Thursday, November 29, 2018

How Pragmatic Leaders Can Transform Stuck Organizations


Guest post by Samuel B. Bacharach:

A stuck organization is one that might meet conventional measures of success but it is not necessarily thriving. It cannot quite reach that next level of innovation. It just misses the big breakthrough or is too focused on old business models that it cannot make the leap forward.

There are two primary reasons why organizations get stuck. They sink into inertia because of their clunky tendencies—often with multiple business models, competing goals, and conflicting priorities. There is so much going on that these organizations have a difficult time setting a path and moving forward in a coherent, organized fashion. Or they become stuck because of their narrow vision, limited scope, and a belief that yesterday’s business models are well suited to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

The leadership challenge for pragmatic leaders is to transform organizations with clunky or myopic tendencies into truly thriving organizations that meet their potential. Pragmatic leaders have the capacity to engage in robust discovery and focused delivery.

Robust discovery is to uncover the great ideas that are percolating in the organization and beyond. Pragmatic leaders have to be explorers. They have to be aware of their environment and look for signals. They have to have to confidence to seek out partners—both internal and external to the organization—to engage in deeper exploration. Pragmatic leaders have to be innovators. They have to lead the ideation process and support the decision to follow one idea to prototype.

Focused delivery is to campaign for support for the idea and to sustain momentum. Once an idea has been fleshed out, it is time to share it with others in the organizations. Often, the default reaction is resistance. Pragmatic leaders anticipate the reactions that others may have, and try to develop arguments and justifications for their idea. Pragmatic leaders understand that they cannot drop the ball. Once an idea is off the ground, it cannot be forgotten or passed off to other parties. Pragmatic leaders have a vested interest in the development of their ideas, and are determined to see them to fruition.

In the final analysis, pragmatic leadership is about execution. Pragmatic leaders understand that the difference between failed or failing organizations and thriving organizations is the ability of leaders to move ideas, overcome resistance, and create lasting change. To do this, they need to develop the micro-skills of discovery and delivery not only to move agendas and create change—but also to make sure that their organization doesn’t get stuck.

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University’s ILR School
and the co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group. He is the author of Transforming the Clunky Organization: Pragmatic Leadership Skills to Break Inertia (2018) and The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough (2016), both published by Cornell University Press. Bacharach trains high-potential leaders in the skills of political competence and agenda moving. More information about his writing is available at: samuelbacharach.com.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Future Is Where Brands Must Focus


Guest post from Sean Pillot de Chenecey:

Brands are built on trust, but in a post-truth world, they have a serious problem when so much of modern life is now defined by mistrust.

A weakening of the vital trust connection between brands and consumers is causing enormous problems for businesses.

The ramifications for brands in sectors of all description are deeply serious, when ‘reputation capital’ is of such immense importance, where the difference between Brand A and Brand B (and indeed Brand C, D, and E) so often comes down to our belief in those core questions of ‘are they honest, competent and reliable?’ Because if a brand isn’t trustworthy, it’ll be rejected in favour of one that is.

And the actions that these brands take to demonstrate their credibility must clearly illustrate a blend of corporate ethics and brand authenticity.

But a problem that’s becoming ever more visible is that some organisations have made authenticity their marketing strategy, rather than a business one. As a result, they come across as manufactured i.e. the very opposite of authentic. 

Because just running an advertising campaign stating that a brand is trustworthy isn’t good enough. This isn’t a marketing issue, this is a business-wide issue, involving every facet of the organisation. Companies have to be consistent in their behaviour, from top to bottom, and right along the supply chain, from the ‘first hand of production to the final hand of the consumer’.

And this genuinely has to go all the way. Therefore, it includes issues such as the ethical sourcing of ingredients, to environmentally sound production methodologies, to paying a decent living wage to production line workers, to adhering to animal-welfare, to pricing in a transparent manner, to communicating totally honest claims, etc.

Make no mistake, organisations and brands that want to earn and keep our trust have to ‘live it like they say it’. Because business has to be about more than just profit. People, Planet, and to quote a much-derided word ‘Purpose’ have to be in there too.

This approach very much links to social innovation and indeed conspicuous altruism. ‘Social Purpose’ is a phrase used obsessively by modern, forward-thinking leaders, and links directly to joint value creation where both shareholders and society benefit from business.

And the ‘actual’ difference between ethical brands with a moral code and those exposed as being without one, is increasingly a key factor in consumer brand adoption or rejection.

Yet many still attempt to portray, or indeed dismiss, the demographic most associated with this ideal as being one where, as The Guardian newspaper put it recently “the idea that market activity should have a purpose other than purely profit is roughly where it always was on the spectrum, somewhere between Marx and Jesus – one for the rioters, the subversives, the people with beards, unsuited to mainstream discourse.”

To illustrate that this thinking goes right to the top of hard-headed business thinking, in their ‘Reflections from Davos’ report regarding the 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum, the managing partner of McKinsey was quoted as saying “the next innovation imperative will be social innovation – business’s role will be critical here.” The report went on to note “society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose”. 

This is set against research from those such as Deloitte who show how millennials are fast losing faith in business; and against a backdrop where people are scrambling to find solid ground in an era when we’re told that the very notion of truth is subjective, and indeed much of public discourse has become increasingly anti-fact and anti-expert.

Fortunately there are numerous shining examples of organisations that are showing us all ‘how to do it better’ ranging across the business spectrum, in sectors ranging from beauty to finance, and from fashion to beverages.

With good leadership at the core of these businesses, every member of the organisation are enabled to understand and demonstrate ‘why they do it, what they do and how they do it’.

The end result, from a customer point of view, is that these brands are then seen by the consumer as being on their side, standing with them and matching their own values in an inspirational manner. Because in a post-truth era, we want, and need, to believe in something. And increasingly, brands that really do ‘live it like they say it’ are some of the few things on which we can actually believe and rely. 

However, I firmly believe that whilst ‘reputation capital’ is an absolutely vital foundation of successful and enduring brands, this purely tells us about their past actions. The future is where brands must focus.

And this means leaders of companies taking deliberate and definitive action to ensure that their businesses demonstrate ‘corporate social leadership’.

Along with making reputable products, providing employment and returning dividends to shareholders; corporations can and should endeavour to make the world a better place, contributing to and engaging with society.

This will also enable the truism that ‘good business is good business’.

To act as a reference guide for the leaders of ‘good businesses’ in my book I’ve collated the key learnings into a ‘Post-Truth Brand Manifesto’.

Here is a very brief summary of it…

The Post-Truth Brand Manifesto

Be authentic
Authenticity has been one of the core tenets of successful businesses since the idea of branding first began. But truly authentic companies that want to earn and keep our trust have to ‘live it like they say it’. Thus the organisation dovetails their brand intentions with the consumer and employee reality.

Be transparent
For brands to thrive, business leaders need to find a way to regain and retain the confidence of employees. This starts with transparency. This is a business-wide issue, involving every facet of the organisation.

Respect privacy
It’s hard to overstate the seriousness of this subject, and the levels of antipathy engendered towards businesses that are seen to be profiting from ‘surveillance capitalism’.

Demonstrate empathy
More and more people want to find ‘meaning and purpose’ in their working lives, and who are attracted to culturally aware, ‘good neighbour’ companies that reflect their viewpoints as ‘social citizens’.

Be trustworthy
It’s no coincidence when companies which are trusted most tend to be legacy brands which have clearly demonstrated their ‘good business’ and/or ‘reliable product’ credentials, or indeed are those with transparency built-in to the core of their business model.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey, author of The Post-Truth Business: How to Rebuild Brand Authenticity in a Distrusting World, has over 20 years’ experience as a brand expert, combining marketing consultancy with ethnographic activity and trend research around the world. His clients have included Unilever, Swatch, Heineken, Diageo, General Motors, Beiersdorf, AXA, Costa, Vodafone, Kerrygold and Starwood. He's collaborated with numerous international advertising, branding, design, media and PR agencies. He is a lecturer at the University of the Arts London, and has written for Dazed, Admap, Brand Strategy, Marketing and Contagious. A public speaker, he's given speeches for over a decade in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. For more information, please visit www.koganpage.com/post-truth-business.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Leaders Need To Believe In Their People


Guest post from Jose R. Costa:

Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right,” which goes right to the heart of how crucial belief is to achieving success in any context. Though this quote refers to people’s belief in themselves, from the leader’s perspective, the same could be said of your view of the people you lead: Whether you think they can or can’t, you are probably right.

No leader will make it very far without a belief in people and no leader will make it very far without the help and contributions of others. In fact, a leader without followers can’t really be called a leader at all. Anytime you set out to do something on a large scale – whether it’s in a corporation, the military, a university, or any setting where there is a group of people – the question will always arise of how you get people to work together in a committed way toward the same ends.

Leaders need to invest their trust and belief in the people they need to succeed. These are essential components of doing great things together and getting leading-edge results. I’m not talking about blind trust here – trust needs to be built with open and discerning eyes.

It’s common sense. Anything you accomplish together as a team starts with the belief that the job can be done. By believing in their employee’s abilities, intentions, and trusting them to deliver, leaders can do a lot to inspire a can-do attitude in their people. On the contrary, they can do a lot to undermine that spirit if they aren’t careful. Believing in people and building a trusting relationship takes effort, but leaders with an edge understand that it’s well worth the effort.

Why It’s So Important to Trust and Believe in People
My father, who started a business from scratch with my grandfather in Venezuela, taught me a lot about the importance of trusting in your people. Over the course of his career as an entrepreneur, he has directly witnessed many of the benefits that I listed above. In the early 1970s, he started his business in his native Venezuela with a handful of employees and grew it to four hundred employees across seven companies generating $100 million in sales.

Unfortunately, the political and economic problems in Venezuela have more recently taken their toll on his ventures, and he is back to having only fifteen employees. But the remarkable thing is that the fifteen people who remain are the same fifteen employees who started alongside him. Throughout both the ups and downs, they have stuck around for upward of forty years. These people have invested practically their entire lives in my dad and his business. My father always keeps that thought top of mind. He feels a tremendous sense of loyalty to these people, and they have shown him the same in return. In fact, it’s the most remarkable example of a shared sense of loyalty that I have ever heard. You don’t get that kind of committed, longstanding relationship without trust and belief in one another.

When you have a shared reciprocal trust with employees or colleagues, it makes you feel more invested in one another and in your mutual success. It also promotes open and honest communication. People are better able to accept feedback, even critical feedback, and are more likely to be honest with you in return when you are getting off track or about to make a mistake. Honest communication creates a pleasant environment to be around one another, and you will feel more willing to help each other out. It doesn’t matter what the context is, when you have the support of trusted people it makes your job that much easier to do.

Beyond all that, there is a personal benefit to the leader: It’s simply a more fulfilling way to live and to lead. When you don’t believe in people, you cut yourself off from them in significant ways that can make you feel isolated and alone. Your stress level tends to increase when you don’t have people around you can count on. I think most of us know that being cynical, wary, and distrustful of others is not the best way to lead a happy, well-adjusted life. Too many people don’t realize that it’s not the best way to be successful either.


Jose R. Costa, author of Leading With Edge: Activate Your Competitive Advantage Through Personal Insight currently serves as CEO of For Eyes, which is part of GrandVision, a global leader in optical retail with more than 7,000 stores worldwide. Costa has a postgraduate degree from Universidad Metropolitana, a Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. For more information, please visit http://joserenecosta.com/book.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Values in Dynamic Tension


Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

Have you prioritized your values so you know which ones are more important than the others? Or are all of your personal values “tied for first?”

Here’s a way to test this idea. Note down your top four personal values, the desired principles that guide your day-to-day plans, decisions, and actions.

If you’ve formalized your personal values, this exercise took mere seconds. If you’ve not formalized them, it probably took longer.

You can’t consistently act on your values unless you’ve specifically defined them. Formalizing desired values requires you to identify 3-4 values that you covet. Then, add your definition for each value. Finally, include three or four behaviors for each value that specify exactly how you live or demonstrate that value day to day.

Here are my life values:

     Integrity – Definition: Do what I say I will do. Behaviors: Formalize my commitments with clear agreements. Keep my commitments. Live my values and behaviors.
     Joy – Definition: Celebrate the pleasure derived from doing things I’m good at and which serve others well. Behaviors: Be happy; if I’m not happy, change it up so happiness is present. Surround myself with happy people who see the good in others. Engage in the grace I feel when serving others well.
     Learning – Definition: Actively seek out information that builds new knowledge and skills. Behaviors: Scan the environment for current research and discoveries that enlighten me. Refine my skills often; toss antiquated approaches for improved approaches. Proactively share my learning so others benefit.
     Perfection – Definition: Deliver excellence. Behaviors: Deliver what I promise, on time and under budget. Exceed standards or expectations where possible. Consistently WOW my partners and customers.

There is a school of thought that says prioritizing values is the best way to act on them, especially under pressure. For example, if you had “safety” as your top value and “service” as your number two value, safety would take precedence over service. A safety issue would demand action even if it meant service would be negatively impacted that day (or hour).

Another school of thought says that all of your values are of equal, top priority. If you’ve outlined your values, why would you make one more important than another?

Reality, time constraints, emergencies, etc. will require you to act on only one or two values at a time; I believe the best approach lies somewhere in between the above two. Start with the belief that your values are all tied for first, and understand that your values are in “dynamic tension.” Acting on certain values while setting other values aside, even for a moment, will require you to circle back and apply any valued behaviors that were “passed over” in that instance.

So, if you acted on your “safety” value and inhibited “service” for a time, you would follow up with the player (or players) that you missed the service value on to explain what happened and make amends as soon as possible.

How do you manage competing values? What suggestions would you add to address values in “dynamic tension”? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

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 http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Creating a Winning Corporate Culture Through People Power



Guest post from Eric Tetuan:

Creating a winning company culture starts with an investment in people. Not just investing in staff, but in relationships with clients as well as the people you serve. It requires having a deep understanding of human connections, of bonds, and of ways to break down barriers. Adopting a policy focused on people can make the difference in achieving successful outcomes. Employees who feel understood and appreciated are often more productive and willing go that extra mile on behalf of a client. It is one of the reasons why we receive repeat business and why our clients trust us with their biggest moments. It is also the reason for our high employee retention rate, and the lasting friendships amongst our staff members.
While every company is different, adopting values that speak to your core beliefs will not only help you attract quality candidates it will help build a sense of unity in the workplace. Develop initiatives that not only support your company’s mission but will improve the lives of your employees and the world around them. Inspire transformational thinking and experimentation amongst your staff, challenge them to think outside the box. Through collaboration, great minds can come together to tackle your toughest challenges advancing what’s possible. Design programs that not only do good in the community but improve motivation and communication within the office. Ask staff members to champion a cause that is near and dear to them, from donating their time at a soup kitchen, to ensuring that their coworkers are content. It is this culture of caring, of working for a greater good, that unites a staff and compels them to be the best they can be both personally and professionally. It will foster a spirit of collaboration, one where individuals share their knowledge to help their colleagues, and where professional development pays off. By creating a smarter workforce, you are creating a team able to produce amazing results on behalf of your clients, your partners as well as your consumers.

5 Tips to a Winning Work Culture:

The Power of People
Make your people feel that they are the heart and soul of your culture. It will ensure that your team feels connected to your mission, supported as individuals and that they feel appreciated for the work that they do. Recognizing that your employees spend more than one-third of their time in the workplace, create programs that are geared toward increasing employee satisfaction and promoting health and well-being. Offer in office exercise classes, healthy cooking classes, celebrate together with happy hours.  Boost office morale with staff appreciation days where you can pamper them with a catered lunch, spa treatments or present them with a small gift. By showing your team that you care about their well-being, it will result in increased job satisfaction and productivity. An investment in happier employees ultimately manifests in happier clients and consumers.

Honoring the Environment
Ask your employees to contribute to a better world. Find ways to protect the environment both in and out of the office. Create policies that promote energy efficiency, reduce waste and water conservation. Recycle plastics, aluminum, e-waste, and consider composting leftover lunches. Find ways to divert and donate old office furniture, add dimmable occupancy sensors in conference rooms, and use programmable controls for lights and thermostats. Simply asking your employees to turn off all of the lights before leaving can make a huge difference in energy conservation and how they feel about the environment.

Giving Back
Create a culture of giving. Support causes and organizations that can make a difference in your community by donating your time, money, or left-over materials. Share knowledge and resources that can help someone achieve their goal.  Empower your team to get involved with relief efforts and educational programs, create a mentorship program, or donate labor. Create a culture where PTO is available for employees to make a difference and effect change. By inspiring your team to get involved, they will become more engaged not only with the company, but with their peers in pursuit of improving the lives of those around them.

Innovation + Collaboration
Finding a pathway to improvement starts with an in-depth understanding of your challenges. Circulate surveys and collect honest feedback, use your deficiencies as a tool to find new solutions. Experiment with a variety of options, assign a team to explore and test theories, give them the freedom and space to become invested in the outcome. Empower your team by listening and acknowledging. A team that communicates well becomes a powerful tool to implement change.  

Knowledge is Power
Invest in your people. Provide employees with unique opportunities to advance their careers through education, training and certification. Host training workshops to assist teams in finding solutions to their toughest challenges. Support an employee’s quest for knowledge by letting them attend relevant seminars, webinars, help them stay at the top of their field with select conferences. Host lunch + Learns with deep insights into relevant topics and needed skills, create a library filled with resources to help your staff elevate their game.

Ultimately, by investing in people you are investing in a culture that supports personal growth and fuels productivity. A team that is able to come together to innovate and collaborate in exciting new ways that can impact on your bottom line. You are investing in a company culture that is better able to support your corporate mission, in an empowered team who is ready to assist clients and consumers with a transformational energy that can greatly improve your bottom line.


Co-founder and chief innovative officer at productionglue, Eric Tetuan has built his impressive technical portfolio over 25 years in New York City production. His skills reflect many different technical roles, including “in the trenches” experience.
As the company evolved, Eric’s focus turned to supporting growth, maintaining project performance, and overseeing office culture. Productionglue has seen a double-digit revenue increase for over a decade. Eric oversees the management of all of the processes to ensure that productionglue can deliver the best possible results. He established an internal review process (the “g-brief") to learn from projects and improve the way we work, in real time.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Great Leadership: The Power of I’s


Guest post from Bob Nelson:

In my new book, 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees (Career Press) I examine the top ten factors that most impact employee engagement in order of their priority, according to a regression analysis of 3 million employee surveys, and then provide specific real-life examples of what each factor looks like in practice in successful companies today.

Not surprising, I found that one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement is One’s Immediate Manager and all aspects that make up that relationship between a manager and his or her employees, that is, the bond that is created by effective leaders with those they lead. 

The best leaders demonstrate their long-term commitment to their employees through the specific behaviors they display on a daily basis.  Better yet, the most important behaviors leaders can do to develop and maintain motivated, engaged employees tend to have little or no cost, but rather are a function of the daily interactions that managers have with employees pertaining to work in the context of each employees’ jobs.

I remember some of the most important themes great leaders provide from the first letter of the word, which I call “The Power of the I’s”:

Interesting and Important Work—Everyone should have at least part of their job be of high interest to them. As the management theorist Frederick Herzberg once said, “If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” Yes, some jobs may be inherently boring, but you can give anyone in such a job at least one task or project that’s stimulating to that person. Name him or her to a suggestion committee that meets once a week, or to some other special group. The time away from the regular job is likely to be more than made up with increased productivity.

Information, Communication and Feedback on Performance—With presumed employment for life largely a thing of the past, employees want more than ever to know how they are doing in their jobs and how the company is doing in its business. Start telling them how the company makes money and how it spends money. Make sure there are ample channels of communication to encourage employees to be informed, ask questions and share information. At least some of the communication channels should directly involve management in non-intimidating circumstances. Soon you’ll have them turning out the lights when they’re last to leave a room.

Involvement in Decisions and a Sense of Ownership—Involving employees—especially in decisions that affect them—is both respectful to them and practical. People that are closest to the problem or the customer typically have the best insight as to how a situation can be improved. They know what works and what doesn’t, but often are never asked for their opinion. As you involve others, you increase their commitment and ease in implementing any new idea or change.

Independence, Autonomy and Flexibility—Most employees—especially experienced, top-performing employees—value being given room to do their job as they best see fit. All employees also appreciate having flexibility in their jobs. When you provide these factors to employees based on desired performance, it increases the likelihood that they will perform as desired—and bring additional initiative, ideas and energy to the job as well.

Increased Opportunity for Learning, Growth and Responsibility—Everyone appreciates a manager who gives credit where it is due. The chances to share the successes of employees with others throughout the organization are almost limitless. In addition, most employee development is on-the-job development that comes from new learning opportunities and the chance to gain new skills and experience. Giving employees new opportunities to perform, learn and grow as a form of recognition and thanks is very motivating to most employees.

Behind all of these themes is a basic premise of trust and respect and having the best interests of your employees at heart. You will never get the best effort from employees today by building a fire under them; rather, you need to find a way to build a fire within them to obtain extraordinary results from your people.

Bob Nelson, Ph.D. is the leading authority on employee recognition, rewards and engagement in the world and has been named a Top Thought Leader by the Best Practice Institute. He has sold 5 million books on those topics, the latest of which is 1,001 WAYS TO ENGAGE EMPLOYEES: Help People Do Better What They Do Best (Career Press).