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Opinions and information on leadership and leadership development by Dan McCarthy
Updated: 2 hours 4 min ago

Leadership Comes in Many Forms. Helping Business Save the Earth.

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Michael Lenox:
Humanity faces a number of critical sustainability challenges, global climate change chief among them.  In my new book with Ronnie Chatterji, Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability, we assert that to address these challenges requires substantial, disruptive innovation across a wide number of sectors.  Electrical vehicles in transportation.  Renewable energy in electricity generation.  Electrification in heavy industrials.  And the list goes on. Such innovation cannot and will not happen without the active involvement of the business community.  Innovation is more than invention.  It is the creation of commercial viable products and service.  Markets are where the value of innovations are articulated.  Innovation requires creating value that exceeds the cost of production.  Business, and markets more broadly, are often the catalyst for innovation and are thus a critical players in our innovation challenge. However, the burden of our sustainability challenges does not solely rest on business leaders.  Rather than berate business for inaction or implore them on the business case for sustainability, we assert that we need to think of the broader institutional envelope – the system – that shapes and influences how markets function.  This systems perspective highlights, in the famous worlds of Pogo, that “we have met the enemy and he is us”.  Or put more positively, we all have a responsibility to bear and a role to play. This suggests a new type of leadership – one that Jeff Walker and his coauthors have referred to as “shapers”. Shapers understand that one must look for levers to influence the system – to shape it to desired ends.  Command and control does not work.  The innovation system has a momentum and logic of its own.  To increase the innovative output of business, especially the output of sustainable technologies, requires pushes and nudges along the edges.  Individual action may seem ineffectual, but collectively such action can have a profound impact on how the system behaves. Business leaders clearly have a role to play in driving innovative new sustainable technologies that disrupt current markets.  So do customers that demand green goods and services and investors who seek out investment opportunities in sustainable technologies.  Government can both help create demand “pull” through pricing interventions and regulation and technology “push” by subsidizing R&D and funding university research.  Social ventures and NGO’s, of all shapes and sizes, can help catalyze the innovation ecosystem, for example, by creating market transparency through labeling initiatives or motivating corporate action through boycotts and protests.  Universities and national laboratories can provide the basic research that drives new technologies.  Entrepreneurial communities can incubate nascent technologies and ventures through accelerator programs and crowdfunding.  Banks can create green bonds and other novel forms of investing in sustainable technologies. And so on. Ultimately, each one of us has an opportunity to lead, to shape the institutional environment so as to catalyze the innovation ecosystem to generate more of the disruptive sustainable technologies that we need to meet our sustainability challenges.  Time is of the essence.  Only through collective leadership can we meet the challenges before us.  Michael Lenox is co-author of Can Business Save the Earth? and Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. His work has been cited by the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist. In 2009, he was recognized as a Faculty Pioneer by the Aspen Institute and as the top strategy professor under 40 by the Strategic Management Society. In 2011, he was named one of the top 40 business professors under 40 by Poets & Quants.
Categories: Blogs

Beyond Self Awareness: Leadership’s Next Frontier

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Glain Roberts-McCabe:

This year, I published my first book. When I was trying to think of a book title, I reached out to our community of ambitious leaders for advice.As I polled them with ideas (100 Ways to Bullet Proof Your Career, The No Bullshit Guide to Getting Ahead, Leadership Truths from the Trenches), the one that become the hands down winner was the one that I threw out as a joke: Did I REALLY Sign Up for This?!

Maybe I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. We are, after all, in a work world where we’re pulling terms from the US military to describe the levels of disruption we’re all feeling. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) has gone mainstream.Many of us feel like we’re going into battle each day. As leaders, we’re often simply trying to survive and make it to the next round of the fight.

No wonder we lose sight of our ‘why’. Work is exhausting. We’ve sped up technology and innovation but remain trapped in models, processes and working norms that were built in the early twentieth century. We are in the Age of Collaboration and yet bound by the Age of Industrialization.We focus on the acquisition of knowledge and yet ignore how to increase our mind’s capacity to handle all this bombardment of data.

Where we used to think of self-insight and self-awareness as the ‘holy grail’ in leadership development, it is time to move beyond simply ‘knowing’ who we are as leaders to ‘reshaping’ who we are as leaders.Here are three ways we can expand our individual and collective capacity in order to engage fully in this accelerated world of work.

1. Get PresentThere’s a reason why mindfulness has gone mainstream. In a 24/7 world, our brains need some forced downtime. I tell my clients to grab an app (I recommend Headspace), join a program, download a podcast or simply start taking one purposeful breath before entering any room.

Seriously. Breathing alone will be a game changer. Check-in: where’s your breath right now as you read this? Is it shallow and at the top of your chest? Or nice and deep in your belly?

Take a breath. A nice, deep belly breath. Ah...

2. Manage Your EnergyFor the past twenty years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about working to strengths but not enough time thinking about how we manage energy. Given that a strength is the intersection between our capability and our passion, our attention goes easily to cultivating capability but we assume that passion won’t falter.

To manage in a complex, challenging workplace, we need to pay attention to how we keep the energy that fuels our passion buoyant. By taking control of your calendar and putting your ‘big energy boosts’ in first, you increase your odds of maintaining your motivation for the tasks that drain you.

Managing energy is one of the keys to building resilience.3. Be Intentional

With so much disruption around us, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of our day-to-day leadership. We lose track of our higher purpose (our ‘why’ as Simon Sinek would say) and forget about the impact we can make on those around us. Maya Angelou famously said, ‘I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’How easy it is for our strengths to become overused in times of pressure. How quickly we can unintentionally succumb to behaviours that negatively impact those around us.

Leading with intention means stating your intention before the chips are down and the stress levels are high.I am kind. I am patient. I am generous.

What are your intention statements? Read and repeat them every day, multiple times a day. Watch how your inner dialog changes as this mantra of intention takes hold.Self-insight for leaders is great. Being self-absorbed with all this self-awareness is not. The future will belong to those leaders with the ability to expand their repertoire and adapt their approach to meet a world that’s accelerating at a pace never seen before.

This is the age of the mind and it’s time we start thinking about how we’re cultivating it.
Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder of the Roundtable, a place where leaders cultivate their leadership, together through group and team coaching. She is the author of Did I REALLY Sign Up for This?! #leadership truths on how to drive, survive and thrive. The Roundtable was named the top External HR Advisory/Consultancy of the Year in 2016 by the Canadian HR Awards. Visit their website at
Categories: Blogs

What's Your Leadership B Side?

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Suzanne Vickberg and Kim Christfort:

Some of you will remember the days when listening to music didn't mean streaming it on your phone but instead putting on a record. And if that record was a 45, after listening to the hit song on the A side, you had to flip that little black disc over to hear the other song (the B side). The A side was why you bought the record but you got the B side song too whether you wanted it or not. As a leader, you too have an A and a B side. The A side features those strengths that are most coveted by organizations and teams and that make you valuable. Maybe you spark energy and imagination, or instead you bring order and rigor. Perhaps you generate momentum, or rather you draw teams together. These contributions are what set you apart as a leader. But like those old-fashioned records, you have a B side whether you want it or not. These characteristics are the flip side of your strengths, and they’re part of who you are as a leader, too. How your B side will impact your team depends on your leadership style. If you’re the type who focuses on possibilities and inspiring creativity in others, you may also be so impractical that your team is left scratching their heads about how to execute on anything. Or, if instead you provide a stable foundation that mitigates risk and makes people feel secure, your team may end up being too cautious and inflexible for today's fast-paced environment. If your style is to push your team hard to excel and rise to a challenge, you might also prioritize results over people with detrimental effects on the way team members relate to one another. Or, if on the other hand you build trust by prioritizing people and a collaborative culture, you might overemphasize getting everyone to agree, which can discourage differing opinions and lead to Groupthink.

So what to do when you can’t escape your B side?

We suggest you don't go it alone. Leadership shouldn't be a solitary venture and neither should exploring how to manage your own strengths and weaknesses. Bring others into the effort by letting them know what you’re trying to do. Learn together about different working styles, both the positives and negatives that tend to accompany them. Acknowledge your own B side traits and ask for help in managing their impact on the team. The great thing about this strategy is that by making yourself vulnerable, you are building trust with others. And it also makes it okay for others to be vulnerable and to focus on their own improvements. So go ahead and admit to your weaknesses. Your team likely already sees them anyway.

Another way to offset your B side might be to consider taking on a leadership partner, or co-lead, with a different leadership style. If a co-lead of equal rank isn’t the right solution for you, a second-in-command who’s different can also be a good balance. If you tend to get bogged down in considering too many perspectives, choose someone who can help you decide when to cut off discussion and make a decision. If you tend to push your team too hard or fast, partner with someone who might be able to help you see when it’s important to take a breather. Your leadership partner will have a B side too, and assuming it's different from yours, you can also help shore them up. Your team will benefit from more diverse strengths (two A sides!), and the less desirable aspects of your leadership may have less impact too.

Kim Christfort is the national managing director of The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience
team, which helps executives tackle tough business challenges through immersive, facilitated Lab experiences, and client experience IP such as Business Chemistry. As part of this role, Kim leads US Deloitte Greenhouses, permanent spaces designed to promote exploration and problem solving away from business as usual.

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz) is The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience team’s very own social-personality psychologist and the Business Chemistry lead researcher, which means she studies how people’s thoughts, behaviors, and preferences are influenced by both who they are and the situations they’re in. She uses Business Chemistry to help teams explore how the mix of perspectives brought by their individual members influences their work together. 
Categories: Blogs

Hit Songs and Great Leadership

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Brant Menswar and Jim Trick:

While on the surface, you would think the goal of any songwriter is to write a song that dominates the airwaves, flies up the charts, sells millions of records and wins a coveted Grammy Award. In reality, any successful songwriter is only trying to do one thing…connect heads and hearts. By doing so, we encourage the listener to become emotionally involved and internalize the song in a way that is unique to them. It even enables listeners to better remember the lyrics and melody by tapping into their limbic brain. If a song can inspire that level of connection, the awards and end results will take care of themselves.

