Thursday, January 17, 2019

5 Traits Every Leader Should Have to Achieve Hero Leadership


Guest post from Jeffrey Hayzlett:

What’s leadership? What makes for an effective leader? The answers to both these questions are relative to every organization -- big or small. There is no one set of rules that makes for an effective leader, but leadership encompasses a slew of characteristics and different people embody different sets of traits. The fact of the matter is, some people become good leaders and others don’t.  

For me, a good leader isn’t someone who just tells others what to do. It’s not someone who wields power just because they are the boss. A good leader is someone who guides and mentors a team, who offers counsel, looks to foster a good working environment and creates a culture that’s sustainable.

Natural born leaders have the ability to motivate and communicate better than other members of the team. I believe these two traits are the two most critical because if you can’t motivate your team or can’t communicate your ideas, there won’t be anyone following you. Therefore, who exactly are you leading?

My latest book, “The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures” examines key pillars on how to become a better leader by creating a winning culture, achieving operational excellence – all without dismissing the power of profit. It was Henry Ford who said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Making money and creating a winning culture is something every leader should strive for. Why not have the best of both worlds?

Here are 5 traits every successful leader should have:

1. Personality.
You have to show your employees that you have a personality – whether it’s humor or being charismatic, employees need to relate to you at some level. Above all, you must be genuine. That’s something that you shouldn’t have to fake – ever. I believe in being yourself, always! My attitude is about owning who I am and everything I do: Sell me, sell the company; sell the company, sell me. My style of leadership is fearless, bold and relentless. To me, that says, “I own who I am!” Don’t be afraid to own everything about your leadership – the good, the bad and the ugly.

2. Be persuasive.
Being persuasive doesn’t entirely mean getting people to do what you want. It means that as a leader, you are constantly aware of the differences that exist at every rung of the ladder – from your fellow executives, to other types of company leaders, to the admin team. The message you’re trying to convey must reach everyone without any room for misinterpretation. At every turn, you need to think about who your audience is. That’s what a good leader does. They communicate succinctly and effectively, leaving little to no wiggle room for miscommunication or misinterpretation. An effective communicator gets everyone to row in the same direction and therefore is the catalyst that moves the needle forward.

3. Honesty and trustworthy.
Honesty and trustworthiness are the pillars of any good leader (and human being). If your employees and colleagues can’t (or don’t) trust you, you have a huge problem. Not to mention, no one wants to do business with you. People will follow those who they trust, and they’ll appreciate your candor and openness. They may not like it, but they’ll appreciate it.
A good leader also gives credit to their team. Let them know they are appreciated, trusted, and that you have their backs generates a greater level of trust and loyalty; more so than any so-called leader who is constantly bragging about “their” accomplishments.

4. Good listener.
A great leader is constantly engaged with their peers can rally a group of followers much faster than one who hides in the corner office. If you fail that simple, yet somewhat overlooked, task you’re putting your business in danger. It’s as simple as that.

Listen to your employees as they’re typically most aware of the issues taking place within your company and also your first line of defense. Listen to your consumers as they may have sound advice on how to improve your product or service. Creating that level of trust and keeping the lines of communications open are what’s needed to achieve a winning culture, which leads to operational excellence.

5. Risk-taker.
Taking risks is part of being in business. And for most of us, no one will die if we take a risk and make a mistake.

Everyone in my company has heard me say “no one will die” in numerous occasions. Most of us aren’t leading a team of surgeons and no one is going to die from taking a risk in business. Lose some money? Maybe. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get anywhere without taking a risk or two.

Taking risks isn’t about being irresponsible, reckless or careless. It’s about constantly taking the temperature of your business to make sure it still has a pulse. It’s about taking risks that align with the changing times and your company’s values. You will make mistakes, that’s part of life. However, if as a leader you’re not willing to take any risks, you can’t expect your employees to take them for you. If you take risks, they’ll try to emulate that and help move the company forward. You set the tone.

Good leaders, lead. They think big, they come up with great ideas, they fail, they counsel, mentor, and are part of the team. If you think being a leader is finally making it into the c-suite or the corner office, you have the wrong perception of what being a leader is all about. Sure, the corner office and the c-suite look good on a resume and might impress a few of your friends, but the fact remains that you spend more time at the office with your team, than you do with your own family. It might be best to have your team on your corner, rather than fighting you at every turn.


Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV, and business podcast host of All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite Radio. He is a global business celebrity, speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman and CEO of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders. Hayzlett is a well-traveled public speaker, former Fortune 100 CMO, and author of four best-selling business books: Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless, Running the Gauntlet, The Mirror Test and The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Hayzlett is one of the most compelling figures in business today and an inductee into the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Leadership Development Goals for 2019


One of my most read series of posts is my somewhat yearly list of New Year’s development goals for leaders. I don’t go back and check previous years, so there may be duplicates, as there should be. Things like “striving to be a better listener” come up each year as I work with leaders from around the world.

In my coaching practice, I usually start with a 360-degree assessment and use that as to help leaders identify and choose their development goals. That’s the ideal way, especially for behavioral goals, where leaders usually are not aware of how they are coming across to those around them (“blind spots”) and are feedback starved.

However, there do seem to be leadership gaps that come up more frequently than others, and that’s what I base my yearly lists on.

If you can get feedback from others, good for you (see #2)! Even without doing a more formal diagnosis, it’s a safe bet that a few of the development goals listed below will help you become a better leader.  

Note that some may sound like just common sense and easy, but they are anything but. Changing habits is hard work, so I’d suggest starting with even one, and then working at it for at least 3 months, then move on to another.

I’ve included links to a few of my favorite articles, books and videos. For full disclosure, I do get a small cut of any of the books you purchase on Amazon (thank-you!), but they are all books that I’d highly recommend.

1. Define my personal leadership vision:
Google “what is leadership”, “leadership”, “qualities of a leader”, etc. and read at least 6 articles.
- Read at least one good leadership book.
Develop my own list of the characteristics that define the leader I want to become. 
Refine the list into a single paragraph, share it with others, and refine further.
Start working on becoming that leader!

2.  Get more feedback:
·         -Take a formal 360 leadership assessment.
·         - Find other ways to get informal feedback on a regular basis.
·         - When I get feedback, I’ll keep my mouth shut and say “thank-you”.

3. Ask more questions and listen more (OK, I cheated, this is two related goals…):
·         - Read “Leading with Questions”, by James Marquardt and put the practices to use.

4. Commit to “letting go” (and be less of a micromanager):
·         - Take the 20 question micromanager test
·         - Meet with each of my direct reports and ask (questions from Marshall Goldsmith):
1.    “Are there areas of your work where I am too involved?”
2.    “Are there areas of your work where I am not involved enough?”

5. Work more collaboratively with my peers:
·         - Read Would Your Peers Vote for You?
·        -  Meet with each peer to learn more about their goals, share my goals, and ask how we can work together to help each other achieve our goals.

6. Interview three leadership “role models”:
·         - Pick one aspect of leadership I want to get better at.
·        -  Identify three people I know who I think are good at it.
·         - Meet with all three to learn what they do and how they do it.
·         - Send thank-you notes. (-:

7. Become a better coach to my employees:
·        -  Learn about manager coaching (book, course, etc.).
·         - See #3 “asking more questions and listening”.
·         - Begin helping my employees solve their own problems (instead of me providing the answer).
·        -  Work with each employee to create an individual development plan.

8. Be more proactive and willing to tackle conflict:
·         - Read “Crucial Conversations”, by Patterson, et.
·       -   Select at least one tough conversation that I’ve been avoiding and apply the skills from the book.

9. Become more strategic:
Improve my ability to see the big picture and take a longer range, broader business perspective.
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.”
Learn to speak the “language” of strategy and apply these concepts to leading my organization. 
Read HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy and apply a strategic framework to my work.


Want some help with any of these? For you or for your organization’s leaders? Contact me (dan@greatleadershipbydan.com) to discuss doing a 360 degree leadership assessment, leadership coaching, consulting or training.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Elon Musk, Joking Around is Serious Business!


Guest post by Jamie Anderson and Gabor George:

Truly creative leaders tap ideas from all ranks, and are typically skillful at fostering innovation. They are open to diverse perspectives, and willing to take risks. These leadership characteristics can be further enhanced by humor. In the words of IDEO founder and CEO Dave Kelly, “If you go into a culture and there's a bunch of stiffs going around, I can guarantee they're not likely to invent anything.”

There’s an entire branch of social science that studies the psychological and physiological effects of humor and laughter on the brain and the immune system— it’s called gelotology. Discoveries in this field have demonstrated that humor, laughter and fun release physical and cognitive tension, which leads to mental flexibility—a key component of creativity, ideation, and problem solving. Gelotology can also explain why many frontline business leaders are not just leveraging humor, but are also investing in creating playful and fun work environments.

