervention).

On a personal level, it’s no secret that mental ill-health can lead to general unhappiness. As a result, it can impact our lives in the professional world, costing businesses millions of dollars due to absenteeism, high staff turnover, and presenteeism.

As such, today’s business leaders and employers must make it a priority to serve as instruments of change in our current negatively charged, turbulent environment.

So, how can you get started to ensuring that your employees have good mental health in the workplace?

The Domino Effect of Positivity

As an international speaker, mental health expert, and author, I have been fortunate to travel around the globe throughout my career meeting with hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs about mental wellness. The consensus among these individuals is that when you focus on taking care of your own emotional health, the resulting positivity has a contagious effect, especially when it comes to relationships between leaders and employees.

Executives at the top of the chain of command must start by looking for any signs of higher than average employee stress, including regular complaining, and anger or reduced (or a boost in) productivity.

While altering attitudes to mental health in the workplace should be a priority, it can be daunting for some leaders to fully understand how they can support a staff member’s well-being.

Here are three strategies to improve how you approach mental health within your organization:

  1. Understand that knowledge is power. Make a point of truly trying to understand the advantages of a mentally healthy work atmosphere. A happier team equates to higher commitment, creativity and productivity. On the other hand, it is also important to realize the risk factors that can trigger poor mental health, such as lack of engagement, non-inclusion in decision-making, excessive workloads and more. There are numerous measures you can take to minimize these risk factors, including awareness of health and safety, greater autonomy, recognition of good work, promoting work-life balance and supporting career development. It is also critical that business leaders are better informed on the current landscape of mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness in our society tends to stem from unfamiliarity. Keep in mind, the great majority of people who struggle with poor mental health can be productive and valued employees when the proper support system is in place.

  2. Take practical steps to help your organization. When developing your initial strategy, tap into the array of tools available to help you create your organization’s policies and procedures. You can access the latest educational and training materials either digitally or in hard copy formats. There are also diagnostic tools, which allow for monitoring employees, that you can download and use, too. Please note that these tools do not replace the need for professional input, but they can serve as tools to help gauge basic general employee mental health.

  3. Let employees know where to go if they need help. If you are facing a deluge of negative emotions amongst your team members, they may feel seeking help is an overwhelming prospect. However, if your company has policies and procedures in place that aim to improve the mental well-being of everyone on staff, there should always be a clear path for employees to engage with and share difficulties confidentially. Remember, as an employer, you are not expected to be a mental health expert – in some situations, a referral may be required. The best outcomes are to resolve an employee’s difficulties and to keep them productive and on staff – usually via early intervention, training and education.

The Bottom Line

When leaders make conscious efforts to embrace positivity – even in turbulent times – we can help our employees experience increased positivity and more success.

The statistics about making such efforts are telling: one recent study by ValueOptions revealed that employees who utilized mental health tools (and met with a mental health provider) reported a decrease in absenteeism, and considerable improvement in both productivity and overall mental health.

As we become increasingly savvier to our society’s mental health needs, it’s in every manager’s best interest to implement a focus on positivity in the workplace. The long-term investment in mental health awareness, education and training will inevitably create returns that outweigh the loss of productivity in the professional world.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Ulrich Kellerer. He is an inspirational business leader, international speaker and mental health activist from Munich, Germany. For over 20 years, Kellerer worked in the European fashion industry as the founder and CEO of the German clothing line, Faro Fashion, which had the distribution rights for the brand CLOSED (the leading European fashion company for women’s and men’s sportswear) in Bavaria – south Germany.

Kellerer is the co-author of The Soul of Success with Jack Canfield and the author of the recently-released title, One Moment Can Change Your Life: Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People. Today, he dedicates his time to fighting the depression epidemic and promoting mental wellness in the workplace.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:59 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Engagement Isn’t Built, It’s Uncovered



E ARE BORN with a desire to engage. We want to learn—to relate and interact. We want to connect.

But over the years, depending on our upbringing, our schooling, and our work, our desire to engage gets suppressed. It gets covered up.

Our job as leaders is to uncover and rekindle that child-like desire to engage with others and our environment. We can’t create engagement, but we can uncover it.

I was reading a remarkable little book written for teachers by retired professor Calvin Luther Martin entitled, Successful College Teaching Begins with Throwing Away Your Lecture Notes. We can learn a lot here because teaching, like leading, is about serving others while achieving a result. Indeed, teaching is a function of leading.

We teach much more than our subject matter; we teach trust or distrust, courtesy or discourtesy, warmth or coldness—the lessons between the lines.

The people we lead are not coming to us from our perspective. They have their own that has been years on the making.

Bear in mind that you are teaching young men and women with an educational past that has shaped them.

We bring our whole selves to work. Our hope, our scars, our dreams, our fears, our expectations, and our assumptions. Our childhood sense of wonder has been abused. It’s there, but it is cautious. We are conditioned to want to be right more than we want to be accurate.

Behold the class before you. They are not blank slates, nor are they ignorant. There is plenty written on those slates and your task is to rewrite much of that text—if they will trust you and if your good enough to get that close to them. They sit before you, thoroughly trained (brainwashed might be a better word) in ways of pedagogy that will determine how they hear you, what they hear and cannot hear, and how they will absorb what you say.

We are not leading another version of us. We are leading a human being similar in form but different in substance.

These people come to you with layers of expectations that have been created starting in the first grade. Like an old kitchen countertop, they have been painted over and over. The oak, cherry, or maple cabinet beneath is smothered by an amour of paint. It’s a bland countertop now. The fine wood underneath is unknown; it’s merely a rigid structure useful for covering with paint and, after that, supporting pots and pans.

Thirty countertops, each covered with a dozen coats of paint, file into your room, take a seat, and open their spiral-bound notebooks. They’re ready for yet another coat of paint, Professor Martin. They know the drill; go ahead, start brushing it on.

The sorrow of this parable is that they expect it. They actually expect you to drone on, giving them fact after fact while they fill their notebook and worry about memorizing all this information.

Surprise them; don’t do it.

A leader has to peel off the old paint and get to that desire to engage that has been unwittingly covered over. We have to uncover the desire to engage. The desire to learn. The desire to connect.

The tendency is to be instructing. We do need to instruct but it needs to be part of a larger, coherent story that people can feel a part of.

We are wired to engage. It’s already within us. Our task as leaders is to uncover what is already there.

Martin explains that to teach or to lead “is to give a concert, to perform a beautiful, passionate concerto which everyone in the audience yearns to play, improvise on, and even improve.”

We don’t build engagement, we uncover it.

Uncover engagement in your organization.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:01 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Motivation


Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First

Talent Wins

F PEOPLE NOT COMPANIES, generate value, why isn’t talent at the center of every company’s strategy? It’s time to take charge of talent.

Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey write in Talent Wins:
Most executives today recognize the competitive advantage of talent, yet the talent practices their organizations use are vestiges of another era. They were designed for predictable environments, traditional ways of getting work done, and organizations where lines and boxes defined how people were managed. As work and organizations become more fluid — and business comes to mean sensing and seizing new opportunities in a constantly changing environment, rather than panning for several years into a predictable future — companies must deploy talent in new ways. In fact, talent must lead strategy.

To make this happen, they recommend forging what they call the G3. This is a group that consists of the CEO, the CFO, and the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). Together, they “lead the way on anything where the deployment of talent influences the company’s results.” It is the “multiplier of your capacity, time, and capability.” Bringing the CHRO into the mix, signals that “talent consideration must be a critical part of every important decision.”

Of course, for most organizations, this means greatly expanding the role of human resources. Finding, recruiting, supporting and developing talent is mission-critical work in the organization. Beyond just administrative work, it must become a creator of value and competitive advantage.

The relationship between the CFO and CHRO is vital. Together they can do more than they could alone by “ensuring that the company’s financials and the company’s people are continually, inextricably linked.” The success of the G3 is up to the CEO, but the CFO and the CHRO “must be star performers who can learn from each other’s language and dive into each other’s business.”

Training has to be built into the daily fabric or tour organization. People appreciate in value. “Investments in training are strategic bets on your most valuable assets.” This is not a haphazard process but one that uses predictive analytic software to find the right roles for talent, spotlight weaknesses, and forecast the skills that will be needed in the future. Another part of this is rigorously reexamining the organizations legacy processes and instilling a mentality across the organization that everyone should be developing their skills. “These moves quicken the pulse of a company, and help the company have the nimble urgency needed to compete successfully.”

Driving a talent-first reorganization is the job of the CEO. The CEO is the organization’s top recruiter and it requires their constant attention. “Where to find people with the imagination and skills to propel the company; how to position your critical 2 percent and multiply its impact; what kind of talent the company lacks and how you will get it—becomes Job One.”

CEOs need to have on their agenda:
  • Hold weekly meetings with the G3 to steer the company
  • Stay constantly involved with those in your critical 2 percent. You should personally know them. You should personally sponsor many of them. And you should constantly be looking outside the organization to add to their ranks.
  • Put talent at the center of the board agenda, right up there with strategy and risk and compliance issues.
  • When making any strategic move, start with the talent implications—you must know which leaders will drive value.
  • Pay as much attention to developing and executing the talent strategy as you do to product strategy or competitive strategy.

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Talent Magnet All In

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:12 PM
| Comments (1) | Human Resources


Don’t Leave Workplace Civility to Chance



E'RE FACING a respect crisis. Civility and respect are not the norm in daily workplace interactions. They’re not the norm in our communities, either.

Our own observations make us keenly aware of these dynamics. Now there is research to - unfortunately - support our observations. A 2017 survey of Civility in America (an annual study undertaken by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate, and KRC Research - found that 69% of respondents believe the United States has a major civility problem.

75% of respondents believe that incivility has risen to crisis levels. 73% feel that the US is losing stature as a civil nation.

There were few optimists among those interviewed. Only 22% of respondents believe civility in America will improve in the years to come.

Three additional studies underscore the lack of respect and civility in our workplaces.

Gallup’s employee engagement data (Employee Engagement | Gallup Topic) reveals that only 35% of US workers are actively engaged at work. Globally, the number of actively engaged employees is 15%.

TINYpulse’s 2017 culture and engagement report found only 26% of employees feel strongly valued at work.

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2017 study (WBI 2017 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey | Workplace Bullying Institute) found that 19% of American workers have experienced bullying in the workplace while another19% have witnessed workplace bullying. 61% of Americans are aware of workplace bullying in their organizations.

This research and our own experiences make on thing clear: treating colleagues in the workplace with dignity and respect is not the norm.

Disrespect and incivility erode trust, performance, service, and proactive problem solving in our organizations every day.

All is not lost. I work with senior leaders of organizations of all sizes and industries to help them create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures.

Three steps are required to evolve your work culture. They are:

  1. Define.
  2. Align.
  3. Refine.

Define your desired work culture.

Senior leaders must make values as important as results - and to apply the same discipline to formalizing values expectations and measuring values expectations as they do to formalizing and measuring performance expectations.

Values must be shifted from lofty ideals to observable, tangible, and measurable behaviors. By defining company values in behavior terms, those valued behaviors becomes measurable expectations.

Let’s take “respect” as an example. One of my recent culture clients defined their respect value - one of six values they formalized - as “appreciating the worth of others and treating everyone with courtesy and kindness.” That’s a great definition, but it’s not in an observable form quite yet.

They defined the exact behaviors required with these three valued behaviors:

  • I seek and genuinely listen to others’ opinions.
  • I do not act or speak rudely or discount others.
  • I work to resolve problems and differences by directly communicating with the people involved.

These behaviors - along with the valued behaviors from their other five values - make it clear what the minimum standards of citizenship are in this organization.

Their “values clarity” efforts are complete, but they’re not done with embedding these behaviors.

Align all plans, decisions, and actions to your valued behaviors.

Senior leaders must model and demonstrate these valued behaviors in every interaction. Simply defining these valued behaviors - and marketing them like crazy with, for example, posters throughout your workspace - does nothing more than increase awareness. The only way to build credibility and inspire everyone in the company to actually demonstrate these valued behaviors every day is for senior leaders - and all leaders in the organisation - to model them in every interaction.

Every day.

This isn’t easy - but it’s required. The scrutiny is severe. The standards of interaction quality between senior leaders and everyone they interact with vastly increase.

Building credibility will take time - 4-5 months or more.

During this timeframe, senior leaders must not only model those valued behaviors, they must now coach those valued behaviors, praise aligned behaviors, redirect misaligned behaviors, etc., for the rest of their lives (!). Aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to your valued behaviors becomes a never-ending project.

This coaching, praising, redirecting, etc. is the foundation of holding others accountable for those valued behaviors. These same practices are an excellent foundation for holding others accountable for performance expectations, too.

A vital part of the align phase is creating a custom values survey, taken by all employees every six months. This survey becomes your “values dashboard,” a way to regularly measure the degree to which leaders are seen by employees as modeling the team or company’s valued behaviors.

With every run of your custom values survey, individual leaders - from senior leaders to front-line team leads - receive a profile that indicates their employees’ ratings of their demonstration of each valued behavior. Leaders are praised for aligned behaviors and coached on mis-aligned behaviors.

Note that some of my clients are doing pulse values surveys with one question of every employee asked each week rather than three dozen questions asked every six months. This provides a valuable ongoing measurement of values alignment across your leaders.

Only when leaders are held accountable for valued behaviors will those behaviors become a foundation of your healthy work culture.

Refine valued behaviors every two years or so, as needed.

The refine step is simply taking the time every two years or so to update your valued behaviors as needed. Some valued behaviors may be so ingrained you don’t need to keep them on your values list anymore. Some new valued behaviors might need to be added to address new temptations, new generations, new customer or market demands, etc.

Your valued behaviors need to evolve as your culture evolves.

These three steps work well in departments, small businesses, huge multi-nationals, and every size and type of organization in between.

The impact is powerful. When my culture clients implement these three rules, three outcomes consistently emerge. Employee engagement goes up by 40%. Customer service rankings rise by 40%. And results and profits increase by 35% - all within 18 months of implementing this proven process.

Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance. Make civility and respect a hallmark of every daily workplace interaction - by changing the rules, living the rules, and holding people accountable for the rules.

Watch my three minute “Culture Leadership Charge” video on YouTube for further insights.

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Leading Forum
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading high performing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. He has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. Chris is one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at South by Southwest 2015. Chris is the author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine, the best seller Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and five other books. Chris' blog, podcasts, research, and video series can be found at http://DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com. Thousands of followers enjoy his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.

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Grace Mastering Civility

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:50 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


6 Steps to Building a Community

Power of Community


N BUSINESS AND IN LIFE, it’s all about relationships. We are designed to connect with others. When we are connected to something larger than ourselves, we find meaning. We make a difference.

Organizational health is facilitated by building community within your organization. It’s not easy, and it can’t be forced. Community is a long-term solution to engagement, commitment, and talent retention. In The Power of Community, Howard Partridge has broken down the process of building a community within your organization into three keys with six action steps.


The first key to building community in your business is supporting your team members. “Many employees feel no one care about them. What if you started helping your team members reach their goals in life? This is a major key to the whole idea of community. In order to get support, we have to give support.” So this is where you begin:

1. Value True Community
Make community your top priority. You can’t build it if you don’t value it. You begin by asking these on your team about their personal goals and dreams. Then begin to help them with that or connect them with people who can. It’s about “care and coach” rather than “command and control.” Find someone to support.

2. Pursue Champion Connection
Place a high value on your team. They should not be treated as a resource but as friends. If you support them, they will support you. “Pursuing champion connections means investing intentionally in relationships that have the potential to become strong alliances of support and mission. On the inside of your organization, you’ll want to begin by selecting a couple of people on your leadership team who you know are loyal to you. Begin intentionally investing in those relationships, and then you can expand the size of the group from there.” Do this on the outside of your organization too. Identify people who have the same values as you but also people who have different gifts than you.


The second key to building community in your business is encouragement. “Encouragement is what inspires people to do the things they don’t feel like doing, the things they fear doing, and the things they don’t know they can do.” The next two steps demonstrate encouragement:

3. Inspire Emotional Trust
When you build others up you, give them the emotional fuel to do the things they wouldn’t do on their own. Community requires trust. Can people trust you with their emotions? When people trust you, they share more which allows you to help them even more. Trust builds commitment. You build courage through encouragement. You encourage people by knowing their story, affirming their value, and recognizing their gifts.

4. Practice Gift Exchange
When we recognize and even promote others’ strengths and talents we allow for people to share their abilities with us and let us share our abilities with them—both inside and outside the organization. We all benefit when we can leverage each other’s strengths. Because “all of your team members are operating in their gift zone, there’s a tremendous amount of energy and excitement, because everyone is essentially doing what he or she was born to do.”


The final key to building community in your business is accountability—the ability to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. “Accountability is key to becoming the person you were created to be. That’s because it is only by being accountable that you can discover and develop your gifts and help others discover and develop theirs.” This means that you first “have to take responsibility for your own actions, be respectful to your team members, be open to them, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You also have to be willing to admit when you’re wrong, confess that you don’t have all the answers, and ask your team for feedback on how you’re doing as a leader.” Build accountability by:

5. Invite Openhearted Encounters
When you are living a lifestyle of accountability, you can invite openhearted encounters. Openhearted encounters are ones where the faithful friends on your team can speak openly and honestly to you even if what they have to say might be hurtful. Sometimes we need help seeing the truth. These encounters “can happen intentionally, or unintentionally as a result of following the first four steps. When we value true community, pursue champion connections, inspire emotional trust, and practice gift exchange, we set ourselves up to invite openhearted encounters.”

6. Build Growth PODS
PODS are Power of Discovery Systems. “A POD is a small group of 7 to 9 people that meet on a regular basis for the purpose of fostering more effective communication, accountability, and implementation.” It’s interactive and is designed to “allow participants to discover what they need to do rather than being taught (or worse told). Growth PODS bring all three keys, support, encouragement, and accountability, and the previous five steps into one simple structure that will not only help your company be more productive but, more important, help your team build community.”

You can begin the process by creating your first POD. A free POD template for each of the chapters of this book are available to download at HowardPartridge.com/PODS

Go build your community.

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Relationships Matter Grace

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:45 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Positive Leadership


Talent Magnet: How to Get and Keep Top Talent

Talent Magnet


S YOUR ORGANIZATION a Talent Magnet? An organization so attractive that top talent will be standing in line to work there?

Too many organizations find themselves in the positon of not being able to find enough qualified people to meet their growth goals.

To answer the question, what attracts top talent, author and Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A, Inc. Mark Miller commissioned a research study to interview over 7000 people from age fourteen to sixty-five and included both professional and hourly workers across all educational backgrounds. The result is Talent Magnet.

Talent Magnet looks at the talent predicament from both sides—both those seeking work and those recruiting workers. It is the story of CEO Blake Brown who finds that they have a talent crisis and begins a journey to discover what it takes to find and keep top talent. It is also the story of his son Clint and his friends who are looking for a great place to work.

What they discover is that what top talent wants and what organizations need to provide is a Better Boss, a Brighter Future, and a Bigger Vision. These concepts are all broken down in the story, but the diagram below provides an overview.

Talent Magnet

You don’t advertise that you're trying to attract top talent, you simply create the culture that top talent is looking for. “If you build it they will come.” You make people aware by practicing the qualities that make a top talent culture—Better Boss, a Brighter Future, and a Bigger Vision. An organization’s leadership must understand their individual roles in delivering on the promise.

On their journey to discovery, they realized that “Many looking for work will be indifferent to our message, but Top Talent will resonate deeply with our story.” The promise should run through all of your corporate communications: engaged, caring leadership, champions of growth and opportunity, and a connection to a larger story that impacts society.

The Top Talent Magnets are universal; they are not gender or age specific. People may leave and move on and take their skills with them. Each job is a learning opportunity. And you want people with that kind of mindset because that will serve you best. When your goal is to help your people learn the skills that will serve them the rest of their life, then you are more likely to attract and retain top talent that will drive your organizational goals.

Blake concludes, “Working with people is the most challenging and rewarding part of being a leader. We can never shirk the responsibility. It comes with the job. If we abdicate our people responsibilities, we forfeit our leadership. People must always be our top priority. More than vision, strategy, creativity, marketing, finance, or even technology, it is ultimately people who determine our success.”

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Talent Wins All In

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:42 PM
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Key Tips for Bridging the Generational Divide in the Workplace

Generational Divide


ILLENNIALS NOW MAKE UP the largest percentage of the workforce. As workers, they’re characterized as brazen, fearless and unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Their assuredness and technological expertise have radically changed office dynamics. Top-down, command-and-control leadership styles are outdated and ineffective with this modern-day workforce.

The clash of perspectives, with the Boomer generation craving the comfort of a hierarchical organization and Millennials demanding inclusion and collaboration, impacts the bottom line. Millennials will abandon any job if the culture their manager has created is unworkable for them. If it means more than six jobs in ten years, so be it. But such turnover is costly. Research shows the average cost of employee turnover is about 20 percent of the employee’s annual salary. Other costs of not adapting leadership styles for your younger employees are harder to quantify, including lost knowledge, relationships, opportunities, and more.

Transforming from an entrenched and unworkable generational disconnect into a dynamic organization able to face 21st century challenges collaboratively requires key actions, including:

1. Reassess attitudes toward junior employees.

Boomers and Millennials have distinct differences in how they act and how they want to be regarded in the workplace. These differences are potentially lethal to your business, particularly when leaders aren’t prepared to make the most of the talent and innovation the young employees bring. Strategies that move managers, supervisors and executives away from being simply directors to become “people developers”—coaches, motivators and listeners—will serve in providing the collaborative culture Millennials crave. And management will realize that all generations in the organization respond better to relational leadership opposed to directives and demands.