So what does this have to do leadership?

A great leader shouldn’t be solely focused on driving record profits or earning that year-end bonus. A great leader must also connect heads and hearts. More specifically, an inspired leader is constantly trying to align organizational values with employee feelings. When we are successful in aligning values and feelings, our teams become more agile and adept at handling any change they may face. Your business is changing on a daily basis. In fact, that change brings with it an enormous amount of uncertainty. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to view uncertainty as a threat, so aligning values and feelings and connecting heads and hearts is no simple task.
Leadership guru and author, Simon Sinek recently said, “To affect change inside an organization we must remember why people resist change. People don't fear change, people like comfort. The status quo is more comfortable than the unknown.” 

With all due respect, Simon is partially correct but doesn’t tell the whole story. People do like things to be comfortable, however, people in fact do fear change. To be more specific, people fear the uncertainty that change always travels with. Surprisingly, fear is not the biggest obstacle to navigating change. 

In a recent Rock ‘N’ Roll With It survey we conducted about change, we found that while nearly 90% of respondents said they desired meaningful change in their lives, the number one obstacle stopping people from achieving that change was discipline (30%).  

How does this impact great leadership? It means that we need to help those we lead stay disciplined while working towards personal and organizational goals. We do that by first understanding that discipline can be broken into two parts.  


Being disciplined begins with commitment. Gathering a strong commitment from those we lead will have the greatest impact on achieving the positive results we are responsible for producing. So how do we inspire a level of commitment that will move the needle within our organizations? 

In order for anyone to consistently stay committed to something, they must define their core values. Core values are developed over a lifetime and are what guide our decision-making process. Unfortunately, most people have never taken the time to discern what their four or five core values actually are. This can lead to decisions driven heavily on “feelings” and that is a recipe for unstable, volatile, and potentially dangerous results.   

Have you ever been faced with a decision that was incredibly difficult and kept you up at night worrying? We all have been in that position at one point in our lives. But those of us who have taken the time to define what truly matters to us can reach a decision much faster knowing that the decision made was in alignment with our core values. No matter what the outcome.  

A great leader helps those around them define their core values to enable more efficient and burden-free decision-making. Bringing these core values into the light actually makes it easier to stay committed. It allows us to connect on a much deeper level to the work at hand so when an obstacle arises, we can find the proper motivation to push through and stay focused on achieving our goals. 


The second part of discipline is forgiveness. It begins with forgiving ourselves for past failures and lack of commitment. Staying 100% committed to anything is incredibly difficult at best and damn near impossible at worst. As humans, we love to punish ourselves for not being committed enough to reach our goals and aspirations. By not forgiving ourselves, we bring that baggage to the start of every new project and before you know it, there is no room left to make mistakes.  

Performing with the sole expectation of perfection is a soul-crushing, anxiety-ridden, creativity-killing endeavor -- one that can lead to failure, which will require more forgiveness and the cycle starts again.  

A great leader helps their people accept forgiveness and encourages the high level of commitment needed to positively affect change. Some days that level is greater than others. Making people aware that you understand that commitment level provides them with the freedom to make mistakes and take risks.  

It’s not just the individuals that need help forgiving themselves, but an effective leader can also help them forgive the organization for falling short of expectations and breaking past promises. Managing veteran employees who have been around long enough to witness disappointments can have a profound effect on employee morale. Helping them establish their core values and keeping them focused on the current work at hand will make it easier to align values and feelings.  

At the end of the day, being a great leader means making things personal and taking an interest in helping those you lead to become better individuals. When you help someone define their core values, you are providing them with shelter to weather life’s storms that go far beyond “work.” By encouraging and guiding their commitment, you allow them to achieve things they once thought impossible.  
As a leader, you have a choice as to the type of song you can write. We believe everyone has a hit song inside of them. What’s yours?

About the Authors:

Brant Menswar is the co-authorof Rock ‘N’ Roll With It: Overcoming the Challenge of Change, a sought after keynote speaker, author and award-winning musician. Through his work as Managing Partner with Banding People Together, he has helped clients navigate change and influenced the collaborative culture of companies like NASA, Netflix, Verizon, Sony Pictures, Hard Rock and dozens of others. As the front man for the critically acclaimed blues/soul band, Big Kettle Drum, Menswar's voice has been described as “gritty and magnificent” by industry titans like Billboard and Sirius/XM Radio. Brant’s private fundraising concerts have raised over a million dollars for the non-profit organizations he supports. He serves on the Board of Directors for Children’s Home Society of Florida and is a graduate of Florida Southern College.

Jim Trick is the co-authorof Rock ‘N’ Roll With It: Overcoming the Challenge of Change, a certified life coach, author, speaker and acclaimed folk musician. Trained by the prestigious Coach Training Institute and certified by the International Coach Federation, Jim has built a highly successful coaching practice in Marblehead, MA. Through his work with Banding People Together, Jim has helped organizations like Focus Brands, Hampton, SunTrust, NASA, ESPN and Cisco build a culture of effective collaboration. He is a regular guest lecturer at Berklee College of Music. Jim has founded two inner city food outreach programs for the homeless and continues to live his passion of working with people who want to personally and professionally live with greater freedom, fulfillment and success.
Categories: Blogs

The 9 (or 99?) Ps of Leadership

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Sander Flaum:

Back in 2001, when I was asked to lead a forum in leadership at what is now the Fordham Gabelli Graduate School of Business, the concept was to bring noted leaders (business and otherwise) into a classroom where they could share their experiences and insights with MBA students. I believed that if students could meet successful leaders in a setting that encouraged open dialogue, we could transcend rote instruction and create life-learning experiences.

However, as a succession of leaders, including William Toppeta, CEO of MetLife, Myrtle Potter, COO at Genentech, Howard Safir, New York City Police Commissioner, and many others spoke at the Forum, it became clear that the concepts we were uncovering were in need of an organizing tool.

Then, as now, business writing was replete with alliterative formulas. A little Internet research will turn up “the 7 Ps of Marketing,” “the 7 Cs of Success,” “the 4 Ls of Retirement Planning,” and so on. To anyone who thinks these lists are a bit corny, consider that Jack Welch swore by his 3 Es: energy, energize, and edge. If an alliterative list was good enough for Welch, it’s good enough for me.

At the Forum, we decided to structure our insights about Leadership into Ps – and we didn’t stop with 7 – we eventually agreed upon 9! Were we the first to propose Leadership Ps? All I can say is that I haven’t found any Leadership list that antedates ours.

1. People – One of our early guest speakers, William Toppeta, put it this way: “Focus on the people and the numbers will come. Focus on the numbers and the people will go.”

2. Purpose – Obviously, you shouldn’t be leading if you don’t know where you’re going.

3. Passion – It’s not enough to be passionate about the job yourself, it’s also your responsibility to cultivate passion within the organization – not to rain on anyone’s parade.

4. Performance – Be as obsessed with your own performance as the performance of those who report to you.

5. Persistence – Jeff Rich, former CEO of Affiliated Computer Systems, told the Forum: “Persistence is about loving something so much that you refuse to ever abandon it.”

6. Perspective – Remember the role you and your organization are in the big picture.

7. Paranoia – It’s not worrying about oneself, but fear that your organization may be in jeopardy or missing opportunities. “Hypervigilance” is probably more accurate, but it doesn’t begin with P and it doesn’t have the same punch.

8. Principles – Christine Poon, a top executive at Johnson & Johnson, put it this way to the Forum: “A company’s values can provide a powerful inspiration and ultimately shape everything about the company.”

9. Practice – It’s essential to keep working at being a leader constantly – once you accept the responsibility of leading, there’s no holding back.

But wait, there’s more!

In the course of teaching these 9 Ps, I’ve noticed something peculiar. Most students carefully record each “P” in their notebooks (classroom habits are hard to break) and ask if they will be on the final. But a few more curious souls will grasp the process behind the 9 Ps and use them a springboard to inspire their own thinking about leadership. These people typically accost me outside the classroom, perhaps in an elevator or hallway, and after a moment, say something like: “Sander, I had an idea for a 10th P.”

Remembering P3 – Passion (and not raining on parades), I’ll say: “Great, tell me about it!”

And then I hear the suggestions: Probity, Process, Progressive, Poise, Productivity, Pursuit, Perfection – and more.

Do any – or all -- belong in our list? Who knows how many Ps could be used to describe Leadership? For me, I’m satisfied with the 9 we developed at the Forum. But if someone wants to explore further, I’ll never try to hold them back.

As a leader, when you teach people in your organization, you’re not bestowing a gift. You’re planting a seed. A list like the 9 Ps is a trellis that can help their own ideas grow.

Sander Flaum, M.B.A., co-author of Boost Your Career: How To Make An Impact, Get
Recognized, and Build The Career You Want, is CEO of Flaum Navigators, a consulting firm that helps companies accelerate business growth through transformational ideas that galvanize leadership, brand building, and innovation. He is chair of the Fordham Leadership Forum at the Fordham University Gabelli Graduate School of Business, Executive-in-Residence at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, and is the author of several books including The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find The Essence of Leadership.
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Categories: Blogs

The $15 Billion Leadership Mistake

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Ken Pasch:

Roughly $15 billion is spent every year on training leaders in the U.S. Are those paying the bills getting their money’s worth? A number of C-suite executives have begun to wonder. To get more out of training employees—and to keep it from being a serious financial mistake—executives need to change the focus from “training” to “development.” Training is a great tool that helps people deal with objective decisions. For example, let’s say you have a friend who’s a skilled mechanic. He’s been trained and has the experience to diagnose and resolve mechanical issues on just about any vehicle.

