Thursday, May 31, 2012

Financial Fluency and A Leadership Opportunity

Guest post by Alan E. Shelton, leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author:

As a leadership coach and consultant I am considered a thought resource in the area of developmental leadership. That is to say I spend my time working with reactive and unconscious behaviors that create unseen and unwanted outcomes within personal leadership.

In my current role, I am often called to help install financial fluency within large organizational structures as part of leadership development. While speaking this last week to one of the largest apparel companies in the country, I led an exercise that became an “Aha!” moment for many in the room.

After a half-hour of speaking with the group, I asked them all to participate in an experiential exercise. Being fluent in Spanish, I proceeded to engage in a Spanish conversation with one of their leaders for about five minutes. Upon finishing, I asked the leaders in the room to convey to me their experience of listening in on that conversation.

Some of them spoke enough Spanish to follow my conversation and understand the overall context of what was being said. Others knew one or two words and beyond that stood completely on the outside of the conversation. And yet others simply strategized to make it through the Spanish piece until English was spoken again. I pointed out to them that this is a typical experience of a group when a foreign language is spoken. I went on to point out that this is also the typical experience of corporate employees when financial conversations take place.

Why is this Important?

Financial language in the corporate world is the language of execution. This language is the basis upon which many decisions are formulated and then executed. It is absolutely necessary that all leaders stand on the inside of any conversation from which decisions are derived. If they don’t, how can they possibly exercise the leadership function they’ve been entrusted with?

I share with you today, 5 keys to developing financial fluency as a leader within your own organization:

1) Know Your Financial Model
In most companies it is easy to create a model of revenues and production. I did this recently at a large apparel company by drawing a simple circular diagram of the different ways we talk about sales. It had categories like geographical, product type, channel etc. Different decisions about the same revenue stream are made from understanding these different categories. Put those decisions in a list next to the categories.

2) Install the Model
Take this model and give it to everyone in the company from the dockworker to the CEO. Ask people in your company about the categories and have them ask questions. Get them used to the shallow water before the real swimming begins.

3) Bring it Alive
Bring your model alive by using the pieces and terminology in your conversations with everyone on your team. Carry your model around with you. Bring it out in conversation after conversation. If your revenues are broken down by geography, speak geographically about revenues. If they are also broken down by demographics, speak demographically. Soon, everyone in the building will be standing on the inside of these conversations.

4) Now, Add the Numbers
Adding the numbers to the model is much like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree. Once the model is known everyone in the organization will know exactly where to find it. So, when percentages and absolute numbers are introduced they will hang easily from the branch upon which they are placed. If 60% of your sales are foreign, then point that out. Soon, your entire company will be speaking in tongues. Financial tongues, that is!

5) Tie Fluency to Personal Development
Once it is understood that decision-making is created from a platform of fluency of financial-ese, then the easy part can happen. All internal development is the attempt to remove unconscious or reactive barriers from the decision making process. All execution involves minute-by-minute decisions. These decisions arise from the clarity of both a mature manager and the language that they speak.

While these steps are presented here in abbreviated form, I have had great success installing the robust version in large and small organizations. The installation of such an initiative is a leadership exercise in and of itself.

ALAN E. SHELTON is a leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery, integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. You can follow Alan on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and learn more about him at his website,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 (+1) Dumb Leadership Mistakes from Recent Headlines

Come on now, how hard can it be to be a great leader? It seems the bar keeps getting lower and lower every day.

All you need to do is browse the headlines and you’ll easily come up with examples of what not to do as a leader. Just follow these hopefully easy to adhere to rules, do a reasonable good job, and you’ll be running your organization in no time:

1. Don’t drop too many F-bombs at work. Or, as far as I’m concerned, don’t drop them at all.

2. But even if your employee does, don’t fire your employee over the phone. F2f is the only option for canning an employee.

3. Don’t slap your employees. Two words: anger management.

4. Don’t hit on or party with your employees. Some may argue with this one, but I’d say you’re only asking for trouble.

5. Don’t upstage your boss. It’s always better to let your boss go first.

6. Don’t launch an IPO and get married in the same week. It’s all about focus.

7. Don’t fire an employee for being “too hot”. Or for being too ugly. But you can for a dress code violation. But not over the phone, see #2.

8. Don’t flirt with the jurors during your corruption trial. I’d file this one under the competency of “judgment”.

9. Don’t lie about your education (let's hear it for New Hampshire!). Or about your ethnicity (Hey, if I'm going to mention NH, I couldn't spare Massachusetts). Better yet, just don’t lie, period. It’s easier to remember things when you don’t make them up.

10. Don’t steal your company's money. Or “borrow” it, or “misplace” it, or whatever.

Last, but not least - and I'm sorry to have to mention this in a family leadership blog - don't ever, ever, have sex at work, under any circumstances. Asking "was that wrong?" will not save you from being fired.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of leadership ineptitude headlines. Anything you’d like to add to the list? By the time this post is published, I’m sure we can come up with 11 more.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Leader Or Bully? There are Consequences

Guest post by By Hap Klopp and Brian Tarcy, Authors, Conquering the North Face: An Adventure in Leadership:

I’ve seen it a thousand times in business—rejection of an idea or a person by virtue of corporate status. The powers that be have authority, so they must be right. Right? Sure, the world’s flat too. What they have is the fraud of authority, the power to be a bully by the virtue of their title. A title, however, makes no one a leader.