Up until recently Elon Musk’s eccentricity and wacky sense of humor have been seen by most as a reflection of his genius, being a maverick innovator and business leader. His sense of humour has often been on display. For example, when asked how to warm Mars up to make it hospitable for humans he answered: “The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles.” And on how he'd rather die: “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.” When asked if he was a Martian alien, “The rumour that I'm building a spaceship to get back to my home planet Mars is totally untrue.”

Musk had even considered taking merriment at his car plants to new heights (no pun intended), declaring in one interview “I’m actually wondering about putting in a roller coaster — like a functional roller coaster at the factory in Fremont. You’d get in, and it would take you around [the] factory but also up and down. Who else has a roller coaster? … It would probably be really expensive, but I like the idea of it.”

In February 2018, Musk launched the now-famous red Tesla Roadster sports car into space, atop the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Complete with a manikin wearing a spacesuit in the driver’s seat, the car had a GPS Navigation system that displayed the message “Don’t Panic.” After launching the Tesla Roadster into space Musk declared: “It’s just going to be out there in space for maybe millions or billions of years. Maybe discovered by some future alien race thinking what the heck, what were these guys doing? Did they worship this car? Why do they have a little car in the car? And that’ll really confuse them.”

But while certain eccentricities of a leader are idiosyncratic part of their personality, we view humor as a leadership skill that can be studied, cultivated, and leveraged to drive organizational excellence. To provide guidance for this process, we created the Stand-Up Strategist 4C/S Framework (see table below), which specifies four major organizational conditions or outcomes enabled by humor, and four styles of humor at the disposal of leaders.
Unfortunately for Mr. Musk, his seemingly intrinsic style is that of strong humor, which has the most limited application and needs the most mastery to navigate. Strong humor most often entails sarcasm or cynicism and is used by a leader as put-down, as a signal of dominance or to encourage conformity to group behavioral norms. It is the comic style mostly associated with generating negative emotions, and therefore the one with the most limited application in organizations.

An illustration of Musk using strong humor was a comment reportedly made in Tesla’s early days, in response to an employee complaining about working too hard: “I would tell those people they will get to see their families a lot when we go bankrupt.” Although Musk’s misuse of humor did not become a major point of friction in the past, things became different when the performance of his company started to be questioned. Tesla shares crashed 6% and two of its senior executives quit in early September this year, just hours after Musk sparked concern by cracking sarcastic jokes and smoking marijuana on a live web show. Musk’s antics occurred at a time when Tesla’s investors were becoming increasingly concerned over its finances and ability to build cars at scale.

Leaders need to be especially tactful when using humor as a tool to address stress, anxiety and organizational crises. And while other styles of humor may be effective, strong humor must be avoided altogether for this purpose. During a difficult period for the company, the then CEO of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer was widely condemned for joking at an employee gathering: “I’m not here to announce lay-offs (pause)…this week.”

Similarly, Musk’s sardonic tweets, musings about sleeping on the floor at Tesla and wise cracks about becoming chronically sleep deprived have not exactly delighted his shareholders, and prompted several Wall Street analysts to call for the company to appoint a no-nonsense deputy to prop-up Tesla’s operations and standing with investors.

The lesson from Mr. Musk’s ordeal is not to avoid humor. Rather, it is to understand its proper application, and to use it appropriately and effectively, like any other important leadership skill. We see more and more leaders harnessing the power of humor to unleash the creative potential of their staff, connect emotionally with customers, and lay the seed for new, future-shaping, strategic directions.

After all, joking around is serious business.

The Stand-Up Strategist 4 C/S Framework:

For more about the Stand-Up Strategist Platform, please see: https://www.standupstrategist.com.

Jamie Anderson is Professor of Strategic Management at Antwerp Management School, and Visiting Professor at INSEAD. He has been named a “management guru” in the Financial Times, and included on Business Strategy Review’s list of the world’s “top 25 management thinkers”. www.jamieandersononline.com. Gabor George Burt is creator of the Slingshot Platform, enabling organizations to overstep perceived limitations, re-imagine market boundaries, and achieve sustained relevance. www.gaborgeorgeburt.com.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

8 Steps to Jumpstarting a Truth-telling Workplace Culture


Guest post from Jim Haudan and Rich Behrens:

What do a water cooler, bathroom, and hallway all have in common?

