Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six Steps to Hiring Exceptional Talent

Guest post from Dee Ann Turner:

The best business leaders have a keen sense of purpose that drives their work. Ideally, they also have superior products and services that support that purpose. But noble purpose and brilliant products won’t get you far if you don’t have the right people to deliver them.

In other words, our who matters even more than our what and our why.

That makes selecting talent the most important task of today’s leader. It’s also the most difficult. So many managers don’t understand how to use the hiring process not just to fill a position, but also to truly add value that enriches and complements the company’s culture.

I have worked at Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters for more than 30 years. I’ve spent most of that time as Vice President of Corporate Talent, and my decades of experience and devoted personal study have led me to believe that hiring is an art, not a science. While that may seem daunting at first, especially to those of us who crave facts and precision, it’s actually great news. Hiring as an art abandons robotic coldness in favor of human intuition. When we combine our instincts with finely honed processes such as behavioral based interviewing, we can achieve game-changing results.

In my new book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and Compelling Culture, I share secrets behind the exceptionally effective business model Truett Cathy pioneered when he founded Chick-fil-A in 1946. Truett’s entrepreneurial philosophy was way ahead of the curve. Over the years, he emphasized to me time and time again that our business was not about numbers, growth, or even chicken. To Truett, Chick-fil-A was always about people.

In the midst of a fluid labor market in which individuals move from company to company with expected regularity, Chick-fil-A’s corporate staff retention rate has remained at 95-97% for almost 50 years. I believe that success can be traced back in part to how we hire. Here are six guideposts to smart, soulful hiring, shaped by Truett’s people-first ideology:

1.    Think hard about the role and carefully craft its description. How can you use the new hire to address current weaknesses that may be slowing your staff down? Try also to think about the future instead of just the present.

2.    Expand your search. In It's My PleasureI call it “casting a wide net.” Different perspectives and experience from other industries can bring invaluable new energy to your team.

3.    Practice behavioral based interviewing. Behavioral based questions push candidates to draw on how they’ve responded to situations in the past. Instead, interviewers often ask questions that can only be answered hypothetically, which is not the best way to learn how someone will actually act.

4.    Check references. Too many managers do not follow up with references thoroughly. This calls for more than just verifying employment: Take the time to ask about past performance, which we know is the best indicator of future performance.

5.    Talk the candidate out of the job. Once you have decided to offer a candidate the position, try to talk them out of accepting. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is an excellent way to gauge the individual’s level of passion and determination for both the role and your company.

6.    Make a commitment to the new hire. Once the job has been accepted, do all you can to ensure the new employee’s success. They are your investment: Use the time and resources necessary to help them grow into the position.    

In It's My Pleasure, I explore each of these suggestions in greater detail, along with other proven hiring techniques. While there are no one-dimensional solutions to the challenge of recruiting and sustaining extraordinary talent, we can hold on to one simple truth: When we put people at the center of our strategies, we gain so much more than added sales. One person at a time, we build a thriving, compelling culture that extends far beyond business hours to impact the lives of everyone who comes into contact with it.

That is Truett Cathy’s legacy, and one that is well worth trying to emulate.

About Dee Ann Turner
Dee Ann Turner is Vice President, Corporate Talent, for Chick-fil-A, where she began her career more than 30 years ago. Her first book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, reveals never-before-shared secrets behind building and maintaining Chick-fil-A’s revolutionary business model. Dee Ann believes people are the most powerful commodity in any organization, and companies that recognize the value of individuals can succeed not just ethically, but financially as well. In addition to serving on the boards of the Kenya Project and Proverbs 31 ministry, the married mother of the three is also active with a variety of family-focused missions that support women and children.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Listening, Avoid Making Suggestions

Guest post from Dana Caspersen:

I offer a challenge:

The next time you are listening to someone during a difficult conversation or conflict and you are tempted to make a suggestion—don’t. Instead of making a suggestion, bring your attention back to what they are saying and why. Listen for what’s important, even if you think you already know.

If you feel compelled to respond while you are listening, try asking questions that help the other person unfold their story. Avoid saying things like: “Well, you need to…”, or “What if you just…”, or “It sounds like the problem is…”. Instead, try asking questions that look for more information, like: “What’s the most important thing to you in this?”, or “How has this affected you?”.

