Thursday, March 23, 2017

Were the Founding Fathers Great Leaders?

Guest post from Gordon Leidner:

Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers have made a splash in the news recently, thanks to Broadway’s sensational production “Hamilton.” The modern hip-hop and R&B musical highlights the leadership of Hamilton, Washington, and other Founders during our country’s revolutionary beginnings.  This brings to mind two questions: “Were the Founding Fathers really the great leaders they are claimed to have been?”  If so, “What can we learn from them?” Let’s look at the facts:

ü  Facing the opposition of King George III, leader of the most powerful nation on earth, the Founders declared American independence and defeated the king’s formidable armies with a military force that general George Washington described as “half-starved and always in rags.”

ü  In a world where the rights of a monarch or a privileged few were all that mattered, the Founders resolved to establish a new nation based on the proposition that “all men are created equal.”  They fearlessly accepted the risk of being hanged for treason and signed their names to the Declaration of Independence.

ü  In spite of the fact that every previous democracy had failed, the Founders created the world’s first surviving democratic republic which effectively balanced power between thirteen independent states and all three branches of their new federal government.

Most people recognize the Founders as “revolutionary” leaders, but leadership theorists have a more descriptive term for them.  The Founding Fathers, such as Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are seen collectively as “transformational” leaders.

Transformational leaders are the ones to call on when you need significant change.  They are unique because they don’t just point the way to a goal, keep a project in the black, or manage day-to-day activities.  They envision significant change and define it as “the right thing to do.” They exemplify moral integrity.  They create appropriate goals, are honest and vulnerable with their followers, and establish an environment of trust.  They are followed with loyalty and respect.

Because transformational leaders define the right thing to do and lead with integrity, their followers are frequently motivated to do more than they originally expected to—and often go “above and beyond.”  Followers become leaders in the cause.  When the going gets tough, they continue to persevere and make sacrifices toward the common goal in spite of personal difficulties or hardship.  According to leadership theorist James MacGregor Burns, transformational leaders and followers “raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”

The Founding Fathers utilized various leadership techniques, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on three fundamental strategies for transformational leaders.  These strategies were intrinsic to the success of the Founding Fathers well over 200 years ago, and they are equally essential for aspiring transformational leaders today:

1. Exemplify moral integrity
Although George Washington was an experienced military leader, it was his unquestioned moral integrity that led Congress to appoint him Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775.  Long before he was chosen for this command, he had earned the trust and respect of all American citizens.

It is impossible to be an effective transformational leader without the trust, loyalty, and respect of your followers.  To achieve this, a leader must start with honesty.  Honesty can be demonstrated in many ways, including one that people are reluctant to follow—admitting personal weaknesses.  Fearing loss of respect, a leader may believe that it is advantageous to hide his or her faults.  But admitting weakness not only encourages the respect of followers, but it also helps to establish an environment of trust, which is a key action for turning followers into leaders.

2. Go beyond self-interest
After they decided to form a new nation based on the proposition that “all men are created equal,” the Founders boldly proclaimed their reasons for rejecting the king’s rule, and wrote the Declaration of Independence to describe their vision of democracy.  Then, despite a powerful British army only a hundred miles away, they demonstrated their willingness to go beyond their own self-interest for the good of others, and signed their names to the proclamation.

Transformational leaders today must first define their most important task.   It must be something of lasting importance their followers will recognize as beneficial to other people as well as themselves. The transformational leader must be willing to put his or her “skin in the game,” and demonstrate how others will benefit at least as much as, and ideally more than, the leader will.

3. Respect your people
After the United States Constitution was accepted by the Continental Congress and sent to the states for ratification, the Founding Fathers were surprised by the adverse reaction of the people.  Where, the good citizens asked, were their “rights as citizens” defined?  James Madison respected this request from the people and led the effort to generate a bill of rights—which were added in the form of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

There are many ways today for transformational leaders to show respect for their people.  Ideally, they should try to develop personal relationships with as many of them as possible.  They should treat followers as individuals, and attempt to understand their values, aspirations, and beliefs.  Finally, transformational leaders should find ways to challenge their followers intellectually, and develop methods of integrating followers’ personal goals with the group’s goal.

So, a return to our original questions yields two answers: yes and yes.  The Founders were not only great leaders in 1776, but are still worthy of emulation by aspiring leaders today.

