Thursday, December 1, 2016

Don’t Just Lead – Guide!

Guest post from Chris Maxwell:

I’ve always been a fan of adventure stories, and some of the most engaging of these are about great mountaineers and the triumphs and tragedies they have experienced.  Business leaders, too, revel in inspiring stories of overcoming adversity, and the metaphor of striving to reach a distant peak, with all its challenges and rewards, works beautifully in the workplace.  As Ed Bernbaum, a mountaineer and Senior Fellow at the Mountain Institute writes, “Just as Everest stretches people to do more than they thought they could, so companies want to stretch their employees to reach the loftiest goals, to be number one in the field, to provide the best product or service in the industry group.”

But in my view, rather than the extreme mountaineer, it’s the mountain guide we can learn the most from.  Perhaps that’s because the thought of guiding others to reach their own summits at work is something we can all relate to -- and wish for.

Over the past decade, I organized over twenty, guide-led expeditions designed to build leadership and teamwork skills for Wharton Business School students.  These ventures took place on high peaks and trails around the world, including remote locations in North America, Patagonia, and Iceland.  Although the expeditions were mentally and physically challenging, each allowed relatively inexperienced travelers to participate.  What the guides taught us about leading is now being put into practice by participants working in top organizations around the world.

Here’s what I found -- guides display six important leadership strengths that work as well in business as they do in the mountains:

1. Guides demonstrate social Intelligence, the ability to build and maintain positive relationships.  Guides quickly establish personal relationships that don’t fracture easily under pressure.  Christian Hoogerheyde, a project manager at Socrata, a Seattle-based cloud software company, says his Icelandic guide’s social skills “serve as a lesson to me every time I try to establish a new client’s trust.”

2. Guides are adaptable, and expertly change their leadership style as conditions on the mountain change.  One guide told me that he would teach his clients in the lodge, coach clients on steep snow slopes, and guide firmly when things got tough.  Seychelle Hicks, a team manager at Silicon Valley’s Bloomreach, says her expert guide helped her learn to navigate rough terrain on the mountain, coaching and leading by example. The experience helped her become more comfortable with using a variety of leadership styles at work, and to “adapt throughout the day to our customers, resourcing demands, building a self-directed team -- and only jumping in when needed.”

3. Guides empower others to reach their own summits.  Edmund Reese, an executive at American Express who was a member of a climbing team, says “The leadership lessons taught by both the guides and the mountain itself has honed my focus on embracing the front lines.  If we build leadership in others, we develop a stronger line and an overall stronger organization.”

4. Guides are trust-builders.  On an expedition to remote Navarino Island at the very tip of South America, one guide told me, “Modeling what trust means is key.  It’s never about talking about things.  It’s about showing them.”  John Sims, CFO at Snowden Lane Partners who climbed the Grand Teton with a guide-led team, says, “Without trust in your teammates, you will only do as much as faith in your own limited abilities will take you.”

5. Guides are risk-aware and provide safety in uncertain conditions.  Lyndsey Bunting, now director of financial analysis at Birchbox, left her job in investment banking to serve with the Peace Corps in a remote area of Panama.  Although she fell ill on her first guided summit attempt, she successfully returned to lead a team to the summit a year later.  She says, “Whether it’s a skill we’ve had to learn from a tough life, like many of the world’s poorest populations, or from mountain climbing or other pursuits, functioning and thriving in uncertainty is something that we’re all able to learn.”

6. Guides see the big picture.  Less-experienced climbers may be lured by a beckoning summit, often falling victim to what’s known as “summit fever,” but the wisest guides take a more holistic view of the endeavor.  Deborah Horn, a manager at Microsoft, found that her climb was cut short by a fierce storm.  “At our night camp,” she says, “our guide delivered the message that we would have to end our climb.  I learned that even if the summit isn’t attained, the journey is just as valuable and rewarding as standing on the peak.”

Chris Maxwell, PhD, is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His book, Lead Like a Guide:  How World-Class Mountain Guides Inspire Us to Be Better Leaders, is published by Praeger (September 2016).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How Successful People Create Their Own Future

Guest post from Shawn Hunter:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”
– Carol Dweck

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can change our brain.