It is usually easier to lead with a title than without. Leading without a title is one of the most difficult and courageous things anyone can attempt. Often, leaders without titles arise in the midst of a crisis—a crisis like a bully’s ego trip.

Dealing with a bully is not especially complicated or difficult. It merely takes nerve. If you work for such a person, do not submit. Fight for your dignity. Bullies destroy dignity and they destroy companies. If you are a leader, you must not allow them to operate under you. As a leader you should try to reform the bully—attempt to make a human connection that explains why people deserve respect. If this does not work, then you must fire that person. Bullies set entirely the wrong tone for productivity, passion, and fun. They drain energy.

The funny thing about these tyrants is that when they lie or back stab or threaten, they think that no one else notices. The truth is, everyone notices because these things get around. And so the fraud of authority becomes transparent, a shameless ego trip. Employees obey, but they don’t believe. How can they share the dream of a person they privately loathe? They can’t.

Who are these monoliths—these institutional fascists wallowing in their muck of false glory? They come in all shapes and sizes. All colors and both sexes too. Inevitably what makes them a universal plague on the worker is their bald cruelty. Some do it like smiling assassins—lying to save face while turning the knife in your back. Others are more honest, but just as cruel—shouting you down like a verbal storm trooper. Either way, the mission is to destroy dreams. Dreams and dreamers.

The bully knows everything, of course, except how to let a human talent flourish. Instead he creates a muck—an embalming fluid for the soul, suffocating the employees. And the bully is like a grim mortician, pouring gobs of cake makeup onto the faces of the dead so that they are all lifeless clones of his image.

Only a few dare to swim in this embalming fluid. It is indeed a complex, challenging mixture the fascists have fashioned.

The embalming fluid of business is no mere chemical concoction dreamed up by heartless analysts. It has a more sinister quality to it, a duplicity that works like black magic, rendering all who don’t fight for their life to a fate of absolute apathy.

The problem is respect. The bullies have no respect because, in many cases, they are not leaders and, I suspect, secretly don't even respect themselves. Some clearly have no talent. But many do; just no leadership talent. Classically they ride the system. They were A students all through school but wouldn’t know the difference between a red light and a green one when it comes to street smarts. They test well, but they live as if life were a series of exams instead of adventures.

They sit in their throne room of an office and look down on all employees. These people, lower on the corporate food chain, have been beaten down and thus, they cower.

This weighted system is installed with fear and with rewards—it examines everything but talent and drive. Who was your cousin? Did you go to Stanford? Do you have an MBA, and do you speak Flemish? Will you do everything we say without question?

The monoliths will always have you believe that you are in God’s Little Waiting Room. You don’t live; you wait under their control. Quiet resignation is their goal for you.

They do it in so many ways. Little ways that grow big. Big ways that can’t be ignored.

Doors. They do it with doors—barriers that suggest you are not to come in; you are not good enough. They close the door to their office, and they put a gaudy brass nameplate on it that clearly says, “This person is really important.”

They do it with labels—when they label things “executive,” such as the executive washroom, or the executive dining room, or the executive parking space. What feudal crap! It’s medieval, this tier system of privilege. It says you are nothing if you don’t have access to these perquisites. If you listen to this, you might even start believing it. A company that loses touch with its employees loses everything.

As for an executive parking space, all I can say is, get to work early if you want a good parking space. It’s that simple.

Electronic computer access is another barrier. You can’t have information. There it is, can’t again. Knowledge is power, and they don’t want to give it away. This time you are not trusted. They dream up a secret password and then refuse to give it to you—limiting the access you have to vital information about the company. Often it is precisely the information you need for timely, accurate decision making. But so vital is this information, apparently, it is more vital than you.

That’s how it always is, isn’t it? The employee is the least-valuable part of the company. Just a cog in the wheel, right? Stick ’em in the embalming fluid of the workaday world and watch the body die.

The answer is, as it always is, honesty and compassion coupled with a dash of creativity. Explain the problem; show you care.

Too many companies do not care. They expect employees to have a Muzak personality, and they run their companies with absolutely no verve.

Too many employees let themselves get beaten down—they give in to the monarchs in their mahogany castles. They don’t have a let’s-do-something-right attitude. Instead, the attitude is, I won’t piss anyone off. In most companies the employee motto is Cover Thy Butt. If you examine where that attitude originated, inevitably you will find it is also the motto of the executives.

If you want to know if an employer is drowning its employees in embalming fluid, just walk into the work area and see if anyone looks at you. See if they take their eyes off their work for even one moment to greet you, to smile at you, to show they are alive. If they do not, the leadership has beaten them down. If the rules are set up to suck the life from employees, it inevitably will do so from all but the most determined.

The great news is that the most determined will either eliminate the stifling status quo, or they will move on to greener pastures, cutting their own swath. The best companies, new or old, are not lifeless. They are adventurous.

About the authors:
Hap Klopp was the founder and 20-year CEO of The North Face, the world renowned mountaineering, backpacking and skiing company. After selling the highly successful company he set up his own global management consulting company, and began lecturing at leading business schools, speaking to large businesses, and writing. Most recently he and two partners have taken ownership of the 100 year old global rugby company, Canterbury of New Zealand. For fun, Klopp has rafted down the Zambezi River, flown hot air balloons and gliders over the Napa Valley, skied down glaciers in Europe and explored jungle ruins in Latin America.