Gordon Leidner has over thirty years of management and engineering experience in the aerospace and IT industries, and an advanced degree in Applied Management.  An author of many books and articles on American history, his latest book, The Leadership Secrets of Hamilton: 7 Steps to Revolutionary Leadership from Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers.  For more, go to

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Leading with Trust

Guest post by Paul J. Zak, PhD:

One-third of business leaders surveyed in 2015 said that retaining colleagues is their number one concern. Everyone knows that people are mobile. About one-quarter of employees say that they will look for a new job in the next year. Some are chasing a higher salary, but nearly equally important is the desire for a better opportunity inside or outside their present company. Employers underestimate the importance of personal and career development on employee retention, vastly overestimating the importance of salary and benefits. As Christopher Bishop, head of Herman Miller’s Innovation lab has said, "The war for talent is over, talent has won."

Leaders who fail to invest in skill development for team members implicitly enforce a rigid hierarchy that inhibits innovation.   A lack of leadership development also undermines a key aspect of culture that drives high-performance: trust.        

Through my research, I have found that high trust organizations outperform low-trust ones on multiple outcome measures by a wide margin.  My team spent a decade running experiments that measured brain activity while people worked to find out why some teams are productive and others engage in "presenteeism."  Trust, and an understanding of how the organization improves lives, were key performance drivers.  Our work also uncovered the eight building blocks of trust.  The science provides specific and actionable ways that leaders can modify these building blocks to increase trust and reap performance improvements.        

One of the eight foundations of trust is a set of policies I call "Invest."  Companies that actively invest in the professional and personal growth of colleagues are demonstrating trust in them. The brain's trust signal, a neurochemical called oxytocin that my lab discovered in the early 2000s, motivates us to reciprocate when someone provides us with a benefit.  Our studies show that when companies invest in colleague development, it increases engagement and productivity.   It also reduces employee turnover: investing in colleague developments demonstrates a desire to have a long-term relationship.        

In a surprising finding, my research revealed that personal growth has a powerful effect on engagement and productivity.  Philosophers such as Aristotle, and psychologists including Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, and Martin Seligman have argued that personal growth is necessary for human flourishing. Our analyses confirmed this – there is positive feedback between thriving outside of the office and productivity at work. I call investing in both professional and personal growth "whole person" development.          

Many successful companies have realized the positive return from personal and professional development programs. SAS Institute, a statistical analysis software company, invests in its colleagues with an almost limitless set of classes to acquire new skills, gives employees access to career mentors, subsidizes care for elderly parents, offers financial assistance and paid leave for adoptions, has built on-site sports and recreation facilities, has a beautiful campus with resident artists, and serves healthy food in their cafes. SAS also minimizes the use of contractors and simply hires the people they need. This commits colleagues to SAS and allows SAS to commit to them. By all accounts, it is working.  SAS is the world’s largest privately held software company with over $2 billion in revenue and 11,000 employees.   They are also winning the war on talent: SAS receives 200 applications for every opening and have the lowest employee turnover in the software industry at two percent per year.          

Investing in colleagues does not need to be expensive.  A trend at many companies including Zappos, Google, Procter & Gamble, Hubspot, and Facebook is napping rooms.  Many colleagues are sleep-deprived due to travel or having young children and this gives them a chance to refresh their brains and gain the energy boost from a short nap.  Other companies, such as mortgage lender United Shore Financial Services, use a program called "Firm 40" to focus colleagues on going all out for forty hours and then going home.  These companies expect the parking lot to be empty at 6:05 PM and that work is not brought home. Even Goldman Sachs has gotten rid of the go-go days of 100-hour work weeks.  To keep the best talent, they created Goldman Sachs University to invest in professional growth and they also provide guidance on taking time off. The co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs said, “The goal is for our analysts to want to be here for a career... This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Just investing in colleagues increases trust and productivity. The science I have done shows leaders how small changes to the other seven building-blocks of trust will increase engagement.  The war for talent is real, and building a culture of trust is an important step in empowering, engaging, and retaining, top talent. 

So what investments are you making in a culture of trust?  Now is the time to start, because your competitors already have.

Paul J. Zak, PhD, is founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology, and Management at Claremont Graduate University.  He is author of TRUST FACTOR:  The Science Of Creating High-Performance Companies (AMACOM, January 2017).  For more information, visit

Thursday, March 9, 2017

When “Fluff” Triples Revenues: Why Leaders Can’t Overlook Happiness

Guest post from Michelle Gielan:

The first time Gary Baker, president of Nationwide Brokerage Solutions heard about the research on happiness and how it affects the workplace, he referred to it as “fluff.” And why wouldn’t he? Our culture has long viewed happiness in the workplace as a sign of lower productivity. Surely those infusing joy and laughter within the confines of their office are slacking off and costing the company time and most certainly money. By referring to happiness research as “fluff,” Gary was only holding true to a generations old societal norm where happiness should be withheld until after the job is done.