There is a scene in the new movie Dr. Strange in which a character describes how he healed an impossible injury through the strength of his own thinking. True, that’s a Marvel Comics movie, but growing research suggests this isn’t entirely fiction, and that it’s possible that the words we use not only affect those around us, but also affect our mind and body.

Joe Dispenza shattered several vertebrae after getting hit by a car while on his bicycle. As a chiropractor, he knew that the recommended solution of fusing vertebrae together would lead to a lifetime of limited mobility and pain. Instead, he thought his way to healing.

Nine months later, he was able to walk and function as well as he had before the accident, and he credits a large amount of that recovery to the power of his own mind.

“Every time you learn something new, your mind physically and chemically changes.”
– Joe Dispenza

Where we place our attention and focus defines who we are. The words we choose to speak, the thoughts we visit and revisit over and over in our mind reinforce those ideas and affect the words we choose to say out loud. Those words and ideas not only affect those around us, but they affect who we are and how we think about the world around us.

Feelings of unworthiness, or ineptitude, can creep into our consciousness. It’s easy to recognize those same thoughts over and over as we repeat and again reinforce them. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how the brain continues to reinvent itself, constantly changing over time depending on what we focus on, while older, unused pathways shrink and become abandoned, and new ones, with repetition and focus, emerge.

Not that long ago, many scientists believed that our brains were fixed, hard-wired, and unchanging. Now we know instead, that what we think about actually rewires our brain.

“Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.”
– Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman

Our brain is an artifact of our past experiences and emotions. If we do the same routines, and spend our time with the same people, who push our same emotional buttons, we cannot honestly expect anything to change. In order to truly change the way we think, and the way we interact with the world, we need to exercise new neural pathways in our brain.

To create new neural pathways requires that we envision a new and powerful future experience. Our minds will then begin to change, and form new neural pathways, to align with the envisioned future. And when we practice those envisioned outcomes regularly, our brain will begin to believe these dreams are not simply possibilities, but destiny.

Right now in Sao Paulo Brazil, the Walk Again project is using virtual reality therapy, working with paraplegic patients to help build new neural pathways which can reactivate dormant fibers in their spinal cord, and miraculously allow them to move and feel their extremities again for the first time in years.

Eight patients, each with a long-term spinal cord injury and no lower extremity sensation, performed 2000 hours of virtual reality brain training. Results varied with each patient, but for the most part they all went from a total absence of touch sensation to some capacity to sense pain, pressure and vibration. One patient has progressed to walking without the aid of a therapist, using only the aid of crutches and braces.

Try envisioning a better version of you and your world. Over time, your mind will begin to build the language and habits which will make it destiny.

Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. His new book is Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, (2016). Please visit for more information.

Twitter: @gshunter

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

“But, are they Happy?”

Guest post from T.J. Jones:

Does happiness at work matter?

Is there value in a fun workplace?

In a twenty-year career, I had eighteen different bosses. Do that math, please. I experienced eight acquisitions (and thus, culture) changes in that timeframe. Cheerleading each time for the “new reality” through all the uncertainty, when I too had fears and uncertainties, was exhausting—like lost sleep you never catch up on.

We all know that change is the real world of today’s work-life, but it feels personal. As I see it, all change is personal. We want to feel safe. We want to be happy.
“Let’s talk about culture,” said the new VP at our first leadership meeting after acquisition number eight.

Great, I thought. We’ll talk about people and a positive future. Next slide please. He spent 45 minutes telling us how things would be and how lucky the people are, including several of us in the room, who were not laid off. Not valued and worthy. Lucky.
Energy and effort are discretionary

I raised my hand and said, “I’m on board with a high-performance culture. People have been worried about the status of their jobs for months. Many of their teammates and friends lost their jobs. They’re still anxious even though they were asked to stay. It’s going to be hard to get them focused until we can redirect how they think and feel. We can’t underestimate their happiness. Since we’re talking about culture, is there something as a leadership team that we can do to excite, reengage, and empower them? Can we do something fun?”
Silence. Everyone looked at me like I was from another planet. Or maybe they were speechless imagining me as a carcass being eaten for breakfast by a leopard on the savannah? Crickets. Awkwardness. Sweaty brow. Horror. If a can of gasoline had been within reach, I would have lit myself on fire.  Of course, many of my colleagues patted me on the back afterward extolling my bravery (albeit risky) and truth-telling.