2. Realign workplace expectations.

Boomers remain in the mindset that junior employees have to pay their dues and show respect, just as they had to do. But Millennials expect their supervisors to understand the amazing life experiences and skills they bring. They value autonomy, flexibility and opportunity to express their opinion. Leaders are challenged to clearly communicate expectations and standards and allow the young employees to take ownership of their work. This means treating them as owners, not renters. Treating them like renters allows them to do the minimum amount of work and expect others to fix any problems. Owners, on the other hand, have skin in the game and own their part of the overall results.

3. Capitalize on new skills.

Millennials bring a specific set of game-changing technological skills to the workplace, yet Boomers often have no idea what these tools are, what they do or how they’re changing the business landscape. In the multi-generational workplace, a useful approach for capitalizing on Millennials’ skills is to employ “reverse mentoring.” Instead of the usual older-to-younger employee mentoring, the junior employee mentors the senior employee. Reverse mentoring helps close the technological knowledge gap, empowers high-potential employees and drives understanding and empathy between generations.

Companies who can effectively bridge the generation gap through leadership strategies that harness the potential of Millennials will create a competitive advantage. After all, the young employees are yearning for personal value in their work and the opportunity to contribute to something that matters. The alternative is that the manager—and the organization—become irrelevant.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Kelly Riggs and Robby Riggs. Kelly Riggs is an author, speaker and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the U.S. and Canada. Kelly is a former sales executive and two-time national Salesperson of the Year with well over two decades of executive management and training experience. Robby Riggs is a corporate consultant specializing in strategic transformation initiatives and driving successful change in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100s. Their new book, Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace, offers practical, actionable advice that improves workplace culture and enables organizations to bridge the generational divide. Learn more at CounterMentors.com

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8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make Tim Elmore Generation iY

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership


8 Principles for Building a High-Performance Culture



HEN IT COMES to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. Powerful is a book of advice gained from her experience at Netflix.

When McCord began her career in Human Resources at Netflix, she began working with Reed Hastings to identify the behaviors that they wanted to see become consistent practices and worked to instill the discipline of actually doing them. When established they were communicated over and over again and eventually became known as the Netflix Culture Deck. They coached all of their people, at all levels and on all teams, to be disciplined about these fundamental set of behaviors.

“A company’s job isn’t to empower people,” she writes, “it’s to remind people that they walk in the door with power and to create the conditions for them to exercise it.” As a leader, you need to model that behavior. If you want people to act like adults, they have to see adult behavior.

There are a lot of great insights in Powerful but here are some takeaways for you to think about:

1. Treat People Like Adults

“Great teams are made when every single member knows where they’re going and will do anything to get there. Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is.

Saying to employees, “If you do X, you’ll be rewarded with Y,” assumes a static system. Yet no business is static.

Being given a great problem to tackle and the right colleagues to tackle it with is the best incentive of all.

2. Communicate Constantly About the Challenge

Coming up with simple yet robust ways to explain every aspect of the business isn’t easy, but it pays huge rewards.

Don’t hire people that are stupid. Better yet, don’t assume that people are stupid. Assume instead that if they are doing stupid things, they are either uninformed or misinformed.

If your people aren’t informed by you, there’s a good chance they’ll be misinformed by others.

If you stop any employee, at any level of the company, in the break room or the elevator and ask what are the five most important things the company is working on for the next six months, that person should be able to tell you, rapid-fire, one, two, three, four, five. Ideally using the same words you’ve used in your communications to the staff and, if they’re really good, in the same order. If not, the heartbeat isn’t strong enough yet.

3. Practice Radical Honesty

People can handle being told the truth, about both business and their performance. The truth is not only what they need but also what they intensely want.

The most important thing about giving feedback is that it must be about behavior, rather than some essentializing characterization of a person, like “You’re unfocused.” It must also be actionable.

When leaders not only are open to being wrong but also readily admit it, and when they do so publically, they send a powerful message to their teams: Please speak up!

4. Cultivate strong Opinions and Debate Vigorously

Our Netflix executive team was fierce. We were combative in that beautiful, intellectual way where you argue to tease out someone’s viewpoint because although you don’t agree, you think the other person is really smart so you want to understand why they think what they think.

“Can you help me understand what leads you to believe that’s true?”

We had cultivated the practice of asking people about the nature of problems they were tackling rather than assuming an understanding of them.

People become overly wedded to data and too often consider it much too narrowly, removed from the wider business context. They consider it the answer to rather than the basis of good questions.

Good judgment: the ability to make good decisions in ambiguous conditions, to dig deeply into the causes of problems, and to think strategically and articulate that thinking.

5. Relentlessly Focus on the Future

Leaders rarely look to the future in thinking about the team they’ll need. They tend to focus on what their current team is achieving and how much more that team can do.

Another mistake I’ve seen in building teams is assuming that current employees will be able to grow into the responsibilities of the future. This is an especially acute problem for start-ups because founders often feel a strong sense of loyalty to their early team.

Are we limited by the team we have not being the team we should have?

We were going to make sure our teams were constantly evolving. Just as great sports teams are constantly scouting for new players and culling others from their lineups, our team leaders would need to continually look for talent and reconfigure team makeup.

I believe the best advice for all working people today is to stay limber, to keep learning new skills and considering new opportunities, regularly taking on new challenges so that work stays fresh and stretches them. [whether that means rising within the company or seizing a great opportunity elsewhere.]

6. Have the Right Person in Every Single Position

At Netflix we had three fundamental tenants to our talent-management philosophy. First, the responsibility for hiring great people, and for determining whether someone should move on, rested primarily with managers. Second, for every job, we tried to hire a person who would be a great fit, not just adequate. Finally, we would be willing to say goodbye to even very good people of their skills no longer matched the work we needed done.

People’s happiness in their work is not about gourmet salads or sleeping pods or foosball tables. True and abiding happiness in work comes from being deeply engaged in solving a problem with talented people you know are also deeply engaged in solving it, and from knowing that the customer loves the product or service you all have worked so hard to make.

7. Pay People What They’re worth to You

Separate performance review and compensation systems. The tight bind between the performance review process and salary increase and bonus calculations is one of the main factors holding companies back from doing away with the review process.

I realized that his work with us had given him a whole new market value. We realized that for some jobs we were creating our own expertise and scarcity, and rigidly adhering to internal salary ranges could actually be harming our best contributors financially because they could make more elsewhere.

8. Proactively Say Goodbye

One of the benefits of the leadership communicating clearly to everyone in the company about where you’re heading and the challenges and opportunities that future will bring is that it better equips people to evaluate how well their skills fit into that future. They can also consider whether or not that future is one they want to be a part of and, if it isn’t, can proactively seek out new opportunities.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Culture , Human Resources


Five Happiness Traps

Happy at Work


HE IDEA of work is not always well received. And those that do work often don’t expect much out of it. They may see it as a necessity that they are not supposed to like. They should just be grateful they have one. Expecting work to make them happy is beyond the realm of possibility and so try to look elsewhere to find happiness.

However, considering the time we spend at work, it should not be a mindless task. Work can be hard, but we should find it invigorating as we rise to meet the challenges and grow our capabilities.

Annie McKee shares in How to Be Happy at Work, five happiness traps. They are five traps we fall into that keep us from finding true happiness at work.

The Overwork Trap

Overwork is very common as we try to keep up with changes, do more with less, work across time zones, escape stress at home, and the sense of importance it gives us. “I’m busy,” is a badge we often wear. McKee quotes Sarah Green Carmichael on this: “We log too many hours because of a mix of inner drivers, like ambition, machismo, greed, anxiety, guilt, enjoyment, pride, the pull of short-term rewards, a desire to prove we’re important, or an overdeveloped sense of duty.”

McKee says this overwork is not good for us as it negatively impacts our health and relationships. It keeps us “stuck and striving” and it “shuts down our ability to decipher what we should be doing.” In this state, it’s hard to be happy.

First, we must discover why we are working so much. Do we really have to or is it a habit?

The Money Trap

“Money is great,” says McKee, “until our desire for it overshadows reason.” It’s not always about greed. It’s often deeper than that. “The decision to choose money over happiness is fueled by insecurity, social comparison, and the need to display one’s power for all to see.”

We need to tune in to what really brings us happiness in life. “Wouldn’t it be better if money was an outcome that followed our good work rather than a goal in itself?”

The Ambition Trap

Ambition is not a bad thing until it drives us to be ultra-competitive and focused on winning. When we will do anything, compromise anything to come out on top without regard for the collateral damage, we are in trouble.

“First, success isn’t really success when we define it as a win-lose, zero-sum game. Second, hypercompetitiveness in the workplace leaves us empty and unfulfilled, hurts our ability to lead effectively, and makes us no fun to be around. Finally, when ambition and the desire to win at all costs takes over, there’s usually something deeper going on—something we need to examine.”

The “Should” Trap

We all at one time or another do things because we feel we should even though we don’t want to. Of course, there are things that we should do even when we don’t want to because they are right. But there are “shoulds” that are really not more than expectations placed on us by others or society at large that no longer make any sense. There are “shoulds” that “we are forced to adhere to—whether they are society’s or our organizations’—are truly at odds with who we are and what we believe. That is soul destroying.”

Social rules and “shoulds” are a fact of life. It’s not about getting rid of them; it’s about sorting through them and making conscious choices about which to follow—those that enable you to live your values, reach your potential, and be happy.

The Helplessness Trap

It may sound fatalistic, but as the world continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, there is a sense that we can’t keep up and therefore can’t control what happens to us. When we feel this way, helplessness sets in. “It kills hope, shatters dreams, and leaves us at the mercy of others and the vagaries of our organizations.”

It’s easy to feel defeated by life and circumstances. Fear of the unknown makes us feel helpless, but with a bit of courage we can exercise more control over our lives and find happiness at work.

Breaking Free from the Happiness Traps

Dealing with these happiness traps begins with a little introspection and learning to manage our emotions/feelings. With reflection we can begin to understand why we do and think the things we do, then we can “actively choose to see things differently—to adapt and shift our mindset from negative to a more positive way of viewing ourselves and our situation.” Think about which happiness trap affects you the most. Mckee suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Which of the happiness traps keep me in my comfort zone? Which traps actually make me feel safe? Which traps, if I’m honest with myself, are excuses for not taking the risk to pursue what I really want?

  2. Which of the happiness traps keep me from pursuing my dreams for a better job, a great career, or real fulfillment in the job I have now?

  3. Which happiness traps do I keep others in? How does this serve me and them positively? How does it hurt me and them?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter

10 Questions


OST LEADERS (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

1. What is your overall satisfaction with your team?
This question is pretty straightforward, but perhaps the most powerful. As a manager, it allows you to gain access to the big picture—providing key understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, directly from your staff. It’s no secret that dissatisfaction with overall team performance is a primary reason for top talent to exit. Taking the initiative to ask your employees for feedback, and frequently, will not only provide you with valuable insight but put you in a position to rectify concerns before the damage is done.

2. If the best place you’ve ever worked was a 10, please rate your current company.
You’ll either be the 10, or you won’t. If you are not, don’t become defensive or offended, ask what specifically was better at your employee’s previous company. Then compare it to your current team and ask yourself, as the leader, would it be possible to adopt some of those successful strategies?

3. How well does your leader do with supporting and developing you? (Consider time, tools and training.)
One of the top responses on employee satisfaction surveys, across the board, is how well we do with making our people a better version of themselves. If you are not actively investing in your employees, they will eventually move on to find someone who will. Do you give them enough of your time? Do you give them the right tools to compete and win? Do you train them in new skills and technologies that allow them to be more effective?

4. How well does your leader hold you accountable?
This is very important to a high-performance culture. Highly engaged and highly accountable teams outperform those who lack both. When you have the right people in the right seats, the best employees don’t mind being held accountable for their actions and their results. Those standards are what make them feel “elite.” After all, who wants to be part of a team that anyone can be a part of? If they are accountable, they know others are held accountable too, and that’s one of the main ingredients to employees giving their best day in and day out.

5. How well does your leader hold OTHERS accountable?
This question smokes out if your employees feel like there is any favoritism or double standards in play at your company. Obviously, you want to treat everyone on the team the same, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Oftentimes you’ll discover that leadership and the “favorites” get a pass and the troops get the stick. When leaders are held to a higher standard and not a special one, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get buy-in and acceptance for so many things that seem tough to get. This is particularly relevant to family-owned businesses, where your last name matters more than it should.

6. How well does your leader communicate with you?
When discussing performance issues with their employees, I often find leaders have failed to communicate clear expectations and a clearly defined process of how they expect their employees to perform. The leaders are then bewildered that the task hasn’t been accomplished to their satisfaction. Leaders need to ensure that proper communication has been achieved before moving on to work on other things. An easy way to accomplish this is to simply ask, “OK, do you feel like you’ve got it?” (Almost always expect a “yes” answer, even when it’s really a “kind of” or a “no.”) Then say, “Great! Now echo that back to me, just to make sure I’ve explained this well to you?” By doing so, you’ll then have the opportunity to get crystal clear with them. Without this important step, prepare for some fuzziness in your employees’ results.

7. How likely are you to recommend your company to a friend that is looking for work?
This is like the Net Promoter Score for you as a leader, and for the company at large. If they were at a BBQ with their friends on a weekend and the topic came up, how do you think your team would respond? Would your employee say, “You’d be lucky to get hired. My company is world-class!” Or would the conversation be more like, “Well, if you can get past a ton of B.S., politics and red tape, you can grind out a living just like I do!”

8. Rate your team “health.”
To give you a gauge for their response, a 10 is when trust is very high, there is healthy conflict, nothing is personal, when something is called out for not being ideal, no one gets defensive or upset because everyone is there to make things as good as they can possibly be. A one is when people are not speaking the truth, everyone is walking around on eggshells, and it’s better for your career to not rock the boat and to go with the flow.

9. Do you feel adequately recognized for your contributions to the team?
This is another top response that I see on employee satisfaction surveys. Employees work hard, sometimes stay late, give their all and go above and beyond. If they aren’t recognized for these sacrifices, they will usually stop these activities because they don’t seem to matter. Sometimes others unjustly steal credit for their work, or leaders are simply oblivious to their contributions. What is your format to make sure this doesn’t happen at your company?

10. How likely are you to seek advancement at your company?
This is a great way to identify your next leaders. It also speaks to how your leaders are perceived by the staff. If they feel your managers are a bit of a joke, are clueless and cannot imagine themselves being one of those types, you might have a bigger issue on your hands. Not everyone wants to be a leader, and that is perfectly OK. If they say no, ask why, but don’t try to “sell” management to them. It’s better to understand what their reasons are and to respect them.

The sum of all of these questions together will give you valuable information on where you are doing well and where needs immediate attention. If you ask these 10 questions every 90 days, you can compare your team’s last quarter responses and spot any problem areas before things get too caustic to your beloved culture. Again, if you don’t ask, you are guessing, and that might not work out well for you, or for your team!

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Leading Forum
This post is by Chris Hallberg. Chris is ranked #9 on Inc.’s “Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts,” is a seasoned business consultant, turnaround expert, United States Army veteran, and author of The Business Sergeant’s Field Manual. You will find his blog at Business Sergeant.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:05 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


How to Bypass Ego-Driven Drama

No Ego

HE WORLD IS full of drama. Rather than deal with reality in a constructive way, we engage in drama. It’s easier than working on what we need to deal with. It makes us feel like we are doing something. We like it, and we bring it to work.

Cy Wakeman writes in No Ego, that we spend way too much time in the workplace dealing with drama caused by our egos. Ego driven behaviors include:
  • Dealing with hurt feelings, misinterpretation, or speculation
  • Dealing with employee hearsay or gossip
  • Handling defensiveness and/or resistance to feedback
  • Dealing with employees who vent or complain
  • Addressing employees who tattle on or judge others
  • Addressing employees who compare their situations with others


When we are frustrated, hurt, or angry, we vent. “Venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection.” As Wakeman points out, venting doesn't solve anything and only creates more negativity, which as we know, deteriorates our ability to think rationally. “Venting leaves people stuck in ego. It stunts growth and kills accountability.” If we encourage venting, we are preventing people from learning and growing into the person they need to become.

To diffuse venting and bypass the ego, we need to move people into a different frame of mind: self-reflection. Self-reflection allows for accountability. And accountability allows people to amplify their strengths. Better all the way around.

Ego-Bypass Questions

Wakeman suggests bringing people back to reality by asking some ego-bypass questions:

• What do you know for sure?
• What would be most helpful in this situation?
• What could you do next that would add value?
• What could you do right now to help?
• Would you rather be right or happy?
• What is helpful in this situation—your expertise or your opinion?
• How could we make this work?

People who love their drama will not appreciate this approach. “Reality, self-reflection, and accountability make the ego very nervous. It doesn’t want to venture outside its comfort zone, so it will cling to the old and look for every possible way to torpedo change.” Ego resists things like “Mental flexibility, self-reflection, taking full accountability, forgiveness, letting go and moving on.”

Check Your Own Ego

This isn’t tough love, says Wakeman. “Reality is rough. Leadership is love.” If you are going to work to diminish the drama in your workplace, there are a few things Wakeman recommends we keep in mind.

• Be gentle. You want to wake people up, but not by violently shaking them up.
• Work with those willing to make the call.
• Summon up all the compassion you can. We are all human.
• Forgive others early and often.

And most importantly: Check your own ego before you attempt to engage another’s.

Here are some takeaways from No Ego:
  • Professionals give others the benefit of the doubt—they assume noble intent.
  • Your circumstances are not the reason you can’t succeed; they are the reality in which you must succeed.
  • Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.

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Conflict Without Casualties The Good Fight

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:40 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


Employees Do Care – and How that Helps your Bottom Line

Decide to Profit


FTENTIMES managers and executives push for organizational change and growth, yet their businesses continue to suffer from profit loss, lack of productivity, a decline in employee morale, and frustration. Why? Is it due to employee ineptitude or apathy? Managers sending the wrong message? The answer to both questions is a resounding “no.” Employees do care about the bottom line, and managers are correct in their message. Both groups understand what is important and why it is important – but struggle around HOW to improve their company’s bottom line. There are two solutions:

1. Create a behavioral culture of continuous improvement

Managers and executives must promote a culture of continuous “improvement” as opposed to a culture of continuous “growth.” And there is a reason for that distinction. In my experience, many companies view “growth” as increased top-line revenue or sales, additional product lines, or entry into new markets, for example. Growth is typically more of a step event, as opposed to improvement, which is embedded and incremental. In my opinion, none of these are the true indicators of success. Success is only possible when you can do all of these things AND increase profit.

In order to develop a culture of continuous improvement there are two primary areas of focus: behavioral changes and a clear system to enable ideas for change. What happens within organizations as they push for change and growth? For one, behaviors change. Where once a handful of individuals made key decisions, these decisions are now spread across numerous departments and individuals at all levels of the organization. Agility and flexibility are replaced by process and a mind-numbing disconnect from business goals. Innovation and creativity are supplanted by overhead creep, loss of productivity, and poor business decisions. Managers and executives need to own these impacts and make some changes. To make this happen I recommend the following:

  1. Acknowledge the difficulties. Cultural change is difficult as it forces established habits, hierarchies, processes, and people to think and behave in unfamiliar ways. The knowledge that these difficulties exist is the first step to overcome them.
  2. Overcome the difficulties. Overcoming hurdles to organizational change requires a unified effort and message from management, as well as the identification, empowerment and support of several key change agents.
  3. Make it stick. Ensuring the sustainability of cultural change requires the ongoing measurement and assessment of your business performance, behaviors, and employee attitudes.

2. Provide a process for employee-owned, sound and innovative business decisions that are tied to sustainable growth and profit.

Decide to Profit: 9 Steps to a Better Bottom Line was written specifically in order to provide a step-by-step guide that aligns both employees and managers around connecting all ideas and decisions that affect change to the financial goals of your company. Employees have a clear system that links decisions to the financial performance of their organization. Managers have a ready tool to shape their organizational culture and business outcomes. With this system, both leaders and employees can adapt and change through external transformations in the marketplace and increasingly tough competition, and ultimately, maintain net profit.

The 9 Steps enable both employees and managers to avoid common decision-making mistakes and taps directly into the fact that your employees DO care about your bottom line. The book also provides checklists and tools to foster a creative and idea-driven culture within your organization, and, ultimately, easy to understand and implement guidelines to ensure a financially sound future. The chapters outline each of the steps, its application, checklists, critical questions to ask, and easy-to-use forms for managers and employees. Embedded within each step are checks and balances and a process for accountability so that managers and employees can remain in sync in both their thinking and actions.

In order for the 9 Steps to work effectively, the culture of the organization implementing them must reflect an ongoing and continuous curiosity, which ties directly back to the first recommendation. Culture and process are inextricably linked. Complacency and surrender can kill this curiosity, and creating this type of culture can be extremely difficult especially if historically your people and processes are embedded. Within the 9 Steps (Steps 1-8), a process is imbedded that allows alignment between employees and management that is focused on the right decisions for the right reasons: to ultimately make money. Step 9 is designed to ensure that your people and your ways of thinking are always asking questions, always challenging yourselves, never accepting the as-is, and ensuring that whether you fail or succeed at change or innovation does not quell the desire to constantly come up with new and better solutions. And Step 9 has a built-in feedback loop that continuously brings you back to Step 1 and so on. So between cultural behaviors and a straightforward internal process that ties directly to the financial success of your organization, leaders can provide both the tools and inspiration for success.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Dorriah Rogers, Ph.D. She is the author of Decide to Profit: 9 Steps to a Better Bottom Line. As the CEO of Paradyne Consulting Works, she shares her last twelve years of consulting and research for numerous Fortune 500 companies, large government entities, and the US military. She provides a step-by-step guide to avoid common decision-making mistakes, how to foster a creative and idea-driven culture within organizations to ensure a financially sound future.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:24 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


Humility is the New Smart: Are You Ready?