But a mechanic, though skilled, probably isn’t trained to lead other mechanics in the shop or to oversee a garage’s crew. There are stark differences and required skill sets when you’re tasked with leading people. To start, leadership decisions are much more subjective because there are few absolutes. There may be some standards to rely on (such as, don’t mess with people’s money, honey, or family) but people are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. Leaders must adjust their leadership styles accordingly. Recent surveys show that lack of development in this area has been devastating. According to one survey, only 21 percent of employees feel motivated to do outstanding work. Another survey reveals that 85 percent of employees aren’t engaged, or are actively disengaged. These unhappy employees have cost organizations nearly $7 trillion dollars in lost productivity. So there’s a bit of room for improvement here, wouldn’t you agree?

To be effective, leader development must be a process, not an event. Yet most programs for leaders are geared to fit within the standard one- to three-day conference. There must be a commitment to ongoing development if we are to make a serious dent in helping good people become great leaders who unlock, engage, and optimize the potential in their respective organizations. We must also recognize that leader development cannot be one-size-fits-all. Think of the situations the CEO of Johnson and Johnson deals with compared to those of a young leader right out of college. How should leader development address varying levels of experience? I’ve found the solution is to stack development into three levels: from Emerging Leaders, to Leaders with History, and, finally, to Leaders of Leaders. 

These leaders all need tools that will work from the most basic to advanced levels. One of these tools is the Make Your M.A.R.K.! CycleTM. The cycle begins by adopting a mindsetthat ensures you’re always aware of how you impact others. You’ll become more mindful of your decisions and of the needs of those around you. The cycle continues with taking actions that unleash potential in those you lead, which will help you achieve great results. And the cycle completes as you become what I call a knowledge leader—a person who passes on hard-earned lessons as they mentor others, so the cycle can repeat and knowledge is continually passed on. Developing leaders in this way—into people who lead and positively impact others—will benefit your organization, its staff, and everyone within a leader’s reach, which is surely worth every one of those 15 billion dollars.
 Ken Pasch brings over 30 years’ experience in revolutionizing leader development within a broad range of organizations, including the U.S. Military, Johnson & Johnson, the AmericanCollege of Healthcare Executives, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. He is the founder of KiVisions, Inc., which advises good people on how to become great leaders, and serves as faculty in executive education at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. Pasch is a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, where he served proudly and with distinction. His new book is On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar. Learn more at
Categories: Blogs

Active Listening: the Key to Leadership Success

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Richard Lindenmuth:

Leaders are often thought of as the individual undertaking the most personal risk. Even the military has morphed their ideals on leadership roles, shifting away from the highest ranked official and instead citing the individual or group who knows the mission and territory the best.

Today, the key step for being a true leader is active listening. Active listening is the act of repeating back, in your own words, what you believe was said.  Active listening focuses on more than just hearing the words, it is about understanding them to make sure that you are on the same page with others in the discussion. If you start with active listening as leader you can determine who understands the mission the best, who is most capable of success and what kind of support is required for a positive outcome.

Effective listening skills, make it possible to select leadership and those responsible for success. Many of us have heard that a good leader surrounds themselves with brighter and stronger individuals. However, how do you assess leadership potential when a predetermined hierarchical organization already exists?

This concept is combated by leadership that is visible and communicative at all levels. The In Search of Excellenceauthor, Tom Peters utilizes the term “management by walking around”. If those in charge do not not have direct contact with all levels involved, how can they really lead?

I often tell upper management that they have earned their stripes and that I view them as “the Elder council”. No serious strategic moves will be made without them being part of the decision-making; however, markets, customers, supply chains, manufacturing processes and everything else in the age of “digital connectivity” changes too fast for a traditional organization to react in a timely fashion. Meaning constant communication needs to flow in both directions. 

John P. Kotter wrote the book XLR8, which takes this concept on leading and describes a dual system organization meant to keep traditional hierarchy in place but facilitates direct and timely moves via a second organization that does not follow the former.

Active listening and fluid communication takes time and cannot be accomplished overnight. After absorbing a new operation, I visited the factory floor. I could see people looking at the floor or walking the other way. When I actively listened to these employees I found that the consistent understanding was that management only comes out onto the floor if there was a problem, or someone was being fired. Simple communication on why I was on the floor, paired with their conveyed worries, allowed for better understanding and encouraged a greater team environment.

Instant recognition by the leader should be added as one of the key steps in today’s world. Take away the fear, show people that you are willing to listen and take positive action based on the messages of those around you. Show them you appreciate their daily contributions. It has been shown that a yearly bonus or a salary increase do not have the impact of instant recognition, a thank you, a photo, a small gift card, or dinner with a spouse paid for by the company for their contribution.

A leader does not have to ask for or make strategic decisions every day, effective leadership can be found in the small details. A manufacturing worker suggested quality would improve if the factory was better lit. One week later, LED lighting was installed. You could feel the change in atmosphere that a leader was actually listening.

Customers have a direct impact on the direction and success of a business. Pareto’s Rule suggests that 20% of your customers represent 80% of your profit margin. A leader should pay particular attention and listen to those customers.

Active listening, instant recognition, being visible at all levels of the corporation, good communications. This is leadership!

About the author:
Richard Lindenmuth has more than 30 years of general management experience in domestic and international operations. He is noted for his comprehensive execution skills in both high-growth and distressed environments. He was president of ITT’s Business and Consumer Communications Group, where he led 12,000 employees through rapid deregulation, grew revenues and profits to set records. He has also acted as interim CEO for a number of companies, including Styrotek Inc., where he returned the company to solid profits in just a few months. Richard is also the author of “The Outside the Box Executive” and “The International Executive.”
Categories: Blogs

Ethics Is Serious Business

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by John Hooker:

Everyone knows that an organization can’t function without physical infrastructure---communications, transportation, computer technology, and the rest.  Yet we rely equally on social infrastructure.  It consists of the social practices that allow us to relate successfully to coworkers, customers, investors, and the community at large.  Building and maintaining physical infrastructure requires a certain kind of know-how, which we call engineering.  Maintaining our social infrastructure also requires know-how, because we must develop ground rules that make our social practices sustainable.  The field that provides this kind of know-how is called ethics.

This means that ethics is serious business.  Ethical dilemmas are at least as hard to resolve as engineering problems, and at least as urgent, particularly in our complex and fast-moving world.  They require careful analysis, not gut feeling or simplistic platitudes.  When does online data harvesting become invasion of privacy?  When does pharmaceutical pricing become price gouging?  When does cost saving become worker exploitation?  When does product promotion become false advertising?  When does socializing become sexual harassment? When organizations go astray ethically, it is usually due to a lack of ethical competence, not bad people.  Naturally, there are plenty of scoundrels out there.  The media loves to tell us about the Bernie Madoffs and Martin Shkrelis of the world.  But most of us are basically good people who are unsure how to navigate the treacherous ethical waters of modern work life.  Even when there are bad people around, we often lack the concepts and vocabulary to explain why they are wrong.

To illustrate this, we need look no further than one of the most famous case studies in professional ethics.  In the 1970s, the Ford Motor Company discovered that its budget car, the Pinto, was prone to burst into flames after low-speed rear-end collisions.  The company could have corrected the problem for $11 per car but decided against the fix – until the problem mushroomed into a public relations disaster, and Federal regulators mandated a recall.  One of the managers involved in the affair was an idealistic young man named Dennis Gioia, who went into the auto industry to make a contribution to society.  He wrote an honest article about his experience years later, after he became a business school professor.  Gioia supported Ford’s decision at the time, based on a plausible cost-benefit analysis.  Yet the flaws in Ford’s analysis are immediately evident to someone properly trained in ethical reasoning.  The problem was not bad people, but bad thinking. It is a relatively straightforward matter to hire staff with engineering competence.  But how does one recognize ethical competence?  How does one motivate staff to acquire this competence and apply it?

The first step is to understand how people grow ethically.  Beginning with Lawrence Kohlberg, developmental psychologists have discovered that ethical competence tends to develop in stages that parallel social and cognitive development.  There are various accounts of what the stages are, but I find it helpful to identify three broad stages that one can recognize in the staff of almost any organization. The first stage is heteronomy, in which people take their beliefs and values from others.  In youth, norms are typically supplied by family and school, and in adulthood, by the organizations to which one belongs.  The second stage is ideology, in which people begin to do their own thinking but buy into a thought system that claims to have an answer for everything.  One often finds this perspective among teens and young adults, but it can persist into later years.  The third stage is autonomy, in which people acknowledge the validity of different points of view but strive toward a rational consensus.  It arrives in mature adulthood, if at all.

Employees and managers in the autonomy stage are ready for mature leadership.  They will respond to ethical reasoning and can learn to apply it themselves.  Those in the ideological stage may have charisma but are best avoided when top leadership responsibilities are assigned.  Those in the heteronomy stage will absorb the values of the organization, particularly when it advances their careers.  It is for them that the organization’s ethical norms must be made as clear as possible. Training in ethical analysis can play a key role in developing ethical leadership.  It gives those with autonomy the intellectual tools they need to make responsible decisions and build consensus around them.  It can help nudge others toward ethical maturity.

Ethics training can take at least three forms.  One is an ethics course in business or professional school.  One can look for this on the resume, although many such courses do not teach ethical reasoning skills.  A second form is ethical training on the job, which can be effective if it goes beyond simply sitting around and exchanging opinions.  Participants must be asked to analyze dilemmas, and their analysis critiqued.  Perhaps the most effective form, however, is a practice of ethical discourse within the organization.  Beginning with top management, ethical analysis should be consistently used in meetings and memos.  It should play a central role in explaining and justifying company policy.  People tend to absorb the thought patterns to which they are exposed on a regular basis. An organization that takes ethics seriously, and develops ethical competence in its emerging leaders, is well on the way to building a sustainable social infrastructure.