Who cares if they’re happy? What does that have to do with anything? Everything. On life’s battleground of culture, leadership influence and environment affect others’ livelihoods, family-life, stress, and general health. Human beings live in the continuum of pain and pleasure.  Happy people perform better. Ask our friends at the Gallup organization. Have a look at Fortune’s top companies to work for.
·      Roughly 7 out of 10 people are disengaged at work – 6 out of 10 managers are disengaged.

·      81% of workers in the top Companies to work for rated their workplace as “Fun”
·      Fun (short-term “happiness” shocks) is best delivered in short and consistent doses.

·      Extrinsic and intrinsic happiness are indicative of productivity.
·      Happiness at work leads to 300% more innovation, 44% higher retention, and a 37% increase in sales (references below).

I guess the VP missed the opportunity to set the right tone for culture. Within 12 months, there was approximately 35% turn-over including me, my team, and several other “lucky ones.”
From the start:

·      Appreciate that people are humans first, and workers (“employees”) second – they remember how they feel more than they remember specific projects, details, and data.
·      Know that workplace happiness is not only “the right thing to do,” but that it has an impact on your bottom-line.

·      Engage and connect people with more fun. Get creative. Have a little fun yourself.
·      Who ever said work wasn’t supposed to be fun? Or that happiness isn’t a priority?  

Fun need not be an expensive scavenger hunt in Times Square, 36 holes of golf, or a paint-ball extravaganza in the woods. A little fun at work bonds people, enhances happiness neurochemical release, and positively impacts your bottom line. So ask yourself, “Are they happy?”
Fun is underrated. Happiness is everything.

TJ Jones is an author, speaker, coach and leadership crusader. He works with organizations, teams, individual experienced and emerging leaders to enhance their effectiveness and fulfillment. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power to Lead, Influence and Inspire,” available November 2016. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Manager’s Guide to Preventing and Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Most people can handle just about any amount and type of work that comes their way. It’s not the work that puts them over the edge – its conflict with coworkers!

Conflict in the workplace – or anywhere - is inevitable. Conflict is part of being human. Some people are more comfortable with it than others, and some people tend to be “conflict carriers”.

Ultimately, it’s part of a manager’s job to deal with workplace conflict head-on. Ignoring it will only make matters worse, and will eventually impact team productivity, results, employee satisfaction, and the manager’s reputation.

Here are some ways to manage workplace conflict, so that little problems don’t fester into BIG problems:

1. Make the ability to collaborate an expectation. Establishing expectations start with the hiring process. Are you looking to hire lone wolfs, or employees that can collaborate with others? If it’s the latter, than you need to ask questions that uncover how well the candidate gets along with their co-workers. Look for red flag answers like, “Well, I have very high standards, and sometimes get frustrated with others if they don’t meet those standards”. Which often translates to: “I thought my co-workers were idiots and we fought like cats and dogs.”

Make the ability to collaborate a job expectation for all employees, reward it, and make it a condition for advancement. 
2. Recognize the difference between healthy and destructive conflict. Healthy conflict is making it OK to disagree, to debate the issue, challenge the process, and speak up. Destructive conflict is when it gets personal, gets in the way of working effectively, and has a negative impact on productivity, innovation, and ultimately, results.

3. Don’t ignore it – look for little signs that can turn into big problems. A manager needs to be having regular one-on-ones with all direct reports, as well as regular team meetings. These are the opportunities to ask questions, listen, and watch for subtle clues of unhealthy conflict. Most employees won’t want to tattle of their co-workers or be seen as a complainer – but you might pick up that they are going out of their way to work with another employee. Point out your observation, and ask why.