Humility is the New Smart


MART used to be a quantity game. “I know more than you. I get more things right.” But Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig say that in the new Smart Machine Age, that’s a losing game. The new smart is about quality. Specifically, the quality of your thinking, your listening, and your relating and collaborative skills.

Are you ready?

The Smart Machine Age (SMA) will revolutionize how most of us live and work. In Humility is the New Smart, the authors state that “smart technologies will become ubiquitous, invading and changing many aspects of our professional and personal lives and in many ways challenging our fundamental beliefs about success, opportunity, and the American Dream.” This means that the “number and types of available jobs and required skills will turn our lives and our children’s lives upside down.”

New skills will be needed. Uniquely human skills. Those skills, while uniquely human, are not what we are typically trained to do and require a deal of messy personal development. We will need to become better thinkers, listeners, relators, and collaborators while working to overcome our culture of obsessive individualism in order to thrive in the SMA. Humility is the mindset that will make all of this possible.

Most of today’s adults have had no formal training in how to think, how to listen, how to learn and experiment through inquiry, how to emotionally engage, how to manage emotions, how to collaborate, or how to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.

In short, say the authors, we need to acquire and continually develop four fundamental NewSmart behaviors:

Quieting Ego

Quieting Ego has always been the challenge for us humans. As they observe, “Even if we don’t consider ourselves part of the ‘big me’ cultural phenomenon, for many of us to feel good about ourselves we have to constantly be ‘right,’ self-enhance, self-promote, and conceal our weaknesses, all of which drive ego defensiveness and failure intolerance that impedes higher-level thinking and relating.” This tendency negatively affects our behavior, thinking, and ability to relate to and engage with others.

Managing Self—Thinking and Emotions

We need to get above ourselves to see ourselves impartially. We all struggle “to self-regulate our basic humanity—our biases, fears, insecurities, and natural fight-flee-or-freeze response to stress and anxiety.” We need to be willing to treat all of our “beliefs (not values) as hypotheses subject to stress tests and modification by better data.”

Negative emotions cause narrow-mindedness. Positive emotions, on the other hand, have been scientifically linked to “broader attention, open-mindedness, deeper focus, and more flexible thinking, all of which underlie creativity and innovative thinking.”

Reflective Listening

Because we are limited by our own thinking, we need to listen to others to “open our minds and, push past our biases and mental models, and mitigate self-absorption in order to collaborate and build better relationships.” The problem is “we’re just too wired to confirm what we already believe, and we feel too comfortable having a cohesive simple story of how our world works.” Listening to others helps to quiet our ego.


To create these new behaviors and mindsets, it should become obvious that we need to enlist the help of others. “We can’t think, innovate, or relate at our best alone.” As Barbara Fredrickson observed, “nobody reaches his or her full potential in isolation.” Jane Dutton out it this way: “It seems to be another fact that no man can come to know himself except as the outcome of disclosing himself to another.”

The NewSmart Organization

Optimal human performance in the SMA will require an emphasis on the emotional aspects of critical thinking, creativity, innovation and engaging with others. “The work environment must be designed to reduce fears, insecurities, and other negative emotions.

To do this it means “providing people a feeling of being respected, held in positive regard, and listened to. It means creating opportunities for people to connect and build trust. “It means allocating time and designing work environments that bring people together to relate about nonwork matters.” Finally, it means getting to know employees and helping them to get the “right training or opportunities to develop and provide feedback.”

The NewSmart organization needs to be a safe place to learn. “Feeling safe means that you feel that your boss your employer, and your colleagues will do you no harm as you try to learn.”

The New Smart

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Learn or Die Humility Wide Net

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:28 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Positive Leadership


Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership

GO IS A CONSTANT preoccupation with our self-worth.
Each of us has beliefs and fears about our value, and they cause defensive and/or self-promotional behaviors when under stress. Whether in a meeting, a presentation, or a relationship, part of our attention—sometimes all of it—is preoccupied by our view of our self. Are we competent? Respected? Intelligent? Liked? Attractive? Included? Each of us has a set of criteria we unconsciously judge ourselves against. When we measure up, we feel pride, even superiority. When we don’t, we feel uncomfortable, stressed, often afraid.
Ego Free Leadership is co-written by executive coach Shayne Hughes, president of Learning as Leadership and Brandon Black the retired CEO of Encore Capital Group. The book tracks Black’s journey from acknowledging to changing the destructive elements of his ego. Once he committed to change, the transformation began in his team and throughout the culture of the Encore organization. Quite effectively, Hughes and Black go back and forth sharing their perspectives on the unfolding transformation. Naturally, it’s not a step-by-step prescription, but it is instructive to see the process because we all share similar issues and thinking.

They begin by debunking the "ego is good" myth. Our egos limit us as we try to protect it in various ways. “Our ego can’t stand failure, incompetence, or weakness, so it avoids what is truly challenging us.

When we feel at the mercy of what is happening around us we react often distorting reality. “We read criticism, abandonment, judgment, competitiveness, and aggression into a situation where it may not exist.” We seek to fix what we believe is causing our distress resorting to learned behaviors that really don’t serve us well.

Anytime we know intellectually what to do, but our actual behavior is inconsistent or in contradiction, it is a sign we are being short-circuited by our egosystem. These behavioral derailers come in many forms: conflict avoidance, procrastination, defensiveness, people pleasing, shutting down, being argumentative, just to name a few. Upon examination, these ingrained knee-jerk reactions invariably prove to be predictable and recurrent.” It’s not just the way we are, it’s the way we have learned to be. In order to defuse our reactive behaviors, we need to identify the underlying triggers that created our behaviors in the first place.

Here are some insights from Ego Free Leadership:

Intellectually it’s easy to decide that learning, growing, or creating authentic relationships is more important than not appearing incompetent, failing, or being hurt. Unfortunately, this is not how we feel at a visceral level, or we wouldn’t be continuously repeating these dysfunctional behaviors. Transformation comes when we consciously connect with goals not tied to our self-worth and use this emotional clarity to inspire action in the present moment.

The theoretical importance of having authentic, transparent conversations isn’t in question: it’s rather the practical difficulty of doing so when there isn’t emotional safety in the relationship.

For our ego, the sensation of being right is like electricity to a lightbulb. It fuels us with energy and vigor. We sit straighter, our voice sharpens, and our language hardens. We face an issue or a conflict, and we see the answer clearly. With this certainty comes a feeling of power and righteousness, as captivating as a drug rush. This is the way it is. Being right sweeps us so automatically into an aggressive mental stance that any collateral damage seems just a necessary evil.

Our egosystem and brain can convince us of anything, regardless of its veracity. We can make—I myself have done it countless times—any number of important decisions with profound conviction, only to realize later it wasn’t really what we wanted or was based on incorrect perceptions. (“…clearly distinguishing between the facts I had collected and my conclusions about them.”)

In each case, people experienced their frustration as true, when in fact they were unconsciously focusing on the negative in others. Worse when we do this, our mindset and behaviors actually influence others to be less than their best selves, either because they don’t feel safe or because we simply don’t allow them to participate. We limit their potential.

As the authors admit no organization (or individual) can be completely ego-free, but we can manage it better. In every situation we have a choice. We can either give in to our ego or break free of the limits it imposes on us. They recommend:

  1. Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It might be an event or something someone says or does.
  2. Instead of reacting, search for what is triggered in you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  3. Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities other might be feeling behind the veneer of strength or indifference. Empathize with how they feel in danger.
  4. Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.

The lessons and insights shared in Ego Free Leadership could have a profound effect on any reader.

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Ego in Check Ego Self Check

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:16 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


Radical Candor

Radical Candor

ADICAL CANDOR is a culture of guidance based on caring personally and challenging directly everyone you work with. The goal is to achieve collaboratively what you could never achieve individually and to do that, you need to care about the people you’re working with.

The very heart of being a good boss is a good relationship, writes Kim Scott in Radical Candor. We need Radically Candid relationships with those we work with and because this is often scary and can be emotionally taxing, we resort to be ruinously empathetic or obnoxiously aggressive or manipulatively insincere.

Of course, establishing trust with each person that reports to you is fundamental to radical candor. Radical Candor happens when you put Care Personally and Challenge Directly together. Care Personally refers to the fact that to have a good relationship “you have to your whole self and care about each of the people who work for you as a human being. Challenge Directly “involves telling people when their work isn’t good enough—and when it is. Challenging people might seem the opposite of Care Personally, but “challenging people is often the best way to show them that you care when you’re the boss.”

Scott explains that she chose the word Radical “because so many of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think. This is partially adaptive social behavior; it helps us avoid conflict or embarrassment. But in a boss, that kind of avoidance is disastrous. She chose Candor because it is “necessary to communicate clearly enough so that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly.”
Caring Personally is about acknowledging that we are all people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to our shared work. It’s about finding time for real conversations; about getting to know each other at a human level; about learning what’s important to people; about sharing with one another what makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work—and what has the opposite effect.

Challenging others and encouraging them to challenge you helps build trusting relationships because it shows 1) you care enough to point out both the things that aren’t going well and those that are and that 2) you are willing to admit when you’re wrong and that you are committed to fixing mistakes that you or others have made.

Radical candor is not an invitation to be a jerk, or to nitpick, or to simply schmooze. (“A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.”) What you say gets “measured at the listener’s ear, not at the speaker’s mouth.” Everything must be delivered in good faith.

Radical Candor Scott has created a framework to help you be more conscious of the kind of guidance you are getting, giving, and encouraging. There are two dimensions to good guidance: Care Personally and Challenge Directly. It is a way to gauge praise and criticism.

When you criticize someone without taking the time to show care, your guidance feels like Obnoxious Aggression. It’s what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly. “When bosses belittle employees, embarrass them publically, or freeze them out, their behavior falls into this quadrant.” And keep this in mind: “Almost nothing will erode trust more quickly than using one’s insights into what makes another person tick to hurt them.”

Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s an attempt to push the other person’s emotional buttons in return for some personal gain. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.

Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. “When bosses are too invested in everyone getting along, they also fail to encourage the people on their team to criticize one another for fear of sowing discord. They create the kind of work environment where ‘being nice’ is prioritized at the expense of critiquing, and therefore, improving actual performance.” It is praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.

You may think Radical Candor would never work on your organization’s or team’s culture. And it probably won’t unless you first invest in the people you work with and show them that you care personally. But here’s the big hurdle: Start by explaining the idea and then asking people to be Radically Candid with you. Why you first?
First, it’s the best way to show that you are aware that you are often wrong and that you want to hear about it when you are; you want to be challenged. Second, you’ll learn a lot—few people scrutinize you as closely as do those who report to you. Third, the more firsthand experience you have with how it feels to receive criticism, the better idea you’ll have of how your own guidance lands for others. Fourth, asking for criticism is a great way to build trust and strengthen your relationships. (Important: “If a person is bold enough to criticize you, do not critique their criticism.”)

Scott carefully details ways to create a climate in which Radically Candid relationships can flourish. She provides many (most first-hand) examples of what worked and what didn’t work.

From her experiences at Apple and Google, she observed that “a boss’s ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening and seeking to understand than it did with telling people what to do; more to do with debating than directing; more to do with pushing people to decide than with being the decider; more to do with persuading than with giving orders; more to do with learning than with knowing.”

And there’s an app: Candor Coach. This app will show you how quick, frequent, face-to-face conversations can help you build a culture of Radical Candor. It will start by teaching you to ask for and give feedback. It will help you track the conversations you’re having with each person on your team so that you can see where you need to improve.

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Pass Judgment Fearless Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:32 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management , Positive Leadership


Leaders Made Here

Leaders Made Here


HE NUMBER ONE REASON most companies do not have a leadership culture is their current leadership, writes Mark Miller in Leaders Made Here.

This occurs for a number of reasons: They don’t see the immediate need, they don’t understand how or are too busy to do it, they don’t walk the talk, and their own insecurities. Leadership cultures are built from the top down.

Miller describes a leadership culture is one where “leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge.”

Leaders Made Here is the story of a typical organization that found themselves short when they needed more leaders to fill some gaps and what they did to create a leadership culture.

Frankly, a leadership culture does more than to have leaders in waiting. It provides for the growth and development of all people throughout the organization. It makes whatever you’re doing work better.

To create a leadership culture, Miller boils it down to five ongoing commitments:

1. Define it.
Forge a consensus regarding our organization’s working definition of leadership.

There’s certainly real power in a common definition of leadership; there’s even more power in a common leadership skill set.

2. Teach it.
Ensure everyone knows our leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

3. Practice it.
Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.

We discovered that for most people—leaders included—the natural tendency is to avoid risk. So, when a new project would come along, the leader responsible would assign a seasoned leader regardless of opportunity. It did not matter what was needed; our existing leaders rarely gave an emerging or inexperienced leader a shot. This did nothing to help young leaders grow and develop in a real-world setting.

This does not mean we always give the next opportunity to the emerging leader. Sometimes, the seasoned leader is the right choice. However, because we recognize the power of The Opportunity, we are consciously working to provide it more often.

4. Measure it.
Track the progress of our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.

A scorecard should answer at least four questions: What is most important now? Is our performance improving or declining? What impact are our interventions having? And are we winning?

5. Model it.
Walk the talk and lead by example—people always watch the leader.

Leaders Made Here is not a bold initiative that comes and goes. It must become what the organization is. It has to become part of the organizational DNA.

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Leadership Gap Leadership Contract

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 PM
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Mastering Civility

Mastering Civility

Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
— M. W. Montagu

CIVILITY has a way of winning people over and garnering influence.

Civility isn’t just the absence of incivility. In Mastering Civility, Christine Porath explains that “Civility in the fullest sense requires something more: positive gestures of respect, dignity, courtesy, or kindness that lift people up.”

Incivility impacts our health and performance. It depletes our “immune system, causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and ulcers.” It also robs us of our “cognitive resources, hijacks our performance and creativity, and sidelines us from our work. Even if we want to perform at our best, we can’t, because we’re bothered and preoccupied by the rudeness.”

Incivility is contagious. “When you’re exposed to hostility or aggression, you behave differently. Incivility sneaks into your subconscious. It’s easy to see how plagues of incivility can take shape and spread.” But you don’t have to succumb to incivility. “When you follow a rude experience with a polite one, the polite one ‘overwrites’ the rude one, loosening the hold it has on your mind.”

Civility starts with a few basic behaviors and it grows from there. Simple things like saying please and thank you make a difference in how we are perceived by others and the influence we have on them. “Most of us are in a hurry to prove our competence, but warmth contributes significantly more to others’ evaluations. Warmth is the pathway to influence.”

Other basic behaviors include acknowledging people and listening. They signal caring, commitment and connection. Show respect for others by sharing resources, the limelight, and positive feedback. “The highest performers offer more positive feedback with their peers; in fact, high-performing teams share six times more positive feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, low-performing teams share twice as much negative feedback than average teams.”

What if you are the victim of incivility?

When someone is being uncivil to you it’s easy to let your emotions take over. It’s easy to get sucked in to their incivility. Porath advises you to avoid the temptation to get even. It’s not a win for you.

The best advice has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. How will you choose to interpret it? Here are a few of her thoughts:

When you experience incivility, your sense of thriving comes into play in a particular way: by making it easier for you to reframe the negativity of the event so that it isn’t nearly as destructive.

What are you going to make this mean? How you interpret the situation is crucial. How much are you going to let someone pull you down? What useful lessons might there be for you in the situation?

Science reveals that about 50m percent of our happiness is based on brain wiring; 40 percent is owed to how we interpret and respond to what happens to us, and 10 percent is driven by our circumstances.

In large part, you really do get to decide how you interpret incivility, the meaning you assign to it, and the stories you tell yourself. You also get to control whether it makes you feel bad or not. It may not be realistic for you to “toughen up,” but you can choose not to worry about what was said or done to you.”

Everyone would agree that we should be civil and we recoil when we see others engaged in it, yet incivility has become more commonplace. Somehow we feel justified being uncivil when things don’t go our way. And it costs us all.

Uncivil behavior does not generate greater influence no matter how loud you are. Most leadership failures can be attributed to abrasive or arrogant approaches to others. Uncivil leaders eventually undermine their own potential.

Are you civil? Porath offers a quick civility assessment online.

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Civility is the Precondition to Democratic Dialogue Workplace Civility

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
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9 Ways We Sabotage Ourselves

Simple Sabotage

FROM PEOPLE whose job it is to sabotage the efforts of others, we can take a lesson or two.

In Simple Sabotage, authors Robert Galford, Bob Frisch, and Cary Greene explain that in January 1944 the OSS (Office of Strategic Services—predecessor of the CIA) published the Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF) to train resistance members in the art of sabotage. “The Manual detailed easy ways to disrupt and demoralize the enemy’s institutions without being detected.”

One section of the Manual provided eight tactics specifically designed to disrupt the enemy’s organizations. The authors have added a ninth in keeping with the times.

One thing you will notice from each of these tactics or behaviors is that none of them are all that bad on the surface. One could easily find a rational explanation for engaging in them—to a point. And that’s the problem. That’s why these are insidious.

Too often we insist on reproducing a behavior long after the sell-by date. We don’t let it go when we should and so we unwittingly sabotage our best efforts. Here are nine acts of sabotage we unintentionally get caught up in:

Sabotage by Obedience
Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

Sabotage by Speech
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “point” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.

Sabotage by Committee
When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.

Sabotage by Irrelevant Issues
Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

Sabotage by Haggling
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

Sabotage by Reopening Decisions
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.

Sabotage by Excessive Caution
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste, which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

Sabotage by Is-It-Really-Our-Call?
Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

Sabotage by CC: Everyone
CC: Everyone. Send updates as frequently as possible, including in the distribution list anyone even peripherally involved.

In each chapter, the authors use examples to help you identify the behavior and root it out—which is not as simple as you might think. Perpetrators can easily defend their behavior, but that’s what makes these behaviors so effective. For the same reason, it is also difficult to see in ourselves.
Simple Sabotage is about the day-to-day routine interactions and processes we rely on as we work that are undermined by unintentional sabotage. By identifying and removing the hundreds or even thousands of small, barely perceptible irritants—the “sand” that clogs the machinery—you will transform your workplace or workgroup experience and the experience of those around you.

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Disruption Brought Order Disrupt You

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:15 AM
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Leadership Value is Defined by the Receiver

WE ALL RESONATE with the clarion call for leaders to build on their strengths, be authentic, and demonstrate emotional intelligence. We can envision these noble, resonant, and genuine leaders as icons of effective leadership. But these virtuous leadership attributes are not the essence of leadership effectiveness.

Building on one’s strengths is incomplete unless one’s strengths strengthen someone else. Authenticity without a positive impact on someone else is more narcissism than leadership. Effective leaders turn their emotional intelligence into helping others find their purpose and meaning.

An underlying principle of effective leadership is that value is defined by the receiver more than the giver. This value-added principle applies in almost every relationship. When I give my wife a gift, she defines the value of the gift. When I was newly wed, I got her tickets to sporting events and she often suggested I enjoy myself. I have learned that the real gift is figuring out what will be meaningful to her, not me. Likewise, effective leaders recognize and serve the stakeholders who are impacted by their strengths, authenticity, and emotional style. They then work to deliver value to these stakeholders in ways that matter to the stakeholders.

When leaders focus on the value they create for others, they think less about who they are and how who they are, will make others better. They realize that the value of their values is in that others will achieve what matters to them. Ultimately, leaders are measured by what they leave behind and how their present actions shape future success.

Leaders should be asking themselves, “Who are the stakeholders I care about? Who do I want to make better because of what I do? Who will benefit from my choices today? How will my actions be seen by and affect others?” When pondering and responding to these questions, leaders matter because they create sustained leadership in others.

Value creating leaders talk more about “we” than “I”; they build on what is right more than what is wrong; they help others feel better about themselves when leaving an interaction with them; the work to institutionalize their ideas so that they are sustained; and they relish success in those they mentor.

It is time to look beyond a leader’s personal strengths, authenticity, and emotional well being to define how leaders’ build value for others.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Dave Ulrich. He is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and a partner at The RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He studies how organizations build capabilities of leadership, speed, learning, accountability, and talent through leveraging human resources. He has helped generate award winning data bases that assess alignment between strategies, organization capabilities, HR practices, HR competencies, and customer and investor results. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters and 23 books, such as Leadership Code, Leadership Brand, Results Based Leadership and most recently The Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 PM
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A Framework of Organizational Tensions

Framework of Organizational Tensions

TENSIONS are objectives that seem to be in conflict. They are values that seem to be in opposition. We often treat them as either/or choices when they should be treated as both/and dynamics. Each value or characteristic supports and even makes possible the competing value.

Robert Quinn has produced a valuable tool for understanding this concept in his book The Positive Organization. What makes it especially valuable is that it illustrates the options we have to the single values we hold so dear—there are possibilities and equally effective “right” solutions we can use to move us forward.

We tend to focus on the value that resonates most with us or the ones we are most familiar with. This often causes us to get stuck or to jump from one ditch to the other never realizing the true potential of our organization. (This dynamic plays out in our personal lives as well.)