Whether with a colleague, a partner or a stranger, it’s obvious that listening is useful in communication. But often in the stress of a difficult conversation or conflict we don’t really listen. Even when we think we are listening, we are often caught up in getting ready to, or making, a suggestion.

Listening and making suggestions are two different actions. Each of these actions leads us in a different direction and tends to provoke different outcomes in conflict.

I have found that the principle: “When listening, avoid making suggestions”, often initially strikes people as odd. They say, “If I have a good idea, why shouldn’t I say it?”, or, “Just because I have a suggestion, it doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”

here are times when it is important for us to offer our ideas, but there are many more times when the act of making a suggestion too early in the conversation can blind us to other options and get in the way of really hearing the information that the other person is trying to give us.

It can be very tempting to make suggestions when time is short or we feel uncomfortable in the pressure of a conversation. The urge to say what you think the problem is or which action the other person should choose can be strong. However, what I have seen over and over, is that once people decide to stop making suggestions for a while—to stop telling other people what to do—they are often shocked by how little they had really been listening. They are often equally surprised and delighted by how radically relationships can improve and how beneficial the outcomes in conflicts can be when they listen first and look for solutions later.

Here’s two reasons why differentiating between the action of listening and the action of making suggestions matters:

1. Your story is not their story.
Making suggestions is about your point of view. Listening is about the other person’s point of view. One of the most basic things that people need in a conflict is to be heard. When we move from the action of listening to the action of making a suggestion, we’re changing the focus of the conversation from their point of view to our own point of view. If this change in focus happens too early in the dialogue, people often feel their story hasn’t been heard. It then becomes more difficult for them to listen to the rest of the stories in the conflict.

2. Solutions that don’t meet the needs of both sides usually fail.
Whether we like it or not, in a conflict we need the other person’s story to be able to understand what is important and what kind of solution might be possible and effective.

Listening is about allowing the landscape that you are both traversing to become more visible, which makes it more possible to find a pathway through it. Listening is a form of map-building.

Offering a suggestion, on the other hand, is an attempt to find a solution. It is a proposed pathway. But, if we don’t have a good map of the landscape, we can’t know which path will get us where we want to go.

Often it’s tempting to try to find solutions as soon as possible, because conflict can be uncomfortable. But, if we do jump into a solution too early, before we really know what’s happening and what’s important to people, then we are much less likely to find a solution that meets the needs of the situation– one that works and will last.

So, the challenge: in the next difficult conversation you encounter, stop making suggestions for a while and see what happens. Develop an investigatory mindset and find out what really matters in the situation. Build detailed maps with people, even when you disagree, to see where you are and where you both want to go. Once you have this common ground, ideas and suggestions from both sides can be more easily heard and become useful in helping to find an effective pathway through the conflict.

Dana Caspersen is the author of Changing the Conversation: The 17Principles of Conflict Resolution (Penguin, 2015), and works internationally as a conflict specialist, public dialogue designer, speaker and award-winning performing artist. Dana holds a master’s degree in Conflict Studies and Mediation and her focus is on helping individuals and communities develop their ability to see conflict as a place of possibility and the skills to make those possibilities become reality. Learn more about her work, talks, videos and events at

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Overcoming the Desire to Please Your Boss

Guest post from Chip Espinoza:

Two of the top challenges young professionals report facing while making the transition into management is a change in relational dynamics with former peers at work and the fear of disappointing the boss who promoted them. One young woman shared her distress when one of her best friends at work unfriended her on Facebook. The newly minted manager asked her friend, “Why the unfriend?” She replied, “You are the boss now, and I don’t want you creeping on my Facebook.” It is not uncommon for there to be a bit of a cold spell while the relationship with a peer goes through redefinition.

At first glance, how your peers see you and what your manager thinks about you are unrelated, but being overly concerned with your manager’s estimation of you may inhibit your ability to effectively lead your peers and the development of your own leadership perspective.

