Thursday, October 19, 2017

Are you a Leader or a Lemming?

Guest post from Sandy Coletta:
I know what you are thinking - a lemming is a follower and by its very definition, a leader
isn’t a follower. It is absolutely true that within a given group, the leader is setting the direction and guiding those who follow. But what happens when you assemble a group of leaders? Perhaps it starts within your organization, then within your industry? How many “leaders” are present at your college reunion, your country club, or your annual conference? At some point in your career journey, have you started to focus more on status as a leader than the job at hand?
Regardless of our station in life, there are always others who share similar roles.  All of us have a peer group and within that group a select few are viewed as the role models and the others aspire to reach that level of peak performance.  Said more simply, some are leaders and the majority are followers.  So even the Chief, President, Provost, Chair or other applicable senior title within your organizational structure are leaders while at the same time mimicking the practices established by those they aspire to be.    These individuals, Lemming Leaders, are less focused on adapting best practices to their specific setting and more concerned with being at the “industry standard”. 
Signs of a Lemming Leader:
Use of jargon:
Do you use the terms restructuring, high reliability, six sigma, just culture, strategic sourcing, population health, or employee engagement in your organization? How about reengineering, total quality management, performance management, learning organization, value analysis, managed care, or employee satisfaction?
The trappings:
Look in your driveway.  Does your car reflect your “status”? List your favorite restaurants. Do you bump into employees when you are there or other executives?
Your friends:
When is the last time you spoke to a friend from high school? Who would you call in an emergency if your family was unavailable? Are your social activities limited to work and business colleagues?
Your bookshelf:
Are they all leadership books?
The other employees:
Do they know you? I mean, do they really know you?
So, if you are a Lemming, join the club! It is human nature to look towards others who are successful in a similar position and try to emulate them. The problem rests however in how this pre-occupation with being acknowledged as a “leader” by your peers is perceived by your employees. This job you are in isn’t about enhancing your standing relative to others, but is about enhancing your organizations’ performance in the market, which can only be achieved through the combined efforts of your entire team.
To break away from the lemmings, give these techniques a try.
1. Use plain language to describe what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to make your operation more efficient, then say so. “To continue to have our product priced competitively so we can increase sales, we need to reduce our costs. To do that, we are going to identify any work effort that doesn’t make our product better and eliminate it.”    Sounds a lot clearer than saying “we are going to embark on a six sigma project to improve efficiency,” doesn’t it?
2. Encourage the customization of best practices in your organization. Learning from others is appropriate, copying is not!
3. You should be able to enjoy your life and the economic rewards that you have earned. Just be sure that what you want is the driving force, not what looks best. My most recent peer review included a comment that I needed to get a better car. I drive a Fiat 500. I worked hard to earn a salary that allowed me the discretion to buy what I love, not just what I can afford. I love my Fiat, whether it fits my role in the company or not!
4. This one is IMPORTANT: When the time comes for your career to end, and it will one way or the other, your friends and family are the ones who will still be there. If you have those kinds of people in your life, treasure them. If not, find some who don’t know and don’t care what you do for a living.
5. Remember back in your undergraduate liberal arts classes when you had to read the classics? That was when you learned to think for yourself. Keep reading the leadership books if you must, but branch out a bit. Read a novel. Study history. Write a poem. Think beyond what other leaders have discovered, discover on your own.
6. Be open with your staff; share who you are and what you care about. Be fair, not frightening.
As my career progressed and I got drawn into a “lemming leadership” identify, my mother would quite bluntly point out that the higher one climbs, the harder the fall. She reminded me that I am privileged to have a great job, but it does not define who I am.
Know who you are and be yourself first and lead from there. When it comes time to hand off the job to the next rising star, you will still have your feet on the ground to break the fall.
The Owl Approach to Storytelling: Lead with Your Life, the first book from Sandy Coletta, is available now. Originally published in early 2017, The Owl Approach combines a how-to guide for leadership storytelling with examples of actual stories shared with Coletta's staff at Kent Hospital in Warwick, RI during her tenure as President. The book offers insight into when to use personal stories, where to "discover" those stories and why the moral matters. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