But what if happiness is the key to getting the job done?  

Science has shown that when we are filled with positive emotions, our brains actually work much better and our results improve. This can and does translate into workplace productivity and overall company success. Our research has found that a positive brain is connected with increasing sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and decreasing the negative effects of stress by 23%. Instinctively we may know that the negative social script of holding out on happiness until the work is done puts us at odds with our most human instincts—and that creates stress and an epidemic of disengagement. But because the desire to conform is incredibly strong, most of us give in and slowly disengage from our work too.

Look at this through your own lens. When you are passionate, happy and engaged in what you are doing, how is your own productivity and success? How is it when you are unhappy, disengaged and experiencing complacency or even dread? Those two scenarios have two very different outcomes I’m guessing.

It’s important for leaders to disassociate smiles and laughter with slacking off and, instead, pair it with passion, heightened creativity and desire to reach goals. Your team needs to feel like a team. Teams want the same thing. They work toward the same thing -- everyone doing their part for the bigger picture. Experience passion and happiness at work and with work is helpful to the bottom line. People want to get their jobs done, freeing you up to focus on leading.

No iron fist ruling necessary.

Against his initial instincts, Gary Baker introduced our training program that would help the organization confront and rewrite social scripts that were not serving success, and provide a narrative pathway for people to reach a more positive mindset, attain higher levels of optimism, and deepen social connections.

Our training is called “The Orange Frog,” and it highlighted stories of various frogs in parable format. Through it, employees learned the best practices of resilient leaders, how to become more adaptive, and how to develop a capacity to “see” more opportunities, which all lead to better business outcomes. Thousands of employees at Nationwide were trained on how to put the latest happiness research into practice to achieve tangible business results, and it didn’t take long before Baker and his team saw the effects.

What was the outcome of this experiment in “fluff?”  For one, Nationwide’s revenues increased by 50% in just 18 months--to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, the new insurance application rate increased by 237% during that same time. When he saw results that he couldn’t ignore, Baker changed his tune. He also changed the walls in his office, painting the entire call center bright orange.

The once somber cubicles are now scattered with orange plush frogs, and hanging around the offices are large framed pictures of employees working at soup kitchens wearing bright orange shirts. Employees are very enthusiastic about “being orange.” They know broadcasting happiness--constantly communicating an empowered, resilient, optimistic mindset especially in the face of challenges--can fuel their success.

The changes did not stop there. Now, at the Nationwide Sales Academy, as salespeople are initiated, they are taught a story that is different from the usual corporate social script:

Happiness leads to sales, not the other way around.

Using the same tool we rolled out at Nationwide, you can test yourself right now on the three greatest predictors of long term success. Take the Success Scale now for free, and receive your scores and an interpretive report!

Michelle Gielan, national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher, is the bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness. She is the Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and is partnered with Arianna Huffington to study how transformative stories fuel success. Michelle is an Executive Producer of “The Happiness Advantage” Special on PBS and a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Empowering The Quiet Team Leader

 Guest post from Ilene Marcus:

It’s crunch time. Your team is on overdrive. Each decision matters. Every moment counts. You can’t afford to be distracted and yet, there it is – the workplace annoyer. A team member with a trait, a quirk that gets under your skin. You rationalize, we have just been spending too much time on this project. Or as the leader, I have so much more on my plate that I can’t be involved in every detail and they keep dragging me in. Already you are spending valuable time thinking about it. And it’s costing you and the team time and energy. You know the project is starting to stall. You need a surge, a bump, a crescendo. You need an unexpected hero, not annoying subordinates.  

Team engagement is always critical. It is natural to go for the obvious team drivers: the alpha, the verbalizer, the workhorse. What we value in them is also what starts to irritate us as the project stalls. I spend most of my time working with leaders on how to handle those annoying superstars. What is less obvious is how to empower the quiet leader: the person who leads from the back of the room, the person with the power to un-annoy.  

This is the team member who intuitively understands your agenda. Unassumingly, they steer the team closer and closer to the goal. This is the manager who embodies the soul of the effort and emerges as the glue that binds. They may not be the most authoritative or the jump starter, but they will be the anchor. They will be your closer – the person who moves your effort across the finish line.  

What is so special about this team member? Foremost, they have a sphere of influence that climbs steadily throughout the project. They consistently contribute and engage. What defines that sphere of influence? The term derived from international politics is a power, an authority, a right to have a say or influence over another. It’s a commanding term, it evokes strong images. And yet this subordinate uses their power wisely, discretely.  