If you find yourself pre-occupied or even worried about what your boss thinks of you, give yourself a break. One of the reasons you made it to management is because you cared and your boss saw something in you that she did not see in your peers or others. That something is usually a comfort level with building a relationship with authority figures or appearing to be more mature than your peers. Perhaps you have heard your manager say things like, “You are different from other Millennials” or “You are a throwback.” The term throwback refers to someone who appears to be from a generation older than one’s own. It could be flattering, but be aware, it could also set you up to be perceived as someone you are not. It is a good thing to want your boss to be pleased with you. However, the danger comes when you become more concerned with the approval of your boss than being your own person or exercising your own voice. The slang behavioral diagnosis for those who quickly adapt what they think, say, and do in an effort to please their manager is brown nose—the kiss of death for building credibility with peers and exerting one’s own voice.

The first step to overcoming the desire to please your boss is to accept there will come a day when you disappoint him or her—not necessarily because you have done something wrong, but because you did something different from what they would do. It is inevitable! Even the best of mentor/mentoree relationships end in conflict. It is a right of passage that eventually results in reconciliation and mutual respect. As an example, my mentor primarily consulted nonprofit organizations, and when I started working with major corporations, he was disappointed. It hurt me to let him down, but I had to pursue my own path even though it was emotionally difficult. Before he died, he affirmed me for having the desire to help all kinds of organizations with generational diversity and valued my work.

The tension you may experience with your manager is often the result of leading from your own perspective. Not unlike what you experience with peers, your personal growth triggers a redefinition of the relationship with your boss. When you understand the relational dynamic that is taking place, there is no need to be defensive, make excuses, or villainize. No need to fret. It is a sign of a new phase of your leadership development. One of the first stages of leadership development is to develop your own perspective.

Which leads to the second step of overcoming the need to please your boss—develop your own leadership perspective. What do you believe to be true? What are you convinced of? What are you willing to stand for? How would you want to be managed? The young professionals in research my coauthor Joel Schwarzbart and I have conducted talk about feeling torn between the way they wanted to manage and the way they thought their boss wanted them to manage. It was like having their boss on one shoulder and their preferred “me” on the other. The dialogue in their heads between the two created a migraine. The bipolarization also led to inconsistency in leader behavior.

Having a perspective can be quite powerful. A perspective can be as simple as, “Everyone deserves a second chance.” Such a perspective has probably salvaged many a career. It is not true in every situation, but helpful in most. Not having your own perspective sets you up for being perceived as inauthentic and a mini-me of your boss. Inauthenticity is the kiss of death for a young manager. Your peers will not respect you, and ultimately your boss will be disappointed anyway.

The third step is to understand that when a peer says you have changed for the worse or a manager says you are not ready for the next level, it may be a function of them not wanting their relationship with you to change. That is not a bad thing. You have to keep it in perspective. It is not our enemies who hold us back from achieving our full potential—it is usually those who care about us the most. When you grow, advance, and seek new opportunities, it threatens relationships. If you get that, it will save you sleepless nights, the need to defend yourself, and self-doubt. Embrace all kinds of feedback—the good, the bad, and the ugly—just have your own perspective.

Chip Espinoza is the author, along with Joel Schwarzbart, of Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader. He is also the author of Managing the Millennials. Espinoza is the Academic Director of Organizational Psychology and Nonprofit Leadership at Concordia University Irvine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Does Etiquette have to do with Nursing Leadership?

Guest post from Kathleen Pagana:

Anyone committed to career advancement faces the challenge of interacting well in business and social settings. By using the guiding principles of kindness, consideration and commonsense, professional etiquette can help you initiate new relationships and enhance established ones. Etiquette is about relationships.  It can guide you in unfamiliar situations and help you know what to expect from others.

Let’s use a sports analogy. Suppose you want to join the volleyball league at your medical center. If you know the rules and know how to play the game, you could be an asset to the team. Likewise, in the workplace, etiquette makes you a welcome addition to a leadership team. It increases your confidence in dealing with all levels of colleagues by leveling the playing field.  Many business programs have recognized the importance of business etiquette and have included it as part of their educational requirements.  Although nursing education has focused on leadership and management, etiquette has been the missing link for success in the workplace.

Over a long career in nursing, I have often been challenged by business etiquette concerns in positions, such as patient care manager, military officer, faculty member, academic dean, and board member at a healthcare system. Professional etiquette has helped me handle these challenges.  Let’s discuss five situations where etiquette can help you target your leadership potential.