4. Be a role model with your peers. Many managers don’t understand the connection between how well they work with and talk about their fellow managers, and how well their own employees work together. Employees learn more from watching a manager’s behaviors than they do from what the manager says.

5. Learn a conflict resolution methodology. Most people shy away from conflict because it’s often messy and painful. If you’re not good at something, or you don’t like it, you’ll most likely avoid it.

However, if you learn and practice a consistent approach, you get good at it, and your world gets better as a result of dealing with it, then you’ll be more likely to seek out opportunities to deal with conflict.

I’d recommend taking a course in conflict management or reading a good book, like Crucial Conversations. A good course or book will give you a framework and set of tools, which gives you the confidence to confront conflict in a constructive, deliberate way. You’ll also be able to coach employees how to handle their own conflicts.

There are a lot of different conflict resolution models, but most of them have the following 5 elements:

            1. Stay calm and dealing with the emotions first
            2. State what is bothering you in a respectful and specific way
            3. Listen to the other person’s perspective for complete understanding
            4. Problem solving – look for root causes and win-win solutions
            5. Agree on actions to be taken, and making mutual commitments

Any new skill takes time and practice before we get comfortable with it. The important thing is to have the right intention – which is to resolve the conflict, not to punish the other person.

6. Help your employees with their conflicts. Once you’ve learned how to handle your own conflicts, you can help your employees deal with their conflicts. There are two ways to do this – teach them a methodology (or have them learn the same way you did) so that they can handle on their own. In fact, some managers and experts say this is the only approach a manager should take – that is, they should never get involved in a conflict between two of their employees. While I can see the value of encouraging employees to handle their own conflicts without having to “run to Dad or Mom”, I still think are times when a manager needs to step in.

However – it’s important that the manager doesn’t get caught in the middle by having individual conversations with each employee and trying to mediate. Instead, the manager should sit down with both employees and coach the employees through the conflict resolution process.

Learn to proactively eliminate destructive conflict and deal with it before it gets out of control and everyone will be able to focus on their work, and not get caught up in unproductive and stressful workplace drama.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Free Individual Development Plan (IDP) Template

The most popular post on this blog continues to be one of my first posts written in 2008 called How to Write a Great Individual Development Plan (IDP).

In one of the earlier versions of that post I had offered to send readers an IDP template. With the growth of my blog, the volume of requests got to be unmanageable so those requests now get an auto-response directing them to my eBook, which includes a copy of the template, along with a 9-Box Performance and Potential Grid.

For those of you that may have landed here as a result of a search, this post serves as another option for you. Consider it to be a menu of elements often found in IDPs and feel free to copy and paste it into your own template and adapt it as you please.

Individual Development Plan

Name: The employee’s name
Position: The employee’s current position
Department: The employee’s department, unit, or function
Location: City, country, building, etc…
Manager: The employee’s immediate manager
Time period: The development planning period, usually one year

Development Focus: Development in current role, preparation for a future role, or both

Potential Next Position(s): If applicable, list possible next positions, could be lateral or vertical

Top 3 Strengths: List the employee’s top 3 strengths, from last performance review or other assessments. It’s important to acknowledge strengths in a development discussion as they often can be used to help overcome development needs.

Top 3 Development Goals: Development goals are areas in which if strengthened, the employee’s performance would improve in their current role or they would help prepare the employee for potential future positions. They can come from performance reviews and/or other assessments. Organizations often use competency models and 360 assessments as a way to identity strengths and development needs.



See Top 12 Development Goals for Leaders for some examples.

Development Actions: This section is the heart of the development plan. It should include specific actions that will enable the employee to learn and practice skills related to their development goals or leverage their strength’s.
Development actions should include a combination of projects, assignments, courses, reading, learning from others, coaching, and mentoring.
Some development actions, like a stretch assignment, may end up addressing multiple development needs – in fact, they usually do.

Current Challenges: What challenges is the employee currently facing that would provide an opportunity to learn new skills tied to the development needs?

New Challenges: What new challenges will the employee be facing that would provide an opportunity to learn new skills tied to the development needs?

Ongoing Feedback: How can the employee receive ongoing feedback in order to check progress on development goals or identify new development needs?

Specific Tasks: Projects, stretch assignments, task forces, delegated responsibilities from the manager, etc…

Role Models, Coaches, and Mentors: Role models are other employees that the employee sees as highly skilled in the areas in which they to improve. Often, they may not be able to identify anyone, so the manager can be a resource in helping to identify subject matter experts.
Coaching can come from the manager, or an external executive coach.
Mentors are often other managers, sometimes 1-2 levels above the employee’s manager, who can provide career advice and assistance.



Timing: Start date for each action

Cost: cost, if any.

Desired results: List what will change or improve, and how the improvements will benefit the employee and the organization. When you take the time to discuss and document the benefits of development, it helps provide context and continuous motivation.

Notes on Progress, Lessons Learned: A development plan should be a living document that is discussed throughout the year and updated as needed. It’s important to track progress and adjust as needed. Use this space to make notes on progress or obstacles, and to reflect on lessons learned from completed development actions.

Start date of plan: when the first development action should start

Agreement — This plan is agreed to as indicated by the signatures below.

Plan Participant:                                 Date:   
Manager:                                             Date:

While it may seem overly formal, having the employee and manager sign the plan represents a two-way commitment.   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How Adversity Affects the Backbone, and Soul, of a Leader

Guest post from Bernie Swain:   

Leadership requires all sorts of qualities: judgment, character, confidence, an unshakeable commitment to a work ethic guided by a moral compass. But in order to lead others, people also have to lead themselves, a quality that is often tested during periods of adversity.

I got to know many leaders in politics, the military, business, sports, and entertainment over the 30-plus years that I led the Washington Speakers Bureau, a company I co-founded and built. I learned that one of the key turning points in their lives came as a result of a personal setback that shook them to their core. They drew on inner resources they sometimes didn’t know they had to not only persevere through an unexpected job loss, health issue, or family crisis but to define and shape a future that would have new meaning. They emerged battered, but stronger—and much more aware of what they could control, and what they couldn’t.

The lessons they learned—about themselves, the curveballs thrown by life, and the power that comes from staying the course—offer insights to all who aspire to leadership roles that will help them harden their backbones and soften their souls. Here are some of those lessons.
Lou Holtz is the only coach in football history to have taken teams from four colleges to a top 20 ranking. But when he was 28, he was let go from his job as a defensive backfield coach at the University of South Carolina.

He had a big mortgage, no savings, two kids, and a wife who was one month away from delivering their third. “Have you ever thought about going into a different profession?” Lou was asked by the coach who laid him off.
The answer, of course, was and is no, and that coach wound up rehiring him. The lessons young Holtz learned that year “have guided me all my life,” he told me.

“Adversity is part of life, no matter who you are, what your age, and what you do. You will never outgrow or outlive it, but you can be motivated by it. You have two choices: you either stay down or pick yourself up.”
Judy Woodruff has been a prominent television journalist and news anchor for more than 40 years. She’s also the mother of three children. Her oldest, Jeffrey, was born with a mild form of spina bifida, a defect that involves the spinal cord. When he was 10 months old, Jeffrey had a shunt implanted—shunts drain away excess fluid—and he became an active kid who played sports and did well academically.
But when he was in the 10th grade, the shunt needed to be replaced, there was a complication, and “something went terribly wrong” during follow-up surgery, Judy recalls, leaving Jeffrey with a serious brain injury. He would be functional again on some level, but never fully recover. He couldn’t walk, his short-term memory was gone, his speech was severely compromised.

“We willed ourselves to go on,” Judy recalls. She and her husband, fellow journalist Al Hunt Jr., pulled together, helped by a group of Jeffrey’s former teachers who became volunteer tutors and by medical students who served as companions. Jeffrey is just as smart as before, but “because of his physical disabilities, and especially because of his impaired short-term memory, every day for him is like climbing Mount Everest.” Jeffrey met the daily challenge with “courage and determination.”  Eventually, he went back to school and graduated from college. Now, more than 15 years later, he has a “pretty good life,” lives in a group home and has a job.

“I would never wish our experience on anyone,” Judy says, “and yet seeing what our son has accomplished against such long odds has been unimaginably rewarding. When you meet Jeffrey Hunt and see what it takes for him to get through the day—and how he does it with a positive outlook and a sense of humor—it makes your own problems seem very small . . . Al and I could spend the rest of our lives being angry. But we take our cue from Jeffrey. We get on with life.”  

Stew Leonard Jr. led a charmed life for many years, helping to run the fabulously successful chain of Stew Leonard’s food stores founded by his father. Everything was good until New Year’s Day 1989 when his 21-month-old son, Stewie, escaped attention for just a few moments and fell into a pool.  “Life can change in an instant,” Stew remembers of his son’s death. “Even at that moment, I knew everything would be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ “

The “after” was predictably very dark at first. Besides blaming each other for what happened, Stew and his wife, Kim, went through waves of grief, anger, and resentment.

“Sometimes, well-meaning people would say, ‘You’ll get over this.’ But one of the lessons I learned is that you don’t ever get over a trauma that deep. You can’t simply wrap it up, leave it behind, and move on with your life as if it hadn’t happened.”

But what you can do is change. “I am a different person . . . I hug my four daughters and my wife a lot longer and tighter now. And my life is slower now. Oh, work is fast, but I look at people differently. When I look at someone today, I am overwhelmed with the thought, ‘What’s happening in their life?’

“What Stewie’s death taught me falls somewhere between empathy and perspective . . . I was born with advantages and privilege. Most people aren’t. When tragedy hits, it’s very humbling. You realize your basic humanity, and that it’s something we all share.” 

More than 25 years after losing his son, Stew says, “I am still trying to figure it out. What I can say clearly is that I am inspired to be a better person.”

Washington DC-based BERNIE SWAIN is co-founder of Washington Speakers Bureau and today's  foremost authority on the lecture industry.  Over the past 35 years, Swain has represented former US Presidents, cabinet members, business executives, public figures, media leaders, and sports legends.  His new book, What Made Me Who I Am, is available everywhere.  For more, visit

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Leaders Should Define More Than the Mountain Top, but Less Than the Whole Plan

Guest post from Hamish Knox:

When it comes to defining their vision, leaders tend to fall into two camps. Camp one can clearly articulate a mountain top they want to reach, but create zero clarity on how they’re going to get to that mountain top. Camp two has their mountain top defined and they also have a step-by-step guide to get from where they are today (base camp) to their mountain top.
Both camps fail to create sustained motivation in their people. Camp one fails because they haven’t defined base camp so some of their team will draw their own conclusions about the likelihood of getting from base camp to their leader’s mountain top and give up because they feel it is unreachable or unsustainable. Camp two fails because their team feels no connection to their plan and while they may go through the motions of following their leader’s plan they aren’t fully bought in.

To create buy-in and sustained motivation in your team for executing your vision make sure you:
1)    Clearly define your mountain top
Humans are story-based creatures. On the negative side this causes your team to take a snippet of information, which may be inaccurate to begin with, and weave an entire novel-length story that they will share with their colleagues. On the positive side this enables leaders to create buy-in by weaving a story that each member of the team can identify with in whole or in part.

When you are defining your mountain top ask yourself:

·         Where am I?

·         What am I hearing/seeing?

·         What am I saying/doing?

·         How am I feeling?

·         Who am I there with?

·         What are they hearing/seeing?

·         What are they saying/doing?

·         How are they feeling?
Using those questions you can weave a story to share with your people that will create more buy-in than any slide deck filled with statistics.

3)    Define base camp
Without a clear definition of where your organization is today your team may not even be able to see the mountain you want to climb much less the mountain top. This isn’t permission for you to lower your goals, but it is a warning that unveiling your ultimate mountain top to your team (e.g. pivoting your business model from transaction-based to subscription-based with an entirely new set of customers) may cause decreased motivation and turnover.