Tensions Framework

You will notice that each of the positive values in the inner circle is associated with a negative value on the outer circle. If we champion one value over another we put our organizations at risk for the negative outcomes associated with each of the 20 values on the diagram. Every positive value without its contrasting value can become a negative in much the same way the overuse of a strength becomes a weakness.

For example, we need some predictability and control in any organization, but too much leads to rigidity. We also need some spontaneity and self-organization for people to flourish, but again too much can lead to organizational and personal chaos. We also miss the larger picture and usually misinterpret issues.

Tensions Sample
A person who seeks a predictable, smooth running organization often focuses on disruptions and disruptive influences; the natural inclination is to fix those disruptive problems. When we focus on a problem, we are not seeing the whole system. We are paying attention to something within the system. Likewise, when we focus on a single person, we are not focusing on the culture of which that person is a part.
When we have an agenda we tend not to see the whole picture. As leaders we need to see the broader context of every situation.

It’s not about finding balance. It’s about emphasis—where to place the emphasis and when.
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Of Related Interest:
  Lift: How to Be a Positive Force in Any Situation

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:45 PM
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What Gear Are You In Right Now?

5 Gears

“Wherever you are, be all there!” Jim Elliot’s advice offers a difficult challenge. “You’re here but your mind is somewhere else” is a common refrain.

5 Gears
Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, authors of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, write “Every day, millions of people are negatively impacted by the inability of a person to connect appropriately and to be present.” So much drama is created when we don’t know how to shift gears and become present.

5 Gears offers an extremely valuable metaphor for identifying which gear you are in and finding the right gear at the right time in order to connect fully with others. The model is a relationship-driven approach. It is values-driven and helps to counteract self-absorption.
The majority of people are not aware of their social awkwardness and give little time to thinking about what gear the other person is in while they are talking.

When a person’s agenda is the driving force of their life, then they are going to run over people most of the time unless they learn to use their brakes and downshift.
What I like most about the 5 Gears model is first, it gives you language to communicate which gear you are in to yourself and others, and to understand where others are at so that you can be more fully present. Second, it helps you plan what gear you need to be in as you move through your day. And third, it helps to be more self-aware and other-aware.

5 Gears Model

Like shifting gears in a car, there is a right order and a right time for each gear. Life goes more smoothly when you are shifting through the gears at the right time—and avoiding getting stuck in any one gear.

Here are the 5 Gears:

5th Gear5th Gear: Learn to Get "In the Zone"

5th Gear is focus mode that allows us to “get in the zone” without interruption. It takes discipline to shut the door, turn off your email, and let people know that you are shifting into 5th gear, but it makes it possible to cruise at a sustained speed for a period of time. The caution is that when you get stuck in 5th gear you miss out on relationships, opportunities to add value, and events in life that matter in the long term.

4th Gear4th Gear: Leading in a Task World

4th Gear is the task gear that allows us to work hard while also multitasking. Most of the time we operate in 4th Gear so we need to learn to use it well. Waking up in 4th Gear is not the best strategy for your life. Our tasks can begin to control our lives. (Do you normally check your e-mail when you first wake up?) We need to learn how to shift into it and how to shift out of it. They relate the observation of Elizabeth Paul as an example. How many of us are like this:
The personal story for me was realizing that as a woman I have “work” 4th and 5th gear and “domestic” 4th and 5th gear. I thought that because I was being disciplined about putting my devices away during the golden family window of 5 to 8 P.M. I wasn’t in 4th or 5th gear, when in reality I was just putting on a different task hat. When my eyes were opened to that, I realized that I actually have little to no 3rd or 1st gear in my life at all. That was shocking.
In other words, the other gears are not just another 4th Gear task. Each Gear requires a different mindset or approach to your time. If we learn to implement the other gears in our life we will find that our everyday, multitasking 4th gear will become more productive.

3rd Gear3rd Gear: Why Being Social Matters

3rd Gear is the social gear. 3rd gear is a mindset. It is the space between task-driven, hyper focused work and the no-work, relational connection of being with your family, spouse, or close friend. Type-As need to remember that business happens in 3rd gear—in relationships. If you are too important for small talk, you might want to study the chapter on 3rd Gear. Of course you can get stuck in 3rd gear and overdo it. At the same time if you try to control social space it actually becomes a 4th Gear activity for you.

2nd Gear2nd Gear: Connecting Deeply

2nd Gear represents connecting with family, friends, or colleagues. Whether work colleagues, family, or friends, it is time geared toward relationship building without an agenda or pressure to be productive. Some of us have never really learned how to connect. It can’t be forced. It requires making time and learning to truly give of yourself to others.

2nd Gear is a difficult gear to be in because we live in a 4th Gear world. Kubicek writes that while writing this book consumed a lot of time, energy and mental thought, “it is still my responsibility to be the leader worth following in my home. Even with the pressure of a deadline, I still have to practice shifting.” He has found that being present in 2nd Gear leads to healthy relationships that bring peace to your mind and heart, fruitful growth between people, better conversations, likeability and trust, reestablished priorities, less drama and more security, social awareness and emotional intelligence.

1st Gear1st Gear: Learn How To Recharge

1st Gear represents being fully recharged. Do you know how to recharge? “If you figure out what 1st Gear feels like for you and discipline yourself to spend more time there, more power will flow through you. If you live and lead out of 20 percent battery life then you will never experience what you hope to experience.” The recharging gear if different for all of us. What works for one may not work for another. But we need to find what works for us. Think about this statement: “Working from your rest, not rest from your work, is the goal.” Note to self: “Crashing is not resting; it is actually just crashing.” It is simply stalling out. Truly healthy rest restores you.

Reverse GearReverse: Learn How to Apologize

Reverse is the responsive gear. It is used when we need to back up and start again or apologize. Unfortunately, too many people operate without a reverse gear.
There are two types of people—responsive and resistant. You hire responsive ones and fire the resistant. Responsive people are self-aware and have a consciousness that is not steeped in victim mentality, but rather responsibility. They understand that they are responsible for their actions and will make amends when they have clearly overstepped their bounds. Responsive people are the best employees, and spouses, and children.

Resistant people, on the other hand, are exhausting. Resistance is basically pride. Resistance will fight rather than resolve, blame rather than admit, and run away rather than run toward reconciliation.
Are there any relationships you need to restore?

Making the 5 Gears Work For You

After explaining the 5 gears, Kubicek and Cockram ask us to find our go-to gear. Where do we like to spend most of our time and what gear is the hardest for us to be in? Learning how to improve on your hardest gears hold the keys to improving your influence in the lives of others.

Next you need to find the right time for each gear as you go through your day. There is a natural time for gears. Your mornings should not start in 4th Gear. Really! When we are in the wrong gear at the wrong time we create disconnects. Shifting well is both an art and a science. 5 Gears offers some practical examples of leading your life intentionally and in the right gear at the right time.

I know this post is getting long, but let me leave you with an example of integrating the 5 Gears into your daily schedule:
6A.M.—Wake Time: 1st Gear
7A.M.—Drive Time: 1st or 4th Gear
8A.M.—Work Time: 4th or 5th Gear
12 Noon—Lunchtime: 3rd or 1st Gear
1P.M.—Work Time: 4th or 5th Gear
5P.M.—Drive Time: 4th or 1st Gear
6P.M.—Dinner Time: 2nd or 3rd Gear
8P.M.—Social Time: 3rd or 2nd or 1st Gear
10P.M.—Bedtime: 1st Gear

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:28 AM
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Keeping People Front and Center

Keeping People Front and Center

AT SOME POINT we all come to see that people are the most important part of any initiative. We get caught up in the tasks, but it’s the people that leaders need to focus on.

Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, reminds us of this in an interview with The Wharton School. Talking to CEOs reflecting on their tenure he found that they all said that they would have “moved faster on people … taken people out faster, moved them up faster and spent more time on people…. I’ve not heard a single leader not say this [among] those that are toward the end of their career.”

This is made easier of you are able to compartmentalize your work. If you can isolate and focus on issues separately for short periods of time, you are better able to keep that big picture in mind—keep an eye on what’s really important. He added: “You get so many issues coming at you, and some of them can paralyze you.” He related a story from a Liberty Mutual CEO who told him, “‘In my first three weeks of my job, I would have kicked you out of my office.'” The CEO explained that at that time, he had been told by his general counsel that the company was being sued for $6 billion, and that everywhere he looked, all he could see was $6 billion. “Now, he said, ‘I’m talking to you, and I have six of those [issues going on right now], but I’m focused on you.'”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:51 PM
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Fairness is Overrated

Fairness is Overrated
Fairness is Overrated is a solid leadership primer on what it takes to create a healthy culture day-in and day-out. Tim Stevens comes from a Church leadership perspective. However, his 52 principles are applicable anywhere because people are people with the same issues—only the peer pressure changes (unfortunately).

The 52 principles are organized around four key areas: Be a leader worth following, Find the right people, Build a healthy culture and Lead confidently through a crisis.

Stevens begins with “live a life with margins” and ends with the “five stages of failure.” Living a life with margin structured in not only helps all of the other leadership principles discussed here but it helps you move through the five stages of failure faster. So it’s a foundational principle.

A leader worth following has integrity. It’s about character. Knowing yourself and disconnecting is an important way to maintain integrity. You need to build space for what’s important.

Finding the right people—finding and developing leaders—is the most important thing his did as an executive pastor. “Here is what I believe to my core: the success of leaders will rise or fall based on the decisions they make about the people around them.”

When hiring people Stevens recommends not going solo. Get others involved. Chemistry is more important than skills, experience, or education. Use social media to “get to know” the people you are considering. Look for how they treat people they disagree with. Hiring too quickly leads to problems. Pay well. “You don’t want staff to join because of money. You don’t want staff to stay because of money. You don’t want staff to leave because of money.”

If you have a healthy culture, people are waiting in line to join your organization. A healthy culture is led by a leader who is not insecure about others succeeding. Gossip is not tolerated. Employees do life together; it’s not just a job.

In a healthy culture a leader turns over authority to others. Let your leaders lead. “No organization, church, government, or company can have a healthy culture and be run by a dictator, monarch, or single personality.” You need a strong team running the organization.

What Stevens is talking about here is humility. A toxic culture cannot be changed without it.

Leading confidently through a crisis means trusting the people you have in place to figure it out. A confident leader is not one that says, “I can figure it out” but one that says, “We can figure it out.” Having a great team in place is critical here. If you have found the right people and developed a healthy culture, then it becomes easier to lead confidently in a crisis.

These 52 principles are easier to implement if you have people who will speak truth to you. Again, humility is key here.

There is a lot to be considered in this book. It is well-written (a bit of a page turner) and you will want to go back again and again to see how you measure up.

And by the way, fairness is overrated. “Don’t confuse fairness with justice. Justice is about doing what is right. Fairness means everyone gets exactly the same thing.” It's about priorities.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
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A Lean Look at Value

Lean Look Stoller

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get,” said Warren Buffett, adeptly observing that value is more than just a notion of what something is worth.

Customer value that is based on substance, as opposed to perceptions, is widely pursued by organizations that aspire to greatness and is also a fundamental building block of the Lean management system. One of Lean’s great triumphs is that it breaks value down into a set of metrics that can be actively pursued. Leaders who aspire to excellence can gain much from studying this approach.

Separating value from waste

Toyota, who pioneered Lean methods in the wake of World War II, learned how to maximize value under dire circumstances. Desperate to make the most of scarce resources, they began a relentless campaign to eradicate any expenses or activities that didn’t contribute directly to the value that customers would willingly pay for. In other words, maximizing value – Buffett’s proverbial “what you get” - was a process of elimination. For example, an assembler installing a mirror on a vehicle was at that moment adding value. Walking across the plant to retrieve a screwdriver while the vehicle sat idle, however, was considered non-value or waste. If there were more workers than necessary assembling the car, or more parts than needed in inventory, these were considered wastes that added unnecessary cost to the vehicle.

The key here is that the workpiece is treated as a proxy for the customer. It’s almost as if extra walking was keeping the customer waiting, or extraneous activity was wasting the customer’s money. This applies in any industry, whether the workpiece is a manufactured product, a meal in preparation, or an insurance claim under review. In healthcare, the workpiece and the customer are the same, making non-value activity waiting particularly visible and objectionable.

Where’s the customer?

In Lean organizations, all efforts are focused on the customer experience. To support this, Lean organizations drive improvement using metrics that pertain directly to customer value, such as defect rates, on-time delivery, lead times, and cost indicators such as inventory turns.

It also prioritizes roles according to customer value – the closer you are to the customer, the more important the work is. In a factory, the shop floor workers who produce the goods are the most important. In a hospital, it’s the hands-on care workers. In an insurance company, it’s the representatives that are on the phone handling customer claims.

This approach has profound implications for employees who don’t make products or interact with customers. By the Lean definition, non-production activity, including IT, engineering, HR, accounting, and yes, senior management, can only provide value indirectly through their support of production.

This calls for some major role shifts. HR, instead of sponsoring leadership courses, might spend more time in the workplace helping employees develop problem-solving skills. Accounting, instead of trying to explain variances for the past quarter, might spend their time developing real-time reports to help production supervisors make better buying decisions. And senior managers might step out of the executive suite and find out what more they can do to support their value-creating workers.

When assessing whether an activity has value, everything stems from one question: “Why would our customers pay for this?” If the answer is “I don’t know,” maybe it’s time to eliminate it.

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Leading Forum
Jacob Stoller (jacobstoller.com) is a journalist, speaker, and consultant, and author of the new book The Lean CEO (McGraw-Hill Education). Follow Jacob Stoller on Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


The 5 Habits of Mind that Self-Made Billionaires Possess

Self Made Billionaire Effect

SELF-MADE billionaires think differently than most of us do.

Most of us think like what authors John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen call Performers because their success is tracked through performance. They excel at optimizing within known systems. They strive to excel in well-defined areas, and are important to any organization – in fact, they are important to the self-made billionaire.

Self-made billionaires have what the authors call the Producer mind-set. They thrive in uncertainty. Producers are critical to any company looking to create massive value because they redefine what’s possible, rather than simply meeting preexisting goals and standards. Combining sound judgment with imaginative vision, Producers think up entirely new products, services, strategies, and business models.

Self-Made Billionaire Effect
For The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, they interviewed 120 billionaires and found that they had in common five habits of mind. What is interesting is that most organizations weed out the very people that they need to create massive value. Imagine what Atari might have achieved if Steve Jobs had stayed there to develop the first mass market personal computer.

Self-made billionaires are able to integrate ideas and actions that most individuals and organizations keep separate or even hold in direct tension to one another. Self-made billionaires effectively operate in a world of dualities—they seamlessly hold on to multiple ideas, multiple perspectives, and multiple scales. Here are the five critical dualities that they observed with additional thoughts on each:

Empathetic Imagination

Producers billion-dollar ideas come through the marriage of extreme empathy for the customer’s needs and wants, and an imaginative mind-set that allows him or her to come up with and explore new, untested ideas.

Focusing on the competencies of today is exactly what causes companies to get stuck in the markets they serve and the products they deliver now, with little eye for the shifts and innovation they will need for tomorrow. Sometimes it takes a slight twist in perspective to see opportunities through a different lens.

Steve Case said that his experience at Williams College—a top liberal arts college—was a kind of laboratory for imaginative thinking. “Liberal arts education is important particularly in a world that’s changing rapidly, because there is a lot of fluidity. There’s the melding of different perspectives, having a sense of things and having a sense of how to learn about things and to look for connections.”

Patient Urgency

Producers urgently prepare to seize an opportunity but patiently wait for that opportunity to fully emerge.

Producers are willing to operate simultaneously at multiple speeds and time frames.

Patient time spent waiting for an idea to mature is not the same as idle time. They’ll wait for the time to be right, but they will prepare relentlessly so that they are ready to jump on the opportunity when it arrives.

They don’t go off track planning for the next stage before they have capitalized on the present.

Inventive Execution

Producers approach execution of their ideas with the same integrative, inventive mind-set they applied to come up with a billion-dollar idea in the first place. Inventive freedom allows them to design aspects of the customer experience that outsiders consider fixed, thus unlocking new value.

Producers frequently operate in markets that require them to rethink the fundamentals of product or business design in order to deliver at scale.

Taking a Relative View of Risk

Self-made billionaires are not huge risk-takers. Their perceptions of risks are relative: they are far less concerned about losing what they have than of not being part of a bigger future.

What Producers are not willing to risk is the chance to capture an opportunity. This dynamic creates a critical duality between the right kind of risk and the resilience needed to do it all over again when the original plan doesn’t work out.

They invest bog, but they often have a parallel spring of income or safe source of cash they can count on to keep them solvent while they work the more exciting high-stakes opportunities.

Leadership Partnership

Producer overwhelmingly do not go it alone. Creating billions in value requires both a master Producer, who can bring together divergent ideas and resources into a blockbuster product design, and a virtuoso Performer, who can apply his or her creative acumen to optimizing the potential of that design.

Creating billions in value requires both: the Producer’s ability to bring together divergent ideas and resources into a blockbuster concept and inventive design, and the Performer’s ability to follow through on details needed to make the business work.

Why don’t organizations hold on to extraordinarily talented people? These Producers?

Here’s the thing: while we can all get behind these attitudes of mind, organizationally we don’t generally reward these traits. We recognize and reward Performers. They get the raises and promotions largely because they're easy to recognize. They fit in; they can hit the ground running. Producers on the other hand don’t always fit because they think differently from those around them. “The ideas they propose move against the standard approach you are following, and that friction is what you need to achieve breakthrough value.” That makes us uncomfortable. As a result, we tend to drive Producers away or cause them to just give up.

We need both types, but when looking for new employees we need to look for more people whose background hints at looking at things differently. People who have started something new. People with the raw imagination to see something new and the fortitude necessary to work through the difficulty of execution.

“The key imperative for management is to differentiate between opportunities that need a Performer and those that need a Producer. Look at areas of achievement for the business and at who did the work. When it is a Producer, recognize that and give that Producer her next Producer-appropriate challenge.”

As leaders we need to accept both Producers and Performers and reject neither. We need to find and support positive deviance while promoting for systematic improvement.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
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4 Keys to Finding Hidden Leaders in Your Organization

Hidden Leader
Jim Kouzes writes in the foreword of The Hidden Leader that “Our images of who’s a leader and who’s not are all mixed up in our preconceived notions about what leadership is and isn’t.” Well put. That is the issue.

He goes on to say that “hidden leaders are those people in your organization who share the belief that what they do matters.” And they are all around us.

The authors Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain have developed some key indicators for finding the hidden leaders in your organization or team. These people can be “defined, identified, nurtured, and encouraged to help an organization develop a competitive edge.” Some will accept a position and others will prefer to stay off the organizational chart, but all can drive excellence throughout the organization.

Hidden leaders display four key identifiers: they demonstrate integrity, lead through relationships, focus on results, and remain customer-focused no matter what role they have in the organization. Let’s look at them one by one:

Demonstrate Integrity. Edinger and Sain believe that this is the “absolute bottom-line requirement of hidden leadership.” It means a consistent display in thoughts and actions of a strong ethical code of conduct that is “focused on the welfare of everyone.” Their consistent adherence to their beliefs makes them predictable and therefore dependable. They have the courage to do the right thing even when it is difficult.

Lead Through Relationships. Leading through relationships is the basis of leadership. They get along with others and value others. They “lead and inspire because of who they are and how they interact with others.” They don’t depend on their position or lack of it to influence the actions of others.

Focus on Results. The hidden leader “maintains a wide perspective and acts with independent initiative.” They use the end to define the means, which can mean working outside of strict processes to achieve the end result. “They aim for the end they are supposed to produce” so “they feel responsible and accountable, not just for the demands of their jobs but also for successful outcomes for stakeholders involved.”

Remains Customer Purposed. This is different than customer service; it is an “awareness of how an action in a specific job affects the customer.” It is a big-picture focus and having a deep understanding of the value promise of an organization.

For some hidden leaders one characteristic may dominate and others may need to be fully developed, but a hidden leader who lacks integrity, isn’t a hidden leader. Any leader needs support from other leaders in the organization and a good leader will make a priority out of developing others.

Hidden leaders are easier to spot in flatter organizations and those that provide a greater number of areas to contribute. Listening to people at all levels is a big part of that.

By recognizing hidden leaders we help to create a culture that develops more leaders. The hidden leaders are there. It is a leader’s responsibility to discover and develop them.

The Hidden Leader contains worksheets and access to online resources to evaluate hidden leaders in your organization or team.

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Of Related Interest:
  12 Behaviors You Can Practice to Make You a More Inspiring Leader

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:08 PM
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Rookie Talent: Avoiding a Kodak Moment

Leading Forum
During most of the 20th century Kodak held a dominant position in photographic film, and in 1976, had an 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.

Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as a result of the decline in sales of photographic film and its slowness in transitioning to digital photography. In 2012, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Kodak name became synonymous with a resistance to change, but it’s not just innovation the company lacked. In 2011, Kodak made the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers, called out for employing a disproportionately high percentage of mature workers.

I can’t help but wonder: If Kodak had paid attention to its aging workforce trend, would the company have maintained market share and avoided bankruptcy?

I believe the answer is yes. I also believe companies didn’t learn much from Kodak’s example.

Although the recession ended in 2009, here we are five years later and unemployment for Generation Y (1982-1995) remains near its cyclical peak across the world. The largest, best-educated generation in history has become an under-utilized resource, vastly unprepared to move into positions of responsibility and leadership.