John Hooker is a T. Jerome Holleran Professor of Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, and Professor of Operations Research, at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and author of the new book TAKING ETHICS SERIOUSLY:  Why Ethics Is An Essential Tool For The Modern Workplace.  He has also held visiting posts at several universities, most recently the London School of Economics and the State University of Campinas, Brazil. He brings his extensive background in philosophy and logic to the rigorous analysis of ethical dilemmas, and his background in management science to making sure the dilemmas are realistic. He has published over 170 research articles, eight books, and five edited volumes on ethics, philosophy, operations research, and cross-cultural issues, including Business Ethics as Rational Choice and Working across Cultures. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the world’s only academic journal dedicated to teaching business ethics, and he developed the ethics program in the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.
Categories: Blogs

High Touch/Personalization

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 07:44
Guest post from Phyllis Weiss Haserot:
Leaders and human resources executives can learn a great deal from baseball’s top executives at the Chicago Cubs. They have success in signing stellar recruits, and have made their strategy of recruiting “the whole person” into the envy of other major league teams. 

In an age when so much business is transacted electronically at a distance, the Cubs push hard for in-person meetings in order to identify what is important to each recruiting target and establish a personal connection. Also, the high touch culture approach produces valuable word-of-mouth when solicited players ask current players how well their families are treated. They hear about neighborhoods players reside in, local attractions, and the kids’ room at the stadium. 

The formerly lowly Cubs team has snagged the most desirable free agents since Theo Epstein arrived as president of baseball operations, and he and the general manager, Jed Hoyer, applied the competitive strategy of selling the whole life approach: You are more than a baseball player. 

For example, pitcher Tyler Chatwood, whose wife was pregnant when the Cubs targeted him was presented, unsolicited, with a list of recommended physicians and hospitals in the area at their first meeting. Appealing to the most important influencers in the players’ lives is working, as they have signed all the free agents at the top of their list – and almost all of them for less money than other teams offered. Senior leaders -- take notice! 

Monetary compensation is not the Cubs’ most important tool or incentive offered. They don’t enter a salary bidding war. So the players regard team executives as straight-shooters.  

One agent quoted by the Wall Street Journal said the Cubs “sell the crap out of we value you as a person.” This is a very appealing factor for the mostly Millennial players baseball covets now. They see themselves as multi-faceted and family focused. Granted during the season they put in more hours than most highly paid professional service and other knowledge workers, constantly honing their skills, both physical and mental. They value and demand their form of work/life balance, and the Cubs management leads with buying into that. 

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, a successful recruit, told the Wall Street Journal that players are rushing to join an organization they expect to make them holistically happy. The personalized, high touch approach to recruiting and retention has made a huge difference in the overall team success. 

I regard the perception of personalization and high touch, as one of the crucial skills for success at work for marketing, recruiting, talent development and retention.  

While I am an avid baseball fan and love this example, which resonates with most individuals and is relevant to all industries, most of my work has been with professional services and knowledge workers. From my experience, I advise you to consider:

- In-person visits with clients/customers at least a few times a year, even if there is no ongoing business at the time. It’s even more valuable than for sustaining business development opportunities and identifying needs you can address.

- Providing education on specific issues external stakeholders already or likely will face.

- Training them on organizational culture, processes, and continually improving the working relationship, keeping intergenerational concerns in mind.

- Tracking the changing demographics and generational preferences of both external and internal constituencies to be sure you can mesh their needs with your business demands and be flexible.

- Within the capacity of your company, allowing for individualized career paths.

Challenge your assumptions about what employees, clients, alliance partners and referral sources consider most important and how they want to interact -- by asking regularly. Get to know them and what they truly value. Deepen relationships. Keep the conversation going. Remember the Cubs and their high touch culture.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps organizations solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients to achieve better productivity and knowledge transfer, retention, succession planning and business development results.  She is president of Practice Development Counsel, and author of “You Can’t Google It!! – The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.” For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs

Ten Years After Ford’s Spectacular Turnaround, What Alan Mulally Reveals About Brand-Inspired Cultural Revolution

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Denise Lee Yohn:

It's been 10 years since Alan Mulally pulled off what has been considered one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in U.S. history.  HIs leadership of the venerable Ford Motor Company's recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 has been celebrated and analyzed from many perspectives -- the development of industry-leading products and partnerships with technology and consumer electronics companies, the revival of the Taurus brand, the consolidation of global operations into a single business unit, etc.  But one angle that hasn't yet been covered is the brand-inspired cultural revolution he led inside the organization.
When Mulally arrived at the struggling company, he set his sights on dismantling the toxic culture that had metastasized within it. In the excellent book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, Bryce Hoffman wrote about the lack of transparency, fractious business units, and a preoccupation with self-preservation that had come to define Ford’s culture. Meetings resembled mortal combat, Hoffman described, with executives regularly looking for vulnerabilities among their peers to exploit.
Given the state of internal affairs at the company, it’s no wonder the Ford brand was struggling on the outside. With its leaders distracted by playing politics and defending turfs, the Ford brand had become listless and unfocused. Ford’s product lineup hadn't kept up with changing consumer tastes and different regions pursued different automobile configurations which diluted the brand identity around the world.
Mulally challenged this dysfunction head on and championed a single, clear vision for the organization:  “One Ford,”  With One Ford, the company set about reviving what Mulally called the "phenomenally powerful" Ford brand, promoting “the critical ingredients that made a Ford a Ford.” and then working as one team to deliver on those, as a Fortune article explains.
One Ford was grounded in the original purpose that prompted Henry Ford to start the company—to “build a car for the great multitude.”  The resurrection of this vision conveyed to everyone inside the company and out that Ford was back in the business of “serving all around the world a complete family of cars that are best-in-class,” Mulally explained. With One Ford, he put the purpose and values of the Ford brand at the center of the organization and unified the company’s people, plans, operations, and products to restore the brand to automotive leadership.
He instituted weekly business performance review (BPR) meetings that required a new level of rigor, scrutiny, and detailed analysis from the company’s leaders. According to Hoffman, these executives initially bristled at Mulally’s demands and resisted the changes, but over time they began to see that the transparency Mulally enforced effectively united them to work together on the company’s business and brand goals and that the commitment he expected was not in service to himself but to the brand he had so much passion for.
Mulally also drove Ford's engineers to define Ford’s “DNA,” as Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global product chief, called it—the “genome that was designed to and engineered to convey quality, innovation, and style.” By identifying “300 different characteristics—from the chirps on the electronic key fob to the clunk of a closing door—that define the personality of its vehicles,” Ford developed a common design language that made it easier to develop single products to sell in all markets.  Moreover, it helped build the Ford brand by making a Ford recognizable around the world and eliciting a strong, visceral, emotional reaction to its vehicles.
All of these efforts worked to transform Ford -- the company was restored to profitability and the brand, to preeminence.. Within a year, the entire organization's energy toward the Ford brand had been reinvigorated and executives throughout the company had begun to adopt Mulally’s focused and data- driven approach. In 2010, Motor Trend named one of Ford’s newest cars, the Ford Fusion, “Car of the Year.” And the company posted annual profits of $6.6 billion, making it the most profitable automobile company in the world at the time.
Ford’s turnaround demonstrates the transformative power of an organizational culture steeped in an overarching purpose and integrated with the brand. But more than that, it shows how leaders set the tone and pace of cultural transformation.
Denise Lee Yohn is a leading authority on positioning great brands and building exceptional organizations, and has 25 years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay. Denise is a consultant, speaker, and author of What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest and the new book FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World's Greatest Companies.
Categories: Blogs

A Leadership Lesson from D-Day: Foresight

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by John Antal:

Foresight is one of the most critical skills of a leader. Foresight is the capacity to accurately focus on the key factors of a rapidly changing and chaotic situation without losing sight of the big picture. The best leaders anticipate and develop an ability to see beyond the immediate and are able to visualize and plan several moves ahead of their opponent. Foresight helps leaders act in a manner that addresses problems in the short term and solves them in the long run. In war, foresight is as valuable as it is rare.  
In December 1940, Adolf Hitler was considered by many to be a leader with exceptional foresight. In 1938, he had bluffed the Allies at Munich and annexed portions of Czechoslovakia and eventually took the entire country without a fight. In 1939, Hitler’s forces attacked Poland while the French and British, who had pledged to fight if Poland was attacked, did little to help. The Poles fought and died alone and Hitler won another victory for the Reich. In 1940, Hitler unleashed a lightening war against Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. All these countries surrendered to Hitler’s armies. In 1941 Hitler’s legions seized Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. In Africa, Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps, was nearing the Suez Canal. By late 1941, Hitler’s empire stretched from the shores of France to the Parthenon in Greece and from the sands of Libya to the gates of Moscow.
On December 7, 1941, Nazi Germany’s ally, the Empire of Japan, executed a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese attack badly damaged the US Pacific Naval Fleet, sinking, among others, four battleships. American naval and aircraft losses were heavy. All eight American battleships anchored at Pearl Harbor, the pride of the US Navy, were damaged, with four being sunk, along with the loss of three cruisers and three destroyers. Although the US Navy’s aircraft carriers escaped the attack, 188 Army and Navy aircraft were destroyed. Most tragically, 2,403 Americans were killed, with another 1,178 wounded. That same day, the Japanese attacked US forces in the Philippines, and Guam, while simultaneously attacking British and Dutch forces across the Pacific.
The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled America’s fighting forces in the Pacific and shocked the American people. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his address to Congress on December 8, 1941, stated: “Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”
Those were brave words, but in 1941, the United States was not ready for war. The US Army was ranked 19th in the world and was smaller than the army of Romania. Only three divisions in the US Army were considered combat ready and these lacked the modern equipment—especially tanks—that was the key ingredient of the German Army’s (the Wehrmacht’s) success. The Army Air Corps (the United States Air Force did not become a separate service until 1947, after World War II) was struggling to train pilots on mostly obsolete aircraft. Only the United States Navy was truly a force to be reckoned with and now the Japanese had delivered a devastating blow to the American fleet.
Hitler watched as Japan conducted its Pacific blitzkrieg. The Japanese seemed poised to knock the US out of the war. Hitler expected America to cower and beg the Japanese for terms, just as the British and French had done at Munich. He waited a few days after the Japanese attack, searching for an opportune time to maximize the propaganda effect and announce his support for Imperial Japan. Then, on December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler gave a speech at the Reichstag and, to the surprise of his generals, declared war on the United States.