If you discover that your ultimate mountain top is too far from base camp to create sustained motivation in the majority of your team, define 2-4 interim mountain tops and roll each out as the “ultimate” destination. A mountain top summited becomes your next base camp on the journey to your ultimate mountain top.

3)    Define waypoints to the mountain top

Years ago I set a really stupid goal, which was to triple my business in 12 months. The goal wasn’t stupid because of the mountain top. It was stupid because my response to “how ya gonna get there” was “I’ll figure it out.”

Winners don’t “figure it out” they at least have a clear mountain top, a clearly defined base camp and defined waypoints (camps 1-X) that will indicate they are on the right path to achieving their goal.
Defining your waypoints will give your team comfort in having smaller targets to reach on the way up your mountain and create sustained motivation because their next destination isn’t too far away.

4)    Co-create the path between camps with your team

Humans have a preference for editing over creation. Give your team a complete step-by-step guide from base camp to the top of your mountain and they’ll spend time editing it instead of executing it.

Instead, share with your team your mountain top, base camp and waypoints and challenge them to create the path to the top. You’ll likely discover that they have more effective or efficient ways of achieving your vision that you could have come up with on your own, and because they were involved in creating the path, your team has greater buy-in.
Great leaders not only have great vision they can clearly articulate the vision from where their organization is today to where they will it to be, but they also create buy-in and sustained motivation in their team by lowering their anxiety about stretching to achieve their vision and enrolling them in creating the path to their mountain top.

Hamish Knox is author of CHANGE THE SANDLER WAY:  Understanding The Human Dynamics
That Cause New Initiatives To Succeed.  He currently heads a Sandler Training Center in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For more information, visit

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Great Leaders Embrace Innovation, and Innovation Demands Risks

Guest post by Randal Moss:

Great leaders consistently talk about the need for their organization to ‘be innovative’ in their thinking. They recognize that innovation is a strategy for growth and that being able to harness that power will drive their organization’s success and their own as well. Often overlooked by great leaders is that very successful organizational level innovation requires a willingness to take risks, cultural openness to external ideas, and a structure to protect non-traditional ideas as they develop and prove value through proofs of concept testing.

No Guts, No Growth, No Glory
Taking risks is an inextricable part of being innovative. Bets made on well researched unknowns led to the most cutting edge products in history. The hubris to use new materials in creative and non-traditional ways led to Teflon, Kevlar, and Viagra. Great leaders develop an appetite for risk and a willingness to support the development of nontraditional idea when they see the potential for gains. Great leaders know the difference between incremental and exponential growth, and which kind delivers glory.

Culturally Open To Greatness
Great leaders also know that they have to create a culture that supports innovation, and therefore a culture that embraces and celebrates risk. In some industries that is daunting. In companies who are market leaders because ‘they have always done things that way’ innovation can face an uphill battle to drive change. Great leaders challenge their organizations to go beyond the day to day and seek out their full potential. Securing executive support for, and then creating, a formalized innovation program is a critical first step. Executive support sends the message that innovation is a priority. Celebrating innovations publicly is another important activity. Whether new products are commercial blockbusters or break even lines of business, publicly celebrating new ventures reinforces the idea that the company is not satisfied with stagnation and appreciates growth. This is even more critical for new lines of business that came from an employee suggestion or innovation submission.

When organizations continue to promote and call positive attention to internally developed new ideas, and encourage their employees to participate in innovation, they become more open to change and the leads to the genuine consideration of external input. Whether this comes in the form of consumer feedback, or partner input in industrial enterprises. Truly innovative companies are not so conceited that they think only the best ideas come from them. They seek out inspiration externally, and are positioned to create partnerships and joint ventures that drive exponential value. Most importantly great leaders measure and demand innovative thinking and effort from their employees. New products and services do not spontaneously appear - they germinate from a seed idea and are intentionally nurtured into self-sustaining lines of business.