The lack of skill development and leadership development among Generation Y affects every generation. It’s the Trickle-Up Effect; what influences the youngest generation eventually influences the masses.

That’s why employers should be more concerned about who’s moving in (the rookies), rather than who’s moving out (the retirees).

So how do we lead this generation of rookie talent? This generation is the first to be raised in a post-industrial era driven by technology. As a result, they will value and seek out different work experiences and will certainly usher in widespread and significant change.

To keep the rookies engaged and actively contributing to the team, here are a few changes managers need to anticipate and embrace:
  • Collaboration
    Generation Y wants to feel like they belong to a team. Hierarchy is nearing an end and collaboration is emerging in its place because younger generations have been raised to do it, cycle times will demand it, and technology will continue to enable it.
  • Technology
    The rookies are Digital Natives, accustomed to customization, instant gratification, and globalization as a result of using technology in their everyday lives. They will expect telecommuting, virtual teams, access to the latest technology, and work flexibility.
  • Skills
    With technology, knowledge is quickly outdated and accessible to all in real-time. That means with little effort, the rookies could be as knowledgeable as the executives. They will expect to work for managers that have acquired and appreciate these skills: vision and the foresight to anticipate or respond to change very quickly, make wise decisions, and take action to create a better future.
  • Customization
    The rookies have only known a world where customization exists. Savvy business owners and executives will recognize their desires for career pathing and customized benefits packages, will find ways to utilize their unique skillsets, and create ways to help this generation visualize a future with their companies.
  • Mobilization
    This generation is highly entrepreneurial, juggling multiple jobs and launching start-ups. They will seek out companies providing opportunities to learn new skills, develop new products, and even try new jobs. It’s not likely they will stay working for the same company in the same role for longer than three years.
Rookies or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this generation will become the majority of the workforce in 2015, and comprise 75% of the global workplace in 2025. For the companies that have struggled to make changes and adapt, this means inevitable failure.

Avoid making this your Kodak moment. Remember: Change is the only certainty, and the rookies are your only succession plan.

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Sarah Sladek started researching demographic shifts, talent turnover, and generation gaps in 2002. She has authored four books on the topic and numerous research papers. Sladek is the CEO of XYZ University, the only company in the nation focused on helping organizations engage younger generations. Her latest book is Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:00 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources


Learn or Die

Learn Or Die

OUR ABILITY (and willingness) to learn impacts our personal and business growth, operational excellence, and our capacity to innovate. More than ever, it truly is learn or die.

In Learn or Die, Ed Hess writes that learning is impacted by our “reflexive ways of thinking, the rigidity of our mental models, and the strength of our ego defense systems.” So to a large degree is means overcoming our humanness.

We prefer to validate what we already know rather than looking at evidence to the contrary. By and large, that’s a function of our ego. “In many cases, learning comes from mistakes or failures or other people disagreeing with us, which that means in order to learn, we often have to admit that we are wrong.” The author admits that “To become a better learner, I had to quiet my ego.” As a result, he also became a better thinker and leader.

Negative thinking is toxic to learning. “In order to maximize our learning we have to be sensitive to and manage our emotions.” As a leader, you need to be concerned about the environment of the people you lead.

“The litmus test of a learning organization is being receptive to information that goes against the established way and a tolerance for failure and mistakes.” To accomplish this not only should the environment be positive, but people need to be treated with respect, dignity, and trust, mistakes should not be characterized as “personal failures but as the result of bad learning systems or too little effort,” people should also believe that they have some control over their actions, have a sense of self-efficacy and contribution.

Hess writes that “The U.S. Army Special Forces believes that adaptability—learning—is predicated on self-efficacy, resiliency, open-mindedness, mastery achievement motivation, and tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty.”

Too often we sabotage our own learning by our need to be right. We need to be able to admit when we are wrong and quite frankly accept the “magnitude of our ignorance.” “Real learning, in most cases, requires us to change what we believe, and humble inquiry [open-mindedness with no predetermined or hidden agenda], helps us do that.”

Because we have difficulty seeing ourselves and examining our own assumptions, “learning is a team sport.” If we want to learn, we “must engage in effective learning conversations.” Learning conversations are conversations where we feel safe in disclosing ourselves to others. They bring about a deliberate, nonjudgmental, non-defensive open-minded exchange. We learn from each other.

A particularly fascinating and eye-opening chapter is on Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Ray Dalio and Bridgewater got onto Hess’ radar after Dalio published his Principles in 2010. (It is a 123-page compendium of Dalio’s beliefs and processes that he believes will lead to a successful life and business that is well worth the read.)

The culture at Bridgewater may seem extreme to some but there is no doubt that they are serious about growth and learning.

As Ray sees it, achieving one’s goals is more likely to occur if one strives to be an independent thinker by learning. That, in turn, requires one to be honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses and to deal directly with one’s weaknesses by accepting them, seeking and being open to feedback and creating workarounds that mitigate one’s weaknesses.

At Bridgewater, everyone knows everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s part of their company-wide feedback loop. It’s based on truth which Ray believes “is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.” “Searching for the truth and confronting one’s personal weaknesses in a radically transparent environment builds personal relationships.”

At Bridgewater they are just as concerned about how one arrives at an answer as they do the answer itself. They encourage people to be independent thinkers. A former Navy SEAL came to work at Bridgewater because he said the two cultures overlapped. “He said both organizations focus on learning, adaptation, recruiting high caliber people, and teaching them to be better thinkers and to relentlessly pursue constant improvement.”

Bridgewater has created a series of tools for use in evaluating employees and for employees to manage their personal growth” the Dot Collector and Dot Connector, Issues Log and Issue Log Diagnosis Card, Pain Button and Baseball Card.

With the Dot Collector allows anyone to give any other employee performance feedback. The Dot Connector is a database of feedback every employee has received from anyone. The data is grouped according to a list of seventy-seven attributes and then summarized to give each employee a picture of his or her feedback by strengths and weaknesses and by attributes.

The Pain Button app is based on Ray’s formula: Pain + Reflection = Progress. “The purpose of the pain app is for one to write down and reflect on the ‘pains’ one is experiencing in order to understand what’s causing them and to deal with those causes effectively.”

Ray himself is included in the process and is subject to evaluation by anyone in the company. Frankly, I have never read about an organization with such radical transparency. Hess says that in all of his research of over 100 high-performance companies over the past ten years, Bridgewater is the only business organization he has found that “has squarely faced our ‘humanness.’”

Learn or Die is a book everyone who is serious about learning and growth—personally or organizationally—should read. If you thought you were serious about it, Learn or Die will take you to a whole new level with tools, case studies, and insights that will challenge your commitment to learning.

Learn or Die sets out to use the science of learning to answer two important questions: How does one become a better and faster learner? and second, How does none build a better team or organization that continuously learns better and faster than the competition? Being smart is really about knowing how to learn. This book will show you how.

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Never Stop Learning Hyper-Learning

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Education , Human Resources , Learning


A Road Map for Young Adults

A Road Map for Young Adults

IT ALL BEGAN with an e-mail from his daughter, Avery, with the subject line: "Is this okay to send?"

Avery had gotten her first post-college job as an assistant to the co-executive producer to a new network daytime TV talk show. She wanted to ask her new boss for a later start date so she would have more time to “tie up loose ends.”

It was then her Dad, Ben Carpenter, realized that today’s young people don’t really know what is expected of them in the real world—the “big leagues.” They didn’t know how the working world actually worked.

The Bigs
So Carpenter sat down to write The Bigs. It is advice for recent college graduates and young professionals, of course, but really for anyone working in the Bigs about the kinds of issues they will encounter. The book is not just a how-to book of bullet points, but it is filled with stories from Carpenter's own life that give the advice credibility and context. They are well worth reading to help you get your bearings.

Not all of the advice is new, but it is the “uncommon sense” we all need to get along and influence the people around us in a positive way. Consider these thoughts:

• It is ironic this issue tripped me up so badly because I believe my normally rigorous adherence to my Golden Rule was a major reason, from early on, I was viewed as a leader at Greenwich Capital. The lesson is … always follow the Golden Rule and never say anything negative about anybody in your company. To do otherwise is unprofessional, unnecessary, and, more often than not, will come back to haunt you.

• Take responsibility for all mistakes you make, and if you are a competent and valued employee, when you do take responsibility, it will be viewed as a sign of strength, not weakness, by your co-workers.

• Understand that how your boss views you will be largely a function of how your peers and subordinates see you.

• Whatever qualities you look for in a spouse, please include “a happy person” at or near the top of your list.

• While you are looking towards the future and the goals you hope to accomplish, you need to appreciate the blessings you have today. Just like choosing to be happy, you can choose to appreciate what you have. If I could give one gift to those I love the most, it would be for them to always appreciate what they have.

• Leave your baggage at home. The insecurities and resentments from your childhood will just slow you down or, in some cases, sabotage your plans entirely. You are now a full-grown man or woman, and it is time to sand up, take responsibility, and start building the life you want to live. You may not yet have had a shock dramatic enough to make you drop your childhood baggage. However, you need to appreciate how stunningly different the real world is from your previous life as a student and seize this moment to make a fresh start.

• Choosing a career you can do well, rather than doing what you want, might sound unappealing, but it isn’t. The reason is the satisfaction you get from being good at your job. From my personal experiences, as well as observing family, friends, and co-workers, I know most professionals are most happy doing what they are good at.

• The most important advice I can give you about how to get a great job is to arrange for informational interviews with junior staff at a company before you have a job interview.

• In any good-sized company or department, there should be no need to reinvent the wheel. Imitate the actions of the star employees and then use your creativity and talents to perform even better.

The Bigs provides samples of letters to people you need to network with, questions to ask and how to find people to add to your network and thank-you letters to anyone you interviewed with along the way once you land your first job. He includes advice on what to do during each year of your college career, advice on internships, how to manage your finances, and what to say during interviews. Recommended for High School juniors and beyond. Start early.

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Avoid the 5 Career Derailers Leadershift

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:39 PM
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Relationships Matter

Relationships Matter

“At the center of every success,” writes Brian Church in Relationship Momentum, “you will find a pivotal relationship. Conversely, you can trace the cause of most failures to a relationship vacuum or breakdown.”

Relationship Momentum is a book about how to create momentum for moving your ideas (or your career) forward. Church begins by stressing that at the foundation of any success is relationships. It explains why seemingly less skilled or talented people can blow right on by their more gifted peers. Or why an inferior idea might dominate over your “better” idea. The resulting resentment and frustration tends to turn our focus “more inward and non-relational” and any relationship momentum is diminished.

“The tendency is to think that personal success and personal performance is a ‘self-thing,’ when, in fact, it is a ‘relationship thing.’” We need to be very intentional about our relationships.

Whether you are stuck, stagnant or haven’t started, Church offers and explains a formula – Rm = E3Vs (Relationship Momentum equals the product of Brand, Value, and Ambassador Equities times Strategic Velocity) – for gaining traction and building momentum for your ideas throughout the book. He explains why frequent course corrections kill momentum; why we need to stop starting over; why your ideas need to be packaged in a way that is easily transferable; why your ideas need ambassadors; and why organizations that are wrapped up in creating their own reality, that is to say, convinced of their own superiority, are of little value.

Some good advice on strategy and tactics:

Your strategic objective is always a single direction. It is a vector that points to where you want to end up. A tack or tactic will often veer off temporarily into another direction in order to catch a prevailing wind. For instance, your goal is to provide advice for a fee to potential investors. Veering off to obtain a master’s degree in financial planning is your tack. Though it may be a longer distance to travel, that tack is nonetheless the most efficient course.

The problem emerges when people don’t understand the difference between strategic objectives and short-term tactical responses. For example, they tack to the northeast, and as a result, increase their Velocity. They begin selling term-life insurance to pay for the added tuition costs, which picks up speed and turns into a pretty good business. But instead of tacking back toward their strategic end goal, they just continue on the same course. In other words, they interpret speed as success toward their objective when they are, in fact, only moving farther and farther off course.

One of my primary mistakes was measuring my current success simply by the speed of my project. I would get excited when things began to move quickly. However, I was like a person looking for a breeze and allowing it to take me wherever it would go.

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Power of Community 4 Characteristics of Great Teams

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:56 AM
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What Does it Mean to Follow Your Passion?

We’ve all heard that we should “follow your passion” or “find the right job and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We tend to take this advice to mean that when we get what we want, then we will find meaning and happiness. The problem with this “I-am-the-center-of-the-universe” mind-set is that we are approaching the problem in the wrong way says Todd Henry, author of Die Empty. We will ultimately spend our life chasing the next buzz when things get dull.

Henry is not suggesting that we shouldn’t follow our passion, but that we should get it straight exactly what we are talking about. It doesn’t mean to follow our whims.

There are two ways of looking at the world—give and get. Give is sustainable; get is not. The surest way to build a meaningful life is to approach everything you do from the standpoint of “What can I give?” The reason we struggle with following our passion is that we think of it as “What can I get?” Henry explains the issue eloquently:
“Passion” has its roots in the Latin word pati, which means “to suffer or endure.” Therefore, at the root of passion is suffering. This is a far cry from the way we casually toss around the word in our day-to-day conversations. Instead of asking, “What would bring me enjoyment?” which is how many people think about following their passion, we should instead ask “What work am I willing to suffer for today?

Great work requires suffering for something beyond yourself. It’s created when you bend your life around a mission and spend yourself on something you deem worthy of your best effort.
Henry really gets to the heart of the matter. What he's talking about requires some concerted effort, vigilance, and courage to maintain this orientation as we go about our business. Otherwise it is easy to slip into the activities that only bring us comfort rather than meaning and purpose. Henry suggests sources to find what he terms “productive passion, the sort of passion that motivates you and is beneficial to others.” The focus is on “Where can I serve?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
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How to Discover Your What

Youtr WHAT
Your WHAT is the “single most crucial element of your life that needs to be identified, defined, and fulfilled,” says Steve Olsher in What is Your What? Here’s why:

Your unfulfilled WHAT will absolutely affect you in a variety of unexpected ways. It could be the source of your high blood pressure, the reason you don’t feel “good enough,” the cause of your general sense of loathing when you wake up, or the impetus behind your efforts at self-sabotage.

It should be noted here that finding your what is not a surefire way to fame and riches—or gainful employment for that matter. And while each person is unique, many others possess similar abilities and may fill a need in the marketplace better than you do. It takes work. At the same time, some people chose to work at jobs that do not fulfill or satisfy their what because it fills a purpose or a value that they consider to be greater than their own personal needs. Perhaps that is their what. That said, What is Your What? will help you get to gain control over your life rather than letting it happen haphazardly.

What is Your What? is a self-awareness book to help you connect with who you really are. What you do from there is your choice. Olsher has developed a three-step process to help you uncover and reconnect with your natural strengths, identify the vehicle you’ll leverage to share your gifts with the world and the specific audiences who’ll benefit most from your gifts.

“As we endure life’s hardships, we tend to lose touch with our inner greatness. We start to make distasteful compromises, settle for less, and become people different from our deepest selves.” Becoming aware of how you were knocked down is the first step in ascending to your most natural state of being.

Olsher bases his program on seven principles:

1. Recognize YaNo Moments. These are those moments when you are faced with a choice. Some are big; some are small. “Any time you undertake an activity without evaluating the impact your choice will have on your life, you run the risk of compromising your state of mind. The key to regaining control of your life is to make deliberate choices with an understanding of the consequences.”

2. Reclaim the Canyon. Establish space between life as it happens and your reaction to those events.

3. The Sufficiency Theory. Attain satisfaction, peace, and contentment by minimizing material desires and the effect of outside influences. Olsher suggests that we stop drawing lines in the sand. “Happiness is not a destination that can be reached by attaining select milestones. Shift your approach from waiting for certain things to happen in order to feel a certain way to feeling and acting that way now. Surprisingly often, this will spur the results you desire to happen.”

4. Retrain Your Brain. “Anything from your past that you choose to relive becomes a part of your identity. Be careful about which memories you commit to.”

5. Incorporate Jack Welch’s successful business practices into your behavior. Specifically, become highly focused on who you are, what you stand for, and what your purpose is; identify the Top 20 Percent, Vital 70 Percent, and Bottom 10 Percent for each area of your life; achieve Six Sigma in all key aspects of your life and strive to accept nothing less than your best.

6. The Not-So-Golden Rule. Eliminate fear or expectation as a motive for your actions. Your motive does matter. Act out of love, without the expectation of anything in return.

7. The Slow Death of Not Being the Star. Shift your focus away from time-consuming distractions and toward the pursuit of your personal goals. Keep track of your activities for a week. “Chances are you’ll find that what you’ve been thinking of as relaxing ‘downtime’ is actually the dominant force in your life, devouring months and years you can never get back.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 PM
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Why We Need Strangers

Why We Need Strangers

PART of the reason we get stuck and part of the reason we lack the feedback we need is that we are surrounded by the familiar. The familiar that continuously reminds us that we are doing the best we can and that we are doing it right. We are mired in the familiar when what we need is the strange.

We need strangers. “These strangers,” writes Alan Gregerman in The Necessity of Strangers, “whom we quickly choose to ignore or form an opinion about, are the people who force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to question the knowledge, belief, and habits we hold dear.”

Gregerman asks, “What if strangers are actually, in many ways, more important than friends?” Interesting question.

There are two issues here. “First, most of us just don’t have enough friends or a diverse enough set of them to give us the breadth of insight and perspectives we need to continually stretch our thinking and to grow. And second, the exact reasons why we count on friends are the same reasons that their input may not be ideal for our efforts to stretch and grow.”

Maybe it’s not who you know but who you could know that will determine your success and growth.

While we tend to be adverse to outsider's thinking, our real aversions, says Gregerman, “should be to see our own thinking as the only way to move forward. The real trick is to “pick the right strangers with ties to what we hope to accomplish and then ask them the right questions.”

Gregerman suggests that 99% of all new ideas are based on an idea or practice that someone or something else has already had.

New employees are a great source of fresh ideas, but we tend to quickly shape them into the way we do things. “They arrive filled with different ideas and fresh perspectives based on a new and different set of work and life experiences—ideas, perspectives, and experiences that might actually make us more efficient, effective, innovative, customer-focused, and successful if we were willing to listen.”

If we don’t focus on the strange but instead focus on the different that we could tap into, we might grow in ways we never imagined. “Everyone matters. And that’s an idea that leaders must convey.”

The Necessity of Strangers is an excellent analysis on why we need to seek out the new and different. Gregerman suggests ways we might do this on a daily basis. When it comes to hiring, collaboration, and managing, most organizations reward “group think” in the name of strengthening their culture. When in fact, the opposite is what unlocks potential and leads to breakthrough ideas.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 PM
| Comments (0) | Change , Creativity & Innovation , Human Resources , Leadership


The 5 Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

5 Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace

CY WAKEMAN does an excellent job of helping us to peel away the layers of rationalizations and excuses we create to avoid facing reality. First she did it with Reality-Based Leadership and now with Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace.

Too often work seems harder than it should be. We can feel helpless in dealing with the realities of "today's" workplace. That said, every time period seems unparalleled in all of history to those going through it. However, people have always struggled with these issues: doing more with less; reduced hours, benefits, or pay; increased work hours; underappreciated. The problem is, as Wakeman puts it, "no one is born accountable self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence and afford you the chance to chose your destiny, no matter what your field of endeavor." The trick is learning to see your circumstances differently.

Wakeman has put this book together to help you do just that. If you have been playing the victim for a substantial period of time, her ideas will seem impossible, but they are the only thing that will work.

I am here to tell you: You are not a cog in a machine — far from it. You have more control than you think. That’s the good news. The bad news is, you and you alone are causing your own suffering. What most of you have lost touch with is that it isn’t your reality that is causing your pain and frustration. It’s the worn-out methods, techniques, and mindsets with which you are approaching your reality. I’m here to tell you that your suffering is optional. I can help you get back on track so you can find bliss in your work again while becoming more valuable to your organization than ever before.

She has created some pretty straightforward, brief assessments to determine your current performance and your future potential. Your value, plain and simple is based on "the value you bring to your organization, the market value of your work, and the return on investment that you deliver, both economically and emotionally, now and into the future." You must be clear about the value you bring to your organization. The three factors that make up your value:

YOUR VALUE = Current Performance + Future Potential - (3 x Emotional Expensiveness)

The chapter on Your Emotional Expensiveness is worth reading twice. It's your drama factor. "It is the single most important factor in the New Value Equation, the one that determines whether our Performance and Potential and anything meaningful to the bottom line, and whether others feel that working with us is worth the effort." Wakeman lists 15 clues to your emotional expensiveness factor. Among them are:

You may be Emotionally Expensive if …

  • You come to work in a bad mood. Ever.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers, and the boundary between your public life and private life is very permeable.
  • You complain a lot or judge others.
  • You tend to focus in what you need rather than what you have.
  • You assume the worst of others' motivations.
  • When you perform well, you want a medal for it.

Wakeman presents the Five Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace:

1. Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness. Personally accountable people bring their own motivation and engagement to everything they do. Be one of those people, and you will ensure your job security—or that your résumé goes to the top of the stack.

2. Suffering is optional … so ditch the drama. (Wakeman estimates that the average person spends two hours each day in drama—complaining, creating stories, and arguing with reality.) Your circumstances are what they are, but your reaction to them is up to you.

Even if you don't share your drama with others, there is no such thing as a throwaway thought. Most thoughts lead in some way to an action—or lack of action….Your thinking manifests itself in a way that affects everyone around you and the way they see you.