When Hitler’s Generals heard their Führer declare war on the United States their jaws dropped. Japan had not informed Germany of its plan to attack Pearl Harbor. Hitler had not consulted the Wehrmacht high command that Germany would take on the Americans. The German Army was fully committed to the titanic struggle in Russia. It was true that the United States had inadequate military forces and was unprepared for war, but it seemed unnecessary to add another enemy to an ever-increasing list of enemies. Germany was not bound by the Axis Tripartite Pact to declare war on the United States. Nevertheless, victory for the Axis was in the air. Hitler’s forces were expected to take Moscow in the spring. Japan had just smashed the American Navy. Hitler was sure that the “decadent bourgeois Americans” could not fight.
On December 11, 1941, the Führer’s foresight still seemed infallible and America’s ability to fight a global war against the Axis powers of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany looked impossible. Impossible, however, was not a word in the American dictionary and America rose to the challenge. Almost immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, Americans shook of isolationism, rolled up their sleeves, and decided on courage. They decided to lead. It took tremendous effort, organizational skills, and sacrifice by a united America to raise the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marines and Coast Guardsmen required to turn the tide against this vicious totalitarian onslaught, but that is what they were determined to do. Remember Pearl Harbor was their rallying cry.
One thousand, two hundred and seventy-seven days later, on June 6, 1944, the Allies under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, landed on the beached of Normandy, France, in the greatest amphibious operation ever attempted. The Allies cracked open Hitler’s Fortress Europe and started the march toward Germany. D-Day was a vital step in the destruction and surrender of Nazi Germany, and it started at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. For the ancient Greeks, the name Prometheus means “foresight.” Adolf Hitler’s hubris and lack of foresight on December 11, 1941, when he declared war on the United States, was, thankfully, one of biggest strategic blunders of WWII.
John Antal is a Soldier, historian, author, leadership expert and master storyteller . He has published thirteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on his historical and leadership subjects. His latest book, 7 Leadership Lessons of D-Day: Lessons from the Longest Day, June 6, 1944, was published in October 2017 and is available at You can learn more about John Antal and his books at
Categories: Blogs

Likability in Leadership—Necessary for Some, a Liability to Others

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 06:00

Guest post from Cassandra Frangos:
We had a handy rule of thumb for hiring in my first job in management consulting. After the first or second round of interviews, if the candidate scored high on the prerequisites, the team would gather for a reality check and ask each other: "Would you mind being stuck in an airport for 9 hours with this person?” If the answer was, "Oh my, no way," we’d usually move on to the next highly qualified candidate. Consulting is a time-intensive business where exhaustive hours are spent traveling to remote locations, making presentations together in close quarter conference rooms, and collaborating with customers. You have to like the people you work with.
Yet, it’s not the same in every case—likability does not necessarilyequal followership when it comes to leadership. When I’ve conducting executive assessments or performance interviews, for instance, I don’t need to hear that a leader is highly likable. In fact, if that’s the first thing a colleague says about a leader, it gives me pause. There are other arguably more important elements in gaining the respect necessary to lead.
When I weigh the pros and cons of likability, I put the question into context by looking at three lenses that help calibrate the question:
The first context is culture. A leader’s disposition needs to be in sync with the culture of a company. I met with the CHRO of a staffing firm in the southwest last month and the first thing I thought was: this person is really nice and I can see why she is so respected here. The organization was relatively small, everyone was together in one location, and they relied on local contacts to keep the business going. Likeability was built into the formula. Would that same CHRO be as successful at a firm where the culture was more about innovation and less about continuity? Doubtful.
Industry is the second context to consider. When people talk about the qualities that made Steve Jobs so successful, likability didn’t always appear on the short list. Yet, he was one of the most admired leaders of our time. Apple is in an industry where fresh ideas, fast thinking and constant change are keys to success. Jobs brought a highly distinctive design vision that keyed-in on user experience and an eye for engineering excellence that few could match. He was a brilliant in all the ways that mattered, and that, more than likability, gained him the followership he needed to lead in computing. Likewise, the aggressive and purportedly overbearing Jack Welch was highly respected and emulated, but likability was not a key ingredient for leading the massively complex global conglomerate.
Lastly, I look at circumstance. In general, I would expect customer facing leaders to be likable but the benchmark may be somewhat different for other types of functional or technical leaders. Likewise, there are numerous extenuating circumstances that make likability in a leader more or less necessary. If a leader is charged with reengineering or remaking a failing firm, they must be empathetic, but perhaps likability is too much to expect. Whereas, if a leader is hired to improve employee engagement, shore up retention, and bring the organization together, then achieving the necessary followership may depend upon being likable.
In leadership, likability looks different depending upon the context. The best leaders are decisive, commend respect, and connect with their followers. That won’t happen if a leader is a bully, tyrant or, yes, just plain untrustworthy. But likable? It’s not always a necessary quality in a leader.
BIOCassandra Frangos, EdD, is the author of Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top and a consultant at Spencer Stuart, where she focuses on collaborating with Fortune 500 leadership teams on executive assessments, succession planning, leadership development and top team effectiveness. Previously, she led Cisco’s Global Executive Talent practice where she played an integral role in the 2015 succession planning for Cisco’s CEO, and conducted the research for Crack the C-Suite Code.

Categories: Blogs

Leaders: Take the “Blind Spots” Test!

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from David Mattson:

If something bad were to happen to you or one of your key team members, something that took you or that person out of action for a month or more, would your business be in crisis? Would its performance suffer? Would its survival be in question? Did you hesitate before answering any of those questions? If so, your company may be suffering from “blind spots syndrome.” One or two people may be carrying a disproportionate share of responsibility for the entire organization’s performance. In this situation, well-intentioned company leaders often set themselves and their companies up for failure by taking on too much, improvising too often, and not delegating effectively. As a result, they typically don’t know what they don’t know about the most dangerous obstacles they face … and, all too often, they’re not particularly interested in finding out.

This dysfunctional way of working drains both leaders and organizations of energy, resilience, and potential. It’s stressful for you and everyone in the organization. How vulnerable is your company to the blind spots syndrome? You can begin to get an answer by taking the following short test.
BLIND SPOT #1: No methodologies and systems. When everything is improvised, inconsistency carries the day, and predictable events – like key people leaving or getting sick for an extended period – lead to major, immediate problems. Give yourself a score of 1 if your business would be in instant crisis if its top three people were, without warning, incapacitated for a week or more; a score of 10 if such an event would have little or no immediate effect on the smooth functioning of your organization; or another score if your organization is somewhere in the middle.
BLIND SPOT #2: Not being in recruiting mode. The best companies are always on the lookout for the best people. Give yourself a score of 1 if you are only in recruiting mode when there is a staffing emergency; a score of 10 if you are always in recruiting mode; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.
BLIND SPOT #3: Not establishing a documented process for hiring.Following a “gut feeling” is not enough. You need a clear, quantifiable hiring process, and everyone who hires employees needs to follow it. Give yourself a score of 1 if you have no documented hiring process; a score of 10 if you have a detailed written hiring process that everyone with hiring authority in your organization follows; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.
BLIND SPOT #4: Not creating and sustaining a culture of accountability.Supporting such a culture requires leaders to show personal vulnerability. The leader’s example is the single biggest determinant of success in this area! Give yourself a score of 1 if you have never acknowledged a personal skill gap or oversight to a subordinate; a score of 10 if you regularly establish specific accountabilities to subordinates and apologize authentically whenever there is a breakdown that prevents you from fulfilling that accountability; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.
BLIND SPOT #5: Creating learned helplessness. This is a big one, and I want to look at it closely. People come to us to ask us for our opinions all day long. Sometimes those requests for our opinion are really requests that we solve a problem -- and sometimes we are all too happy to jump in and do so. Of course, a lot of these questions really are ones that your team member wouldn’t know the answer to … but many are questions that the person could answer on his or her own. We may field these questions at a time when we are in the middle of something else that we don’t like doing very much … like staring at spreadsheet numbers and looking for some magic trend. So when the person with the question comes in, we are happy to put that down and move into “rescue” mode.
This pattern brings to mind the proverb about giving a person a fish to eat, as opposed to teaching a person how to fish. One “solution” lasts a day – the other lasts a lifetime. Which is better? I think you know the answer. Or think about your own home life. If your kid is having trouble with homework, do you say, “Don’t worry, hand it over here, I’ll do it for you”?  Of course not. Yet we are all tempted to rescue team members at work when we know they will be better off solving the problem themselves. Why? One reason we tell ourselves is that we think it will be faster. We want to just give the answer so we can go back to what we were doing. When we add up all the interruptions, though, we realize we’re not really gaining anything.

Another driver is ego. We want to jump in and be the “fixer.” Let’s be honest. We love this part of the job, especially when it’s more interesting than what we were doing when we got interrupted!

Give yourself a score of 1 if you often find yourself taking on tasks because you convince yourself no one else is capable of “doing it right” or doing it on time; a score of 10 if that seldom or never occurs and you spend 90% of your time working on the business, rather than in it; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle. These are just some of the obstacles that stand in the path to personal and organizational excellence. Even one of the blind spots I’ve shared with you has the potential to undermine or even kill a business. Why bother to address these issues? Because failing to do so leaves you vulnerable to unacceptably high levels of personal stress. That affects not only your ability to lead, but your quality of life.