Learn to harness the traits that enable these employees to translate and evolve your agenda to your team. Count on these team members to drive engagement and purpose for long haul success. Recognize the traits of these un-annoying team members:

1- Inspiration. They believe in the work, the product, the community of the workplace. Settling is not in their nature. They want each interaction to count, to mean something. They find purpose in uncommon places and aren’t afraid to share their vision about the perfect customer, a new streamlined process, a better onboarding system. They make everyone around them look up and see what can be.   

2- Sincerity. They mean what they say and they follow through. This employee looks you right in the eye (or right in the email) and says, “Yes, I will perform. I will show up. I will be the person you can count on.” And they do it, no ifs, ands, or buts.  

3- Purposely Engage Others. They ask for help from the right people. They know it’s a team sport and cooperation and assistance from other managers, divisions, and departments is critical for victory. They know how to ask for help and get it. They engage others easily and maintain commitment.

4- Stimulus Thinking. Their ideas spur ideas. They enable others to connect to the brand emotionally. They set a platform to overcome challenges. They encourage interconnectedness. 

5- The Celebrator. Institutionally, they believe in success and understand the millions of tiny steps it takes for your vision to become a plan, for the plan to be put into action and those actions to become a benchmark operation. They celebrate, every win, every loss, every lesson along the way. They take time to reflect and note the insights gleaned.

What’s Next?

Evaluate your team members based on their sphere of influence. Pay attention to the managers who promote engagement. Nurture this special skill set in all your team members. Let your quiet leaders augment team success. Celebrate their work from the front of the room. 
Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is founder of Aligned Workplace, and author of MANAGING ANNOYING PEOPLE:  7 Proven Tactics To Maximize Team Performance.  For more information, please visit

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Here’s a Leadership Hack for 2017: Start finding ways to Invert Control

Guest post from Tom Reilly: 

The end result will be that you will get what you want without trying as hard. 

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? 

And yet it isn’t.  

The best part is that you can invert control over and over again. Not just at work, but also in any situation where you want to manipulate an outcome in your favor. 

Here’s what it involves: Assessing how to take back control in order to automate better results. You can sometimes accomplish this by simply paying attention to the specific phrasing of a command or request. Other times it involves imbedding structural elements into your overall management and leadership system, but in both cases it works. 

Often instantly. 

Here's where the concept of inversion of control comes from: The cliché Hollywood casting agent line, “Don't call us, we’ll call you.”  

Saying, “Don't call us, we’ll call you” to all of the actors who tried out for a part but likely didn't get it stops an influx of worthless, time consuming, and disrupting phone calls from coming into the casting agency. And it’s accomplished just by carefully wording a statement in a very specific and purposeful way. 

Salesmen know the power behind carefully crafted language. Car salesmen, for example, are trained to not directly ask a customer if he or she wants to buy the car they were looking at because that leads them to a binary option and potentially a fast, “No.” Instead, a good salesman asks, “Do you want the red car or the blue car?” Phrased this way, the question moves the customer closer to a purchase. That essentially takes some of the power away from the customer and gives it to the salesman. It inverts control.

Now take the concept of inversion of control and see how well it can work to automate better outcomes when you implement it by assigning discrete—rather than general—tasks to individuals on your team. A manager who changes a command from the general “get this project done,” to the specific by assigning one particular task to each team member likely automates a better outcome. By assigning discrete tasks there is a better chance that the job will actually get done. Why? Because there is specificity and accountability. When that manager checks back in it will be clear who did, and who didn't, do his or her job. Underpinning that is also clarity. The employees know exactly what they need to do. Consider the incredibly simple example of asking your kids to clean the kitchen after dinner. If you assign one specific task to each child, it will be clear who did his or her job and who didn’t, and that creates accountability, which in turn increases motivation, and therefore improves the chance that the job will actually get done. 

Here’s an example from my place of work; the film set. 

Specifically because we spend so much money to shoot a film—on average roughly $20K an hour for a studio feature—we have highly segmented jobs and assign very discrete tasks. That gives us maximum control and better outcomes. I don't say, “Someone go lock up that street corner.” Instead I assign that job to a specific production person. Discrete task assignment creates accountability, which in turn increases motivation and drives harder work, which ultimately maximizes productivity on a film set just like it does with the kids in the kitchen on cleanup duty. After all, people are less likely to slough off responsibility in a situation where the assignment is clear and they can be individually blamed if it is not completed. 

In film production we also invert control by breaking difficult tasks down into incremental component pieces. When shooting a stunt like a full body burn we don’t say “Let’s just light the guy on fire and wing it,” we break the stunt down into fractional tasks where every detail—from who will do what to how many seconds it will be done for—and that gives us as close as we can get to total control in a dangerous situation. It also allows any potential problems to be revealed before the process begins, builds the confidence of everyone on the team, and creates a string of motivating small wins. 

A firefighter who has to get a frightened victim to climb down a ladder to escape from the high floor of a burning building doesn't say, “Just climb down the ladder.” Instead, he or she parses the task into executable component parts by saying, “Just put your left foot on the top rung.” That much feels doable by the scared victim. Once that’s done, the firefighter can then assign a sequential task by saying, “Now put your right foot on the top rung,” and so on. That firefighter has used the specific phrasing of a command in tandem with discrete task segmentation to take back control in a tough, life-threatening situation, and therefore has a better chance for a positive outcome.

Entire industries have been disrupted by implementing the concept of inversion of control on a system wide level as well. Take the popular Harvard Business School case study that details how Hiroaki Aoki, the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain, inverted control to address several industry issues when the franchise was planning to enter the US market. Aoki essentially re-thought the standard process and flow (moving a product all the way through production to consumer delivery) in the restaurant business by moving food prep and cooking to the center stage of the dining room and having chefs prepare the food in front of patrons seated at large communal dining tables. In so doing, he improved margins. He streamlined the menu, eliminated the distance from kitchen to table, addressed what were poor perceptions of Japanese food in the US at the time by allowing diners to see how fresh and simple the ingredients were, reduced the need for front of the house staff, and since the chef actually bowed to signify the end of the meal, he ended “table linger,” which is a costly factor in the restaurant business.

Take a more recent example. The ride share company Uber. By designing their business model with an app that includes a customer rating system for drivers, Uber management instantly took better control of driver behavior—something traditional cab companies have virtually no control over. By taking carefully thought out steps to invert control on a system wide basis, just like Benihana had, Uber automated better outcomes.

Now take this concept of inversion of control into any of your management situations. Think about how often you can easily rephrase statements in order to automate better outcomes, how you can use discrete task assignment to instantly create more clarity and accountability, and how you might be able to structure your overall management system in a way that inverts control in a more comprehensive way. All of these efforts will get you what you want with less effort, have a positive impact on the bottom line, and that will ultimately make you a much better leader.
Tom Reilly is the author of The Hollywood MBA: A Crash Course in Management from a Life in the Film Business. He has been a professional filmmaker for more than thirty years collaborating on over 100 film and television projects for every major studio. He’s worked with directors Sydney Pollock, Irwin Winkler, Barbra Streisand, and Woody Allen and with more than 75 Academy Award winners. In The Hollywood MBA, Reilly explores the ten key strategies he utilized to manage big crews, big budgets, and big personalities on major motion pictures, and shows us how these strategies can be leveraged in any business for success. For more info please visit

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leadership Development and the Role of Millennials

Guest post from Philipe Bruce:

More than 50% of businesses claim that they do not have the resources or time to train their employees to be leaders. As such none of those business owners and leaders have the resources they need to sustain their enterprises. How serious is this? According to the same study, expenditures on leadership development programs have decreased by about 10%.

What is horrifying to note is that organizations that fail to develop employee skills are setting themselves up for disaster. Rather than utilizing their talent to the best of their abilities and facilitating growth, most organizations prefer to use employees as cogs, oiling them as needed in order to remain functional. Entrepreneurs willingly turn a blind eye to this for the sake of immediate gain and in turn, sets the entire machine up for failure. Sacrificing long term growth for immediate gain only serves to benefit those higher-up in an organization’s hierarchy rather than those who really need it.

Leadership development is the most ignored aspect for several reasons. It is either used to push forth bureaucratic agendas or not given the attention it deserves. Unfortunately, in the bid to save funds, many companies end up paying a higher price for this neglect in the long run, losing top young talent with the potential to steer organizations towards a better and brighter future.

Organizations in the United States spend over $170 billion on leadership based-training programs, but those funds are not utilized to their full potential. The reason is simple: leaders cannot be trained. They have to be developed. This means focusing on individual rather than mass talents. Rather than trying to mold new employees into cookie-cutter ones that can fit in established machineries, employers need to create leadership development programs that can be tailored to individual needs and existing talents.

This is easier said than done. In order to encourage managers to put in the time necessary to do this process justice, old leadership training methods have to be expunged. Now more than ever, failure to do so may result in a massive loss of top talent to competing organizations that recognize their potential and are flexible enough to devote resources to them.

There are a couple of reasons why the old model has lost its effectiveness. Two of the common ones include:

Business owners have become near-sighted – As mentioned before, most organizations sacrifice potential gain in favor of aimless productivity that can bring immediate gains. We are not talking about top management here – more often than not line managers for instance are given set instructions that they cannot deviate from. This leaves little to no room for employee development since most managers believe they do not have the resources or the ability to nurture future leaders.

Talent-choking red tape – Organizations that focus on developing existing managerial talent rather than future ones, lead to a tangle of bureaucratic red tape that chokes off creativity. This leads to development exercises that have little to no value for new employees, which takes up a lot more time than they are worth. Simply put, some of today’s development practices are perceived as just something that needs to be completed rather than important exercises that can generate value in existing talent.

Millennials are getting the short end of the stick…
These two reasons are part of the reason why organizations are failing to retain top talent and resources that can give them the flexibility they need to survive in a new business era. We are of course, referring to Millennials here. This generation is often described as the antithesis of the ideal candidate. They can be stubborn, opinionated, are loyal to themselves first, and have high expectations when it comes to career advancement.

However, that is also an immense potential. Millennials can be stubborn yes, but this trait points to a strong and assertive personality that is the hallmark of strong leaders. They have strong opinions, but that does not mean they cannot listen to reason. Millennials thrive on feedback, crave for it actually, and prefer to have their opinions challenged rather than shot down. This is a trait that is tantamount for visionaries and leaders who have the potential of influencing others to greatness. Since this generation craves feedback and especially from senior management, a lack of it demotivates them, leading to disillusionment and ultimately, resignations.

Harnessing that potential will be critical in the next decade or so since this generation has all of the qualities that future leaders need to remain relevant in today’s business environment. In fact, this generation will make up more than 70% of the global workforce at that time but this does not mean they do not need leadership development at all. Unfortunately, with their hesitance to tackle existing politics, most employers prefer to have a laid-back attitude regarding the Millennials need of leadership development.

This is dangerous for organizations that have plans to expand and which will only have baby boomers and retirees to rely on during that time. Many of them will be experienced but will not have the strength, vitality, resourcefulness and most importantly, practical knowledge of current business trends to create sustainable production models.
The key is to pinpoint talent, in this case Millennials, that have all of the mentioned traits above and those who can be encouraged rather than forced to realize their full potential. 

The first approach can persuade them to use their talents to uncover opportunities that should not be hidden from them in the first place. The second approach will make it difficult owing to this generation’s stubborn nature. Therefore, future leadership development programs should be designed to nurture existing talents in order to prevent a significant skills gap down the line.

Philipe Bruce is the Founder of P.O.D.S Professional & Organizational Development Solutions, a business coaching consultancy based in Omaha, Nebraska. Born in The Republic of Togo of West Africa, Bruce ​is a business development coach with degrees from University of Nebraska, Bellevue University, and Peru State College. Fluent in English and French and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Bruce brings a diverse, global perspective to the challenges facing the American workforce. His new book Not Just Talent: The Millennials Redefining Talent & Human Capital Management is available now on Amazon

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Six Ways to Make Your Presentation a Hit

Guest post by Ted Frank

Scientists say our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish, so it’s more important than ever to make our presentations as engaging and compelling as possible. How can we do that?  One way is by taking cues from the place that can still captivate us for hours at a time: the movies.

Storytelling: In the way execs have wanted it all along

Movie-style storytelling is actually a perfect fit for corporate presentations because it’s built on the same principles we’ve all been seeking from presentations: being simple, quick, visual and powerful. But the best news is that you can get a lot of movie power without even using video. Here are a few tips to make your next presentation a hit.

1. Find the three key points that matter mostScreenwriters are able to write so quickly and powerfully because they start with three key scenes, then build the rest of movie around those. This not only keeps them out of the weeds when writing, but it will make it easier for us to remember and share it with other people. Business people can do the same thing: decide what three things are most important and emphasize those. It will make it easier to write your presentation, and will enable you to choose what people remember. If you evenly emphasize ten points, who knows what they’ll remember.
2. Cut out what you don’t need
Now that you’ve got your key story, take another cue from movies and cut what you don’t need. Hollywood calls it “killing your babies,” but in truth, few in Hollywood kill their own. Screenwriters cut the novel to 150-or-so pages, the director cuts down the script, and then finally, the editor cuts it all down to the story we see on screen.
And you know what? Most of the time, we don’t miss those cuts one bit. Because having less detail often helps us absorb and remember the most important parts of the story. So grab a colleague close enough to your work to understand it, but far enough from your weed pile. Tell him or her the three key points you want your stakeholders to remember, then ask them to cut anything that gets in the way. In my workshops, I’ve seen people cut 80% from their partner’s deck, and their partners are always, always grateful.

3. Tell those points through example stories We all know how much easier it is to understand and remember a concept when we hear or see it through an example. The example helps us grab hold of it. So unless your point is so simple a kid can understand it, always look for a way to describe it through an example. And then, cap it off with the opportunity your point presents to your stakeholders. Put the example and the opportunity together and you give them not only a story they can relate to, but also one they can use.

4. If you can make it visual, even better
Just like an example helps us grab hold of it, seeing that example makes it even more clear. It also puts everyone on the same page because we all see the same visual. And while we normally gravitate toward a drawing or animation, a photo can actually be more helpful because photos depict real things, and that makes it even easier for stakeholders to relate and believe.

5. Speak to the emotional side
We all know how powerful emotions pull on us, otherwise, no one would own a sports car or SUV. But for some reason, when we get to the office and pull out our PowerPoint, we forget about emotion. The truth is that no matter where we are, we are influenced by our emotions. So speaking to the rational side and informing can only take you so far. If you want people to get behind you, you have to inspire them and make them believe, and that all comes by engaging their emotional side.

6. Stand up for what you believeOne of the most profound ways people can raise the level of their presentation is to get up from behind the projector and stand in front of the screen. Do that and you’re already a million times more engaging. First, because they see the words come from you, which increases your credibility, solely because it shows you believe in your message enough to stand for it.
But it also enables you to enhance your communication through gestures and body language. You can even emulate one of the most powerful shots in movies: the dolly-push. When you want to make your big point, walk slowly toward your stakeholders like a dollied camera and you’ll feel all the power movies bring to their heroes.

Ted Frank is the principal story strategist at Backstories Studio. His book, Get to the Heart, shows professionals how using movie-style storytelling can make presentations clear, compelling, and c-suite ready. Follow him on Twitter @backstoriestv.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Are You a Great Manager?

Guest post from Jack Litewka:

“How can I know whether I’m a Good Manager or a Great Manager?”  (I’ll assume that no one reading this article is a Bad Manager.)

That’s an important question that all leaders need to ask themselves.  “Why is it an important question?”  Because a Great Manager achieves significantly better results than a Good Manager does – in revenue, in profit margin, in out-of-the-box thinking, in exceeding expectations, in team morale, in talent retention, in enhancing the reputation of a company’s brand and the company’s products and services, and in being perceived as a leader.  So if a leader is not taking the time to think about what s-he needs to do to continue along the path from Good Manager to Great Manager, becoming a Great Manager will always be out of reach.

Good Managers
Let’s begin by looking at what Good Managers do. 

Good Managers deliver quality results on time.  Good Managers deliver quality results on budget.  Good Managers do a good job of hiring talent.  Good Managers do a good job of setting expectations.  Good Managers to a good job of setting context for their team.  Good Managers do a good job of planning.  And more, of course.

These are important accomplishments, and the work-world surely needs more Good Managers.  No argument there. 

But is that a high-enough bar for excellence?  That question (and its answer – “No”) inevitably leads to these questions:  “What’s different about a Great Manager?  How do Great Managers distinguish themselves?”  Read on…

Great Managers
A Great Manager does all the things that a Good Manager does – but does those things in a world-class manner (not just in a good-enough manner). 

A Great Manager also does additional things that a Good Manager does not do.  “Such as?”  Here are a few of the key characteristics that differentiate a Good Manager from a Great Manager.

Great Managers have a framework – one might call it a philosophic frameworkwithin which they can consider all potential activities and trade-offs.  Key to this is that Great Managers understand the critical aspect of their role – their overarching framework – which is:  creating conditions that allow others to succeed.  Of course, Great Managers cannot guarantee that their team members will always succeed; they can, however, create conditions that give team members the optimal chance of meeting and exceeding the quality bar in their deliverables.

Great Managers have a keen and healthy self-awareness of their impact on others, as regards the people on their team and on other managers, executives, and members of the board of directors.  That self-awareness makes it possible for Great Managers to protect their teams (from noise, rumors, inadequate budgets, etc.) and to create optimal conditions for their teams to do world-class work.

Great Managers have a very sophisticated understanding of how to motivate their teams.  They understand that long-term motivation is not always achieved by throwing parties… or giving gifts… or coming up with gimmicks… or verbal kindness…  or justly-earned promotions… or ensuring public recognition – though each of those can (in the right circumstances) be good things.  Great Managers understand that members of their teams will feel motivated when they are successful – and that feeling of success propagates self-motivation, which is long-lasting.  So, again, creating conditions that allow others to succeed is crucial.

Great Managers do not believe everything they think.  They regularly ask themselves, “What if I’m wrong?”  That question leads Great Managers to regularly think about alternatives that might be preferable to the first one they come up with before making significant decisions.