If you remain in your lane, tending to your own responsibilities in the present, you will seldom be stressed. You'll be clear, capable, and effective. Stress enters the picture when you leave your lane to meddle in other people's business, judging or trying to control them.

Learn to see stress as a sign—not that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but that you are not currently living in reality and need to inquire on your thinking.

3. Buy-in is not optional. To succeed, your buy-in is not optional, and action, not opinion, adds value. The most valuable people say "yes" the most often. If a decision has been made, opinions are no longer welcome.

4. Say “yes” to what’s next. Your success will not be dependent on everything staying the same, but on your readiness for what's next.

5. You will always have extenuating circumstances. Succeed anyway. That which is missing from this situation is something I am not giving. When you find something missing (especially—but not limited to—intangibles, like honesty, generosity, humor, sensitivity, or gratitude) don't dwell on what other people "should" be doing or giving.

More down-to-earth straight talk from Cy Wakeman about personal responsibility and what it takes to succeed. Cuts through the clutter and gets to the core issues. Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace is a road map for everyone on how to be a valuable member of any organization.

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Argue With Reality Reality-Based Leaders Manifesto

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


Seven Disciplines that Make Leadership Development Stick

Leadership Sustainability

LEADERS don't always finish well or finish what they start. Leadership sustainability isn't easy. Given the fact that we all know leaders that haven't finished well, it's surprising how many of us have no plan in place to consciously and specifically improve our leadership abilities. Most of the time we wing it.

Leadership sustainability is about the commitment to change and growth that is consistent with shifting requirements, not just individually but for the organization as a whole. In Leadership Sustainability, authors Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood have defined seven leadership practices that instill sustainability. It begins with "recognition that what matters most is the impact of the leader's actions on others—not just the actions themselves or the rationale behind them." Yet that's not something that we often feel we have time to consider. Our leadership is experienced in our actions and not our intentions.

In brief, the seven disciplines to incorporate into your leadership plan to help make your best intentions stick are:

Simplicity. Focus on what matters most. Tells stories with impact. Leadership sustainability requires that we find simplicity in the face of complexity and replace concept clutter with simple resolve. It entails prioritizing on the behaviors that matter most.

Time. Manage your calendar to reflect your priorities. Put desired behaviors into your calendar. Employees see what leaders do more than listen to what they say. Leadership sustainability shows up in who we spend time with, what issues we spend time on, where we spend our time, and how we spend our time. Recognize routines and modify as necessary.

Accountability. Take personal responsibility for doing what you say you will do and hold others accountable as well. "We see too many leadership points of view that are more rhetorical than resolve, more aspiration than action, and more hopeful than real. Leadership wish lists need to be replaced with leadership vows." Be consistent with personal values and brand.

Resources. Leaders dedicate resources in order to support their desired changes with coaching and infrastructure. Use a coach. Get coaching and institutional support to become a better leader. "Leaders acting alone, even with great desire and good intentions, are unlikely to sustain their desired changes."

Tracking. Move from general to specific measures. Measure what's important and not what's easy. Tie to consequences. Unless desired leadership behaviors and changes are operationalized, quantified, and tracked, they are nice to do, but not likely to be done.

Melioration. Leadership sustainability requires that leaders master the principles of learning: to experiment frequently, to reflect always, to become resilient, to face failure, to not be calloused to success, and to improvise continually.

Emotion. Know why you lead. Connect change with personal and organizational values. Recognize your impact on others. Celebrate success. "Some leaders work to hide their feelings and avoid becoming too personal with others. These leaders end up distancing and isolating themselves. Leaders who are emotionally vulnerable and transparent will be more likely to sustain change."

The authors have provided videos, tools and assessments on their web site to help you to achieve leadership sustainability.

Leadership Sustainability is about how to make your leadership development efforts stick.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:05 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development


Reinventing You – Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be

Reinventing You

IT’S not uncommon to think of personal reinvention as being somewhat contrived or manipulative. But reinventing you isn’t about becoming what you are not, but more of who you are. In Reinventing You, Dorie Clark says “it’s about taking control of your life and living strategically. Who do you want to be? And what do you need to get there?” It’s about making sure that our personal brands reflect the reality of our lives (Facebook notwithstanding).


Clark takes you through the whole process, beginning with, of course, starting where you are. This is a vital step and not to be glossed over because many of us don’t know where we are starting. We need you to understand our reputation and why it is what it is. She offers ways to do this, questions to ask, and how to conduct your own 360 interview—determining what those around you think about you. Very valuable material.

Next you need to research your next move or future destination and test drive it. (Did you know that there is a company that allows you to test-drive over 125 new careers to see if they are a fit?)

Once you have determined where you need to be, it is important to develop the skills you need. Clark explains how to do this and when to go back to school and when not to, and finding a mentor (someone who embodies what you’d like to develop and the person you’d like to become).


Rebranding yourself publicly means understanding first, what is unique about you. It may not be what you think. Often it's the mindsets and thinking that proved valuable in your current situation may differentiate you in a completely unrelated field. The examples of people that Clark provides, who have done just that, are very helpful in getting you to see your unique contribution.

From that you can build your narrative that pulls together the underlying themes that connect your professional experiences in a way that is obvious to others.


There is a time lag–a gap–between fully inhabiting the “old you” and the “new you.” Clark writes that the “hardest part of making a transition can be bridging the gap between how others used to perceive you (and how you perceive yourself) and how you’d like to be seen moving forward.” She says the only solution is to fake it till you make it.

I’m sure that we have all experienced this dynamic when making any personal change. When no one readily accepts the nice person you have finally become, it’s easy to give it up and resort to the old habits of behavior. The answer is to keep projecting the new behavior until you’re comfortable with it and others begin to accept it as the new “normal.” Your commitment to the new you will eventually win people over.

Clark adds, “You need to be hyperaware of what you’re doing and make sure you’re signaling explicitly to the outside world what you’re trying to build.” This is where doing the homework in step one—know yourself—will help you to have the fortitude to press on.

Clark explains how to get the word out and how to prove your worth. She reminds us that rebranding is a process and not a one-time activity. It is important to “keep monitoring your reputation to ensure you’re being perceived by others the way you’d like.” This is a well done and thoughtful book that is valuable not just for rebranding yourself but also for managing your reputation in general.

Reputation management is not as straight-forward as it once was. The behavior is the same, the tools are different. In addition, says Dorie Clark, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally—and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:28 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


Fred 2.0 – Leadership in Action

You are no doubt familiar with Fred, first introduced to us in The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. Fred exemplified an attitude of exceptional service delivered consistently with creativity and passion in a way that values other people.

Now Fred 2.0 brings us fresh insights, deeper understanding and wider application of the Fred Principles—and an update on the life of the real Fred Shea.

Fred 2.0 is about a specific way of approaching life and business. It’s an attitude that extends far beyond customer service. It comes from within and says I will do extraordinary things because that’s who I am. It’s not a feeling—it’s who you are. It is not dependent on the performance of anyone else.

Why Would You Live this Way?

Sanborn says it’s because being a Fred enriches others, expands you, puts more life into your living, breaks the bonds of self-absorption, makes you more employable, offers you a better way to live, creates a positive influence, and is more fun.

“Creativity is an essential ingredient in delivering extraordinary results,” writes Sanborn. Being creative is doing something different that adds value. More often than not, it’s the little things we notice that can be done better. This applies not only to the “things” we do, but also to our relationships; how we respond and interact to those around us.

Sanborn shows very specifically how to build better relationships, elevate the experience for those we come into contact with, how to build a team of Freds and how to instill the Fred approach in your kids philosophy of life.

The Fred Philosophy is Good Leadership

The Fred philosophy is ultimately what good leadership is all about. It’s a battle against mediocrity says Sanborn.
The first job of leadership is to help people see their significance. Leaders recognize that those who feel insignificant rarely make significant contributions. An effective leader is able to show people that they are significant in ways they may not realize.
The Fred philosophy means:

• Leading by example
• Starting with what’s right instead of what’s wrong
• Encouraging people to try
• Asking for and sharing good ideas
• Removing barriers and obstacles
• Being a champion of those around you
• Giving people the freedom they need
• Teaching the Fred philosophy consistently
• Recognizing and rewarding
• Make the process enjoyable

“It’s our choice whether we’ll use our time, effort, and talents to turn ordinary work into something extraordinary.” writes Sanborn. It begins as always, with integrity. If you value it, those around you will too.

Fred 2.0 will show you the thinking behind extraordinary leadership and apply it in every area of your life. “When you know what is important to you in your life and work, you should apportion your talents and efforts so you can give the best you have to those things.” Love what you do and love the people you do it with.

Fred 2.0 makes a significant contribution to focusing our minds on what leadership is all about. By living it and sharing it you can build a team of Freds in your organization, community and family.

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SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Mark Sanborn's Fred 2.0 web site now to learn more and gain instant access to a Fred 2.0 “EXTRAordinary Results” Resource Kit, free with purchase of Fred 2.0.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
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Rebooting Work: How to Make Work— Work for You

Rebooting Work

Rebooting Work
Rebooting Work by Silicon Valley legend Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler is a sensible look at the changing nature of the workplace and how you can use emerging technologies to take charge of your career. To become a CEO of your own destiny.

Less than half of Americans (47 percent) are satisfied with their work. Companies are changing too. They can no longer provide the safety nets that were expected in the last century. Employees must become more self-reliant. That of course means a workplace that rewards people for their performance rather than their time in. An organization that supports entitlement over results, writes Webb, “can limit growth and opportunity.”

Giving someone a leg-up is one thing, entitlement has a permanence to it that both hinders employees and harms companies and neither performs up to their maximum potential.

Webb believes that technology presents us with an opportunity. It has the power to enable people to do something about their dissatisfaction with work and move on to careers that can provide both fulfillment and financial security. “Understanding and embracing today’s technological trends is the fastest way to travel to the career of your dreams.

Rebooting WorkWebb presents us with four ways of looking at work. We may move from frame to frame but we tend to operate in one. They are Company Man or Woman, CEO of Your Own Destiny, Disenchanted Employee, and Aspiring Entrepreneur. Where we should all be headed, states Webb, is to the mindset of the CEO of Your Own Destiny. We are living in the age of the entrepreneur.
Prior to the Civil War, most Americans worked in agriculture or as small merchants or tradesmen. Success was the result of self-direction, self-motivation, and self determination. In a way, everyone was self-made.

The Industrial Revolution brought opportunities to work outside the home, reversing the entrepreneurial spirit and giving rise to the paternalistic company, but now the Age of Entrepreneurship is bringing it back.
Today personal and professional development is on the employee. It “requires you to be relevant every day and to be voted on to the team you want to play with.” But with this freedom come accountability. In an entrepreneurial age it is more important than ever that you think like a leader—no matter where or at what level you work.

As research indicates, many people find themselves in the Disenchanted Employee frame: you are waiting to be discovered or recognized, you don’t understand why others don’t see how good you really are, your career isn’t going as expected, and you believe your circumstances are someone else’s fault.

This kind of thinking is not just unproductive, it feeds on itself and keeps you just where you don’t want to be. One of the most important things you can do is to get a mentor; someone to help you see the reality of your situation and offer constructive advice to get you moving again. Webb also offers these ideas:
  1. Make sure you do something every day to show others you deserve to be a part of their team.
  2. Have a great attitude. You might be brilliant, but if you are hard to manage, it’s easy to find someone else.
  3. Work for a higher purpose. Your job has more impact than just making money.
  4. Pick your battles. Fight only about things that are really important and that will move the needle.
  5. Don’t be afraid of change.
  6. Be brutally honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. It does you no good to kid yourself here.
  7. Don’t confuse action with traction. Focus on outcomes, not face time.
  8. Focus on expanding your sphere of influence; it will give you the opportunity to have an impact over more areas.
  9. Take time to sit back and reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Make time for a “compass check.”
  10. Be brave and be bold. Most things worth doing are hard.
Technology is pushing flexibility in the workplace. Technology doesn’t replace the need for human contact but it can make work more efficient and face time more rewarding. It provides the opportunity to create how you do your work in new ways if you are willing to perform. Outcomes become more important than ever. If you give more you will receive more.

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Of Related Interest:
  Dear Founder

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:55 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Marketing , Personal Development


Antifragile or How We Become Fragile


IN Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb reports on things that are fragile and things that are antifragile and how they became that way.

Taleb says antifragile isn’t resilience given his narrow definition of it. It’s more. Resilience survives. Things that are antifragile don’t just survive, they get better with random event and shocks. The opposite is fragile. Though often unintentionally, we tend to make things fragile.

We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything … by suppressing randomness and volatility. … Complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top-down policies and contraptions which do precisely this: an insult to the anitifragility of systems.

This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.

By trying to make things simple and linear we run the risk of underestimating randomness and its role in everything. And more importantly, we fail then to benefit from them. Thus while we may be resilient or robust, we are not antifragile. “You only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness,” says Taleb.

Our character should be antifragile. Random events should serve to make you better than before. Rules are fragile. Principles are resilient. Virtue is antifragile. Classroom learning is fragile. Real-life and experiential knowledge are resilient. Real-life and a library are antifragile.

Success actually makes us fragile. We need to be antifragile to survive it.

“When you are fragile, you depend on things following the exact planned course, with as little deviation as possible—for deviations are more harmful than helpful.” Mistakes and successes—especially those of others—give us a lot of information. If we can learn from them, they can make us antifragile. Taleb writes:

My characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on. These types often consider themselves the “victims” of some large plot, a bad boss, or bad weather.

Randomness is not a bad thing. We make our organizations fragile when we are overprotective; when we try to iron out all of the variations and wrinkles that are a part of life. The longer we go without randomness, without variations, without setbacks, the worse the consequences when the unpredictable occurs. “Preventing noise makes the problem worse in the long run.” Yet we still think we benefit from protecting people and organizations from volatility—from life. It’s a practice with unintended yet harmful side effects. A fact of life: “no stability without volatility.” A little confusion can lead to teachable moments, growth and stability.

Antifragile is an interesting and at times entertaining read. Taleb borrows from all disciplines to explain “how to live in a world we don’t understand or, rather, how not to be afraid to work with things we patently don’t understand, and, more principally, in what manner we should work with these.”

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Resilience Is Key Bounce Forward

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:00 PM
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Do Leaders Really Matter?

Are individual leaders truly responsible for the end result, or do they just happen to be there—for better or worse? asks Gautam Mukunda in Indispensible. To be sure, Lincoln and Churchill have mattered, but does every leader matter?

Of course, every leader matters to someone. But here Mukunda is talking about leaders who matter on a larger scale—those that matter to all of us. What would have happened if someone else had filled the same role. “Leader impact can best be thought of as the marginal difference between what actually happened and what would have happened if the most likely alternative leader had come to power….Will he or she make significantly different choices than the other plausible candidates.”

It gets down to how we choose our leaders and how we advance people through an organization. This process, Mukunda calls the Leader Filtration Process (LFP). A given LFP will filter candidates through a process designed to find those who conform to a specific value system—a Modal or standard leader. Occasionally an Extreme candidate will slip through. Many organizations weed out potential Extremes. The military’s promotion system is an example of a tight filtration process. At the other extreme, entrepreneurship is a very loose process—you become an entrepreneur just by deciding to do it.


A leader that has bypassed an LFP is likely to be an Extreme. Charisma helps leaders bypass filtration. “Family connections, personal wealth, and celebrity, for example, all smooth the path to power without subjecting candidates to the risk of being Filtered out by the LFP.”

Modal leaders can be highly successful under normal conditions. They are good at maintaining the status quo. I would associate management with Modal leaders. Extremes, on the other hand, are all about innovation. “Extreme leaders will be much more likely to change the goals their organization or state is pursuing and to adopt means to achieve those goals that other leaders would not—that’s why they have such marked impact compared with other Modals.”

If you are stuck, an Extreme leader may be just what you need. But while Extremes deviate—and that may be a good thing—they are “far more likely than Modals to have dramatic successes and failures.”

“Filtration is supposed to prevent leaders with undesirable characteristics from gaining power.” This is quite understandable. However, “many of those undesirable traits aren’t purely negative—in the right situation, they can be a huge asset.”

What helps make an Extreme great is when they couple their decisions with humility. “The Extreme leader does what others would not do, even when others advise him or her against it. To make this sort of choice when the stakes are high takes enormous confidence. Sometimes, however, the Extreme’s advisers will be right. When that is true, the great Extreme leader will have the humility to defer to their judgment. It is this almost paradoxical combination of self-confidence and humility that marks the transcendentaly great leader.”

Mukunda’s Leader Filtration Theory has implications as to how and when we choose certain types of leaders to lead us. He recommends that if you are a Filtered leader that you bring a few Extremes into your inner circle.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:11 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Government , Human Resources , Management


Next Time You’re in a Slump, Try Stillpower


WHEN our performance is in a slump or we get stuck, we tend to become anxious and reach for any quick fix or technique that promises to get us out of it. We apply more effort, focus, and willpower. And when all of that doesn’t work, we get even more anxious and our performance heads even further south.

Instead, when we get stuck we need to rely on Stillpower, not willpower says Garret Kramer. Stillpower is the ability to return to a clear mindset after we get into a muddled mental state—a low state of mind. It’s knowing that “all sentiments are temporary since they originate from your own thoughts and moods. Stillpower comes from knowing that self-worth has nothing to do with winning, losing, parental approval, money, fame, or anything external to you.”

When we get into a low state of mind we need to do nothing. It’s when we operate from a low state of mind that we usually make mistakes, poor judgments, miss opportunities and dig ourselves deeper into whatever hole we are digging. “Once you understand,” says Kramer, “that as human beings we form our perceptions from the inside out, that the quality of our thinking and level of awareness move up and down independent of our circumstances, you will see that it makes little sense to work yourself through a temporarily low state of mind.” But that’s often exactly what we do.

When we run into trouble that’s a sign to step back—not a call to action. Negativity is a sign to slow down. We can't perform at an elevated level when we are in a low state of mind.

A seemingly unresolved issue of today has nothing to do with erroneous thinking of today. And until an individual comes to this realization, he or she will always fall prey to the conditions of life itself.

Here’s what many of us ought to consider: All human beings exist, from moment to moment, at varying levels of psychological functioning. When this level of functioning is low, most often for no tangible reason, we view life through a dirty lens and are prone to deviant behavior—if we act. Once this principle is grasped, we see that navigating smoothly through life doesn’t have to be so complicated, and unlike the belief of many counselors and coaches in the self-help world, it has nothing to do with personal history.

Awareness is key. When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and when necessary, allow your thinking to clear, then you will have the clarity to act; “insights will flow and answers will become obvious.” He adds, “Insight is infinitely more powerful than willpower. Actually, insight, or having a new idea and/or a change of heart, erases the need for strength or force of will of any kind.”


Kramer notes that when you are coaching or counseling, you need to be operating from a higher level of thinking than the person you are talking to. “What comes out of your mouth is much less significant than the level of mental functioning from which the words are spoken.” We need to interact with people from a state of mind “brimming with love, compassion, and selflessness….External how-to resources are not all that necessary; love will provide all the direction you seek.”

Leadership is an all-in proposition. Done right, it’s a lot of hard work. To cut ourselves some slack, we too often rely on external gimmicks and techniques rather than the messy work of a real relationship.


• “We perform better when we get caught up in the experience, rather than when we make the experience about us….When we focus on a personal prize, our options narrow; when we relish the process, our options expand.”

• “When we act from clarity, it is impossible to get weighed down by judgmental outcomes.”

• “When we succumb to our errant thoughts or closed-off moods, judge another person, and then act from this egotistical perspective of insecurity, it is practically impossible to find long-term success.”

• “Every failure, every mistake, every loss—occurs to clarify our path, not to obscure it.”

• “You will never wrestle with a choice when your level of consciousness is high.”

Leaders will find a lot to consider here. Stillpower is one of those books that makes you reconsider your approach on many things. While Kramer might seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater at times, he doesn’t overturn conventional wisdom as much as he calls us on it when we misapply it. It is the perfect prescription for those that have a need to control their world and the people around them.

It is important to note too, that looking within for answers is fine if you have consciously put something there to draw-on in the first place. Good flashes of insight are only produced when there is something good to draw upon. Choose your sources wisely.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Thinking


Leading Apple With Steve Jobs

Leading Apple With Steve Jobs

JAY ELLIOT, former Senior Vice President of Apple, has spent a lot of time with Steve Jobs. In Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, he writes that “Isaacson’s Steve is not the Steve I knew.” He believes that there has been too much focus on the negative aspects of how Jobs dealt with people and not enough on the positive. “I think,” he writes, “most people who worked for him, including me, would say they did the best work of their lives for him and don’t regret the experience a bit.” While his stories regarding his time with Jobs don’t do much to polish his image, he does bring out aspects of his thinking that undoubtedly have given people the opportunity to feel that in spite of the negative aspects of Jobs' behavior, Apple is where they wanted to be.

When analyzing anything, it always a challenge to pull out the important lesson and learn how to integrate the good without the bad. We are all a complex mix of motivations and behaviors and everything we do seems like an indispensable part of achieving our success (or not). But we can always improve—diminish the negative and emphasize the positive.

It is not unusual for any of us to find ourselves in a position where our intention is admirable but we lack the skill to implement it in the most beneficial way. Frequently, we can find ourselves stuck without alternatives to our own patterns of behavior. As leaders, we have to constantly be learning—by reflection and reading about the lives of others—to discover where we could expand our thinking and therefore our options.

Not only does Elliot help us understand why Jobs was the way he was, he does a good job of explaining the development of and reasoning behind much of the Apple mystic that is worth implementing.

Jobs said that “It’s not my job to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways to get resources for the key projects. It’s my job to push the team and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” Jobs believed that accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, and secrecy, would sustain innovative leadership at Apple.

Getting the right people was as important to Jobs as creating a new product. “When you’re in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.” Elliot says that he learned from Jobs the value of “knowing your own values so well that you can instinctively recognize someone who shares those values.” It would be good to reflect on our own values from this standpoint. Another way of thinking about this would be to consider: if you don’t know why you do what you do, why would anyone want to follow you?

The right people make the difference. “A leader in the Steve Jobs model needs to have a set of lieutenants who can translate his goals and vision into detailed action plans. The success of Apple through the years has largely been due to Steve’s talent for surrounding himself with people who could bear the heat when he wasn’t satisfied, were strong enough to stand up to him when he was wrong, and were able to relay not just his instructions but his commitment, drive, and vision to the crew.”

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Innovation Secrets of Jobs Steve Jobs Way

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:54 PM
| Comments (0) | Communication , Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Human Resources , Management


Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

Help Them Grow

FINDING good employees is not enough. Organizations must have a plan in place to keep the employees they have. A priority for many employees today is career development opportunities.

The problem is very few managers and leaders feel they have the time to work on career development. Yet career development, say Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, is nothing more than helping people grow. And that’s job one for leaders.

Kaye and Giulioni contend that it is not as hard as we usually make it out to be. “Quality career development boils down to quality conversations”—frequent, short conversations that occur within the natural flow of work. They suggest that we “reframe career development in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee and that our role is more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action.”

Their framework for career development is organized around three types of conversations:

Hindsight conversations. These conversations are meant to help develop self-awareness—where they have been what they are good at. This is even more apparent with by good feedback. “Helping people look back and inward also provides a reservoir of information that allows employees to move forward and toward their career goals in intentional ways that will produce satisfying results.”

Foresight conversations. What an employee learns about themselves in hindsight needs to be applied in the context of what is going on around them. “When you help your employees develop the ability to scan the environment, anticipate trends, and spot opportunities, you provide a constructive context for career development.”

Insight conversations. These conversations leverage what your employee learns from the convergence of the insight and foresight conversations. Here you guide them into practical steps they can take to be where they want to be. “Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.” Today, it’s not about moving up the ladder but moving to the place you want to be. Kaye and Giulioni suggest that we learn to help them grow in place. This requires a shift in thinking. “The challenge of growing in place involves stripping titles from our thinking and instead focusing on what the employee needs to experience, know, learn, and be able to do.”

Too frequently we limit the scope of career conversations, thinking they’re only about jobs, promotions, or stretch assignments—the actions employees can take to move forward. Important? Yes. But that’s just a drop in the bucket of conversations you can have with employees.

We have conversations about the work anyway, so why not make it a teachable moment. “A few minutes of conversation can help others slow down enough to reflect, bring deep insights to the surface, verbalize important messages, and consider how to leverage their expanding skills and knowledge base.”

If you don’t think you have the time to incorporate this vital task in what you do, this book is for you. Kaye and Giulioni offer templates, guidelines, and sample conversations and questions that you can adapt to your own situation. With their approach, career development stays fresh because each employee’s career plan is unique and done in real-time.

Career development should flow naturally out of a leader’s genuine concern for others. The framework work provided in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go provides a way of thinking to make that process happen naturally and effectively and at the most appropriate times.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

WITH far too much failed leadership on display, leaders should commit to building a different brand of leadership—Triple Crown Leadership, say authors Bob and Gregg Vanourek. Triple Crown leaders have the goal of building and sustaining organizations that are excellent (high performance), ethical (do the right thing), and enduring (stand the test of time). As with the Triple Crown in thoroughbred horseracing, it is an epic quest that is audacious but not impossible.

Triple Crown leaders integrate five practices that build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations:

Seek “head and heart.” The first step is putting together a triple crown team. Typically we look for people with the right “head” skills (experience, education, expertise), but they must have the intangible “heart” qualities (character, integrity, courage).

Post “colors.” An organization’s “colors” are its purpose, values, and vision. Leaders must engage all in developing the colors through a collaborative process, thereby increasing ownership and buy-in. People are free to act as long as they do so in accordance with the colors.

Flex between “steel and velvet.” Triple Crown leaders cannot remain stuck in their normal style of leadership. They lead by flexing between the hard and soft edges of leadership, sometimes in command, other times willingly soliciting and following the leadership of others. If your actions are consistent with the colors—purpose, values, and vision—you will not appear inconsistent in your approach.

Unleash “stewards.” Stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not empowerment handed down from the top but a culture where the freedom to act is expected as long as they act in accordance with the shared values and vision of the organization. It’s automatic. “Triple Crown leadership ebbs and flows dynamically from person to person—up, down, and around—depending on the person’s knowledge, skills, passion, and the nature and urgency of the challenge at hand.” (Look on pages 114 to 123 for lists of specific ideas on how boards, CEOs, managers, and people without authority can become Triple Crown stewards.)

“Align.” Alignment builds trust. Alignment speeds up the process. Alignment should be collaborative, start where you are and cascade, and be flexible. It requires some finesse to get people on the same page while protecting the innovative mavericks and creating the conditions for operating in a state of flow.

There is a big difference between completing an alignment exercise at a one-shot retreat and actually creating an aligned organization, between having a purpose statement and being purpose-driven, between having values and upholding them when the pressure is on, between saying you are vying for the triple crown and actually aligning the enterprise to achieve it.

The five triple crown leadership practices are related and mutually reinforcing. Building excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations requires a commitment from many people over many years, and the view that leaders exist at all levels.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development


The Titleless Leader

Leading without a title is about taking personal responsibility. We—the world—is in desperate need of people who will choose to lead whenever and wherever they can. In The Titleless Leader, Nan Russell describes where we are:
Everything isn’t alright in our workplaces. People are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, tired, and afraid. Not to mention skeptical, cynical, and distrustful. And those plaques touting people as the most important asset should be taken down. They’re a hypocritical reminder of last century’s failed promise. Not everywhere, of course, but in far too many organizations.
But we have a choice.
We can continue the de-motivating spiral of self-indulgent, unaligned leaders, or we can decide to create tomorrow’s workplaces through a new kind of leadership. It’s the kind that doesn’t come with a title. It’s not determined by rank, responsibilities, or position. No one needs to appoint you, promote you, or nominate you. You decide.
What Russell is talking about here is a different kind of leadership that starts with what all good leadership begins with: self-discipline. It is taking responsibility for the outcomes in your area. It’s setting an example of behaviors that are aligned with values.

For Russell, titleless leadership is based on four cornerstones:

Self-Alignment: Behavioral integrity. People remember what you are.

Possibility Seeds: Encourages and nurtures others. Titleless leaders plant possibility seeds “not because there’s a mentoring- or succession-planning program, but because they’re operating with a better together approach.”

Soul Courage: Step-up and offer your best self. Push outside your comfort zone to do the right thing.

and Winning Philosophies: It’s only when we’re all winning that we truly all win. Focus on group wins and not the politics of individual wins.

The Titleless Leader is a handbook of behaviors and thinking to help you lead from where you are. Certainly, they’re not easy and require some change in perspective, but they will create more meaning and value in your workplace and more importantly, in your life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development


If It's Important, Be There

If Its Important Be There

IN Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden make the point that organizations with contented employees understand that one of the most fundamental precepts in the whole workplace arena is that “the person who started for them this morning is as close to a ‘model employee’ as they’re ever going to get.” So the best companies do something about it. They are fanatical about training people not only with skills they need, but they also carefully train them in the organization’s traditions, values, and philosophies.

But this is the part (too) many leaders just don’t get:

“People want to know that the training course they’re taking the time to sit through is as important to senior management as it is supposed to be to them.” How do you communicate that? “This often requires senior management to ride along with them—not in their own condensed mini-versions, but alongside everyone else.”

Catlette and Hadden go on to say, “There should be no executive parking spaces when it comes to training. Managers must participate enthusiastically and, more important, be able to demonstrate the skills they expect everyone else to learn.”

The message is clear. If it’s important to you, it will be important to them. It’s quite common to hear, “If this is so important, where are they?” Without the visible support of the leadership, commitment to the training is compromised. Leaders need to visibly communicate: “This is important—so important that I went through it before you did. I’m using it, and now I want and expect you to do the same. That’s why I’m here."

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Lead By Example Yoritomo Leading By Example

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:49 PM
| Comments (0) | Education , General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development


How to Turn Your Team Around in Six Stages

Team Turnarounds

HOW DO YOU transform a losing climate into one that fosters collaboration, innovation, and productivity?

Losing is not necessary or permanent, but to turn it around you need a leader who can see the truth, identify where things that have gone wrong, and broadcast the reality of possible in spite of what’s actually happening. A turnaround is really a change in culture—changing the culture of the team or organization.

In Team Turnarounds, authors Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl present a six-stage Team Turnaround Process. While many of the examples are from sport franchises—Colts, Eagles, Steelers—and the people they interviewed there, they also include turnaround stories of Domino’s pizza, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark Broadway show, and the state of Michigan.

Each stage contains specific developmental milestones—principles that leaders and their teams typically master before proceeding to the next stage:

Stage I: Leading Past Losing
Stage I is an investigation into why your organization is losing. “Throughout this stage, you are building a clear case for why changes need to occur and for what those changes should be.” It begins with a belief that what is wrong can be made right. “The leader has to observe the team, learn where the failures lie, and then expose them.” It’s getting the dysfunction out in the open. Teams in Stage I also lack role clarity and without it, “team members lose focus and motivation and are left to wallow in mediocrity.”

The funny thing about truth is that people often want to embrace it. They may not want to hear it, but once it’s spoken, everyone’s shoulders drop in relief. Finally, someone has noticed that the organization has been skating by. Finally, someone is willing to confront the ugly reality. Finally, someone is putting the success of the group above everything else.

What most often holds us back are the excuses we hold on to.

Stage II: Committing to Growth
Once you know what’s wrong, you can shift the team’s focus to what’s possible. “The team at stage II needs a vision for where it’s going, clear values to guide it, and a decisive plan of action that’s chock-full of specific and attainable goals.” Values provide the structure for how the team will move forward. “Team members have to move past the mediocrity they’ve embraced in the past.”

Stage III: Changing Behaviors
In stage III, “your team members will learn to carry themselves as winners…. Leaders in stage III have to focus on providing their teams with insights into how and what they need to change while also providing the motivation to do it.” This is probably the hardest stage and requires a consistent example.

Stage IV: Embracing Adversity
A team in stage IV accept and embrace challenges as a way to show their stuff. “Setbacks and obstacles should be welcomed because you’re excited to prove that you’re better than you once were.” Of course, resilience is essential.

Challenges are moments of growth—times for you to refine yourself, make yourself better, and believe with even more confidence that you’re on the right path. The resilience and the willingness to take on adversity that come with stage IV will prepare your team for the even larger challenges presented in stage V.

Stage V: Achieving Success
Stage V is a moment of victory. A time to reflect on the victory and the reality of having to continue moving forward. You must continually redefine what success means for you and your team. You must work to stay fresh. In stage V, you will adapt. The focus is on “defining who you are and adapting to where you want to go.”

We think of life, our efforts, our aspirations, as something like a movie, as if we work toward the one big goal, give everything we have to a single crowning achievement, and when it’s complete, the credits roll. We become so fixated on the effort to achieve that we sometimes lose sight of what we’re doing and how it relates to the bigger picture. We sometimes forget that there aren’t any credits, and that there’s no stop to the action after we hold up the trophy. Life keeps rolling even after our big wins.

Stage VI: Nurturing a Culture of Excellence
Success doesn’t last forever. Eventually, other setbacks will occur. Stage VI is about bracing for those times by developing a winning culture that is both lasting and enduring. At stage VI an organization “needs to concentrate on continual learning and innovation. Culture, continual learning, and innovation are ever present throughout the Team Turnaround Process but are often overshadowed by more prominent themes during the first five stages.”

When teams win, they can become complacent. Success feels good and builds confidence, but it can also breed sloppy habits, overconfidence, and eventual performance decline.

The book concludes with the Team Turnaround Workbook. The exercises for each stage will help you and your team work through the Team Turnaround Process.

The Team Turnaround Process is a useful keep-in-mind as it helps you to better understand where you are, fosters patience and helps you to be in the present while maintaining the big picture when executing a turnaround.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Management , Teamwork




RECENT POLLS reveal that most of us – 88% – think that government is broken. We lack confidence in the people who run for or serve in office. Geoff Smart says we have a who problem.

In Leadocracy he writes that the only way to fix the what problems—the deficit, unemployment, and insufficient social services to name a few—is to get the right who into government.

Smart finds that there is a huge untapped source of potential leaders in the private sector—if they would just step up. But they don’t—in droves—because of fear. Fear of not being able to make a difference, fear of the financial and psychological costs, and fear of public scrutiny.

But they should for three reasons, says Smart. First, a leadership role in government is a new challenge and an opportunity to grow your leadership skills. Second, because you can make a difference, that is enormously satisfying. And third, in government, you interact with an amazing range of people—you build relationships, help them in ways only you can, and become part of a broader community that is making people’s lives better.

Smart founded The Leaders Initiative with the goal of having 1500 private sector leaders complete a two-year stint in government (local, state, or federal) by 2030. The hope is that it will have a positive multiplier effect on encouraging more private sector leaders to consider “government leadership” in their career plan.

Smart states, “Democracy works best when voters choose great candidates.” It seems like a simple statement, but it explains a lot. He says we are not very good at it. He does offer some tools and tips for determining how qualified a candidate is for the task at hand, and ensuring you are “hiring” the best leader for the job. He hopes we can reverse our tendency to:

• place too much emphasis on likeability
• place too much emphasis on public-speaking ability and debates
• place too much emphasis on the single hot-button issue that has little to do with our overall quality of life and the real problems that plague our communities
• place too much emphasis on the physical attractiveness of the candidates
• and we tend to be lulled into following candidates who “feel our pain” and merely reflect their understanding of our problems, but who do not have the demonstrated ability to solve them.

I would agree with Smart. However, I would add that government isn’t broken because, in most cases, its leaders lack ideas, are bad people, bad leaders, stupid, incompetent, or just a bunch of amateurs. It’s broken because they are in a system that rewards them for pandering to their constituents. It’s how many of them keep their jobs. It would be a mistake to think that somehow government got all of the bad leaders and the private sector is hoarding them—and if we could flip-flop the situation, the problem would be solved. It’s a systemic problem.

We see leaders in government that should know better, giving people what they want not because it is the best option for their constituents but because they want the votes to keep them in office. They effectively stop leading.

We do have a who problem. But realistically it is not just a matter of getting the “good people” in. It will take a tremendous amount of fortitude for anyone wishing to serve in government to take the time to educate instead of pander, to do the hard things rather than the expedient, to lead rather than follow, to stand on character instead of popularity. But then, we would probably vote them out.

So the issue is something we have to remedy within ourselves too. It’s also an issue the Founding Fathers didn’t think we should take lightly.

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Wrong with Leadership Training Who The A Method for Hiring

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:11 AM
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InsideOut Enneagram

InsideOut Enneagram

THE Enneagram is a method for identifying your personality type and is a valuable system for learning about yourself and others. The Enneagram system defines nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.

Wendy Appel has tackled the Enneagram’s subtleties and complexities in InsideOut Enneagram. Her book makes practical the Enneagram system by use of clear explanations of each Type, case studies, and a structured journaling process. There is a section on Type and team interactions that examines predictable points of tension, reactive patterns, and synergies between all of the possible Enneagram Type pairs. Her goal is to help you to see and think differently about your strengths, your weaknesses, and mostly the subterranean habits of mind and motivations that drive you and others. It’s a journey of self-mastery.

Appel observes that “most of us focus our attention outward and neglect our inner life. We think that change is out there. Instead of tuning in to the language of our head, heart, and gut, we are busy looking outside, ahead, and down.”

Understanding who we are, uncovering our blind spots, and creating a game plan to master our thinking and behavior, is vital to developing our leadership potential and to better understand those we lead.

The subconscious mind, where our habits, patterns, and beliefs reside, directs the course of our lives, and most of us are unaware that this is happening. To transform as leaders and to transform our organizations require that we examine our core beliefs—both individual and collective. If not, we simply make iterative changes, and that won’t be enough to succeed in today’s globalized economy.

The Enneagram gives you the possibility to transform the way you show up as a leader. Inner change leads to outer change—when your inner world transforms, an opening is created for extraordinary shifts to occur in your outer world. When you lead from the InsideOut, you have the ability to be responsive and flexible enough to act in the moment. Your words and actions are aligned. You take responsibility for creating your life and for leading with integrity and passion.

Appel says she often gets asked “about the difference between the MBTI and the Enneagram, or whether MBTI Type preferences neatly fit into the Enneagram Types. The most simplistic way to understand how the systems complement each other is that the MBTI describes preferences for how we do things (get our energy, make decisions, gather information, and so on); the Enneagram describes why and how we behave as we do (beliefs, fears, desires, focus of attention), and how we go about getting our perceived needs met.”

InsideOut Enneagram is an opportunity to discover what is working for you, what is not working for you, why, and what you can do about it. You will find descriptions of each type on her website.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development


When Good Employees Do Bad: Six Surprising Behaviors that May Precede a Scandal

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by David Gebler author of The 3 Power Values. Gebler believes that employees already embody the values needed to create a high-performing culture, so leaders need to remove the behavior-based roadblocks that keep people from being able to live their values at work. Commitment, integrity and transparency keep an organizations core values aligned with each other because they serve as counterweights to our human tendencies to go off-track. Here, he identifies some behavior roadblocks:

Good intentions can lead to bad outcomes in business. This is especially true in organizations that have toxic cultures in which leaders tout worthy values—and then put up roadblocks that prevent employees from living those values. For example, if a company claims it welcomes innovation and risk taking, but then only rewards employees who toe the company line and reinforce the status quo, sooner or later people will simply stop asking questions, innovating, and stretching themselves. Instead, they will conform in order to please their bosses. While the company's competitive edge plummets, leaders may be left wondering: What happened to our core value of innovation and risk taking?

When we look at companies that have faced scandals such as recalls, ethical violations, or crimes, the problem often comes down to employees whose surprisingly positive behavior was distorted by a toxic culture and clueless leaders. Here are six seemingly benign behaviors that may come back to bite a company if they become exaggerated and throw the organization out of alignment:

Commitment to meeting deadlines.
One would think that a company where employees are encouraged to meet deadlines and rewarded for doing so consistently would lead to super-productivity and efficiency. In fact, it can lead to disaster. At Johnson & Johnson, the understood directive to get product to market on tough deadlines created a culture of "Don't ask too many questions" and resulted in a series of dangerous drug recalls that badly sullied the company's reputation.

Excessive optimism.
When a person is sick, optimism can buoy his spirits and help healing. When a company is unhealthy, "Everything is going to be okay" is not what you need to hear from those in authority positions. Take David Myers, former controller of WorldCom. By his own account, he saw the problems of the now-defunct company through rose-colored glasses. He simply kept believing--and telling his frightened staff--that the problems would resolve themselves eventually. By the time he came to his senses, he was under arrest for accounting fraud.

Staying focused on a goal.
Telling employees to keep their eye on the prize is not intrinsically a bad thing. But when the goal becomes more important to management than the underlying values of the organization, it can lead to a dysfunctional culture. For example, in the 1990s, Sears gave its auto repair mechanics a mandatory sales goal of $147 per hour. It wasn't long before customers began to be overcharged or sold unnecessary repairs.

Having a competitive mindset.
Boeing is known for its highly competitive employees and work culture. That's a good thing, right? Not so in 1996, when the company lost billions in government contracts for ethics violations after an employee stole 25,000 pages of proprietary documents from Lockheed. Flash forward to 2005, when employees were still so competitive that their own work teams were known to keep useful information secret from other teams in the company to make sure they stayed on top. Too much competition can erode cultural values, leading to disaster.

Sticking to a budget.
Most managers would be thrilled if their employees were doggedly determined to stay on budget and not cost the company any unnecessary money. But a good intention can go bad when financial performance becomes the only metric that matters. That was the case, many believe, behind the fatal mistake made on the BP oil platform in the Gulf. Before the explosion in April 2012 caused by a safety shortcut, BP's Macondo project was more than $40 million over budget. You know the rest.

Wanting to please higher-ups.
What's more attractive than a hardworking employee who wants his bosses to approve of him, based on high performance and outstanding results? A lot, in the case of French trader Jérôme Kerviel at the Société Générale banking group. His need to be liked led to $4.9 billion in massive financial fraud by means of elaborate computer manipulations. Kerviel is thought not to have profited personally from his crimes. He said he was just working to increase the bank's profits and make his bosses happy.

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David Gebler is a sought-after speaker and panelist, and author of The 3 Power Values: How Commitment, Integrity, and Transparency Clear the Roadblocks to Performance (Jossey-Bass, 2012). He is founder and president of the Skout Group, which helps companies determine whether and how their organization's culture is costing them money, and what they can do to reduce risk and increase performance.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


Restoring Your Ability to Choose

Ability to Choose

WE all like to think we are in charge of our choices. But the fact is that most of the time we are reacting, not choosing. Most of what we label choice is habit. We’re really on automatic. It can even lead us to think that we have no choice. Only when we pause—slow-down to think and reflect—are we exercising our ability to choose.

Nance Guilmartin writes in The Power of Pause that a pause is “any space between an action and your reaction.” And it’s vitally important:

Today you need the ability to discern what lies beneath people’s words, their reactions, or their silence. If you don’t build the neuropathways in your brain to pause, to momentarily disengage your automatic reactions, you can trigger a chain reaction that derails your best intentions and strategies.

Guilmartin lists seven cues that a pause is in your best interest. It’s time to pause if you are thinking, feeling, or saying:

  1. I have no choice.
  2. This doesn’t make sense. How could he-she-they do that (to me)?
  3. I have to act now or else “they” will beat me to it.
  4. I can’t believe this is happening again.
  5. We’re not on the same page.
  6. This isn’t what I expected.
  7. I know the answer, and I’m not interested in what someone else thinks.

The Power of Pause Method is based on a three-step Effectiveness Equation and twelve Power of Pause practices. The equation:

Pause (Presence of Mind) + Curiosity + Humility =
Professional Effectiveness and Personal Fulfillment

Not surprisingly, the equation references an all-important addend, humility. Humility should fuel your curiosity and drive the need to pause. Guilmartin explains that “in situations where you think you know enough, pausing to wonder what you don’t know is a vital, even game-changing leadership skill.”

The twelve practices are:

  1. Drive your choices instead of being driven. Apply the Power of Pause to take back self-control and recognize you always have a choice.
  2. Be aware of your filters (and theirs). Remember that filters can lead to unconscious misinterpretations.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt. Check your assumptions. Meaning isn’t in the words: it’s in the interpretation of them—by you and others. When in doubt, ask, “Can you help me see what you see?”
  4. Stop putting deposits in your resentment bank account. Resist jumping to premature conclusions or depositing frustrations based on your perception of “the facts.”
  5. Use rephrasing as a Twenty-First-Century risk management tool. Stick your neck out: rephrase what you think someone meant by what he said; it builds trust.
  6. Use the Get Curious Not Furious approach. “Missed understandings” happen—a lot! They're normal. Try not to take them personally.
  7. Ask: What’s on your plate? Understand someone else’s priorities while you also acknowledge your own. Remember to ask yourself, “What’s on my plate?”
  8. Ask: What don’t I know I don’t know? In order to drive success with an extra measure of humility, ask, What don’t I know I don’t know? About what’s driving me or them in the situation?
  9. Take responsibility for being understood: reverse rephrase. Reverse rephrase to confirm that you were understood; welcome the chance to clear up any “missed understandings.”
  10. Make withdrawals from your resentment bank account. Withdraw earlier deposits to prevent them from building up negative energy in your account.
  11. Know your trigger points (and theirs). Prevent yourself or others from being caught in self-defeating patterns. Become aware of who or what triggers you so that you can respond instead of react.
  12. Strengthen relationships: offer timely, specific appreciation. Put the Power of Pause in action with timely, specific recognition of what works and why. Help people also know what they can do to be even more effective and how you can support them in being their best.

“It’s a paradox,” writes Guilmartin, “to move forward, you gain time and options if you momentarily ease off the accelerator, suspend your initial reactions, and consider your immediate assumptions.”

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Consider Leading Minds on Reflection


Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:36 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Learning , Management , Thinking


All In: It’s Culture that Drives Results

All In

IN THE New York Times, Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks Inc., explains that it is culture that drives results:

It starts with leadership at the top, which drives a culture. Culture drives innovation and whatever else you’re trying to drive within a company — innovation, execution, whatever it’s going to be. And that then drives results.

When I talk to Wall Street, people really want to know your results, what are your strategies, what are the issues, what it is that you’re doing to drive your business. They’re focused on the bottom line. Never do you get people asking about the culture, about leadership, about the people in the organization. Yet, it’s the reverse, because it’s the people, the leadership, the culture and the ideas that are ultimately driving the numbers and the results.

While we know that our most important resource is our people, it’s not so easy to get people “all in”—convincing people to “truly buy into their ideas and the strategy they’ve put forward, to give that extra push that leads to outstanding results.”

All In
All In by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explains why some managers are able to get their employees to commit wholeheartedly to their culture and give that extra push that leads to outstanding results and how managers at any level, can build and sustain a profitable, vibrant work-group culture of their own. All In takes the principles found in their previous books—The Orange Revolution and The Carrot Principle—and expands on them and places them in a wider context.

They begin by explaining that it all rests on the “belief factor.” People want to believe, but given the fact that “failure could cost them their future security why shouldn’t they be at least a little dubious about your initiatives?” But belief is key. “As leaders we must first allow people on our teams to feel like valuable individuals, respecting their views and opening up to their ideas and inputs, even while sharing a better way forward. It’s a balancing act that requires some wisdom.”

To have a culture of belief employees must feel not only engaged, but enabled and energized. What’s more, “each element of E+E+E can be held hostage by an imbalance in the other two.”

The authors have created a 7 step guide to develop a culture where people buy-in:

Define your burning platform. “Your ability to identify and define the key “burning” issue you face and separate it from the routine challenges of the day is the first step in galvanizing your employees to believe in you and in your vision and strategy.”

Create a customer focus. “Your organization must evolve into one that not only rewards employees who spot customer trends or problems, but one that finds such challenges invigorating, one that empowers people at all levels to respond with alacrity and creativity.”

Develop agility. “Employees are more insistent than ever that their managers see into the future and do a decent job of addressing the coming challenges and capitalizing on new opportunities.”

Share everything. “When we aren’t sure what’s happening around us, we become distrustful….In a dark work environment, where information is withheld or not communicated properly, employees tend to suspect the worst and rumors take the place of facts. It is openness that drives out the gray and helps employees regain trust in culture.”

Partner with your talent. “Your people have more energy and creativity to give. There are employees now in your organization walking around with brilliant ideas in their pocket. Some will never share them because they don’t have the platform to launch those ideas on their own. Most, however, will never reveal them because they don’t feel like a partner in the organization.”

Root for each other. “Our research shows incontrovertible evidence that employees respond best when they are recognized for things they are good at and for those actions where they had to stretch. It is this reinforcement that makes people want to grow to their full shape and stature.”

Establish clear accountability. “To grow a great culture, you need to cultivate a place where people have to do more than show up and fog a mirror; they have to fulfill promises—not only collectively but individually.” And this has to be a positive idea.

Gostick and Elton explain that the “modern leader provides the why, keeps an ear close to those they serve, is agile and open, treats their people with deference, and creates a place where every step forward is noted and applauded.”

The authors skillfully examine high-performing cultures and present the elements that produce them. A leader at any level can implement these ideas to drive results. A great learning tool.

To succeed, you need everyone on your team all in; you need a culture of belief. A high performing culture is characterized by people that are engaged, enabled and energized.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| Comments (0) | Culture , General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation


The Power of Habit

Habits will always be with us. Some good. Some bad. But how do you replace bad habits with good habits? More importantly, how often do we ask ourselves if what we are doing is really just a habit? We are less intentional than we think we are.

The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg has written a book for all of us: The Power of Habit. After reading it you will understand how habits are formed and what you can do about it. You will also look at habits in a new way. Habits infiltrate our organizations and become invisible forces to contend with that we never realized were there. Learning to spot them is key to our success. Consider the following story:

As a newspaper reporter in Baghdad, Duhigg heard about an officer conducting an impromptu habit modification program in Kufa, a small city ninety miles south of the capital.
He was an army major who had analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, someone would throw a rock or bottle and all hell would break loose.

When the major met with Kufa’s mayor, he made an odd request: Could they keep the food vendors out of the plazas? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near the Masjid al-Kufa, or Great Mosque of Kufa. Throughout the afternoon, it grew in size. Some people started chanting angry slogans….At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8PM, everyone was gone.
In a sense, a community—your organization—is a giant collection of habits. Later, when Duhigg talked to the major, he said, “Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.” “Once you see everything as a bunch of habits,” says Duhigg, “it’s like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work.

Habit LoopA habit is the brain’s way of saving effort. Duhigg has broken the formation of habits into a three-step loop: the cue (“a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (“which can be physical, or mental or emotional”), and finally there is the reward (which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future).

The key to remember here says Duhigg is that “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”

Breaking habits down in this way makes them easier to deal with. If we can learn to identify the cues and rewards, we can change the routines. We can live life a bit more intentionally.

Duhigg shows how habits played a part in the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. He goes behind the scenes at Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and NFL locker rooms. He explains how improving a single habit rippled out to improve an entire organization—Alcoa. Fascinating material to think about on many levels.

How much of what you do is on autopilot?

How much of what your organization does is on autopilot?

Of Related Interest:
  Breaking Old Habits

Habits are not destiny. They can be changed if we understand how they work. Habits cannot be eliminated, but they can be replaced.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development


Hiring for Attitude

Hiring For Attitude

“Most new hires do not fail on the job due to lack of skill,” says Mark Murphy. Attitude is a bigger issue than skill. Consequently, most of our approaches to selecting the right people for the job are dead wrong.

In Hiring for Attitude, Murphy lists the top five reasons why new hires failed:
  1. Coachability (26%): The ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers, and others.
  2. Emotional Intelligence (23%): The ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and accurately assess others' emotions.
  3. Motivation (17%): Sufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel on the job.
  4. Temperament (15%): Attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment.
  5. Technical Competence (11%): Functional or technical skills required to do the job.
Naturally, we should be concerned whether or not a candidate can do the job, but it should not be the main focus. “Because even the best skills don’t really matter if an employee isn’t open to improving or consistently alienates coworkers, lacks drive, or simply lacks the right personality to succeed in that culture.”

What attitudes work in one culture may not work in another. Attitudes are culture specific. So you first need to discover your organization’s unique attitudes. Think about the “attitudes that separate your high performers from your middle performers and your low performers from everybody else. You’re not trying to create a laundry list of attitudes but just the—three to seven—“important critical predictors of employee success or failure for your organization.”

Murphy talks about the kinds of common questions you should never ask—the “tell me about yourself” questions, the behavioral “tell me about a time when” questions, the hypothetical “what would you do if” questions, and the oddball “if you could be any superhero” questions—and how to create the questions and evaluate the answers that differentiate people by the attitudes that are the most important to success in your organization.

A benefit of determining the attitudes that work best in your organization is that you can begin to clearly communicate those attitudes to your current employees and develop high performers throughout the whole organization.

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Global Achievement Gap Talent Wins

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:42 PM
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Grow: Taking Your Purpose to the Next Level


Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, believes that businesses must rethink their purpose to achieve far better results. But not just the most apparent purpose, but a higher-order ideal or purpose. For example, Johnnie Walker exists to make great whiskey, but its higher-order ideal is to celebrate journeys of progress and success.

Starbucks must make great coffee, but it must do more if it is to attract people and innovate in ways that make life better for the people they serve both inside and outside the organization. “It’s necessary,” writes Stengel in Grow, “to want to be the best-performing enterprise around, with the highest standards, the best people, and the most satisfied customers. However, this simply doesn’t aim high enough and look far enough ahead. To hit higher targets and stay out in front of the competition requires an ideal.”To that end, Starbucks also exists to create connections for self-discovery and inspiration. It’s what fuels passion and creates meaningful work.

“A brand ideal of improving people’s lives is the only sustainable way to recruit, unite, and inspire all the people a business touches, from employees to customers.” Stengel believes that a higher-order brand ideal must improve people’s lives in one of five fields of fundamental human values:

Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility; create moments of happiness that engage our thoughts and emotions as well as our physical senses. (Coca-Cola, Zappos, Lindt)

Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways. Key concepts in this field are: connect, listen, reach, and community. (Airtel, Fed Ex, Blackberry, Natura)

Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences. Helps customers learn, gives them powerful tools, and invites them to reinvent themselves and their world. (Apple, Discovery Communications, Pampers, Red Bull)

Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality; supporting self-expression and inspiring passion. (Calvin Klein, Heineken, L’Occitane)

Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories. (Accenture, IBM, Method, Seventh Generation)

Stengel’s bases his conclusions on a ten-year growth study involving 50,000 brands. The study tracked the connection between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy. The result was “The Stengel 50.” In the 2000s, an investment in these companies would have been 400 percent more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500. “If you’re willing to embrace the same concept and align your business with a fundamental human ideal, you can achieve extraordinary growth in your own business and your own career. My research shows that your growth rate can triple.”

As a side note, whether or not the study suffers from the Halo Effect is beside the point. Stengel’s point is good psychology. Success is more complex than any one factor. More good decisions than bad (intelligent people make dumb mistakes too), timing, and luck all play a part too. And then great companies get off track, not because they were doing the wrong thing, but because they stop doing them or failed to adapt appropriately. The ideas presented in Grow are what worked for Stengel for the time he was at Procter & Gamble and properly applied may work for you too. Generally, if it is based on sound principles, it’s always worth consideration. And Sengel’s ideas are.

One implication of the study is interesting. Stengel reports that the “study challenged P&G’s paradigm of moving people around frequently. The companies that were growing the fastest had a different paradigm. In recruiting and hiring they looked for people whose values fit with their brands and tended to keep people working in the same areas for much longer.”

He categorizes the people that run The Stengel 50 as business artists. “The fastest-growing businesses in the world have a leader whose relationship to the business is not primarily that of an operator, no matter how savvy, but an artist whose primary medium is an ideal.”

The business case for ideals is about playing a role in the lives of both customers and employees at a much more important level than the competition does. It’s about connecting with people holistically: rationally and emotionally, left brain and right brain.

Stengel recommends that you continually ask four questions: How well do we understand the people who are most important to our future? What do we and our brand stand for? What do we want to stand for? How are we bringing the answers to these questions to life?

The power is in the answers and executing against them. What is your primary purpose? What do the people you serve care about beyond what they buy from you? Could you benefit from discovering your higher ideal?

Of Related Interest:
  Lead With Purpose
  Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
  5 Leadership Lessons: Artistry Unleashed

A brand ideal of improving people’s lives is the only sustainable way to recruit, unite, and inspire all the people a business touches, from employees to customers.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:00 PM
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Managing With a Conscience

We handicap our potential when we think we have to exploit others to get ahead. Succeeding is not a zero-sum game. We don’t look better when everyone else looks worse.

Frank Sonnenberg makes the case in Managing with a Conscience, that the only sustainable way to succeed is the right way—not cutting corners—emphasizing the intangibles like trust, creativity, focus, speed, flexibility, relationships, loyalty, and employee commitment. While not readily measureable, they can make or break leaders and organizations. Sonnenberg believes that leaders who have a jaded view of intangible assets will never make the commitment required to reap their full potential.

Sonnenberg discusses at length, nine critical success factors that need to be built into the organization:
  • Passion that develops commitment to the organization’s mission, values, and goals
  • An innovative and creative environment and mindset that reinvents itself every day
  • Effective, focused and consistent internal communication to set priorities that focus the organization’s efforts and people on the resources that provide the greatest potential return.
  • Devotion to service excellence
  • A learning organization that adapts well to change
  • Responds with speed
  • Maintains a flexible structure by collaborating both internally and externally
  • Emphasizes that personal networking is an efficient and effective way to solicit ideas, access new sources of information, increase business development, and attract new hires
  • Understands that trust is foundational; it is what binds us together and makes work possible.
Sonnenberg hits these issues head-on. Managing with a Conscience is both an analysis and a practical how-to book. He demonstrates how to take management platitudes beyond the letter of the law. Asking the right questions helps to take you beyond mere compliance. People often get cynical about the latest initiative because they are not implemented on a meaningful level—and consequently they never really get the results you’re looking for. Sonnenberg helps you get to the intent. From the employee bill of rights:
Employees have the right to approach management. Management should announce an open-door policy. But announcing is not enough. Employees should feel comfortable approaching management. Ask yourself if you’re in your office long enough to be approached. Are you available at convenient times or only at 7:00 a.m.? Has your administrative assistant done everything to screen you from “outsiders” except put barbed wire outside your office? When a concern was brought to your attention, in confidence, did you divulge any part of the information? Do you just go through the motions of listening? It is up to you to take the initiative and get out of your office to meet with employees. Been seen on a regular basis so people don’t think you’re avoiding them.
Sonnenberg writes, “If your organization isn’t focused, someone is probably undoing something you just completed.” How true. As he notes, when people don’t know or understand the organizational purpose, they end up going in different directions, often competing with each other. And this is true in the social media environment, too. It is not unusual to see social media participants undoing an organization’s values and beliefs because they simply don’t understand them or can’t live them. They create conflicting messages that undermine the purpose of the organization.

“The costs to society,” writes Sonnenberg, “of everyone acting like random molecules bouncing off one another is just too great. We have no time to think about what is important. We judge someone’s worth by what we see on the outside rather than their inner worth. We envy someone who has achieved success without thinking about what they did to earn it.” We can change that, if we begin with our own example first.

This comprehensive book is based on the idea that “what goes around comes around.” If you treat people right, they will treat you right. Sonnenberg believes that when you operate with the highest levels of trust and integrity, it makes you feel good about yourself, the people you work with, and the organization that you represent. It impacts how you view yourself and the way other people view you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Management


Doing More With Less

Doing More with Less

MOST companies are asking employees to do more with less. These demands may produce positive results in the short term, but they are not sustainable in the long term. “Organizations can do more with less simply by not leaving so much untapped performance on the table.” The frustration people often face in these conditions is not an engagement problem; it is more often an enablement problem.

Mark Royal and Tom Agnew of the Hay Group, explain that The Enemy of Engagement is frustration caused by a highly engaged employee’s inability to succeed in a role due to organizational barriers or the inability to bring the bulk of his or her talents, skills, and abilities to the job. Ironically, the more engaged they are, the more frustrated they get because they care more.

Doing more with less doesn’t mean conjuring higher levels of motivation out of thin air, but rather allowing motivated employees to perform at their best. It’s about harnessing and unleashing the full potential of frustrated employees—those who want to give their best but can’t due to organizational barriers and constraints.

Typically we associate better engagement with leadership, but what drives it is better management. Fixing engagement means dealing with the frustration of thwarted employees. Specific management practices detailed by the authors include:

  • Create specific, measurable goals and clearly lay out what employees need to do—the precise behaviors and activities—to achieve them.
  • Provides employees with regular, concrete, and constructive feedback about their work and its value to delivering business strategy.
  • Empower employees to make the decisions necessary to execute and excel at their jobs—and make sure employees understand which decisions they control.
  • Prioritize investments in resources and staff with an emphasis on providing employees with the tools and support they need to succeed.
  • Assign and coordinate roles with serious consideration of each employee’s strengths, reward and reinforce teamwork and collaboration.

One of the most actionable things to do is to simply ask: “How can we change things around here to help you be more effective?” By doing so “a manager creates an opportunity for an employee to speak honestly and openly about enablement issues.”

Enablement is what drives engagement and what ultimately frustrates it. Get people what they need to do their jobs and get out of the way. The Enemy of Engagement is focused on employees who are engaged, motivated, and loyal—who aren’t ready to give up—but who are experiencing frustration on the job. Ultimately, it requires that we rethink our notions of what it means to be a leader and what it means to manage. We insert ourselves far more than we should.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
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5 Leadership Lessons: What if You Could Take Control of Your Life with One Decision?

Garbage Truck

5 Leadership Lessons
GREAT leaders know they cannot let others determine their moods and behaviors. The decision is ours. David Pollay wrote The Law of the Garbage Truck to remind us that “it is not our duty to absorb the frustrations, anxieties, and disappointments of other people. We were not put on earth to carry other people’s negative energy, nor were we created to burden others with ours.” The Law of the Garbage Truck is straightforward:

Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me, you’ll be happier.

Here are five lessons from David Pollay, to help us to focus on what really matters personally and professionally:

1  The Law of the Garbage Truck is about humility. No one is perfect. You don’t have to defend yourself every time one of your imperfections is pointed out. At the same time there is no need to judge others for their imperfections. If you let garbage trucks unnecessarily activate your defenses at every turn, you’re not following the play. Instead you’re allowing someone to tease you into a battle that’s not yours to fight, thus diverting your energy from the play you’re meant to run.

2  Other people are not the only ones who bring garbage into our lives—we create plenty of our own negativity that stirs memories of our past and makes us fearful of what we imagine awaits us in the future. When negative memories are invoked, we often indulge in looking for new meanings in them. As we engage these bad memories, and as they pass through our consciousness, we strengthen them. We feel the initial mood of disappointment, anxiety, and doubt all over again. By energizing these old memories with new thinking, we give them additional importance in our lives.

3  Many people spend their lives trying to get back at garbage trucks. They feel abused, challenged, or violated after being run over by one, so their mission is to hit back as soon as they can. They often think about what they could have said or should have done and fantasize about revenge. When you center your life on revenge and ruminate about every provocation and slight, you jeopardize everyone’s health, safety, and happiness—including your own.

4  For the Garbage Trucks in our lives: People who act like Garbage Trucks allow their anger, frustration, insecurity, and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them. Fortunately, people do not act like Garbage Trucks all the time. Eventually they’ll leave the safety of being a Garbage Truck—if even for a moment. They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer their help on some occasion. It’s then that you must recognize their best. Let them know the good you see in them. Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you. When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them see what is possible in their lives. You give energy to what is right about them. Your love and attention may be what enables them to change.

5  What about venting? Venting helps people understand your problems. Dumping leaves people feeling burdened by your problems. Venting is based on permission and turns into dumping when you do not have permission to unload your complaints, worries, frustrations, and disappointments on someone. Venting is time sensitive. Dumping, on the other hand, seems to have no end. It starts without consent and suggests that there is no likely solution. You waste people’s time and burden them with your garbage.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 PM
| Comments (0) | Five Lessons , Human Resources , Management , Motivation