If your personal score is…   Likely Result Less than 20 points   Unsustainably high and dangerous personal stress levels 21-30   Significant personal stress levels; reduced quality of life 31-40   Moderate personal stress levels; adequate quality of life, but room for improvement 41-50   Low, consistently manageable personal stress levels; high quality of life

Note that blind spots can pop up when you least expect them, even in the areas where you imagine yourself and your company to be the least vulnerable. Companies often “fix” a blind spot, but find that it returns over time. Why does that happen? Creating self-sufficient team members and departments is the ultimate goal of any effective leader. That means people and teams make important decisions in areas you’ve specifically delegated to them—which is as it should be. Yet as you grow in scale or bring in new people, that very growth creates the possibility of a blind spot’s recurrence or of brand new blind spots developing—new problem areas of which you and other company leaders aren’t aware. The fact that there were no blind spots in a given area the last time you checked is no guarantee that there are no blind spots right now!

Most of the leaders I share this test with acknowledge that dangerous blind spots do exist in their world – but they haven’t yet taken on a personal commitment to change the status quo. Unfortunately, just knowing about a blind spot is not enough. Overcoming one, in our experience, takes commitment, patience, and a willingness to work with a personal coach. But the effort is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your company.

David Mattson is the CEO and President of Sandler Training, an international training and consulting organization headquartered in North America. Since 1986, he has been a trainer and business consultant for management, sales, interpersonal communication, corporate team building and strategic planning throughout the United States and Europe. A Wall Street Journal bestselling author, his new book is The Road To Excellence:  6 Leadership Strategies To Build a Bulletproof Business.  For more information, please visit:

Categories: Blogs

To be the Best, Invest in Relationships AND Results

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds: 
If you had a rare diagnosis of an aggressive disease,wouldn’t you want to be treated by the best of the best doctors? If your goal was to coach an Olympic gold medal hockey team, wouldn’t you want only the best of the best players on your roster, with both precise skills and impeccable character?
To be the best of anything is pretty impressive. To be ranked in that rarefied air means one has invested and IS investing time, energy, and passion into that avenue.
Speaker, author, and business expert Tamara McCleary is ranked as the number one woman in Marketing Technology. It’s not just her expertise in AI, blockchain, social media, and the Internet of things that makes her such an effective influencer. It is her dedication to creating and maintaining relationships, online and in real life, every day, that boosts her influence.
Tamara has written in the past that “engagement is key.” She builds real relationships with her followers and who she follows. She monitors reliable data to track how well she is engaging every day with her online community.
She invests the time, energy, and passion because she legitimately cares about others. Members of her online and offline communities matter to her, deeply. She’s constantly checking to see whether her plans, decisions, and actions build relationships effectively NOW – and she refines those actions if they don’t.
Let’s apply Tamara’s practices – and positive results – to influencing others in the workplace.
First, invest the time. Pay attention to more than just results. Connect with people at all levels in your organization every day. Learn their names and their passions. Learn what gets in their way of cooperative teamwork and top performance. Act to reduce those frustrations.
Second, get the data. Don’t just monitor performance metrics – monitor data that indicates how happy employees are working in your organization. You have some reliable data, like turnover, exit interviews, service levels, and more. You may need to measure other satisfaction metrics, like the degree of trust, the frequency of proactive problem solving, etc.
Third, evaluate the progress of employee engagement, service, and results. As you embrace proactive relationship management, pay close attention to my “big three” – engagement, service, and results. If you’re not seeing upticks in these after four weeks, do what Tamara does. Refine your approaches, then monitor the impact. Keep those practices that help.
I post the effective approaches of great bosses daily on my social media platforms. These quotes generate frequent shares as well as frequent comments. And, a number of those comments are not complimentary of respondent’s current bosses! People boldly state, “My boss doesn’t do this – I wish he did!” and “I’ve never had a boss that did this! I don’t believe great bosses actually exist!”
To be an effective, inspiring leader today requires a variety of approaches – no one “size” fits every colleague or team member. Don’t miss the opportunity boost employee engagement, service, and results by focusing on positive relationships daily.
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here
Categories: Blogs

The Seven Signs of Great Leadership

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Bruce Hartman:

The CEO of Footlocker, Matt Serra, once said to me, “It’s lonely at the top. Being the leader is a big responsibility.” Over the years, I have thought endlessly about this quote and what it means. Fortunately, in my career, I was provided with examples of what this meant, not just from Matt, but from working with a number of strong leaders. With all of these people, I noticed a set of similar traits. Primarily, they took their responsibility seriously and showed a great custodial awareness of their tasks. They all:

· Made fact-based decisions

· Built great teams

· Made ethics a part of the culture

· Engaged listeners

· Evaluate constantly

· Embraced change

· Inspired

Make fact-based decisions
At the start of each morning, Craig Ryden—the CEO of Yankee Candle—would look at the sales from the previous day in great detail. Inevitably, he would discover something he didn’t understand. He knew there was an answer and would ask each of us why. Sometimes he got opinions and sometimes he got facts. Craig was polite to whomever gave opinions, but became riveted when he got facts. Once he had all the facts, he helped us with the decision necessary to make the required adjustment.
Over time, we all learned facts first, opinions second. From this leadership, we developed a culture of fact-based decision making. As Craig’s CFO and CAO, I always appreciated this leadership style. It made our days easier and our decisions better.  

Build great teams
In the early dark days as CFO of Footlocker, we had a struggling company that was deeply in debt. On top of that, we had people in the wrong places and we needed to change quickly. This meant a significant amount of change within the organization. We had to put the right people in the right places quickly. To accomplish this, we created the following profile of the type of employees we needed. They all had to:

· “Get things done”

· Listen to learn

· Develop other people

· Analyze effectively

· Be assertive but warm 

We then began promoting or hiring people that fit this profile. Resumes and experiences were important, but these characteristics were key to our success. Over the next year, we promoted or hired well over a hundred people that fit this profile. They weren’t always the best talkers or best dressed, but they just knew how to do their jobs and work within our culture. After two years, we went from being a “financially troubled” company, to being praised for our turn-around efforts. Largely as a result of these “profile” employees.

Making ethics a part of the culture
A critical trait I noticed in great leaders was a consistent set of ethics. Dave Farrell, the long serving CEO of May Department stores, was always very consistent with ethical decision making. His consistency allowed those of us who worked for him to predict his response to most business questions. In turn, it shaped us as an organization. We knew what to expect and we knew how to act. Many years later, when I speak with former executives who worked in Dave’s organization, his culture and sense of fair play is what we remember.

Be an engaged listener
As a young executive and newly appointed CFO, I was fortunate to work for Jim Hageman. Early on, I observed Jim’s motto in meetings: “questions first and decisions second.” Jim had a friendly style and for the majority of the meeting, would sit and listen. When he didn’t understand an issue, he used “probes” to learn more. He coaxed us to explore the issue at hand and develop our own thoughts. Invariably, Jim waited until nearly the end of the meeting to express himself. Sometimes, it would be as simple as, “I think what you decided will create a great outcome.” Sometimes he would be more expansive, but we always knew he listened. 

Evaluate constantly
It was always easy for me to spot whose business was running well and whose wasn’t. It lied in the quality of their evaluations of the business. Over time, I noticed those whose business was running well, knew the facts and what to do about it. They were constantly probing the organization to learn more about trends. Any discussion about their business always had an unusual depth of knowledge.

While things didn’t always work out in the short-term the way they hoped, in the long-term they were successful. They could spot momentary trends of weakness and know what to do. They didn’t hide from problems, they solved. 

Embrace change
At Yankee Candle, we actually had a position for a “Change Agent.” Though not his actual title, Reggie Thomas was our executive who looked for ways to make our operation better. In effect, he spent his day trying to make us better. While not all his ideas were agreed to, many were. In any given year, Reggie saved our company millions of dollars through new methods and technology.

What was remarkable about Reggie wasn’t what he did, but that he worked in an environment that solicited new ideas. Change is inevitable and companies that actively search for new ideas thrive!

Many of us associate inspirational leaders as great speakers. Surely there are many who lead with words. But inspirational leadership goes deeper. They are the ones, “who do what they say and say what they do.” They inspire by their own personal commitment. They lead from the front and not from the back. They don’t abdicate, they embrace their responsibility. 

Great leaders make us want to be better by their own actions, not just by well strung together words.

Being a leader is hard, and as Matt said, it can be very lonely at times. Acquiring the seven traits listed above may not reduce the loneliness, but will help inspire others to perform at a higher level. 
Bruce Hartmanis the founder of Gideon Advisors, a Christian advisory firm committed to “walking with people into a brighter future” as they navigate life and career transitions and advance Christian values in the marketplace. Hartman is a seasoned executive with 30 years of success creating shareholder value for Fortune 500 firms. Prior to founding Gideon Advisors, he was the Executive VP and CFO at Yankee Candle Company, Cushman and Wakefield, and Foot Locker, Inc. where he established global banking and capital market structures and contributed to significant increases in enterprise value. He is the author of the new book, Jesus & Co.: Connecting the Lessons of The Gospel with Today's Business World (Post Hill Press, March 2018).
Categories: Blogs

See the Big Picture to Succeed as a CEO

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D.:
“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.” —Summer Sanders

CEOs must see the upcoming organizational challenges from multiple perspectives with a big picture. They must be able to integrate their conceptual skills with technical and business acumen. Seeing the big picture can help avert organizational challenges and overcome them. Additionally, they must be able to forecast the future demands of the customers and clients to create products and services. The visionary CEOs like Richard Branson, Warren Buffett and Lou Gerstner have an innate ability to see the big picture. They could see what others could not.

Robert Katz and Conceptual Skills
Robert Katz outlines three levels of management—low, middle and top level management. At each level of management, there is a need for technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. At the low level management, there is need for more technical skills and less conceptual skills. At the middle level management, there is equal need for technical skills, conceptual skills and human skills. At the top level management, there is more need for conceptual skills and less need for technical skills as the leaders involve in strategic management. And the need for human skills remains in the same proportion at all levels of management. Hence, leaders and chief executives must possess conceptual skills to see what cannot be seen by others. They must be able to vision and make decisions accordingly.