3 Ways to Build Trust and Gain Followership

Guest post from Tarra Mitchell:

If we want our teams to follow us willingly, they first need to trust us. To gain trust, we have to learn to connect with people in a meaningful way. People want to be seen and heard. They want to know that we will be there for them if they need us.
Meaningful connection is not necessarily a natural talent that comes easily. Connecting with others requires that we get to know individual team members as people, not simply employees.
Here are three ways to build trust:
1)    Good Listening
Good listening involves offering our full attention to the people speaking. Learning to do this is a practice that is even more important—and more challenging—in our distracted, digital age.  We cannot offer our full attention to others when we are checking our emails, responding to texts, or reading our notebooks.
The key difference between good listening—the kind that builds trust—and distracted listening is that good listening requires us to look the person in the eye. When we listen well, we look the person speaking in the eye and do our very best not to turn our gaze away.
A second aspect of good listening is the continued practice of turning your mind back to the person speaking, even as the mind tries over and over again to think about yet another item on your to-do list. Focusing on the color of the speaker’s eyes is a good trigger to help move your concentration toward the person speaking and away from whatever is distracting you at the moment.
If it feels almost impossible to keep your mind on the person speaking, you won’t be able to build trust. If you know you have a frenzied mind, plan a different time to talk with the person—or learn how to center yourself. If you can learn how to center your mind before meetings, it will go a long way toward ensuring that you are in a better mental state to listen well and build trust. There are many methods to do this, such as mindfulness or breathing practices.
Finally, to really listen well, you need to actually listen. This means you are not offering solutions or interrupting, but listening to what the other person has to say without trying to form your own response yet. Giving the individual the time to speak while you are listening attentively will help them to feel valued and build trust.
2)    Allow the Team to Co-create Guidelines
Where possible, allow the team to co-create the ways they work together and how the work gets done. Most people do not want to be told what to do and appreciate being part of the decision-making process. Having a team create certain guidelines, procedures, and communication protocols is one way to foster a cohesive team and build trust. There’s an automatic level of buy-in and support when the marching orders are co-created.
When contemplating communication protocols, consider the meaning of the principle of integrity or truthfulness. Trust is built when communications are open and honest and there are no hidden agendas. Work toward being as open as possible with your team. Embed openness into your communication guidelines.
Allow for questioning and healthy discourse. This creates clarity for ourselves and for our teams. A healthy level of discourse just might result in a better way, so be flexible to adjusting guidelines as well.
3)    Fostering Safe and Supportive Work Environments
People want to feel safe, secure, and supported, in life and at work. Foster an environment that builds trust by practicing being vulnerable, which is a deep human quality that supports relationship building. Our team needs to see our own human side, including our imperfections. When we share our frustrations, our fears, and our failures, we in turn send a signal to our team that we are willing to be open, so they can feel safe being open, too. This is a great way to create a safe environment.
When we foster a strong team connection, we build trust across the team. By communicating in ways that are uniting and not dividing, we fortify the team. Demonstrate how every function has meaningful importance to the productivity of the team and success of the organization. Make the team aware of what the others on the team do and the challenges they encounter. Be generous with compliments on work well done and share accolades openly. Encourage team members to support one another in this way as well.

Trust and followership are built on simple practices that we can do to connect more deeply with our teams. Implement these practices and watch team satisfaction improve and your days become a little easier.
Tarra Mitchell, author of The Yoga of Leadership (Fall 2017), is integrating her distinctive background in business and yoga to show how personal wellbeing is connected to success. Her keen ability to connect with people led to an investment career directing billion-dollar fundraising events and developing relationships around the world. @TarraMMitchell

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why Make Managers A Strategic Priority?

Guest post from Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage:

What would your organization be like if every employee had a great manager? What would happen to productivity, quality, morale and customer satisfaction? In every organization, managers are a key leverage point to drive higher performance and better business results. Managers maintain service and quality standards and ensure adherence to company policies and regulatory requirements. They also drive engagement and retention of employees.