These are three places in the workplace where people feel “safe” to tell the truth.

Many leaders believe that their people feel safe in telling them what they think and feel. But this is a misconception—or a blind spot, as we call it in our book, What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back

Consider these stats: the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that people’s trust of their CEO, and CEOs in general, is at an all-time low. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat, or not at all, credible. That is 12 points lower than the previous year’s results. Clearly, the trend of not being candid with higher-ups is becoming worse, rather than better.

Why? People don’t feel safe telling the truth because they don’t think it is smart or safe to do so. Many leaders believe that to be effective and successful, they need to be smarter than the next guy, fight for their area of the business, and not show vulnerability. This mentality creates a lack of trust, collaboration, and common ownership for a greater goal—and ultimately greatly slows down execution speed.

We can’t overstate the impact that truth telling can have on the engagement, optimism, and hope people feel about their organization and their team. Truth telling makes all the difference if you want your teams to successfully work together.

So, how can leaders tell if their people feel safe telling the truth? Try this quick 45-minute activity. We call it “Walls of Greatness and Reality,” and the activity begins with a discussion of what we are good at, and then moves to what we are not so good at.

Follow the steps below to complete the activity:

1    1. Give each team member three or four large sticky notes. Ask each of the members to write down one item per note that is great about the team, and how it has worked together and executed in the past 12 months.

2.    Have the team members place each of these on an open wall space and start to “affinity-group” them. Line up the various notes that fit under the same theme. You should end up with numerous vertical rows of key themes.

3.    Have team members alternate reading all the notes aloud, providing any commentary they see fit. At the end, ask the group for the story that describes what the team is great at. Capture the “Wall of Greatness” story on a flipchart.

4.    Repeat the activity by giving everyone another three or four large sticky notes and ask each person to write down where “we are creatively dissatisfied with the current state of our business”, related to marketplace, strategy, operating model, culture, or behaviors.

5.    Place these notes on a different space on the wall. Repeat the activity of affinity-grouping the notes and reading the vertical columns aloud, with the team standing in front of the wall.

6.    Ask the team members to put a check mark by the three issues they each believe are most relevant and represent the greatest opportunity for the team.

7.    Identify the two or three key themes that emerge from the group.

8.    Ask the following questions:
a.    Why do you think these realities exist?
b.    How have we helped create these realities?
c.    How have we personally benefited from these realities?
d.    What can we do to make sure our Wall of Reality looks different six months from now?

This activity can give leaders quick insight into how comfortable their teams are in talking about difficult issues, while jumpstarting the truth-telling culture.

Establishing a culture of truth telling is hard. It requires leaders to be vulnerable and to be open to hearing things they may not want to hear. But truth is a critical blind spot that can create an environment of poor decision making mixed with a significant lack of trust and disengagement in your organization.

If leaders don’t make the effort to allow truth to guide teams, the true problems of an organization and the best ideas of employees will remain buried in the hearts and minds of their people.

So, leaders: let your employees speak candidly and you will have an organization that soars.

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successfully, build employee engagement, and transform businesses. Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc., and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. Jim and Rich are authors of What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back, published by Berrett-Koehler and released in October 2018.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

3 Moving-Target Issues Every Leader Must Be Following

Guest post from Alexandra Levit:


As a futurist, it’s my job to track the evolution of the 21st century organization, and as of late

we’ve come upon new challenges in reputation management, intellectual property, and digital transformation and disruption. Your challenge as a leader? Strive to fit these pieces together as the realities of our future workforce become ever more salient.

Reputation Management

As we approach 2030, the importance of online reputation will only increase. Now, reputation management exercises are largely undertaken in response to a crisis, once damaging information has gone viral. In the next decade, though, most organizations will become more proactive. Artificial intelligence and tracking software will help companies crack down on fake reviews and employment experiences, counteract negative commentaries with positive ones, and spot and address problematic situations more quickly.

By the same token, analytics advances will amplify consumer power, as reviews will be quantified to produce a master rating that can change by the second. Applying for a new job? Your phone might flash a warning that a company has dropped below the average in terms of employee desirability. You might decide to eschew your choice of restaurant when you suddenly receive an alert about health department citations. In other words, we will live in a Rateocracy.

To operate effectively in this climate, planning and investment is essential. Leaders must hire staff with specific oversight and responsibility for online reputation management. They must establish protocols for generating positive reviews and responding to negative ones. Using the most sophisticated tools available, reputation teams will track social media channels and other relevant forums to understand current sentiment about their organization, their competitors and their industry.

Intellectual Property

According to futurist Thomas Frey, author of Epiphany Z: Eight radical visions for transforming your future, future intellectual property (IP) issues will be focused on ownership, privacy and freedoms as new technologies will fit poorly into the existing legal frameworks.

Potential (and thorny) IP issues include: Will companies have the right to automatically control and use data that comes in from employees while they are at work? How can organizations prevent sensor networks from being hacked, monitored or stolen by outside forces? When the seamless interface of Internet of Things devices allows companies to search and learn all kinds of details about their customers and employees, who owns this information?

Besides answering these complex questions, which can’t happen overnight or in a vacuum, there are steps you can take to protect current and future IP that’s specific to your organization: Emphasize data security and protection, educating your employees and stakeholders about how proprietary data should be stored and shared. Use a single technology platform for all your IP so it’s easier to manage and update, and so you can eliminate redundancies. And finally, seek to grow your IP by developing employee skills and soliciting feedback from customers.


Digital Transformation and Disruption

Technology’s impact on the workplace has been discussed ad nauseum. However, most overlook how a company gets from here to there. That path is known as digital transformation, or the process of converting all or most of an organization’s operations to online or otherwise computerized mediums.

In most companies, total digital transformation is a long and at least somewhat disruptive process. Some colleagues will inevitably fight against change in favor of the status quo, and future-minded leaders require strategies to bring them into the fold.

Before you attempt to persuade colleagues to jump right into a specific initiative, provide a safe space to discuss disruption in general. Ask questions like: What technology-based disruptions are you seeing in your business? What concerns you about implementing new technologies for existing processes?

Go out of your way to attend forward-thinking industry events. The sessions and conversations you and your colleagues will have at conferences centered on digital transformation and disruption will take your thinking to another level. Encourage your colleagues and employees to see for themselves what digital transformation and disruption mean and what they can do for growth and profit.

Sometimes an internal leader can repeat the same message dozens of times, but no one really hears it until it comes from the mouth of an external consultant who is perceived as an expert. When it comes to embracing disruption, you might make greater headway by bringing on a single or team of advisers who can offer an objective picture of your organization’s digital transformation status compared to the larger market and can provide direction and next steps.

Alexandra Levit is the author of the new book Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future (Kogan Page). A partner at People Results, she helps Fortune 500 and government organizations and their leaders prepare for the future of work through proprietary research, consulting, and program development. For more information, please visit  www.koganpage.com/humanityworks

Thursday, December 20, 2018

6 Reasons You’re Not Thinking Clearly


Guest post from Karen Martin:

Ambiguity has become the status quo in most of our organizations. And, it’s the enemy to efficiency, productivity, and a healthy bottom line.

Achieving clarity is the only way to defeat this enemy. But getting clear on everything, from why your organization exists and what its priorities are, to how people must operate based on their clearly defined role, requires time and effort.

Considering that it can take two people half a day to get clear on a question as trivial as what to eat for dinner, it’s no wonder that many feel that the complexity of the organizational environment makes clarity seem impossible. In addition to our current cluttered environment, habits and our psychological makeup can stand in the way of clear thinking.

Here are six traps to watch out for:

You’re in the dark. The first step in changing any habit is recognizing that you have it. This is harder than it seems with clarity since it lies in that middle of what’s being communicated and what’s being received. I might think an idea is perfectly clear but fail to get it across to you. You, in turn, may think you understand something but don’t. Communication and repeating back your understanding is key.

You lack curiosity. “Why?” is the most frequent question children ask and reflects our innate desire to know. But as we grow up, our curiosity is drummed out. This is a shame. Curiosity pushes us to try things people say we can’t accomplish or to differentiate between two options. Fortunately, organizations are filled with people with dormant curiosity waiting to be sparked. With a bit of coaxing and the cultivation of a welcoming culture, they can reinvigorate this curiosity where questions are both encouraged and rewarded.

You think you know it all. Many leaders think they know, but they don’t, and they aren’t going to ask. Their hubris gets in the way and keeps them from seeing the full picture. Fortunately, mindsets are malleable. People can overcome their hubris and adopt a growth mindset with reflection, coaching, and some work on the self. They can choose to let go of their belief that they know everything and start asking more curiosity-driven questions of more people.

You’re biased. Biases serve as filters for the brain. They sift through the thousands of pieces of information and let through only the ones they deem important. Biased decisions sometimes work out okay but leaders should beware of relying on their “instincts.” That’s because biases are unreliable by definition. My biases may be different from yours, and yours different from someone else. We are not all steering in the same direction if bias is driving us.

You pack the plate too full. Organizations give people at all levels far more to do on a given day than they can reasonably achieve. People often feel like they don’t have the time to stop, assess, and consider whether the actions they take by rote are the right ones. Few of us are in control of our time but those who are, or who can influence how time is spent by others, should invest in giving people a percentage of their time for assessments and problem solving.

You’re afraid. All of the psychological and behavioral obstacles to clarity share a common cause: fear. Fear comes in many forms and has many roots. Yet in most cases the fear people feel about seeking clarity in the workplace is based on incomplete thinking. The problem you are avoiding exists whether you seek clarity on it or not. Realize that the longer you wait, the worse the consequences of that problem can become—and the harder to fix.  
Achieving clarity is hard work—but it can be liberating, productive, efficient—and lucrative.


Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, ClarityFirst, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How to Build Trust with Your Employees


Guest post by Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss:


“I didn’t tell the complete truth, and our relationship hasn’t been the same since.”

This may sound like the confession of a person with marital issues, or the breakdown in a long-term friendship. But it’s a quote from a CEO client of ours. Someone who learned the hard way about the importance of maintaining trust between the C-suite and front-line employees.

It’s a critical lesson we can all absorb through his experience: Communication is key to any good relationship. And just as you can erode trust with a miscommunication, you can rebuild it with honest, clear communication. Here are three ways to do it.

Create a steady drumbeat of communication.

Timing is everything, as they say. Create, publish and stick to a monthly or quarterly schedule of communication, so employees know what to expect, and when to expect it. Organizations that communicate on an ad-hoc basis are creating a vacuum of information – and employees will fill those gaps with misinformation and rumors.

Major announcements and breaking news can’t wait for the next meeting or newsletter, of course. So, it’s OK to go off-schedule when you must. Just make sure employees always hear about important company news from the company itself – before getting a Google alert or seeing it on Eyewitness News.

Discuss, discuss, discuss. 

You naturally build trust with employees when they have opportunities to ask questions, state their opinions and drive for more clarity in the information they receive. Online discussion – for example, allowing employees to comment on your company’s intranet news stories – is a good first step. But nothing will demonstrate your commitment to authentic, honest discussion than a live town hall or an “Ask Me Anything” session for employees.

Let’s be honest: It’s a risk to put an open mic in the hand of an unscreened and potentially upset employee. But company leaders who demonstrate a high degree of trust in their employees will find that trust returned more often than leaders who favor heavily filtered and overly controlled communication.

Make time for informal communication.

Unscheduled and informal chats help break down walls between leaders and employees. It may sound like the simplest of tactics, but it’s often the most difficult for executives to do well.

Some leaders tout an “open-door policy,” not realizing that few entry-level employees would feel comfortable walking into an executive’s office. Instead, challenge yourself to get out of your office and out of meetings at least once a day. Walk the halls. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Get coffee in the breakroom. This is your chance to not only have informal conversations with employees, but to literally be seen as an approachable, accessible leader.

If you have a distributed workforce across many locations or time zones, consider online options. Employees connect on a different level with leaders who jump into internal social media discussions to comment and answer questions. You also may want to hold regular “virtual town halls” where employees and leaders can chat online about the company. And don’t discourage personal questions (not too personal, of course). Learning about a leader’s previous jobs or her favorite movie goes a long way to creating a relationship between leaders and employees, and establishing trust in the workplace. 

Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss own a communications agency, ROCKdotVOSS.com, 
specializing in executive and employee communication. Their workplace novels – B.S., Incorporated and Operation Clusterpuck – are funny, heartfelt stories that show corporate leaders what NOT to do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Leadership and Work Teams


Guest post from Simon Mac Rory:

If you work in an organization today as a leader you will lead a team. 90% of what we do in an organization happens through collaborative effort, making the team the most important production unit.

For two years (2016 and 2017) Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends survey has positioned organizational redesign as the number one concern for businesses. In 2016 they termed this the ‘Rise of Teams’ and 2017 ‘The Organization of the Future – Arriving Now’. Bottom line, organizations are seeking to reconstitute themselves as a network of teams, ditching the traditional hierarchy. This makes teamwork even more crucial to overall success or failure for the organization.

The rhetoric surrounding this critical aspect of work tends to indicate that organizations and senior leaders are champions of teamwork and that they have the team ‘nut’ cracked - the reality however, points to a very different scenario. 

It is estimated that only 10% of teams can truly be deemed high performing, 40% are dysfunctional and detrimental to team members experience. The balance of 50% can at best be described as performing marginally and never producing more than incremental results. For me, the success and effectiveness of any team starts and ends with the leader. In my experience of working with and coaching work teams, the best, most effective teams always seem to have the best and most effective leaders.  If this premise and the figures above are accepted it would suggest that only 10% of team leaders are high performing, enabling their teams, whilst 40% of leaders are failing in their leadership tasks, whilst the remaining 50% are barely holding in there!

Most of the trouble for the struggling team leader starts with the belief that teams are there to support their leader.  

Nothing could be further from the truth and the converse is the needed reality – leaders are there to support their teams. This is what is referred to as the inverted hierarchy. Leaders are at the bottom of the pyramid supporting those in the team above them and not the other way around. This is a ‘get over it already’ moment. As a team leader the only means you have to success is in the success of your team. The more successful they are, the more success for you. Your job is to get all the barriers to team performance out of the way. You ensure that the team has what it needs, and you go to bat for the team always. Your job is to deliver strategy and structure for the team and it is the team that delivers output, quality and customer satisfaction. The alternative is that you as leader do everything, believe that you have all the answers and the rest of the team become your audience whilst you perform.

Jack Welsh famously said “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”.  Great team leaders intuitively recognize this. This means being prepared to delegate, to empower and then to coach and support as necessary. It also means that as a leader you must recognize that the team is comprised of individuals and that each has separate, unique needs and operate at differing levels of ability and confidence. Therefore, there is a need for a leader to have flexibility in leadership style to develop the most appropriate overall style for the team, adjusting it to meet the needs of individual team members. Great team leadership is about creating the confidence in your team members to follow you by anticipating their needs and ensuring that all that can be done to enable each member of the team is done - so they can deliver.

An effective team leader will understand this requirement for flexibility, evaluating their performance, examining not only their leadership style but the appropriateness of that style. They must have the confidence to continually ask themselves and the team, “Is there anything I can do to improve my leadership of this team?”

Sounds complicated? Not really. Adopt the inverted hierarchy and see yourself at the bottom of the pyramid supporting the team members and their performance and not the other way around.

Traditional versus inverted hierarchy



With such a disposition, the management of coaching, performance, goals, communications, up- skilling, planning and evaluation becomes the natural task of the leader. This in turn will lead to a natural adoption of the appropriate style of leadership for the team and its individual team members, driving overall performance. Finding that balance for the team overall and meeting the individual needs of members is a key task of team leadership. Remember it is not the team leader’s job to do all the team tasks, rather it is to enable and support the team members to deliver.

Are you leading your team with the appropriate style? If your team has any characteristics of the left-hand column you may need to change your leadership style.

Teams without appropriate leadership                       Teams with appropriate leadership
Lack or have misplaced confidence

Display confidence

Constantly seek direction

Are self-managing

Avoid decision making

Have a clear focus

Are fearful of mistakes

Have an appropriate sense of ownership

Have tenuous loyalty at best

Have loyalty to the team leader

Avoid extra effort

Go the extra mile when required

Keep quiet about bad news

Enjoy high levels of trust and openness

Find it difficult to be motivated

Tend to be more motivated

Have a sense of “flight or fight” and the accompanying stress levels

Experience high morale – will want to belong to the team

Feel frustrated

Feel valued as individuals and as a team

Are constantly threatened by attrition

Have high retention

Tend to have the few carry the many

Have an equitable division of labour

Allow poor performers to ‘get away with it’ leading to a sense of unfairness

Do not carry poor performers

Are less effective and struggle to deliver success

Are more effective and more successful



Simon Mac Rory is a team development specialist. He works with senior leaders to help them discover that edge to become truly high performing. He founded The ODD Company www.theoddcompany.ie in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon operates from London with a Dublin-based support office. He received his doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organization development and is a visiting research fellow at NBS. His new book is “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” http://wakeupandsmellthecoffeebookproject.com/.