Leadership Lessons from Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is one of the world’s richest men. He is the legendary chairman and CEO of the biggest shareholder company—Berkshire Hathaway headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. He is an investor and philanthropist. He has received several honors and recognition including top money manager of the 20th century in a survey by the Carson Group and Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011. He saw the big picture and invested in companies reaping a great harvest. Hence, we will discuss about Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha and his leadership lessons. He is good at numbers with an eye for detail. He is a long-term player with a clear focus on his investments. Warren Buffett believed both in timing and time. He knew the right time to invest in the right companies. He made many mistakes while investing, and he advises youngsters and college students to invest wisely. Here are some leadership lessons from him:

  • Be a voracious reader. He reads and reflects a lot. He reflects on the decisions he made in the past to assess and improve as per the present conditions.
  • Be patient and persistent. He has lots of patience. He is an expert in numbers and analyses them thoroughly. He doesn’t give up.
  • Articulate your ideas and insights effectively with others. He knows how to articulate his ideas with others. He influences his team with his ideas and carries them along with him.
  • Identify the strengths of people and build the team accordingly.
  • He gives his team members adequate “freedom to do by themselves” to run the organization.
  • Associate with people who are smarter than you to improve yourself. Right ambience leads to right ideas and insights to add value in attitude, behavior and performance.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. But we must learn lessons from mistakes and move on to make better decisions in future.
  • Be clear and strong in fundamentals. He has clarity in his mind and invests in fundamentals. He is unmoved by market fluctuations. His investments are meant for long-term results.
  • Learn when to hold and when to fold. He knows when to hold and fold his stocks.
  • Lead a simple life. He believes in simple living and high thinking. He still lives in the same house that he originally purchased for just over thirty-one thousand dollars, and he owns one car. He leads frugally and enjoys McDonald’s hamburgers and cherry Coke.
  • Emphasize ethical values. He is very transparent in his dealings. He emphasizes more on “means” rather than “ends.” He once remarked, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
  • Make a difference to the world. He shares his profits through philanthropic activities to make a difference in the lives of others. He is a great philanthropist.
How to Develop a Big Picture Thinking?
 We often come across two types of people in our life—the “big picture people” and the “details people.” The big picture people are highly creative and innovative. They are visionaries. They see what others cannot. In contrast, the details people often emphasize numbers and cannot move forward unless they are convinced by those numbers. You can develop the big picture thinking easily. Here are some tools and techniques to develop it:

  • Find out your biological clock and work on your passionate areas.
  • Break into small pieces; work on them independently; and then integrate them to acquire the big picture.
  • Work beyond your domain to widen your horizons.
  • Meet people outside your area of interest.
  • Discuss with people to generate more ideas and then work on execution.
  • Travel to different places and meet new people as it enables you to integrate different experiences to develop a broad mindset.
  • Invest some time to reflect every day. It helps you overcome your busy tasks and unclogs your mind.
  • Be in solitude as solitude is fortitude. Go to a serene place to think things through. Don’t allow any thoughts to enter into your mind. It helps you think from new perspectives.
  • Take role models who are good at big picture. Find out how they overcame their challenges by looking at a big picture.
  • Think big, dream big, create a blueprint and then break it into actionable steps to achieve it.
Remember, the journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. Hence, take the first step to build your big picture thinking.

 It is essential in the current competitive world to see the big picture to avert organizational challenges. Hence, leaders and CEOs must learn lessons from Warren Buffett to see the big picture to minimize organizational challenges and maximize organizational effectiveness.  

Author Bio:
Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 37 years of experience and the author of 37 books including the award-winning 21 Success Sutras for CEOs. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He shares his leadership wisdom freely with the world on his four blogs. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030.  He is a dynamic, energetic and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at:
Categories: Blogs

Intergenerational Leadership Begins with Us: We Have More in Common Than We Thought

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Mark H. Fowler & Noal McDonald:

Leadership is a complex idea: one that is not consistently easy to wrap our minds around.

We know good leadership when we see it. Most of us have experienced great leaders somewhere in our lives. It could have been at work, in school, on the athletic field or with a group of friends. If we think of what these experiences have in common, we might think of this quote by Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell: “Leadership molds individuals into a team.”

With this interpretation, let’s look at challenges leaders face in today’s workplace.

There are more generations in the workplace than ever before. With more data and research on generational characteristics than in the past, it can lead us to greater segregation and dissonance. Characteristics are often applied across the board to individuals based on age.

Millennials are often at the forefront of all this analysis and have been researched, written about and discussed more than any previous generation. We’ve given them attributes that can separate them out and may put them at odds with non-millennial groups in the workplace.

How can a leader lead across generational divides? Before we tackle that thorny question, let’s look at the generations from a different perspective. A recent study by IBM shows that the generations are more similar than different on certain issues.

Results from 1,784 employees in 12 countries and six industries show that the generations are only a few percentage points different when asked about the importance of some of the characteristics we attribute to millennials, including:

 - Meaningful work: wanting purpose, not just a paycheck; managing work/life balance.

- Leadership characteristics: desiring a boss who provides hands-on feedback and guidance.

- Leave jobs for same reasons: advancement, money, opportunity (millennials are considered job hoppers, but in the survey, 75 per cent had been in their current jobs for more than three years).

- Everyone gets a trophy: teams and working collaboratively had more rating gaps, with 64 per cent of Gen X saying everyone on a successful team should be rewarded, while millennials and boomers were 55 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

Perhaps we have more in common than we thought. Maybe people don’t fit so well in boxes.

Based on the IBM research, the majority of the workforce, regardless of generation, holds the same beliefs that engagement is best produced by leaders who can:

- Communicate the organization’s vision.

- Encourage collaboration and innovation.

- Help individuals see their connection and purpose within the organization.

 People throughout industries and across generations are looking for leaders who have:

- Humanity and humility with courage and transparency to ask for honest feedback and diligence to make changes.

- Openness to diverse ideas and ability to encourage cooperation and collaboration.

- Ability to have authentic conversations that engage others and create a space where all can contribute their best talents and be honored for their contribution.

Leaders, wherever they are in the organization, can build great teams using these characteristics.

What is becoming more apparent as we look at successful organizations is that leadership does not reside only in the C-suite, but can add value throughout. We can all demonstrate leadership characteristics with peers, co-workers and teams as well as with our leaders. Each of us can lead in his/her own way. It can be as simple as leading with an idea that could mean success for everyone. It can mean leading a discussion where it is clear that everyone is welcome, if not required, to participate.

Success comes from our ability to connect one-on-one while building trust and relationships. Leaders and individuals work best when they can connect on common ground and engage with each other to create the best outcome. Each generation, each individual, regardless of place or role, has something of value to contribute to the success of the business.

This is a tall order for anyone. How can we accomplish all of this? It starts with our conversations.

There is art and science to the kind of conversations that can have the impact we need in our organizations today. While we can spend a lifetime improving our skills, here are two ideas to help us be better leaders wherever we are.

Coming alongside

Take the lead by being the first to come alongside others to see what we can constructively accomplish together. Coming alongside is not about relinquishing your ideas; it is about learning how to incorporate and collaborate with each other and equally participating for the ultimate goal. We can engage through honoring accomplishments, understanding what everyone has to say and attempting to know what it is like to walk in their shoes. Effective leaders are able to set aside their agendas and embrace that others have just as much to add to the situation.

Being on the same page

This is about making sure that everyone truly understands a project and its goals. Reaching out to ensure that everyone is heard and is able to support the decision will prevent surprises down the line. The process builds relationships and connections that strengthen any team.

By adding these two concepts as the foundation of our conversations, we can become leaders in every situation. We will build trust, stronger relationships and commitments to achieve mutual goals.

We can all lead together. It will pay many dividends. With leaders across all generations and in all levels of the organization, we can create a culture where everyone can thrive. You will be more than surprised.

Author Bios:

Noal McDonald is co-author of Revolutionary Conversations: The Tools You Need for the Success You Want. As a Co-CEO of Revolutionary Conversations, LLC, she develops and delivers courses and workshops for corporations and strategic alliances that want to enhance engagement, create collaborative cultures and improve employee performance.

Mark H. Fowler is the president of Stowe Management Corporation and Co-CEO of Revolutionary Conversations, LLC. He is a business growth and corporate re-engineering expert, author and writer, business educator, public speaker and change leader.
Categories: Blogs

Working on Working Together

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Chad Littlefield and Will Wise:

Vulnerability is natural. It’s human—so much so that the word “human” is often used to point out or help us come to terms with our vulnerabilities.

So when we enter a new situation, we often search for something to protect us. If we’re at a party filled with people we largely don’t know, we’ll seek out the person we do, at least until we’ve adjusted and are comfortable mingling with others. Online, we might edit our tweets and posts before sending them out to the world based on how we think others will react to them.

As a result of our vulnerability, we instinctively build walls to protect us from others we don’t already trust, but those walls also prevent connection and all of the positives that come from it.

Imagine you want to work with a new employee so you give them a project to spearhead with your input—let’s say you’ve want them to work with you on the task of reducing the number of meetings that take place around the office on a weekly basis, either by consolidating smaller meetings into fewer, larger ones or by determining which can be cut altogether.

Likely, your initial interactions with this employee in pursuit of solving this problem will follow these simple steps:

1. You’ll shake hands and introduce yourselves

2. Then you will then take turns brainstorming potential solutions to the problem at hand—mostly small tweaks to current policies and activities in the office.

3. For each suggestion one of you makes, the other explains why it wouldn’t work or what in it is useful. This goes back and forth until a consensus is reached on a middle ground, “safe option,” and you both go on your way.

Seems like a pretty straightforward, common work interaction a new employee and their manager. But you can do better, right off the bat, if you prioritize connection when leading. Before jumping into solutions for the project, establish a relationship of trust that will allow you to be more comfortable with each other—it’s especially important for an employee to feel comfortable and able to express their opinions and ideas with their superiors (creating that kind of environment is just great leadership).