Managers influence at least 75 percent of the reasons people give for voluntary job turnover, and they account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement. The impact managers have on turnover and engagement go straight to the organization’s bottom line. Turnover costs range from 48 to 61 percent of an employee’s annual salary, and disengaged employees cost organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary.

It’s difficult to overstate the impact a great manager can have on organizational performance. However, organizations often under invest in their selection and training. In fact, in many organizations, the best front line employee (e.g. best nurse, best waiter, best carpenter) is promoted as the next manager. Furthermore, in many cases, the new manager receives zero training. One day the person is an hourly employee, and the next day they’re managing their former coworkers. Sound familiar?

Improving the process for identifying and training new managers presents a low-risk, high return, strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. Here are specific steps you can take to make managers a strategic business priority. 

First, change your selection criteria.
Optimizing the impact of managers starts with changing your selection criteria. Performing with excellence as a manager requires very different talents than performing in an hourly employee role. Therefore, excellent individual performance is not a good basis for promoting someone to a management role. Instead, look for an employee who naturally exhibits these behaviors and attitudes.

1.  Takes Initiative. This particular combination of behavior and attitude is fundamental to everything else and should be a ticket to admission for promotion to manager. Who sees ways to help, to improve things, to add value -- and takes action?

2.  Improves Morale. This should also be required. Who has a strong positive attitude and positively impacts the attitudes of others? Things feel better in the department when this person is working. He or she encourages others to maintain positivity and optimism in the face of adversity.

 3.  Helps Other Employees. Who notices when another team member could use some help and just spontaneously moves in to help them?  This person might reach out proactively to help you as well.

4.  Teaches Other Employees. Who naturally shares knowledge, expertise and new learning to help other people do their jobs better – and really enjoys that kind of teaching?

5.  Generates Ideas For Improvement.  Who always sees ways to make things function more effectively -- and then speaks up? This might be annoying sometimes, but it’s a sign of management talent.

6.  Demonstrates Leadership. Who sees that something needs to be done, asks others to pitch in and gets results? This goes beyond simply taking initiative. The key is in asking others and getting them to pitch in. Again, it’s natural.

While not an exhaustive list, it’s a great start to finding people with the natural talent to be managers. And it’s much better than just choosing the top performer in the current role. In fact, your best management candidate might NOT be the best performer in the department. The person with the highest potential to be a great supervisor or manager might be just average as a waiter or sales associate. If you see these attitudes and behaviors, if you see an employee who does these kinds of things without being asked … that’s the person you should consider for promotion to manager.

Next, provide appropriate training.
The next step in making sure every employee has a great manager is to create a training program. Once you have identified future managers, put them into a training program. You and your colleagues should make a list of the skills and knowledge needed to be a great manager in your organization. Possible items might include:
  • Union contracts
  • Wage and hour law
  • Scheduling work
  • Inventory
  • Company and departmental policies
  • Coaching and counseling
  • Ordering supplies
  • Train the trainer
Whatever is on your list, new managers will operate with a much higher level of confidence when you train them beforehand, rather than just saying, “Congratulations, here’s your desk.” By the way, how much easier would your life be if every employee had a great manager?

Final step: Hold managers accountable.
Most companies are keenly aware of the importance of employee engagement. Many conduct periodic engagement surveys, form teams to address issues identified by those surveys and implement improvement strategies recommended by those teams. That is a costly, time-consuming process. And despite those kinds of efforts, engagement survey scores do not seem to improve materially year over year.

There is a better way to improve your engagement scores. Focus on your managers.

If you analyze data on engagement and voluntary turnover, you are likely see the Pareto Principle in action – 80% of your low engagement or high turnover is attributable to 20% of your managers.

The solution is to remove the poor managers and replace them with great managers. This solution is not easy or pleasant. It might require you to alter performance evaluation criteria to hold managers accountable for engagement scores and voluntary turnover. It might require you to replace some managers with seniority. The alternative is to ignore the reality that certain poor managers are causing most of the disengagement and voluntary turnover. Replacing them with great managers will improve all your metrics, and improve them rapidly.

Focusing on managers presents a low-risk, high return, strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. You can do this by adopting better selection criteria and by providing better training. Parting company with poor managers and replacing them with highly talented managers will bring rapid improvement in engagement and turnover, translating to better financial results.

Larry Sternberg
is the co-author to Kim Turnage of the new book MANAGING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: How To Engage, Retain & Develop Talent For Maximum Performance. Sternberg is a senior executive at management consulting firm Talent Plus. For more information please visit

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Every Organization Should Focus on Making Managers More Coach-Like

Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

“Coaching” is one of those buzzwords that has been flying around human resources and leadership conversations for a few years now. By now we know how effective coaching can bridge the gap between HR and talent development. Trouble is, not everyone really knows what coaching means. It’s easy enough to see why that is — coaching comes in a few forms.

Executive coaches generally come into a workplace once or twice a month and spend an hour or so with their clients, supporting and encouraging them, helping them to focus and be more strategic. They tend to work with senior employees. There’s no doubt that having someone acting as your champion and a sounding board can be valuable, but it’s expensive and, as it turns out, it’s not the most effective way to introduce coaching to the average time-crunched manager.

Another avenue organizations might take involves training people within the organization to take on the role of executive coach.

The third type — and the most effective type, in my opinion — occurs when managers recognize that being more coach-like is a great way to lead and so they take matters into their own hands. And that’s what we’re all about at Box of Crayons — helping managers and leaders become more coach-like so that they can coach their employees in 10 minutes or less.

It’s easy enough to say “Okay, I’m going to coach my employees”; it’s another thing altogether to actually do it well. Everyone is busy enough as it is, and it’s hard to find time to learn a new skill, let alone act on it. Hence the need for practical, on-the-spot coaching.

Coaching is what separates average managers from highly effective ones — and leaders in HR and L&D know that. But getting managers to become more coach-like doesn’t happen without a little effort.

The biggest barrier managers and leaders have to coaching is lack of time. They’re overwhelmed and overcommitted. They think they don’t have time for coaching or they’re not sure how to get started. How do we help them get there?

Monique Valcour, in her Harvard Business Review article, You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach, really hits the nail on the head when she says, “If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.” And to do just that, she continues, you need to have coaching conversations.

An effective coaching conversation can take place in 10 minutes or less. You don’t even need to label it as coaching (and in fact, you shouldn’t). This type of conversation will improve your everyday interactions, so consider making it an almost-daily event. Think drip irrigation rather than flash floods.

The key to a good coaching conversation is asking questions. In my book The Coaching Habit, I list seven essential questions that serve as a sort of coaching script. To get started, you can pick just one that feels most useful to you. The Kickstart Question “What’s on your mind?” can help you get quickly to the heart of what matters most. The Focus Question “What’s the real challenge here for you?” digs a little deeper. The Best Coaching Question in the World is “And what else?” It works wonders because you’ll find that the first answer someone gives you is never the only answer, and rarely their best answer.

Asking questions is to coaching as corn is to a really good bourbon — it’s not everything, but it’s more than half.

Start strong and finish quickly. Keep it to 10 minutes or less, keep it simple and do it often. Make coaching a regular part of your day by transforming the interactions you have, rather than it adding more to your workload.

Coaching doesn’t need to be a big formal event. By making it an everyday conversation and developing coach-like tendencies, you’ll create teams that are happier and more effective, leading to results that help the organization as a whole. The term “coaching” doesn’t need to mean anything more than simply saying less and asking more, and in doing so, changing for the better the way you lead.  
About Michael Bungay Stanier: Author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Making the Most of Timing Differences: Managing a Team of Procrastinators and Non-procrastinators

Guest post from Mary Lamia:
At times, projects that require teamwork can lead us to imagine we are back in middle
school doing a group project where a couple of the group members tend to get things done at a deadline, while the others tend to do things ahead of schedule. Those who complete their part of the project early become anxious and then critical that others have not done their part, even though there is still time before the project is due. They may even be inclined to complete the project themselves because they do not trust the others to do it or to pull it off. They may complain that they have done all of the work or want the procrastinating group members to withdraw. In such cases, the relationships among group members may erode. Unfortunately, far reaching negative implications and assumptions are not uncommon in such situations. Moreover, once the procrastinators pull everything together as the deadline is looming, non-procrastinators may become resentful that procrastinating team members always “get away with it,” especially if the procrastinators are perceived as equally-valued in the organization or receive accolades from management for their contributions.

Most human behavior can be understood by recognizing the emotions that motivate it. The different ways in which people are motivated to complete tasks is based on when their emotions are activated and what activates them. Procrastinators who consistently complete tasks on time—even if it’s at the last moment—are motivated by emotions that are activated by a looming deadline. They are deadline driven. I refer to them as deadline driven in order to remove the stigma and recognize procrastination as a valid motivational style. In contrast, people who are compelled to take action right away are motivated by emotions that are triggered by tasks themselves. I refer to them as task-driven. 

In the workplace, people may tend either to be acquiescent about motivational style differences or to become frustrated about the way someone else gets things done. We generally interpret the behavior of others according to our own standards, values, and way of doing things. If you are task driven, the incubation period for the procrastinator is time wasted. If you are a procrastinator, the constant urgency of a task-driven person is time wasted as well. Where procrastinators tend to produce a finished product at a deadline, task-driven people are likely to create a draft of their work, modify it themselves, or assume a coworker on the project will make modifications later. If completing a task is their primary goal, task-driven people may believe it is done, when, in fact, it can be improved by further work. Revisiting or reviewing what they have written will often lead task-driven people to submit revised documents. These revisions will likely annoy deadline-driven coworkers because those who procrastinate tend to complete work in one draft. 

Optimizing the productivity of a team requires gaining an understanding of motivational style differences, as well as learning ways to discuss conflicts with coworkers and how to navigate through them. In employment settings, recognizing stylistic differences in task completion could allow group members to strategize, organize, and find creative solutions to handling project completion. Identifying the motivational styles of various team members (or whether or not they have a typical style) can prove to be an asset in terms of how work is structured. Task driven people who tend to get things done ahead of time can be responsible for first drafts, for example, and deadline-driven procrastinators can be assigned the inclusion of details, compiling data, and the responsibility for modifications at the end. Managers who involve their employees in weekly goal assessment and performance check-ins, rather than only reviewing their work performance once or twice a year, are taking both task‑completion styles into consideration. High quality work that is on time is a consistent goal.

There is no superior way of getting something done when managers evaluate employee and teamwork performance based on the neutral standard that deadlines are never missed and work quality reflects one’s best efforts. With this in mind, it is irrelevant whether something is completed on the early side or at the deadline. Emotions provide us with information and motivation to take action. However, in interpersonal situations within the workplace where emotions speak to you, their vague message can be misinterpreted and responded to in ways that disrupt bonds we have with co-workers. Navigating through differences in task completion, or anything else, may seem rather difficult at times. Nevertheless, in the process of doing so it’s possible to learn a lot about oneself and better understand others who approach things differently.

Dr. Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, and professor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of five books, and she blogs for Psychology Today and Therapy Today websites. Her current book is What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success .

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Turning a Vision into Reality

Guest post from Joseph Paris:

What does it take to get from the idea to the realization of that idea? How do we get from a dream or the scribblings on the back of a napkin or some vivid imagery that is concocted in our mind’s eye—perhaps the result of a peyote-induced haze—to something tangible we can deliver to our customers or our colleagues? What does it take, what is the process, to get from contemplation to completion? How do we turn our visions into a reality?

Lessons from the Earth to the Moon

When I was younger, the space race was in full swing. There was no International Space Station (or any space station) and no Space Shuttle, and Neil Armstrong had not yet set foot on the Moon. I am too young to remember any of the Mercury or Gemini missions, but I do remember many of the Apollo missions. And I remember that each and every launch from Cape Canaveral was watched with intensity from every television in the nation, perhaps the world.

Vision is the image of the future that you have for your company. The key to success for any initiative is to be able to know what the vision is—in its most simple and raw form—and to effectively communicate what that vision is to the team in clear and concise language so everyone can understand what the company stands for and what it strives to be. You must align the team so they know their roles in pursuit of this vision and what they are expected to accomplish.

In the case of our heroes at Mission Control, their vision began in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving
the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”1 Make no mistake in the boldness of this statement, especially the latter part. It’s far simpler to put a man on the Moon than it is to put a man on the Moon and get him safely back to Earth. But no matter how bold a statement it was or how complex it
would actually be to fulfill, the elegance of its simplicity made it
all seem plausible and possible.

Kennedy had motivation but he also had a gut feeling, based on the accomplishments of the first half of the century—a century that saw the invention of flight, the harnessing of electricity, the automobile, submarines, space flight, and the splitting of the atom—that his bold gauntlet was achievable. The very first step in achieving any future state is to define, as completely and as simply as you can, what it is you want to accomplish: What are the goals? Every sport has a means of calculating success or levels of success. Football has the aptly named goal line. Golf counts strokes. Even synchronized swimming has a manner of obtaining a score, however subjective it might be. How will you know if you have accomplished your objectives if they are not defined?

Visions of the future do not have to be complex. In fact, the best visions are simple, succinct, elegant, and understandable. This is necessary because you will never be able to describe your vision to someone with as much clarity and detail as it is in your mind, unless you distill it down to its raw essence as Kennedy did. >From a practical perspective, this is a requirement because you will need a cadre of people with their diverse talents and expertise to make your vision a reality. If you find your vision is complicated, chances are you don’t understand it well enough yourself—never mind trying to explain it to others. Go back and do a better job. Revise your goals until they are clear, concise, and achievable.

Joseph F. Paris Jr. is a thought leader on the subject of operational excellence, a prolific writer, a sought-after speaker around the world, and the author of the new book State of Readiness. In addition, Paris serves on the editorial board of The Lean Management Journal, the board of the Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department at the Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University, and the board of the Institute of Industrial Engineers' Process Industries Division. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happiness: A Leadership Imperative

Guest post from Ray Zinn

Having value is the essence of human happiness, and the essence of leadership.
In life, we have amusements, distractions and entertainment galore. In the United States, we have great wealth – loads of money. And yet none of these things are happiness, nor do they achieve it. But tour the Silicon Valley corporate landscape and one would think these things, provided in abundance, are the soul of man.

In 37 years as the head of Micrel Semiconductor, we achieved the lowest employee turn-over rate in the industry. We also had the highest “boomerang employee” rate, an unofficial measure of employees who left the company and came back. We did not pay salaries above the norm. We did not have lavish bistros on site. We lacked many common frills.

But we looked after people’s hearts and made sure they knew they were valuable.

Having Value

To have “value” is to have relative worth, merit, or importance. It is not an element of one’s self, but what you provide. We all provide some degree of value to others. A parent is immeasurably valuable to a child. A professor is very valuable to the college student. Cops are valuable to anyone craving safety. The plumber who unclogs your toilet on a Saturday night before your dinner guests arrive has significant value.

Where this becomes important to business and leaders is that knowing people have value is a source of their happiness. Leaders that expose the value in each volunteer, soldier or employee give to those individuals a sense of worth. Common humility prevents some people from recognizing their own value, but good leaders make certain that same value is acknowledged. Armored with the exposed sense of value, people then happily push forward to accomplish great things.

This doesn’t take much. One member of my team has accomplished some interesting things in his life, including moving the needle in an area of American politics. Yet one of his most prized possessions is a tiny plaque given to him by a long defunct organization for some software he wrote. He cannot recall where he left his $900 cellphone, but he knows exactly in what room and on what wall that plaque hangs.

The reason it was important to him was that the honor was unsolicited, and approved by his peers. It was recognition that he had provided something of value to the organization and its members. It was confirmation of his value to others.

The Value of Leadership

Providing value is what leaders do. “Servant leadership” is a school of thought whereby leaders see themselves as existing to help others. Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, once opinioned that organizational pyramids were drawn upside-down – that the CEO should be on the bottom, tip of the pyramid balanced on his or her head, and his job was to support everyone else.

Part of this philosophy is that leaders must help their teams know their value. Every employee, from your best engineers, to your brightest MBA, to your janitor provides value to others. Good leaders spend time learning the value of their team members, openly praising them for their contributions, and demonstrating how their value aids everyone in the organization.

Interestingly, this is the most important value the leader provides. When done well and consistently, employees return the validation. I retired in 2015, but to this day I receive emails from former employees thanking me for making Micrel a good place to work, and for making them feel alive, connected, and contributing.

Raymond D. “Ray” Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley. Zinn is known best for conceptualizing and in effect inventing the Wafer Stepper, and for co-founding semiconductor company Micrel (acquired by Microchip in 2015), which provides essential components for smartphones, consumer electronics and enterprise networks. He served as Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of its Board of Directors and President since the Company’s inception in 1978 through to its acquisition in 2015.
In November, 2015, Ray Zinn published his first book with McGraw Hill:
Tough Things First, Lessons On Management, Leadership and Entrepreneurialism from Silicon Valley’s Longest Serving CEO. He publishes regular columns about entrepreneurship and building enduring businesses on Entrepreneur, Forbes Tech Council, FORTUNE and CIO.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Who’s On Your Board of Directors?

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

Many companies have a board of directors, but we often don’t think about having a personal board to invest in our professional (and even personal) life.

I ask you--do you have a group of people around you that are committed to your success, who push you to keep learning, and who hold you accountable to your values and purpose?

Few of us do, yet having a personal “board of directors” or “board of advisors” can be a huge help in our lives.

I was a non-profit executive for 15 years. From my best boss, I learned how important a strong board is to the success of an executive's organization - and, personally, to that executive's success.

Many times, board members are volunteers. (In large corporations, some are paid.) Your personal board would be willing volunteers who are interested in helping you grow. In a “best case” scenario, your own board will be a type of support team and accountability group. They will help you stay true to your values, and encourage you to stay on track with being your best.

In a “worst case” scenario, board members will look out for their personal needs, perhaps using you to advance their agendas.

Before you decide to gather a personal board of directors, you need to formalize your personal purpose and values, which includes defining your values in measurable and behavioral terms.   This exercise will chart your course, giving you an outline of how you want to act and who you want to be in your work and personal life.

Once your personal purpose and values statement is clear, then you can consider 3-4 people in your network that you may want to ask to be part of your personal board. These people should consistently demonstrate characteristics such as:
1. Honesty. These people do not hide the truth. They are willing to share from their perspective, even things that may be hard to hear.

2.Service. These people are inspired by helping others.  They would receive joy by being part of such a group, without looking to gain something for themselves.

3.Success. These people have modeled success in their teams, businesses, and even personal life. They demonstrate getting the right things done the right way.

Once you identify some possible candidates, request 30 minutes of their time so you can explain why you would like them to be part of your personal board. Share your purpose and values statement and that you want their help to stay on track.

If they are interested, go further with establishing parameters. For example, “I would need…”

 - An hour a month of your tie for a one-on-one conversation by phone or face-to-face.

- You to hold me accountable for living out my values/purpose.

- Direct feedback on your perception on how I am interacting with others.

- Coaching on opportunities that may help me improve as a servant leader.

You may want to start with just two board members. As you have conversations with them, share your hits-and-misses.  Ask questions. Moreover, perhaps most importantly, listen intently. (After all, you have identified them as people who can add value and inspire you to grow.)

Your meetings can be one-on-one, or sometimes as a group. Either way, you will find benefit if you listen and apply guidance and suggestions from others who care about your success.

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