Brian Tarcy is a freelance journalist who has collaborated on more than a dozen books with business leaders and professional athletes. He has also written for many magazines and newspapers across the country. Tarcy has a degree in Journalism from Ohio University, and lives in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to be a Damn Good Developmental Manager

Have you ever worked for a manager that consistently helped you learn new skills and develop? A manager that took an interest in your career, challenged you to be your best, and believed in your potential to grow?

That’s the kind of manager that most employees want to work for. And if you’re manager, that’s the kind of reputation you should aspire to have.

Why? From a purely selfish perspective, when you develop your employees, they get smarter, more productive, improve their performance, and ultimately, make you look like a genius. It helps with recruiting and retaining the best employees, allows you to delegate so you can focus on what you’re being paid to do, or even take a vacation now and then.

Most importantly, it’s rewarding. It’s what leadership is all about – making a difference in the lives of others.

Most managers have good intentions – they want to be known as a developmental manager – but there’s often a huge gap between the “should do” and the “do”. In many cases, managers just don’t know how.

Here’s how:

1. Start with yourself.
Before you can credibly and effectively development others, you should develop yourself first. Otherwise, you’ll come across as an arrogant hypocrite who looks at development as being needed for everyone else, but not yourself. Shaping behavior starts with role modeling – and it also helps you learn how to get damn good at development.

2. Establish a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
OK, so when are we going to get to the pragmatic “hows”? We will, but the rest of the tips won’t work as well if your employees don’t trust that you have their backs or you’re not using development as a hammer. See how to inspire trust and 20 signs you can't be trusted as a leader.

3. Treat every day as a development day.
Development isn’t a once or twice a year event, or something you send your employees to HR or a training class for. Every time an employee comes to you with a problem, decision, or question, it’s an opportunity to develop. How do you do that? You …..

4. Ask questions.
Lots and lots of really good questions. Open-ended questions that force the employee to think and figure it out for themselves. Questions can also be used after an assignment or event, as a way to reflect back on lessons learned and cement the new knowledge or skills.

5. Let go.
I was reminded of this recently by Scott Eblin, executive coach and author of the bestseller "The Next Level". Most managers are doing stuff that they are good at and/or like to do, but really shouldn’t be doing. When told they should delegate, they’re willing to dump the mundane stuff they don’t like doing, but unwilling to let go of the good stuff. Letting go of these responsibilities and using them as a way to develop your employees is a win-win.
Just don’t expect your employee to do things the same way you did them. Remember, chances are, when you learned to do it, no one was holding your hand every step of the way with detailed instructions. Sure, they may fall and skin their knees know and then, but that’s how we learn.

6. Strrrrretch assignments.
Other than a job change, stretch assignments are hands down the best way to learn and development. As a manager, you’re in a position to look for opportunities to offer to your employees that are aligned with their development needs and career aspirations. It’s not about picking the most qualified person for the assignment – it’s about picking the right developmental assignment for the person.

7. Make connections.
Wow, it’s all about networking these days, isn't it? Managers are often in a position to make introductions, open doors, and connect employees to role models, subject matter experts, and mentors. What if you’re not already well connected? Then see #1, start with yourself.

8. Feedback.
We all have behavioral blind spots. If you don’t think you do, then you've got a big self-awareness blind spot. (-:
A manager is often the person who can tactfully help an employee see a weakness that’s getting in the way of their effectiveness or advancement.

9. Help navigate organizational politics and culture.
Help your employees learn that “politics” isn’t a dirty word; it’s the way things get done in organizations. Shadowing and role playing are two ways to teach the ins and outs of being political savvy.

10. Show me the money, Jerry!
Last, but not least, support your employee’s developmental goals with training, conferences, coaches, and other tangible resources. A good training program, while not a substitute for all of the above, can include many of the items above and turbocharge your efforts.

How about you? What do you think of when you think of a damn good development manager? Please leave a comment starting with “Someone who…….”.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

3 Ways to Improve Your Positive Intelligence (PQ)

This week's guest post is from Shirzad Chamine:

Daniel Goleman made a compelling and accurate case nearly two decades ago that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was more important to leadership effectiveness and performance than IQ. But most attempts at increasing EQ have resulted only in temporary improvements. The reason is that a more foundational and core intelligence has been ignored, which is a pre-cursor to high EQ. In my lectures at Stanford University, I define this as Positive Intelligence (PQ). Without a solid PQ foundation, many of our attempts at improvements fizzle due to self-sabotage.

Your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy, involved in self-sabotage. To illustrate, when your mind tells you that you should prepare for tomorrow’s important meeting, it is acting as your friend, causing positive action. When it wakes you up at 3:00 a.m. anxious about the meeting and warning you for the hundredth time about the many consequences of failing, it is acting as your enemy; it is simply exhausting your mental resources without any redeeming value. No friend would do that.

Your PQ is the percentage of time your mind is serving you as opposed to sabotaging you. For example, a PQ of 75 means that your mind is serving you 75 percent of the time and sabotaging you about 25 percent of the time. Compelling evidence from a synthesis of research in psychology, neuroscience, and organizational science shows that with higher PQ teams and professionals ranging from leaders to salespeople perform 30-35 percent better on average. What’s more, they report being far happier and less stressed.