Great Managers understand that developing a Great Team requires creating a Great Team Culture.  Great Managers think a lot about how to create a culture in which the sum is greater than the parts.  They realize that it doesn’t happen by itself, doesn’t happen by accident.  They understand that it doesn’t automatically happen by hiring talent.  Creating a Great Team Culture requires a Great Manager to orchestrate dozens of factors in a skillful (and often subtle) way.  Great Managers step up to this task – and do the work necessary to create a Great Team Culture.  “Why are they willing to spend time and effort on this?”  Because they understand that a Great Team Culture results in their team exceeding expectations on a regular basis.

Jack Litewka is a management consultant who has mentored dozens of managers.  He is the author of The Sophisticated Manager:  Essential Leadership Lessons for Developing High-Performance Team… and Avoiding Critical Mistakes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Year’s Leadership Development Goals 2017 Edition

The beginning of a new year. A fresh start! OK, so we’re one month into the year by the time I got around to posting this.

For many leaders, it’s a time to reflect on accomplishments for the past year and establish goals for the upcoming New Year. 

It’s also a good time to set leadership development goals, either as part of a formal development planning process, or just because it’s a proven way to continuously improve as a leader.

While leadership development goals should always be specific and relevant to the individual leader and linked to the organizational context, there are a few common ones that most any leader could benefit from.

Here’s a list to choose from:

1. Become more self-aware (and aware of others). I’ll learn more about my strengths and weaknesses. More about my own emotions and how to control them, about other’s emotions and how I am coming across to others, and how to harness this awareness of self and others to be a better leader. I’ll take a multi-rater assessment or figure out some other way to get an accurate assessment as to how I am perceived by others. I’ll read Daniel Goleman HRB article “What Makes a Leader”.

2. Delegate more. My unwillingness or inability to let go is causing me to work long hours, preventing me from having the time to be more strategic, and is retarding the development of my team. I’ll do some serious self-reflection, or work with a coach or mentor, to figure out what’s causing me not to delegate. Is it my own ego? Is it a lack of confidence in my team? Once I get to the root cause, I will create a list of everything I do and make hard decisions on what to delegate, who to delegate to, how to do it, and by when.

3. Be more strategic. I’ll improve my ability to see the big picture and take a longer range, broader business perspective. I’ll learn to step back from the day-to-day tactical details of my business and focus on the “why”, not just the “what” and “how.” I’ll learn to speak the “language” of strategy and apply these concepts to leading my organization.

4. Be a better listener. I need to learn to pay attention and demonstrate to others that that I value what they have to say. I’ll use active listening, open-ended questions, body language, and eliminate distractions that get in the way of my ability to listen.

5. Become a better negotiator. I’ll learn the “art and science” of negotiation, and use proven negotiation techniques to collaborate and reach win-win outcomes with my manager, direct reports, peers, suppliers and customers.

6. Learn to resolve conflict. I need to stop avoiding conflict – and start dealing with conflicts head on in a more constructive way. I’ll learn different approaches to dealing with conflict – my preferred approach – and how and when to use more effective approaches. I’ll then apply what I’ve learned and tackle a lingering conflict that needs to be resolved.

7. Be a better coach. I need to spend more time coaching and developing my team. I’ll shift my leadership style away from always directing and telling and learn to guide and develop my direct reports. I’ll learn and practice the “G.R.O.W.” coaching model with each of my direct reports until it becomes natural and a part of my leadership style.

8. Develop my team.  I’ll learn more about what it really means and takes to become a high performing “team”. I’ll do a formal team assessment to learn about our strengths and weaknesses, then work with my team to establish an action plan to improve. Possible improvement areas: building trust, establishing structure and processes that encourage and enable teamwork, and practice “shared leadership”.

9. Lead Change. I’ll learn from the classics: John Kotter, William Bridges, Peter Senge and others and apply these proven models and techniques to a significant change that I need to drive this year.

10. Stretch myself with a “strategic challenge” project. Work with my manager to come up with a developmental “learn by doing project”. Something above and beyond my regular duties that gives me an opportunity to learn and apply new leadership skills. I’ll apply many of the skills I’ve been working on under “live fire”, where the risks and rewards are high.

Do any of these leadership development goals sound like they benefit you? If so, does it look overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Our new 6-day Leadership Certificate program will help leaders develop each of these critical skills and more! Learn leadership lessons from UNH best in class business school faculty, executive coaches and peers using a proven leadership development model.

Join me in New Hampshire May 11-12, June 6-7, and June 20-21, 2017! Download a brochure here.