Ask them a question that is outside of the realm of “small talk.” Ask (respectfully) about something their wearing or carrying based on your curiosity, or ask the story behind an interesting tchotchke on their desk you saw when you walked past it in the morning. Have them share a little bit about themselves—not their role at the company or their role before it, but who they are regardless of where they’re sitting—and share some of your own as well. Staring with an ask that began with natural, genuine curiosity, an urge to connect will be fostered in both parties.

By building this rapport, you will be focused on working together, on truly collaborating, instead of simply solving a problem, and ironically that means that any solution you come up with will be far better because it’s one that is fully using the power of two brains collaborating. You can create something entirely new that has never been done before, something you’ll both love and find yourself hoping the other team members will buy into it as well. Rather than one person having passion for their idea and the other going along with it, the solution is something you are both passionate about and will champion. 
You’ll know trust is high between you when you catch yourself or the employee things like “Our idea….” or “We’ve got this idea….” rather than “My idea is…” or “I got this idea…” The “me” moments shift to “we” moments when an idea is born and then built upon in the space between multiple individuals.
If we connect before diving into content with our colleagues and those we lead, we will spend less time shooting down ideas and will be comfortable enough to listen and build on the ideas of others. Peter Block once said that “without relatedness, no work can occur.” Creativity and innovation happens best in an environment of psychological safety where we trust that those we are working with have our best interest in mind. When we don’t feel the need to put up walls, true collaboration can happen.

WiLL WiSE, M.Ed., is the author of #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Asking Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter. He has over two decades of experience custom building leadership programs for corporate and nonprofit groups. Leaders call Will when there is a lack of trust getting in the way of results. Tens of thousands of people have been empowered with positive communication skills after spending some time with WiLL and We!™.

Chad Littlefield, M.Ed. is the co-founder and CEO of We!™, keynote speaker and professional facilitator. Leaders and conference organizers call Chad when they want to make their events more interactive and engaging. He has spoken at TEDx and is the creator of We! Connect Cards™, which are now being used to create conversations that matter on campuses and companies in over 50 countries around the world.
Categories: Blogs

Pitch the PowerPoint – and Speak as an Impromptu Leader

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 06:00

Guest post by Judith Humphrey:
In my career as a corporate “ghost writer,” I produced a ton of speeches and PowerPoint presentations for senior executives. The top spokespersons loved those “ready to go” talks which they delivered from behind the podium – often to large groups.
All that has changed. Leaders today give fewer formal speeches. Instead, they are expected to be spontaneous and authentic, and share in one-on-one or small group situations just what they believe. This new approach to communicating requires a new set of carefully honed skills.
Why the Need for Impromptu Skills?Impromptu speaking has become the communication skill most in demand for leaders. And that world of leadership now includes far more than the top executives. Today, leadership is not determined by title or rank. It comes from your ability to motivate others. If you can inspire your team or persuade a customer to do business with you, you have led, and earned, the title of leader.
Leadership has become an everyday responsibility. It’s important to inspire others in meetings, corridor conversations, and even in the cafeteria – indeed, in every situation where you find yourself with colleagues and clients.
Impromptu speaking is the new normal. Those who continue to rely on scripted texts will disappoint their audiences. But to succeed in impromptu speaking, as with formal speaking, requires discipline. Below are guidelines that will help you deliver inspiring impromptu remarks.
#1 Read your AudienceSpeaking impromptu requires that you closely read your audience – and respond to the signals they give you. Study your listeners beforeyou speak. This means when you’re in a meeting, listen to what others are saying before you start so you can build on their ideas. Next, read your audience as you’re speaking. Size up the people around you. If they show closed body language (arms folded, facial frowns) or seem indifferent with blank expressions on their faces, change gears. Ask a question or simplify your argument. Finally, after you speak, read your audience and see whether you reached them and if not, try to figure out why.
#2 Organize Your ThoughtsIf you want to inspire others with your impromptu remarks, organize your thoughts before you speak. Some individuals try to collect their ideas as they speak with no clear method of doing so. This leads to “um-ing” and “aw-ing,” as well as phrases like “what I’m trying to say is.” Without a clear structure, impromptu remarks become a content dump. 
The secret to organizing your thinking is to use a mental template that allows you to build your structure every time you speak. Here are the components of the template I’ve developed. It’s called The Leader’s Script®: 
  •          Begin with a “grabber” that reaches out to your audience
  •          State your message (one idea in a single sentence)
  •          Build a case for your message (2-4 proof points)
  •          Close with a call to action (steps you are recommending)

Why does this template allow you to speak with leadership? You are drawing your audience in (grabber), sharing your idea (your message), convincing them of that idea (through proof points), and asking them to act on that message (call to action). If they act, you will have led. This is a powerful strategy for any impromptu leader, and examples of how to use this template are found in my book, Impromptu: Leading in the Moment.
#3 Speak with PresenceGetting others to follow you also demands that you speak with presence. Here are points to keep in mind so the way you speak reinforces what you say.
Choose the Right Time and Place. Having presence literally means being present.  So make sure that when you broach a discussion with a colleague or employee, you both can concentrate on that topic. If you’re in the hall and you see a colleague rushing to a meeting, it’s not a good time to raise anything. Similarly, if you have an important discussion with an employee about work performance, set up an appointment. Don’t give a hurried review in the corridor.
Use Your Eyes. Eye contact is critical in impromptu exchanges. By observing the people you’re talking to, you can judge how well you are getting through to them. You can then calibrate what you’re saying. Eye contact also shows the other person that you care about what they are saying and are giving them the full attention they deserve.
Pace Yourself.In impromptu conversations, the pace of your words is extremely important because it determines how well you control your thinking and how well your audience receives it. If you speak too fast—which is often the tendency when we are talking “on the fly”—you’ll lose your audience. You’re also making it hard to structure your thoughts. So be sure to speak slowly by (1) using a slower rate of word delivery than you normally do and (2) pausing after each thought so the other person can absorb it.
Watch Your Body Language. Finally, make sure that you know what messages your body is sending even in the most informal impromptu exchanges. Our tendency in impromptu speaking is to be more relaxed, and when we relax, we may slouch, fold our arms, or use distracting gestures. Instead, realize that your body needs to be open to the conversation, so keep your posture straight, your arms open, and your gestures moving in the direction of your audience.
In short, impromptu leadership is more important than ever before. Follow these guidelines and you’ll succeed in this vital approach to communicating.
Judith Humphrey is the founder of The Humphrey Group, a global leadershipcommunications firm and author of three books, most recently Impromptu: Leading in the Moment. Previous books include Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed, and Speaking as a Leader: How to Lead Every Time You Speak. She can be found at and on Twitter at @judith_humphrey. For The Humphrey Group, see

**The Leader’s Script is a trademark of The Humphrey Group

Categories: Blogs

The Servant Leader vs. the Human Ego

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 14:30
Guest post by Ken Blanchard:

Most people who consider themselves servant leaders spend the majority of their time thinking about how to help their people get what they need to achieve their goals and live according to the organizational vision. These leaders want to make a difference in their organizations and in the lives of their people. They believe if they demonstrate that they care for their people, their people will, in turn, practice that same philosophy with customers, which will lead not only to great relationships but also organizational success.
Like everyone else, however, even the most well-meaning servant leader struggles occasionally with the human ego. It sneaks up when they least expect it and manifests itself in two ways. The first way is false pride—when someone thinks more of themselves than they should. They may begin to believe all the brains in the organization are in their office, try to claim credit for the work of others, or spend an excessive amount of time on self-promotion. The second way ego shows up is as fear or self-doubt—when someone thinks less of themselves then they should. The main focus of these managers is on their own shortcomings; they are often too hard on themselves.
It’s obvious to most that a fear-driven leader’s self-doubt is rooted in low self-esteem, because this type of person acts as if they are worth less than others. They don’t believe in themselves or trust their own judgment. They are seen as “do-nothing” managers. They are seldom around, and when they are, they avoid conflict and are not very helpful. They rarely speak out to support their direct reports—and under pressure they will defer to the person with the most power.
Leaders dominated by false pride also lack self-esteem; it’s just not as obvious. They act as if they think they are worth more than others, but in reality they are overcompensating for their dissatisfaction with themselves by trying to control everything around them. They insist they are right when everyone knows they are wrong. They support their bosses at the expense of their people because they want to move up the corporate ladder.
Both of these types of managers have an ego affliction that erodes their effectiveness as leaders. Fortunately, there are antidotes for these conditions.
The antidote for false pride is humility. It’s often said that people with humility don’t think less of themselves; they just think of themselves less. True servant leadership can be characterized by a humble nature—and leaders who are willing and able to show their vulnerable side will elicit the best from their people. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.
The antidote for fear or self-doubt is love. I often ask parents, “Do you love your kids?” Yes, of course, they say. “Does this love for your kids completely depend on their success?” Of course not—they love their kids unconditionally. I’d like you to try accepting that unconditional love for yourself. If you buy into the idea that your self-worth is a function of your performance plus the opinion of others, your self-worth will be up for grabs every day. Everyone slips up now and then. Trust that you have all the love you need. All you have to do is open yourself to it.
Servant leadership is not just another management technique—it is a way of life for those with servant’s hearts. Developing a servant’s heart is a lifelong journey. It is my belief that you finally become an adult when you realize that life is about what you give rather than what you get. The shift from self-serving leadership to leadership that serves others is motivated by a change in heart.
About Ken Blanchard:Ken Blanchard is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and coauthor of more than 65 books, including the groundbreaking best seller The One Minute Manager®. His books have combined sales of more than 21 million copies in 42 languages. In addition to being a renowned speaker and consultant, Ken is cofounder and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies (, an international training and consulting firm started by Ken and his wife, Margie, in 1979. His new book, Servant Leadership in Action, is a collection of essays from 44 of today’s top servant leadership authorities and practitioners. For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs