Thursday, July 28, 2016

Make Habits, Not Rules

Guest post from Jurgen Appelo:
I recently ordered a fruit salad in Raleigh, NC. The pecans were generously sugar-coated; the croutons came fresh out of the frying pan; and the accompanying biscuit covered the Holy Trinity of Sugar, Carbs, and Fat. I have no idea what was in the dressing, and I prefer not to know. The salad was not the healthy option that I thought it would be.

I had done my best earlier that day. I had been running around the city the same morning, over sidewalks that looked suspiciously wide. But after eating the salad (which I certainly enjoyed), I felt like I needed another long run. And I thought, "My God, are they even trying to make healthier living easy for people around here?" Where I come from (The Netherlands), the default side option for a fruit salad might be dark sourdough rye bread, best used for weight-lifting, not eating.

So, how can we change this? What can we do to change the behaviors of people in a way that would be good for them and for society?

The primary approach used by governments is threatening people with rules and punishments. If you don't pay your taxes, you are punished. If you drive too fast, you are punished. If you sell or use an illegal substance, you are punished. Besides rules and punishments (augmented with some taxation and propaganda), there seems to be little variety in the ways governments attempt to influence the behaviors of their citizens.
The primary approach followed by businesses is the promise of rewards. If you increase sales by factor X, you get a bonus. If you get better performance ratings than your peers, you get a promotion. If you do what you're asked, you can get in line for a raise. Again, the variety of approaches to improve behaviors among employees in most organizations seems rather poor. It is all about carrots and sticks. Mostly carrots, but also some sticks.

What should we do instead?

How do we get people to exercise and eat healthier foods?
How do we get creative workers to follow safety procedures?
How do we convince anyone to be on time, follow a checklist, or be more supportive and appreciative toward their peers?

Most managers and politicians make the mistake of relying on rules. If it's important that employees wash their hands before work, then let's make a rule. If they should not forget to wear a helmet, turn it into a rule. If it's important that they keep a healthy work-life balance, let's make another rule!

More than once, I've seen rules and laws in social systems (such as businesses and societies) being compared to mathematical rules and natural laws in physical and chemical systems.

Molecules interact with each other by adhering to laws and rules and, thanks to self-organization, this leads to emergence and change in complex adaptive systems. Likewise, people interact with each other in businesses and societies by following laws and procedures. And, with a bit of self-organization, this should also result in creativity and innovation. Right?
Well, almost. But not quite.
Why do you take a shower in the morning after waking up? Is it because of a rule? Is it because you are promised a reward or punishment by someone? Probably not. Even scientists say there is no need take a shower every day. And yet, most of us do, because...
It is a habit.
In social systems, it is the habits of people, not laws and procedures, that can best be compared to the rules and laws in physical and chemical systems. Molecules behave predictably because they have an "urge" to follow natural laws. People behave more-or-less predictably because they have an urge to follow their habits. We act because our neural wiring tells us to do so, not because of something written in a document or something displayed on a sign.

As a driver, I stop at red lights because my brain tells me that not doing so would be dangerous. But as a pedestrian, I often ignore red lights because my brain tells me it's OK to trust my eyes and legs. The fact that there are laws and rules defined somewhere, that are supposed to guide my behaviors, doesn't even register consciously in my brain.

In organizations, it is the same. Workers don't wash their hands because there's a rule that tells them to do so. They wash their hands because they have developed a habit of doing so. This means that, instead of making rules, management (and government) would be wise to learn how habits develop and how they can be influenced. A visible reminder to wash your hands, such as a placard on a wall, may be helpful. But other subtle changes, such as the strategic placement of the faucet and basin, a powerful hand dryer, and a clean-smelling restroom, could be much more effective at the subconscious level.
Managers and governments are always trying to change the behaviors of people: healthier lifestyles, safety procedures, professional practices, etc. They attempt to do most of that with carrots and sticks, by passing laws, adding taxes, documenting rules, and communicating rewards and punishments, so that people know what is expected of them. But most people have difficulties changing their behaviors because their habits send them in other directions. Sure, they want to live healthier lives! But the fruit salad is still soaked in fat, covered with sugar, and decorated with carbs.
As managers (and politicians), try making fewer rules. Start learning how habits get formed and how they can be changed. It's more difficult, for sure. But it's also a lot more rewarding.

Jurgen Appelo, a Top 50 Management & Leadership expert, is pioneering management to help creative organizations survive and thrive in the 21st century. His most recent book Managing for Happiness offers concrete games, tools, and practices, so you can introduce better management, with fewer managers.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Set Expectations To Ensure Success

Guest post from Robbie Hardy: 

Guiding and driving a team to reach their highest potential while simultaneously meeting the revenue projections of the business can often be a serious juggling act. On the one hand, you want everyone on your team to be: challenged but not overwhelmed; curious but not confused; agile but not disorganized. On the other hand, there are deadlines to meet; costs to contain; changes and more changes to manage. What’s a leader to do?

There are many answers to this question, but the best return on value, applicable to all business, is to set expectations on all sides. The team needs to understand the objective, the goals, the constraints and each member’s role. Who is in charge of what aspect or task? What happens when there are surprises or unanticipated issues? Who are the stakeholders? What are the risks of not achieving the objective? … and on and on. Bottom line is, open and honest communication are essential.

There was a software project that had high visibility within the company and serious consequences for the client if the project was not on time and on budget. Everyone on the team worked tirelessly to meet all the deadlines and the project seemed to be tracking to success, when about five days before the project was to be delivered, everything stated to “blow up” in software language, nothing was working. All the testing that had been done was no longer valid and no one could understand what had happened. The software developers claimed they had not made any additional changes, yet something had gone very wrong. Hours became days and suddenly, 24 hours before the final deadline and launch, it became clear that this could not be fixed in time. The situation was compounded by the fact that no one had told the client or senior management, because they were very confident that it would be “fixed” and no one need ever know.

The client had scheduled a press conference to announce the new product and give a brief demo. The project manager knew the consequences of this public failure would be very serious for all involved. They needed a plan B and they needed it ASAP. So desperate times call for desperate measures, and the project manager again decided the solution was not transparency, but to create some type of unrelated problem, like no power to the building. He took his trusted product manager and they searched the building for power breakers that they could pull during the press conference to buy them time.  They were willing to risk being arrested rather than not deliver.

When you successfully set expectations, several things happen. First, and most obviously, everyone knows what to expect. This might be a “duh” to you, but for some people juggling a million different priorities and projects, agreed to expectations automatically gives a project higher visibility on the “to-do” list.
The second thing that happens with set expectations is that it levels the playing field. There is one vision, one mission, one goal. There isn’t pulling rank, there isn’t trying to weasel someone into doing your work for you. It’s a level playing field because everyone knows what they are expected to contribute to get the job done.

The third thing that happens with set expectations is that you get buy-in from all the major stakeholders. They have a chance to voice their opinion and concerns, explain their particular challenges, and state what they need to get the job done.
Setting expectations helps prevent those nasty “surprises” that come too late to be able to influence the outcome, which is where over budget and late delivery are born.

Robbie Hardy spent 20+ successful years in the corporate sector before finding her true calling in the entrepreneurial world.  She is author of the new book UPSETTING THE TABLE:  Women Mentoring Women. For more information visit

Friday, July 15, 2016

When the Leader Needs Help

Guest post from Bobby Martin:

There comes a time for every founder of a rapidly growing entrepreneurial business when you have to decide if you can be the one to both lead and manage into and through this growth stage. This is a tricky juncture, when you transition from scrappy, creation mode into organizational development mode. The development of an organization that’s in the fast-growth stage slams you with many new challenges, some of which are extremely difficult for many founders. 

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

 - Not too long ago you were fielding five customer service requests a day, and now over a hundred are flooding in daily.
- Your sales team was generating twenty or so good leads a week, and now it’s clear that you could generate an order of magnitude more if you just had the people or the right mechanism.

- You’ve been up to your ears in the details of planning and developing new product features yourself or with your partner, but now you have too many growing management responsibilities to do as much of that. You’re afraid of losing control over quality and design.

 - You have a growing list of great ideas, but you don’t have time to flesh them out.

 - You have identified new big fish customers to go after, but just can’t seem to find the time to pursue them.

If you’ve got outside funders, they’re demanding more and better financial reporting from you, and your board is starting to breathe down your neck about preparing for an IPO. But when are you going to find the time?

The late, great Peter Drucker stated that failure to create a solid team at the top-management level is the core reason startups go off the rails. It’s critical that you now bring in more direct reports, including a number of high-competency specialists. You need to become primarily a manager. You have to shift from being an entrepreneur to becoming an executive if you’re going to survive and thrive - both the business and you personally (health and sanity).
I call this contradiction in the demands made of an entrepreneur the Paradox of Scale; in order to achieve fast growth, you had to be disruptively innovative and improvisational, and in order to sustain it, you have to become intensely disciplined and rigorously managerial. Some founders have no problem at all with this transition. But most entrepreneurs struggle with this change. They may not like the change of pace; or they’re afraid of becoming a corporate soul crusher; or they simply have no passion for or the skill set needed for executive management.

Going the wrong direction at this point is one of the main reasons why firms that have hit takeoff  subsequently go into a death spiral. Most founders at this point face three key choices.
1. Learn how to manage the complexities of running a fast-growth firm.

2. Stay in some sort of leadership role, but bring in an experienced CEO from outside.

3. Look for a buyer. (Actually, even if this is your choice you still need to pick from #1 or #2 until the company is in good shape for sale or IPO. Otherwise you will sell at a far lower price than you deserve.) 

So what does it take to transition?

Make your organizational structure only as complex as it must be. Keep it as simple as possible to still delegate responsibilities and decision making while keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. Layer in leadership as it makes sense for your processes, systems and size of organization. Too much structure is just as bad as too little. Seek out what’s just right for you.

Recruit top-players that complement each other’s skill set and focus on making sure they work well together. One of the biggest mistakes founders make is to continue to hire key roles by tapping their circle of friends and bringing in people they feel personally comfortable with rather than undertaking a more professional recruitment search. If you have a partner, he or she may well become one of these department heads or perhaps the COO who complements you as CEO or vice versa. You may also have one or two other employees who are well qualified to assume key leadership roles. But generally, many of your early employees either won’t truly be qualified to perform at the level you need in these roles or won’t want to. Search for not only the right skill set and expertise, but the right fit for the culture and the dynamics of your leadership team. Any HR person worth their salt will tell you that 9 out of 10 times people hire on skill and fire on fit. So keep fit in mind from the beginning.

Hire people who will bring new perspectives and challenge you. If you only hire people who see things as you do and always say “Yes” then you have a blindspot. There is tremendous value in having people surrounding you that are a) smarter than you in a particular subject and b) different from you. Your business is not a social club of cookie cutter membership. If it is, you will fail. It is critical that you hire people - especially for your top management team - with diverse skill set and background.

Keep your hands dirty with some details. Delegating does not mean abdicating leadership responsibilities. It is a myth that you just let people run things and you trust them. You do need to be in the details, enough to be aware of what’s happening. But you do not need to be the one doing the work nor serving as singular decision point bottleneck. As the leader - in whatever form that takes for you (CEO, President, COO) - set the vision, expectations and culture. Sit solidly in your new leadership role and let the super stars you brought into the game do the same.
About the author:

Bobby Martin believes that too many startup founders pivot too early, quit too early, and expect rapid takeoff. Through his experience of starting and selling First Research (a leader in sales intelligence) for $26 Million to Fortune 500 firm, Dun & Bradstreet, he’s learned firsthand the challenges and solutions at each stage of entrepreneurial growth. In his new book, The Hockey Stick Principles: The 4 Key Stages to Entrepreneurial Success, (Flatiron
Books, May 2016)
Martin debunks the myth that “hockey stick” growth is only for the Googles of the world.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Killing Potential: Machiavellian Mary as Boss

Guest post from Shoba Sreenivasan & Linda E. Weinberger:
A particularly virulent female leadership style is what we label, “Machiavellian Mary” to denote a superficially agreeable, yet ruthless, self-focused, and false individual. Machiavellian Mary is admired for playing well in the “male” game of pyramidal hierarchies: pleasing to those on top and controlling, micro-managing and authoritarian to those below. 

In fact, Machiavellian Mary not just toxic to those below her, but to the businesses that promote her to a leadership position:

- She kills buy-in from key stakeholders: the employees who are the face of the business.

- Her authoritarian style torpedoes an environment that nourishes new ideas.

- Hers is a “top-down” communication style, one that promotes a culture of fear.

- She is an obstacle to change.

How does she do this?

· She creates friction, pits co-workers against each other

· She promotes dissension and an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. 

· She lowers morale, causes employee strife, damages productivity, contributes to EEO actions and lawsuits, and jeopardizes solvency.  

Yet, Machiavellian Marys continue to be prominent in leadership positions of power across sectors. Why? 

Despite gender equality as the overt mantra, images of strength as masculine and weakness as feminine remain potent today, just as they have in the past. Power colors our view of others; we respect those with status and assign lower esteem to those without. Men have had more power than women; consequently, we women may unconsciously assign more respect to women who lead like men.

Men may well be more comfortable with Machiavellian Mary, at least initially. On the surface she can look like she is getting the job done and not distracted by interpersonal issues, such as being concerned about the needs of others. As she does not have feminine frills like a democratic style (e.g., acknowledging team work), tasks such as down-sizing, aggressive take-overs, and issuing demotions come easily. 

The opposite of a Machiavellian Mary is a nurturant leadership style. However, nurturant is not a characteristic typically sought out for a leader: it suggests a “mothering” approach. As such, those with nurturant styles may be assigned to the roles of subordinates to be led, but not to be leaders.

· Nurturant evokes images of passivity

· Nurturant suggests being a supporter rather than leader

· A Nurturer is someone who is focused on relationships rather than tasks. 

Consequently, men who hire women leaders may not consider nurturers as competent; women in business leadership roles may also, either consciously or unconsciously, reject these “feminine-centric” images. Women may believe that those who are able to move up “the leadership ladder,” did so because they could be ruthless; or if that is not palatable, the adjective is softened to “realistic” or “has business sense.”

Is a nurturing leadership style more aspirational than pragmatic? Is it just a nice theory that plays well in academic journals and sounds good in conferences about transformational leaders? Several years ago, researchers found that biomedical research centers with a nurturing leadership style yielded the most major biomedical discoveries. One can find examples in other fields where promoting cooperation rather than competition enhances creativity. Hiring Machiavellian Mary may look good at first; but in the end, will impede the true growth and potential of the business.

Our background, as clinical and forensic psychologists, has given us a front row seat in viewing the underbelly of human nature. We have done so long enough through interactions with people who have psychopathic styles to know that this never brings out the best in others. Instead, as shown in the biomedical arena, cooperation instead of “dog-eat-dog” competition, fosters creativity: be it inventions, original works, scientific contributions, or successful businesses. 

Creativity thrives in an environment where ideas are encouraged, where employees feel valued, believe that their work has meaning; it does not thrive in the poisonous environment of fear. It is archetypically feminine as it is nurturing and maternal. The key to new ideas and growth comes from fostering a cooperative spirit that acknowledges the contribution of others and promotes their success. 

Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan and Dr. Linda E. Weinberger are the authors of Psychological Nutrition. Learn more at

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Leader within Us – Developing Our Self-Leader

Guest post from Stanley Ross:

The paucity of effective leaders is only because in general organizations aren’t good at developing leaders. The expectation is that individuals can jump from being a non-manager to become a leader type manager. This expectation is an illusion with everyone suffering the consequences. A non-manager needs to develop their ability to learn how to successfully lead themselves first. Subordinates are hesitant to follow someone who is challenged to lead themselves.

An individual with self-leadership potential demonstrates specific behaviors associated with values commonly in a self-leader. Values such as self-respect, positive attitude, achievement oriented, social relations oriented, focused, strong work ethic and other leader values support the conclusion that this person demonstrates self-leadership attributes and these same attributes, with more development, are attributes of successful leaders.

How can we differentiate between self-leaders and non-leader types? Attitude is the thermostat for assessing an individual’s measure of self-worth which is key to identifying a prospective self-leader for their potential to eventually become a leader. A self-leader represents the stage between non-managers and leader type managers (different from non-leader managers who are maintainers of order). Leadership development programs need to focus on developing the self-leader first to provide the foundation for the subsequent stage of actual leader development.

Screening is an important first step to identify individuals with the potential to become a self-leader. An effective screening process is multi-faceted. The first step is to develop a set of screening criteria. Three essential categories of criteria include values, behaviors exhibited and social relations. Each category is easy to define and the leadership literature provides the specifics to use. Behavior and social relations are proxy measures for values and represent additional ways to learn the individual’s values indirectly. Social relations reflect a group of related values. Specific criteria and weighting/scoring system to accompany the criteria need identifying for each of the categories. Using several persons to screen provides several pair of eyes to objectify the screening process. Co-workers, supervisors and other significant contacts involved directly or indirectly with the candidates represent the best set of eyes.

The training program designer needs to consider three goals in designing a self-leadership development training program. First, training needs to either develop or build on values associated with successful self-leaders and successful leaders. Often the difference between these values is to image each value on a continuum and that a leader is closer to the end point than the self-leader. Second, the designer needs to focus on teaching the trainee to become a successful change agent. Learning how to transform the self is an important step in learning how to transform an organization or sub-unit of an organization. Finally, the training program needs to focus on activities that teach the trainee to become a successful change agent. Leadership is all about disrupting norms to develop new norms in the never ending process called achieving and which I often refer to as comfort zone busting. Individuals need to benefit from the experiences of comfort zone busting and the strategies used to successfully disrupt their personal comfort zone norms to gain the knowledge and skills that come from personal experiences. Existing values benefit and new values result from the training process.

A well-designed self-leadership development training program needs to encompass a variety of experiential exercises that involve pushing the trainees outside of their comfort zone. An exercise with a planned process that includes a goal helps to provide a routine for the change process and that the trainee to assess progress and make adjustments to the process dictated by the circumstances. Learning to adapt is both an important value to enhance and a skill trainees need to develop during the change process. 

A SMART goal is the recommended type of goal because SMART goals are measurable, realistic and create a sense of urgency because of the time constraint. Another important feature of an ideal training program is to incorporate the role of a mentor or coach. Mentors advise and coaches are task focused. Each role can provide a personal touch to help to successfully guide trainees through the various learning experiences within the training program.

A successful training program is one that develops trainee’s values and feelings of self-worth to the extent that the trainee moves forward to become a self-leader and eventually an effective leader.

Author bio:
Dr Stanley Ross is an Associate Professor of Management at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA.  Dr. Ross was in the active military and three tours in a combat zone.  Dr. Ross earned a Bachelor’s degree; Master’s and Doctorate post the military.  Dr. Ross recently published a book entitled “The Road to Self-Leadership Development: Busting Out of Your Comfort Zone.”  (Publisher: Emerald, 2015).  The book’s semi-autographical focus offers readers a model for understanding the self-leadership development process and how organizations and individuals can apply the model as a first step in the development of leaders.  Successful leaders need to become successful self-leaders first.  Successful leaders have a high rating on self-worth.  The book offers readers guidelines to follow on building self-worth. Contact: or

Monday, June 27, 2016

How Leaders can Ignite Innovation

An executive at a company I work with recently told me:
“We have very creative employees who want to be innovative but find many obstacles created by the cultural opposition to it. We have to find a way to hold a mirror up to leaders so they can recognize the issue and then give them tools to overcome or at least neutralize the cultural barriers.”

He’s so right! We spend a lot of time training and encouraging employees at all levels how to be more creative and innovation. They leave our programs all fired up ready to change the world, then go back to a workplace that crushes their innovative ideas and enthusiasm. It’s usually the organization’s leaders, with good intentions that unknowingly putting up barriers to innovation.

According to research from creativity researcher Goran Ekvall, leaders who seek innovation but are unsure how to make it happen can easily undermine innovation goals. In fact, leadership behavior contributes from 20% to 67% of the climate for creativity in organizations (from CCL whitepaper “Innovation, How Leadership Makes the Difference”).

Becoming a leader that drives innovation doesn’t always require learning new skills – it often means stopping innovative-killing behaviors or practices.

Here are 10 things a leader can do to create an environment where employees are encouraged to be innovative:
1. Be a connector. Facilitate constructive cooperation (not competition!) between groups working on similar opportunities).  

2. Allow employees time to innovate. Engineering organizations are notorious for making sure 100% of their engineer’s time is billed to a program. Leaders need to give employees a few hours a week to experiment, work on projects that are outside of their jobs, to read, or to solve problems. Google is well known for the practice of allowing their employees to spend 20% of their time on things not related to their immediate jobs or projects.
3. Encourage your employee to hang out with “PNLUs” (people not like you). People that are different bring a different perspective and fresh ideas. Some teams invite PNLUs to be a part of their project teams.

4. Replace “yeah but” with “what if”. Instead of saying, “It won’t work,” or, “We already tried that,” say “Well, up until now it hasn’t worked,” or, “What if…?”
5. Set a realistic expectation for innovation success. Innovative ideas, by their very nature, probably won’t be readily accepted or they will fail. What’s a good batting average for innovation? Some would say around 200, or one out of five ideas. Don’t let your employees get frustrated about the four rejections – instead, reward the effort and encourage them to come back swinging until they get a hit.

6. Take an Edison approach to “failure”:  “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
7. Provide as much autonomy and ownership for jobs, projects, or tasks. According to Daniel Pink, employees are motivated the most by autonomy – the freedom to do things their own way. The challenge for many managers to allow employees to do things differently than they would do them, as long as they are getting good results. Who knows, they may come up with a better way!

8. Provide training. Innovation is not something a person is born with (DNA) – innovation can be learned. Provide training in how to be more innovative.
9. Allow your employees to attend conferences and networking events. Again, in order to get them exposed to PNLUs and new ideas.

10. Encourage employees to observe their customers or users. This is central to the concept of “design thinking,” pioneered by the innovative design company IDEO. This isn’t about reading market research reports or user surveys – it’s about actually going out and observing the users of whatever it is you make or provide.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Defining Corporate Culture–Why Is It Critical?

Guest post from Rick Tiemann:

You can’t just take it for granted and assume that having a business plan in place is all it takes in order to develop your leadership program. You also can’t take for granted that having a leadership development program in place will enhance the quality of the leaders within your organization.

You must also have a corporate culture that emulates your business plan. The old cliché, “talk the talk and walk the walk,” is exactly what this means. If your corporate culture does not emphasize how you go about executing your business plan, you’re likely to have trouble achieving success. To begin with, it starts at the top, and the CEO must embrace a corporate culture that embraces the philosophy of building a learning organization. That is only the start of building your corporate culture, but it is an essential one. Without that piece, people won’t be held accountable for the learning and developing that they should be doing.

On the other hand, when the expectation for continuous learning becomes part of your corporate culture, learning is more likely to take place at the level you need it to. Do you know if your strategic intent and your corporate culture are in sync? If you are unsure of what your culture looks like and how to evaluate your corporate culture, here are some questions to help you frame your thinking.

• Do we have a corporate culture that supports people?
• Do we allow people to fail?
• Do we encourage people to take chances?
• Do we give them the tools to learn?
• Do we hold them accountable for their development?

Corporate culture is a hard thing to measure and is subjective in nature as everyone’s definition of culture varies. Your perception of your corporate culture is seen through your paradigm, and that may not be reality. Don’t be blinded by your own paradigm. Surveys can be an impactful way of taking the pulse of an organization and allowing you to find out what is happening across the broad spectrum of the company. An effective survey will help you get the lay of the land before
you embark down the wrong path. Usually, your survey will be more accurate if you use a third-party vendor rather than conducting it yourself internally. To have the meaningful impact you seek, you should do the following
when planning your survey:

• Set the stage to help people understand why you are doing the survey and what you hope to accomplish.

• Help your staff feel comfortable so they will be candid and not fear retribution for saying something that might be offensive.

• Share the results with the respondents. If you don’t, they will not believe it’s worth spending the time to take the survey and may not speak up in the future.

• Address and, at the very least, make the recommended changes that emerge from the information or explain why something cannot be done. You cannot ignore this. You must also let the entire organization see that you have listened and acted upon the results of the survey.

• Conduct the exact same survey in twelve to fourteen months to determine if the changes have taken hold and improvements were made. If you change the survey and do not ask the same questions in the same way, you cannot compare the results accurately and you will not be able to determine if your company has made improvements. It is imperative that you be willing to conduct the exact same survey a year after the first.

If you follow these principles, people will see you are fully committed to making improvements. Keep in mind the following powerful statement, “People support what they help create.” Listening and engaging your people will pay dividends when you build an organization around employee engagement. While following these principles is the right thing to do, it is important to understand that doing all these things does not guarantee you success. As an example, I was speaking to a president of a company about the employee feedback he tries to receive at the end of every month. All of the feedback he was getting was positive, yet there was a large increase in turnover from the previous year. To address the issue of staff departures, he brought in a third party to conduct employee interviews and found out that the reason people were leaving was because they were frustrated with several members of the senior leadership team. They told the president what he wanted to hear not what he needed to hear. This is not an uncommon situation, which is why surveys are more revealing when they are conducted by a third-party provider, especially if there are difficult leaders in place.

Rick Tiemann is President of The Executive Group and works with companies in the areas of organizational and business development. His expertise is on developing organizational effectiveness through employee selection and development with a targeted focus on sales and leadership.  His new book is Developing World Class Leaders.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Building Commitment on Your Team

Guest post from by JV Venable:

Any man or woman you hire will come on board with a measure of uncertainty.  They’ll step in wondering just what kind of commitment they can expect from you, and many will wonder if they can measure up to the standards on your team.  Commitment is a foundational requirement for loyalty, and loyalty for trust.  When you help them come up to speed with the technical standards, and give them a leg up on gaining social acceptance of your team, you’ll build a strong foundation of commitment.  But even when you fill those gaps and help them gain organizational traction, many will still carry self-doubts.  When those situations flare, your words will further their confidence like nothing else can.  I learned that lesson as a new fighter pilot taking my first steps into one of the most unforgiving environments in the world – my first operational fighter squadron.

A little humble pie over Turkey.

The weather was bad and our formation of four jets was forced to fly a pretty complicated instrument procedure into our deployed location at the far end of the Mediterranean. While each pilot was flying his own approach, we were also charged with maintaining a position two miles behind the jet in front of us. I took pride in flying a smooth jet, but that afternoon I got caught up in the bevy of tasks, and my usual precision seemed to unravel into out-and-out flailing.

I flew one of the worst approaches of my life, weaving left and right of course and it felt like I was moving the throttle continually from stop to stop. I managed to get back on the ground safely, but the effort really made me question my own competence. I was brand new in the unit, trying to establish a little credibility, and those moments of seeming incompetence were weighing heavily on me as we touched down.

As soon the van picked up the four of us, the other three pilots jumped into an animated conversation. “I got to tell you boys, that was one of the worst approaches of my life. I was all over the sky and never did settle into a smooth rhythm — It was mighty ugly!” Bill “Blaze” Binger said it so matter-of-factly that his words began to lighten my load. If someone with his experience and reputation could fly a bad approach, then maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. I knew it really was a one-off for me, but if he hadn’t made light of his own performance, that approach would have haunted me for weeks.

That night, I thought back on the fact that Blaze had been right behind me throughout the approach. He could have seen my every bob, weave, and change in airspeed with his radar, but there wasn’t even a hint of sarcasm in his voice. To this day, I don’t know if he was really talking about himself, or if he was trying to let me know that even the best fall short every now and then.

When your own standards are high, even small failures can seem disproportionate, whether you’re looking at yourself or at someone else. If Blaze’s words were directed at himself, then he set the bar high for honesty. If they were directed at me, he had re-enforced his commitment to my growth by letting me know that everyone has a bad day. Somehow he managed to accomplish both that afternoon.

The bed down phase can be an emotional rollercoaster for new hires. Keep an eye out, and chamber of few encouraging words when you see those doubts flare.  When you do, you’ll build the kind of commitment in your followers that lasts a lifetime.

About JV Venable:
Colonel JV Venable [USAF, Ret], author of
Breaking the Trust Barrier: How Leaders Close the Gaps for High Performance, is a Fighter Weapons School graduate who went on to lead the USAF Thunderbirds and combat group of 1,100 American airmen in the Persian Gulf. For more information, please visit and connect with JV on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Monday, June 13, 2016

How to Manage Yourself so Your Boss Won’t Have to

What’s the difference between an employee that can’t seem to tie their own shoes without asking “mother may I” and one that can perform with a high level of autonomy and accountability?

It comes down to three things:

1. The employee must have a high degree of competence and confidence.

2. The employee needs to understand the mission and goals of the organization (clarity).

3. The employee’s manager needs to allow and encourage self-leadership. No micro-management allowed!

I learned an important model for self-leadership and empowerment from reading “Turn the Ship Around”, by former naval officer David Marquet. I also completed his online course for $75.00.
It’s called “the Ladder of Leadership”. I’ve used this model to manage myself, shared it with my boss, used it in my executive coaching work, and referenced it in our leadership programs here at the University of New Hampshire.

The model can be used to teach leaders how to “let go” and empower their employees to make their own decisions. It can also be used by leaders as a way to coach employees up the ladder. Finally, it can be used by anyone as a roadmap to self-leadership.
Here’s what it looks like from the employee’s perspective:

7. I’ve been doing…..
6. I’ve done…

5. I intent to…
4. I would like to….

3. I think….
2. I see….

1. Tell me what to do.
And here’s the manager’s view of the ladder:
7. What have you been doing?
6. What have you done?

5. What do you intend to do?
4. What would you like to do?

3. What do you think?
2. What do you see?

1. I’ll tell you what to do.
Your goal as a manager and/or employee is to work your way up the ladder, rung by rung, until you are almost always having conversations at the top rung (#7) of the ladder.

Sound easy? Of course it’s not. However, it gives you a roadmap and a way to measure your progress.
It requires an investment in employee development, a two-way commitment, and a willingness to allow for mistakes. See Say “Thank-you” to Mistakes.

What do you think? Or better yet, what have you been doing? (-:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

To Get the What--You Need the Why and How

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

Why does your leadership team exist? To get results. Increase profits. Deliver expected performance. Right?

Take a look at many companies, and that seems to be true. The only thing that is measured, monitored, and rewarded are results and profits--that’s what they mean by “performance.” Leaders are recognized and valued (and paid) based upon their ability to deliver these tangible results. In many cases, that’s what leaders before them did, so they’ve picked up the baton and do the same thing.

It’s all they know.

But focusing exclusively on results and profits often has unwanted consequences. The biggest one? Team leaders and members find any way they can to make sure those numbers look good, including inhibiting other’s performance, manipulating numbers, spinning a presentation, or worse. The “I win, you lose” mantra destroys trust, respect, and dignity.

It also destroys the very results the company is aiming to achieve.

Think about it. Why would anyone want to work hard to deliver results with integrity when those who are recognized and rewarded are the ones who took the shortcuts?

There is nothing wrong with results and profits. What sucks is when the work environment is so competitive that people have to battle their peers to “win.” So much for wellbeing and cooperation. Welcome to anxiety and anger.

There is a better way. I can
prove it.

Leadership teams who craft a present day purpose focused on serving others, and clearly outlining desired values, behaviors, strategies and goals via an organizational constitution see results, performance, engagement and service increase by an average of 35% - 40% within 18 months. Those are impressive numbers, but getting leadership teams to evolve past their “old ways” is challenging.

So start with questions.

● What does this team do? (How do they spend their time?)

● Who do they do this for? (Who are this team’s primary customers?)

● Why do they do it? (What is the desired outcome—besides making money?)

You might be surprised at the answers to number three. Sure, employees want decent pay, benefits and perks. But what humans crave more is purpose and meaning. They want to make a difference. When they feel they do, engagement goes up. They serve others effectively. And turnover goes down.

The “why” question is critically important. Most leadership teams I work with struggle with an answer to it. They’d rather focus on tangible results, fearing if they don’t, those results will go away. But they won’t. They will likely get better.

Using this exercise, one of my client’s crafted a terrific, service oriented purpose statement for their leadership team:

“Drive results and service through engagement and respect.”

This statement honors the tangible goals, but specifies that they are to be earned the right way.

Leaders, don’t focus exclusively on results. Think about the why and how. The leaders are responsible for a work environment based on trust, respect, and dignity. Create that, and see the results you want come naturally.

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