3 Strategies to increase PQ

I have coached hundreds of CEOs and their senior executive teams on the tools of Positive Intelligence. I take them to the frontlines of the unceasing battle raging in their minds. On one side of this battlefield are the well-disguised Saboteurs, who wreck any attempt at increasing either happiness or performance. On the other side is the Sage, who has access to one’s wisdom, insights, and often untapped mental powers. The Saboteurs and Sage are fueled by different regions of the brain. We are literally of two minds and two brains. This suggests three strategies to increasing your PQ:

Strategy 1. Weaken your Saboteurs:
The Saboteurs are the internal enemies. They are a set of automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs, and assumptions that work against your best interest. They come in ten varieties, with names like the Judge, Controller, Victim, Stickler, Pleaser, and Avoider.

Saboteurs are a universal phenomenon. The question is not whether you have them, but which ones you have, and how strong they are. Of the executives participating in my Stanford lectures, nearly 95% conclude that they do have Saboteurs that cause “significant harm” to them reaching their full potential for success or happiness.

The great news is that you can significantly reduce the power of these mental foes. The key to weakening your Saboteurs is to identify which one you have and expose its key hidden beliefs, patterns, thoughts, and emotions. This, in effect, allows you to create a “mug shot” of your internal enemy. It allows you to identify the Saboteur the moment it shows up in your head. At that point, what you do is to just label that thought as Saboteur thought and let it go rather than pursue it seriously. To be sure, it will keep coming back, which means you will keep labeling it, and letting it go. This simple act of observing, labeling, and letting go has profound impact.

For example, notice the difference between saying “I believe I can’t succeed” and “My Judge says I can’t succeed.” The moment you label a Saboteur thought as such, it loses much of it credibility and power over you.

(Discover your top Saboteur with free online assessment at

Strategy 2. Strengthen Your Sage:
Your Sage’s great wisdom and strength is rooted in its perspective: any problem you are facing is either already a gift and opportunity or could be actively turned into one. Your Saboteurs mock that perspective and cause you instead to feel anxious, frustrated, disappointed, stressed, or guilty over “bad” outcomes. Both the Sage and the Saboteur perspectives are self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you follow the Sage perspective, you get greater access to its five vastly untapped mental powers which can meet absolutely any work or life challenge without being worked up about it. There are simple and fun “power games” you can play in the back of your mind to facilitate this process.

Strategy 3. Strengthen PQ Brain muscles:
The PQ Brain gives rise to the Sage perspective its powers. Its focus is on thriving rather than surviving, which is the Saboteurs’ focus. It consists of three components: the middle prefrontal cortex, portions of the right brain, and what I call the empathy circuitry. The PQ Brain “muscles” are activated and strengthened when you command your mind to stop its busy mind chatter and direct its attention to any of your five physical sensations. An example might be to feel the weight of your body on your seat, or feet on the floor, or sensations of your breathing.

This might appear simplistic, but it is backed by a massive amount of research. Every time you attempt such a shift of attention for about 10 seconds, you have performed a “PQ rep,” strengthening the muscles of your PQ Brain. The goal is to do 100 PQ reps per day to build up and maintain strong PQ Brain muscles. This can be done while sitting in a meeting, driving, walking the dog, or taking a shower. It doesn’t need to take any extra time from your busy day. These muscles build up really fast.

Without a strong foundation of Positive Intelligence, attempts at improving performance or personal fulfillment are analogous to planting elaborate new gardens while leaving voracious snails free to roam. The wise investment is to raise Positive Intelligence first. The results are often reported to be gamechanging for the team, and lifechanging for the individual.

Try this out. Discover your top Saboteurs and PQ score with the free online assessments at

Shirzad Chamine is author of New York Times bestseller Positive Intelligence. He is Chairman of CTI, the largest coach-training organization in the world. A preeminent C-suite advisor, Shirzad has coached hundreds of CEOs and their executive teams. His background includes PhD studies in neuroscience in addition to a BA in psychology, an MS in electrical engineering, and an MBA from Stanford, where he lectures.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The 6 Passages of Leadership and Management

Unless you are an heir to a throne, people usually don’t begin their careers leading a large organization. There’s a progression of passages, or at least there should be.

Charan, Drotter, and Noel wrote about six leadership passages in their classic book The Leadership Pipeline. However, they use the terms “leadership” and “management” interchangeably. There’s a big difference, right?

What if we took a simplified version of the Pipeline model, and mash it with a distinction between leadership and management?

We’ll call it The Great Leadership & Management Passages Model (OK, so we need a catchier name):

Here are the six passages:

Passage #1: Managing Yourself
Managing yourself means learning how to show up to work on time and dressed appropriately, get along with your co-workers, manage your time and priorities, keep your boss happy, and follow basic workplace adequate, i.e., no microwaving fish in the break room. It also means learning how to solve problems, make decisions, use good judgment, and control your emotions.

Passage #2: Leading Yourself
Leading yourself involves figuring out what really inspires you and doing whatever it is you do with a sense of purpose and passion. It includes having a clear set of values and principles that guide your day-to-day behavior and decisions, a compelling vision, and goals. It requires the ability to handle ambiguity, paradox, and change.

Passage #3: Managing Others and Teams
Managing others and teams involves learning out to hire, train, establish performance measures, reward, and punish. It’s about figuring out what and how the work needs to be done, and lining up the right resources needed to get the work done.

Passage #4: Leading Others and Teams
In other to lead others and teams, you have to learn about and tap into each individuals values, goals, hopes, dreams, and fears. It involves getting to know each team member and learning how to inspire commitment, energize, and harness the individual and collective passion of the team. At the risk of stating the obvious – to lead others and teams requires transforming yourself into a leader.

Passage #5: Managing Organizations
Managing organizations involves optimizing a number of different functions in order to create a product or service and archive measurable organizational outcomes. It requires having a solid grasp of all aspects of the organization, including strategy, sales, marketing, human resources, manufacturing, research, legal, etc….
Goals need to be set at a high level and then cascaded throughout the organization with a performance management system in place to achieve those goals. Managing organizations also means being responsive to multiple stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, government, and the community.

Passage #6: Leading Organizations
Leading organizations requires learning how to establish a compelling vision and inspire large groups of people to act from afar. An organizational leader can no longer rely on the ability tap into each individual’s passion – they need to figure out how to manage culture and engage the entire organization in order to mobilize shared commitment.
Leading organizations requires learning how to identify and develop other leaders, because no one leader can create and sustain extraordinary performance on their own.

I believe the passages are developmentally progressive and build upon each other. An individual can technically jump right into passages #5 and #6, Managing and Leading Organizations, they won’t be successful in the long run if they haven’t learned how to lead and manage themselves, other individuals, and teams I’ve seen this happen over and over – the brilliant, young entrepreneur or the star performer who is put in charge of an organization with undeveloped emotional intelligence and no actual experience managing others. Unfortunately, sometimes they never do learn – or even try to – and it ends up being their downfall.

I realize the model is way overly simplified – we couldn’t possibly describe everything it takes to lead and manage in less than 1000 words. But then again, when it comes to models, simple is good. If you can’t explain it to a 12-year old (or a CEO), then it’s too complicated.

So what do you think of the model? Make sense? What would you change? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Avoiding the Mistakes All Leaders Make

This guest post by David Grossman wasn't meant as a response to Beth Armknecht Miller's recent The Top 5 Mistakes Leaders Make - the timing was just coincidental. 
Someone tweeted in response to Beth's post: "I made all of these - does that make me a great leader?" I'd say it could help, as long as you learn by your mistakes. In that case, why not double down and make 10 mistakes? (-:

Avoiding the Mistakes All Leaders Make

In my experience, every large organization has at least one thing in common…

There isn’t a single senior management team that doesn’t spend days, weeks working tirelessly on their organization’s strategic plan. At the end of the process, everyone leaves excited about the plan and the path forward.

Yet too often the scenario that plays out is just an illusion, not true alignment. Getting the strategic plan in writing is only the beginning. The real challenge is in getting to the outcome of that strategic plan by activating the strategy inside your organization.

When it comes to bringing strategy to life, we’ve all made costly (and often the same) mistakes—mistakes that make the difference between good and great. Between confusion, skepticism and complacency… and engagement, efficiency and effectiveness.

Like any good investment, committing to organization-wide alignment around messaging and vision should pay for itself more than ten-fold—this year, and in the future.

Here are just a few of the mistakes that everyone makes, but everyone can avoid.

Mistake #1 – You don’t have a strategy that’s codified (it’s in your head or in a few leaders’ heads)
You might have the most compelling vision for your organization, but if you can’t get it out of your head and get others to see it and believe in it, it might as well not even exist.

It’s up to you to engage others so they have the same clear picture you do of your strategy and where the business is going. Lift the perspective out of your head and get it into others’ so they can own it and help you achieve it.

Mistake #2 – Elements of your strategy mean different things to different people
When it comes to strategy there are two rules. Rule #1: Have a strategy. Rule #2: Make sure everyone is literally on the same page in understanding the components of the strategy and how to implement it.

Take a cue from the trusted dictionary and literally define what each of the concepts means in your strategy. Share the definitions with your leaders and employees.

Mistake #3 – No data exists on the state of communication and what needs to be improved from employees’ perspective
Leaders are hungry for data to make business decisions on everything from new products and services to whether or not to enter a new market. Yet when it comes to organizational health and employee engagement, many fail to measure what’s working and what’s not.

Whether measuring your own business unit/function or the overall health of communications inside the organization, leaders (with the help of their communications experts) can make precise decisions about what communications to start, stop or continue to get employees engaged in the strategy and drive performance.

Mistake #4 – You don’t hold your leaders accountable to communicate your strategy
Leaders set the tone for how information flows inside an organization and how employees work and interact together, yet many aren’t judged on their performance in this critical discipline.

Accountability must be built in at multiple levels so leaders know what is expected of them, understand what “success” looks like, and can perform effectively to meet the stated expectations. When set up best, accountability for communication is part of the overall performance management system and is specifically tied to compensation.

Mistake #5 – You don’t arm leaders with the training and tools they need to communicate the strategy and make it relevant for their teams
Training ensures a leader builds the competence needed to customize and communicate critical information, and there’s no more critical piece of information than your business strategy. Since leadership communication is a learned skill, this is a critical element. When leaders know better, they do better.

Tools provide leaders with what they need to get their message across to various audiences. These often are compiled in a standard kit that leaders can pull from and customize for communicating in different settings and circumstances, whether it is bullet points for a casual lunch with employees or a presentation on the company’s key goals for a sales event or all-staff meeting.

Finally, leaders need to be assessed. How are they doing at meeting the expectations you’ve set for them?

I call it the Core Four: accountability, tools, training, and measurement. Miss one, and you’ve reduced your chances of moving leaders to action.

Communication is at the heart of your success
These are just a few of the critical mistakes everyone makes. The good news is they’re all avoidable through strong communication.

At its core, great leadership is all about giving direction, offering context, and ensuring that every person in the company—from the representative on the front lines of customer service to members of the senior leadership team—understands in ways that are relevant to him or her what the company strategy is, what it will take to accomplish its goals, and what the rewards are when you get there.

All that can only happen through communication.

Though communication does not always get the attention it deserves in C-suite planning, great leaders know it’s at the heart of their success—it’s the leavening that makes the strategic bread rise, the wheels that make the strategic car drive, the brush with which you paint your masterpiece.

It’s remarkable what you can accomplish when people know where you’re going and how to get there.

David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, is one of America’s foremost authorities on communication and leadership, and a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A two-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group (, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: Accor, AOL, GlaxoSmithKline, HTC, and McDonald’s.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Study IDs Best Companies for Leadership​, Innovation

Hay Group just released its seventh annual Best Companies for Leadership Study.

Is this just another one of those touchy-feely, nice to do awards? Not at all. The Best Companies for Leadership consistently outperform their peers. Over a 10 year period, the Top 20 companies produced a 5.39 percent shareholder return, compared to a 2.92 percent shareholder return generated by the S&P 500.

Each year, I publish the list of companies and a summary of the findings (see below). This year, I also interviewed Susan Snyder, senior principal in Hay Group's Leadership & Talent Practice and co-leader of the Best Companies for Leadership Study, to discuss the findings.
Note: I've paraphrased Susan's responses.

Dan: What's new in this year's findings? I don't remember seeing innovation highlighted in previous results - were those new questions?

Susan: Yes, there was a new set of questions added this year around the theme of innovation, based on what we're hearing and seeing about it's importance. We were pleased with the findings - there are very actionable take-a-ways for both organizations and individual leaders (see below).

Dan: Over the years, what seems to be the foundation for great leadership development? In other words, what doesn't change?

Susan: Over the last few years, I've seen three consistent themes:

1. The Top 20 connect leadership development with the business strategy. It's not a "nice-do-have", it's a business imperative, with tangible results.

2. The use of "stretching" to develop leaders - assignments, roles, projects, etc.. that take someone out of their comfort zone.

3. The importance of collaboration. Not just words on a values poster - it's seen treated as a critical leadership competency required to drive results.

Dan: I was surprised to see that 100% of the top 20 thought "There are a sufficient number of qualified internal candidates who are ready to assume open leadership positions". Really?! I've never seen responses like that - even the best companies never seem 100% comfortable with their bench situation. Any idea what's going on with that?

Susan: Well, you have to take these answers with a grain of salt, but the response to this question was the same as last year. So we are seeing an increase in the confidence level of Top 20 companies in their bench strength.
Dan's commentary: To all the naysayers that like to point out the lack of results for all of our leadership development efforts..... nah nah nah nah nah nah! Seriously, it's not rocket science - it just takes commitment, focus, and the disciplined use of tried and true best practices.

Dan: I always wondered if CEO commitment was a must when it comes to strong leadership development programs. Yet, the same companies keep coming out on top, even as the CEOs have turned over. How do they do it?

Susan: Even with a new CEO, great talent management leaders seem to be able to maintain the momentum and commitment. They may also be able to point to studies like ours to build the business case.
Dan's commentary: It's hard to create commitment to leadership development - but once it's there, it would take a succession of 2-3 really bad CEOs and talent management leaders to screw it up.

Dan: Is there any correlation between the $$ spend on leadership development and the results?

Susan: We don't ask that question, but I would guess there are certain things that the best invest more heavily in, like technology to manage their talent. Or, there's the company that allows it's managers to take time off to manage a non-profit for a stretch assignment. Now that's an investment!

Dan: It looks like "nice" leaders do finish first. True?

Susan: Sort of. I would push back on the term "nice" - however, yes, the Top 20 place a high value on the ability to collaborate, build relationships, and create a culture that fosters development and innovation.

The Global top 20:

Key Findings:

1. Leadership Development: Companies are better positioned for talent now and in the future:

- 100% of the Top 20 companies actively manages a pool of successors for mission-critical roles (vs. 60% of all other companies).

- 100% say they have a sufficient number of qualified internal candidates who are ready to assume open leadership positions (vs. 44% for all other companies).

- 95% of the Top 20 companies (vs. just 48% of all other companies) reported that senior leaders personally spend time actively developing others.

2. Innovation: Leaders set the context for smart innovation:

- 94% of the Top 20 companies run unprofitable projects to try new things, vs. 49 percent of all others.

- 90% say their employees spend much time discussing customers’ future needs, vs. 47 percent of all others.

- 90% said employees are encouraged to learn in areas outside of their expertise, vs. 48 percent of all others.
- All of the Top 20 companies (vs. 68% of all other companies) say they provide structured opportunities for younger employees to promote innovative ideas.

- 94% of the Top 20 companies (vs. just 49% of all other companies) say they run unprofitable projects to try new things.

- 90% of the Top 20 companies (vs. 63% of all other companies) reported that if individuals have an excellent idea, they can bypass the chain of command without the threat of negative consequences.

3. Leaders encourage collaboration and reward it accordingly (Dan: yes, the soft stuff really does matter, you can take it to the bank!):

- 100% of the Top 20 companies take clear action when a leader is not collaborating, vs. 59 percent of all others.

95% of the Top 20 evaluates and rewards leaders based on their ability to build excellent relationships with their peers, vs. 46 percent of all others.

What's your reactions to this year's study?

About Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership Study
Hay Group has researched the Best Companies for Leadership since 2005.  This year’s survey includes responses from nearly 7,000 individuals at more than 2,300 organizations worldwide. The survey was based on the organization’s response to an online questionnaire and peer nominations. Respondents that completed the survey were from 103 countries, with 11 percent from North America, 35 percent from Europe, two percent from the Middle East, 21 percent from Asia/Pacific/Africa and 31 percent from Latin America.  To see the Top 20 list from 2005 through 2011, please visit the Best Companies for Leadership microsite at

About Hay Group
Hay Group is a global consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. We develop talent, organize people to be more effective, and motivate them to perform at their best. With 85 offices in 48 countries, we work with over 7,000 clients across the world. Our clients are from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The May, 2012 Leadership Development Carnival

Welcome to the May edition of the Leadership Development Carnival!

For those of you that may not be familiar with the Carnival, here's a refresher:

1. A blog "Carnival" is typically a collection of recent blog posts organized around a common theme, in this case, leadership development. Although there are lot's of places a reader can go to get aggregated free content these days, my readers still seem to appreciate the monthly Carnival collection. Bloggers like them because it's an opportunity to reach new readers.

2. I've been hosting the Carnival for a few years, and for the last couple years, have shared the hosting responsibilities with other bloggers.

3. I have a mailing list of over 60 leadership bloggers that I know and respect that I go to each month and ask for their best recent post. I usually get about 30-40 posts, that are sometimes organized around a theme.

4. I'm always looking for new contributors - if you are interested, send me an email with a link to your blog and I'll consider adding you to the list. I'm at danmccarth at gmail dot com.

So here's the May edition - no theme - just all good stuff!

Art Petty presents The Cruel, Bitter And Crushing Taste of Dump Truck Feedback, from his Management Excellence Blog. Several metaphors were massacred in the writing of this post!

Sharlyn Lauby from HR Bartender, presents What Creates a High Performing Organization. Does social media play a role in developing high performance? This post explores the concept. I had a chance to meet Sharlyn recently at a conference, and she is the real deal!

Lolly Daskal is very passionate about the power of heart-based leadership, the value of personal integrity, helping people achieve their potential, and the importance of making a difference in the world. She's also been a consistent Twitter supporter of Great Leadership. Here's The Truth About Leadership, from her Lead from Within blog.

Wally Bock from Three Star Leadership presents Magical Bosses. Great bosses get results that often seem magical. But there's method to the magic.

Last month's Carnival host, Tanmay Vora, from QAspire Blog, presents Lifelong Learning: Lesson from a Cab Driver. "I once heard Tom Peters saying that if you are a business traveler, you learn the most not from the corporate executives but from the cab drivers. You really get a perspective about life. I experienced it first-hand!"

Jesse Lyn Stoner from Jesse Lyn Stoner Blog presents Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Identifying Team Values. If you want to identify the right team values and ensure they are lived, avoid these 5 common pitfalls.

Jennifer V. Miller from The People Equation presents The KISS Model of Leadership Development.
Worn out by all the complex leadership development systems in your company? Jennifer Miller gives leaders a respite with a “keep it simple” approach to daily leadership development.

Mike Henry and Chery Gegelman from The Lead Change Group, presents Are You Making Choices That Matter?  "I grew up in rural North Dakota and would occasionally see movies about events that are a part of our history but were not a part of my reality:  Movies about the civil rights movement or the Holocaust.   Watching those movies would instantly trigger my adrenalin, raise my heart-rate and make every cell in my 5’2 body feel as courageous as David taking on Goliath.   In those moments, I felt invincible and ready to kick some bully-butt…”

Mary Jo Asmus from, presents What’s Best for Them? Managers everywhere are frustrated that their best employees aren’t moving ahead with the wonderful development suggestions they’ve been given. This post explains a simple way to change this.

Tanveer Naseer from Tanveer Naseer, presents How Are You Helping Your Employees To Be Your Organization’s Heroes?

David Burkus from LeaderLab presents Why Most Managers Are Ineffective?

How can we help leaders deal with complexity and respond to it with ethical behavior? Linda Fisher Thornton, from Leading in Context offers Leading Ethically Through Complexity.

John Hunter from Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog presents The Customer is the Purpose of Our Work. The quote from Gandhi embodies the spirit of servant leadership. Look at the purpose of the system and see how you can help. See others as the reason for your role existing not as a bother to be suffered through.

Miki Saxon from MAPping Company Success presents Ducks in a Row: When Stupid Invades the Culture. What is going on; are people really getting stupider? No matter the arena, business, political, religious or role models in general, the operative question these days is ‘What were he/she/they thinking’.

Lynn Dessert from  Elephants at Work presents Why does executive coaching take so long? The urgency to get it done quickly often produces poor coaching results. When your personal readiness and the coaching process are aligned, your goals can be reached.

Guy Farmer from Unconventional Training presents The Overlooked Leadership Tool. Leaders sometimes forget that their employees have a wealth of ideas to deal with challenges in the workplace. Discover a valuable tool to tap into that brain power.

Nick McCormick from Joe and Wanda on Management presents Benefits of Working On-line. Debra Benton, author of The Virtual Executive, shares benefits and offers managers advice for using on-line communications.

Tim Milburn from presents How To Be A De-Motivational Leader. I wrote this post as a tongue-in-cheek look at what NOT to do as a leader. Unfortunately, I've noticed how many leaders do these exact things. Reading about de-motivational leadership is funny. Working for a de-motivational leader...not so funny.

Joel Garfinkle from Career Advancement Blog presents 5 Surefire Tips for Job Advancement .
Professionals who want more from their careers have to seize the initiative. Many of these individuals follow a series of intentional steps to career success to secure promotions.

Bernd Geropp from More Leadership, less management presents How are correct decisions made?
Many entrepreneurs and senior managers tend to work around the clock, but take too little time for the real leadership tasks.

Anna Farmery from The Engaging Brand presents My Auntie's 10 Steps to Social Media Measurement.

Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group, presents What is your greatest strength? on The Thoughtful Leaders Blog where she talks about the importance of leaders acknowledging and building upon their strengths, and choosing to use them thoughtfully.

Mary Ila Ward from Horizon Point Consulting, presents Is Your Way the only Highway? In this post, the author discusses problems with the my way or the highway mentality and introduces ways for leaders to avoid stifling creativity and innovation in those they lead.

Chris Edmonds from Driving Results Through Culture presents Out-of-the-Box Thinking About Corporate Culture. " I discuss the unique "no-hour workweek" utilized at investment startup Betterment. They've found a terrific approach that honors the hectic, 24/7 pace of a startup and combines the realities of work/life balance – team members share the load, demonstrate trust & respect of each other, and don't miss a trick. Very interesting culture"

Carol Morrison from i4cp’s Productivity Blog presents Executive Leadership: Trending Toward Trouble.

Jim Taggart from Changing Winds presents Thriving in a Boundaryless Organization: How People Can Make a Difference.

Finally, we'll end with a last second submission from my friends at Talented Apps: Mark Bennett from TalentedApps - presents The New Crucible of Leadership. The old ways that leaders got to be in their position are being slowly eroded. Is that such a bad thing?
That's it for this month's edition!

The next edition of the Leadership Development Carnival will be on June 3rd, 2012, hosted by Laura Schroeder from Working Girl.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Top 5 Mistakes Leaders Make

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

The Top 5 Leadership Mistakes: which one would your team members say you make?

Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of leaders many who have displayed specific leadership shortfalls, that when improved, have had a positive impact on the effectiveness and profitability of the organization. Both new and experienced manager/leaders can make these top five mistakes; which one is your Achilles heel? And what is your plan to improve?

1. Focusing on the Urgent and not the Important

How much time are you spending on activities that lead to your goals versus those that are urgent and unexpected? You would be surprised how many leaders fall into this trap. And it is a trap. In fact, I have worked with some leaders who get their “energy” from working in crisis mode.

The key is to set aside time on the calendar that is only for the important activities, and have the activities clearly prioritized so that when an urgent item is screaming at you, you can logically decide what important task can be set aside.

We all have crises, yet more often than not we move right into crisis mode before thinking through what can be moved off our plate of “importants”. Create a process that works for you in which you can smoothly move from the urgent and then back to the important. Don’t get stuck in the urgent.

2. Lack of Consistent Communication

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as over communication in the work place. If I had a nickel for every time a leader said to me “I told the company our (project, goal, etc), yet two weeks later they have totally forgotten the conversation”, I’d be a very wealthy person.

In this age of information overload, employees have a lot to file away and process. Communications should be implemented frequently and consistently using a variety of methods since people have different learning styles. With the huge menu of communication technologies available to companies, messages should be delivered in person, electronically in written, audio, and video, as well as the old fashioned way, printed hard copy. For more on this topic from Harvard Business Review

3. Ineffective Feedback

This is a result of providing delayed and unclear feedback. It often starts by ignoring the “small stuff” with the hope that the behavior won’t happen again. More often than not, the behavior is repeated, and becomes tolerated. And it can lead to conflict avoidance by a manager.

The best time to provide feedback is immediately after the behavior is observed. Be clear about what you observed, how it impacted you, and ask for ideas from your employee about how they could approach it in the future. And then get their commitment to make the change. This process focuses more on the future as the past can’t be changed, only the future. For more thoughts on this visit

And for innovative ideas on moving away from the traditional performance review feedback, read an article from Daniel Pink:

4. Failing to Define Clear Goals

Employees need to understand how they will be measured and evaluated. Defining clear goals provides a roadmap for the employee. And more importantly, when an employee is part of her goal setting process, she has more ownership in successfully attaining her goals. Without goals, employees will not meet your performance expectations because they don’t know what they are.

For additional information on creating clear goals visit

5. Misunderstanding Motivation

After reading, Daniel Pink’s recent book Drive, I am convinced that leaders really need to rethink how they operate and create an environment that provides the foundation for employees to be intrinsically motivated. Too often managers think that changing the extrinsic motivators will lead to a change in behavior, and they can. The problem is that the change is not long term and sustainable.

Once you have met an employee’s baseline extrinsic motivators, salary and benefits, you should focus on creating a foundation that encourages, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. As Pink describes in his book, all humans are driven by these three attributes.

Autonomy is all about control of tasks, time, technique, and team. Mastery is providing an opportunity to get very good at something and to continue the process and understanding that you will never be perfect. It is the pursuit of perfection that motivates. And finally purpose, working for some greater good and not just profit. Profit provides a means for a company’s purpose. It is this final attribute that is found more often in smaller, entrepreneurial companies who are lead by younger leaders.

So which of these leadership mistakes would your team members say you exhibit? And what is your plan of action to develop a way of avoiding these mistakes in the future?

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit or or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.