Structure For Success
To drive growth and cultural change you have to make a concerted and intentional effort at innovation. Many of the companies we think as ‘innovative’ actually have innovation labs dedicated to creating new opportunities. Dell, Starbucks, Shell Oil, Amazon, BMW, General Electric Consumer Appliances, Under Armor, Google all have dedicated internal innovation initiatives. These initiatives have a number of similar characteristics; independence, executive support, corporate visibility, and a defined structure and path for attracting ideas and developing them into profitable innovations.

To extract the most value from an external facing organization that values new ideas and wants to monetize them you have to have a process for attracting, evaluating, and prototyping ideas. Great leaders are able to energize people and solicit ideas from every corner of the organization. They can lead a diverse team in setting the business requirements for funding new ideas. They have the wherewithal to know that you get what you measure, they craft a review rubric to ensure smart investments, and shepherd proof-of-concept prototypes through the corporate bureaucracy all the way lines of business.

Great Leaders Embrace Innovation, and Innovation Demands Risks
All of this work demands leaders to take on a certain level of risk. There are no guarantees innovation will deliver a specific ROI. Looking at a wide variety of business across a number of industries there are some facts that cannot be ignored; every industry will be disrupted at some point, business evolution is a prerequisite for longevity, the only change is constant.

To grow you must be innovative.

To be innovative you must take risks.

Taking risks is the mark of a great leader.

Randal C. Moss is an award winning marketer who focuses on engaging organizations and applying technology to drive growth. He has over 12 years of experience including institutionalizing innovation development frameworks, and creating consumer engagement solutions for companies and clients across the CPG, Real Estate, and nonprofit sectors. Randal has spoken at conferences such as SXSW (3X), State of Play, National Human Services Assembly National Meeting, Disney Institute’s Digital Now, and the American Marketing Association Hot Topic Tour.
Moss’ first book is The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age (Wiley).  His newest book, IGNITE (August 2016) is available for purchase at most fine book stores,, as well as Amazon and other online booksellers.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Everyone has Values

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

Some time ago, I had a conversation online with someone who disagreed with me. I enjoy dialog with people having differing viewpoints, especially if it is handled in a respectful manner (on both sides.)

This leader had read a post of mine (Surround Yourself With Values-Aligned Compadres) and tweeted, “I wish more people had values. Too few do!”  I know what he meant. Many people don’t seem to act in alignment with any particular values. But I had a different take.

To me, everyone has values. Each person aligns to their values every day, and we can (sometimes pretty quickly) see what their values are.

I responded, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values. Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my own.”

The leader didn’t see it quite that way. In his mind, values were all positive. But values are defined as “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”  Thus, a thug may “value” some power or material thing as more important than courtesy and respect toward a stranger. He or she is operating on values--they may be different than yours or mine, but they are values nonetheless.

My experiences with values alignment began formally four decades ago, in my YMCA days.

In the 1970's I was actively involved in values clarification. A couple of my bosses used values clarification in our work teams. I used it with my camp directors and counselors to ensure we were all on the same page with how we'd treat each other, how we'd treat our campers, and how we'd treat their family members each summer.

In all the values clarification sessions I ran (for literally hundreds of people)\ not one person failed to come up with their personal values.  The lists varied, especially in how they defined them, but every participant was satisfied with their own list.

I also learned how values-aligned teen gangs are. I directed a YMCA national project that looked at what teens of “today” (then, early ‘80s) were seeking. That study found that the teens were looking for three things. First, to do “cool, different” things than what they did with their families; second, to belong to a group; and third, to do things with that group that advanced a meaningful purpose.  These same three things are true for teen gangs. The values are often very different than those of other teams, but they still correspond to doing cool things, to belong, and to advance what is (to the gang) a meaningful purpose.

This data and my experiences have led me to believe strongly that everyone has values. We experience others' values in how we are treated and how we see them treat others. We experience them in decisions they make. We often question other’s decisions from a values standpoint. (Have you ever said, “I would never do that. I value my _______ too much to go that route!”)

The beliefs and principles we hold dear guide our individual plans, decisions, and actions. By formalizing them, we can quickly assess how well we are living them, and also assess how aligned the values of people in my life are with mine. This can help me make wise choices about who to hang out with, who to work with, and who to spend my life with.

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