1.     Making introductions

You may wonder if it matters who is introduced to whom in an introduction. Yes, it does.  There is a pecking order to introductions. The person of honor is mentioned first, and the other person is introduced to him or her. The higher-ranking person is the person of honor.  For example, suppose a new graduate is being introduced to the nursing supervisor. The supervisor is mentioned first and the new nurse is introduced or presented to him or her. 
Suppose you need to introduce Mike Smith (new graduate) to Theresa Deska (supervisor).  Here is an example of a proper introduction: “Theresa, I would like to present Mike Smith.  Mike is a new graduate from Lycoming College. Theresa Deska is our surgical supervisor.

 2.     Shaking Hands
Did you know you are judged by the quality of your handshake? You want to present a confident, firm handshake. Those few seconds can weaken or empower a relationship. Be sure to stand up, make eye contact, and smile. 
If someone ignores your attempt to shake hands, gently drop your hand to your side.  There are cultural and religious preferences that affect a handshake. For example, in the Hindu culture, contact between men and women is avoided, and men do not shake hands with women.

3.     Remembering names

It means a lot to people to hear their name. People are impressed when you remember their name. However, many people have trouble remembering names.  Here are some tips to help:
·         Listen and focus when you hear the name.

·         Repeat the person’s name. For example, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Margaret.”

·         Connect the name to something or someone. For example, “I have a daughter named Theresa and she spells her name like you.”

·         Ask the person a question about the name?  For example, “Do you spell Kathleen with a C or a K?”

·         Look at the person’s nametag.  his will help you remember the name and know how to spell it.

·         Write down the name or ask for a business card.

·         Ask the person for a helpful way to remember how to pronounce the name. For example, when people ask me how to pronounce Pagana, I tell them to think of the word “banana.”  Then say, “Pah-gann-a” like “bah-nann-a.”

 4.     Presenting business cards
Every leader needs business cards for networking. You can attach a business card to a report or note. This lets the person know you are the sender and provides your contact information. 
Cards should be presented with the content face up and readable.  The receiver should be able to glance at the card and make a comment. For example, “I see you are the nurse manager of surgical services.” Make sure the card you give is in good condition. Don’t use a card if it is soiled, bent, or ripped, because it will not portray a positive impression of you. 

5.     Mingling at receptions and cocktail parties

Your career aspirations can be enhanced or limited by your behavior as you navigate these potentially disastrous social gatherings. Inappropriate behavior can undo years of good impressions.
Attending work-related receptions shows you are a team player and gives you a chance to get to know co-workers in a less formal setting. Here are some guidelines for presenting yourself in a professional manner:

·         Smile and be friendly to everyone.

·         Introduce yourself to people you don’t know.

·         Avoid clustering in small groups with people in your department.

·         Spend more time listening than talking.

·         Minimize “shop talk” during social gatherings.

·         Be sure to greet senior management. Use engaging small talk.

·         If you don’t call people by their first names at work, don’t start at the social event.

·         Treat the serving staff with respect.

·         Drink responsibly.

·         Avoid messy foods. Keep your hands clean for shaking hands.

·         Be aware of your body language. Don’t act bored.

·         Thank your hosts before leaving.
Everyone can and should learn some basic business etiquette. The better you become at it, the more you will be sought after for opportunities and positions. These tips can help you handle awkward and challenging situations that could diminish your confidence, tarnish your reputation, and derail your career aspirations.

Author bio: Kathleen D. Pagana, PhD is the author of “The Nurse’s Etiquette Advantage: How Professional Etiquette Can Advance Your Nursing Career.”  She is a best-selling author of almost 2 million books with translations in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese, Greek, and Polish.  She is also a dynamic keynote speaker who motivates professionals to reach their goals though presentations on leadership, business etiquette, and life balance.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Innovation Begins (and remains) at the Top

Guest post By John Sweeney:

Innovation is foundational to business leadership. We empower individuals across disciplines to evaluate, orchestrate, strategize, create and hire, but most importantly, we empower others to innovate. Many leaders may consider empowerment a handoff – a simple process of delegating work. For the most process-oriented tasks, that assumption may be true. But for innovation, responsibility begins and remains at the highest levels of leadership.
Empowering innovation begins with our everyday behavior, outlook, commitment and openness to new thinking. Just as leaders deliver big picture messages and strategy, we also set the tone for how organizations innovate. However, we forget about everyday behavior, because it is so basic that even the big thinkers—the super smart innovation architects—often assume that everyday behavior will automatically change once a great system is in place.

The maxim “everything looks like a nail to a hammer” is an excellent reminder that every successful innovation effort relies on the people—and all their fears, emotions, and humanness—who must fuel it.
Innovation is fundamentally about people; their assumptions, subconscious thought patterns, daily actions and habits. Taken together with all the other trappings of business management — procedures, rewards and penalties, social dynamics, unspoken rules and, of course, stress—it’s easy to see how innovation yields a wonderfully messy, organic and complex environment. Above all, behavior drives results, and if leaders fail to address daily behavior, even the greatest strategies and plans to drive innovation are doomed to fail.

A managerial culture that strives for efficiency, leanness, speed and quality above all else is often in conflict with a culture of innovation, which must make room for experimentation, learning from mistakes and unexpected connections through exploration.

Here are six tips that leaders can implement to help create and foster a business environment that not only welcomes, but also thrives on innovation:

1. Your behavior matters.
As the leader of a company your behavior is amplified and seen as the true north to how things are done in the company. Your words do not matter, if you behave contrary to them!

2. Your words do matter when they are aligned with your actions.
Language is a powerful tool to rally and unify people – especially around innovation. Choose sticky language, use it, help people make it their own to align and inspire people to embrace an innovative mindset and innovation behaviors.

3. Strive to decrease status.
Be human, real and authentic to encourage participation in innovation activities and initiatives.

4. Show up!
Be present and supportive for all innovation related events and initiatives. Being engaged sends the message that innovation is important and worthwhile of your time, which means it is important and worthwhile for the people who you lead.

5. Be bold in your behavioral declaration.
Create a behavioral manifesto or credo. Publicly state that you will personally strive to uphold the behaviors you have stated in the credo.

6. Frequently ask others to evaluate, metric and assess your behavior based on your declaration.
Invite constructive criticism to demonstrate your desire for continuous improvement and a willingness to change – two key elements of innovation.

We all know that how we function in a team, communicate and collaborate with others is the key to successful innovation, and there’s no better place to start than at the top. An innovative mindset reevaluates the nature of innovation and shows how a change in perspective can lead to more dynamic, successful endeavors.

John Sweeney is the co-owner and executive producer of the Brave New Workshop, America’s oldest satirical comedy theatre. He uses his 20+ years of improvisational performance, speaking and training to influence human behavior and to create simple but groundbreaking tools that have ignited cultures of innovative behavior within such companies as Microsoft, PWC, General Mills and UnitedHealthGroup. His new book (with Elena Imaretska) – The Innovative Mindset: 5 Behaviors for Accelerating Breakthroughs – is available now from Wiley. Visit to find a bookseller near you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Anyone Can Train Themselves to be a Highly Effective Leader

Guest post from Chris Hutchinson:

If you’ve gotten past the title without choking on your warm office beverage of choice, you’re probably thinking something like:
1. Are you kidding? You’ve clearly never met [colleague/boss/archenemy]!

2. Don’t think so. People either have natural leadership ability or they don’t. If you don’t have the right wiring, it doesn’t matter.
3. Look, I’ve tried hard and made progress, but I can point to any number of areas where I wouldn’t consider myself “highly effective.”

4. Hmmm…really?
I’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the past twenty-five years. Based on that experience, I firmly believe almost anyone* can become a highly effective leader. Regardless of default leadership abilities – the combination of natural wiring and how someone was parented/taught/led up to now – everyone can get better as a leader. It just takes the right mindset and tools. (* rare exceptions for people with serious mental wellness problems. And no, I’m not talking about your last boss.)

 To be a highly effective leader, you’ll need both an internal drive - the mindset - and an external framework – the tools - for results.
The internal drive is made up of three action-oriented conditions:

·    A deep desire for better results. If you cannot picture any difference between where you are and where you want to be, nothing will change.  (Hint: this difference is usually easier to see a few years out rather than today. By picturing how a change will affect what you care about most in, say, five years, you can usually find the energy to start changing now.)

·     A willingness to learn and change your own behavior. If you can experiment with doing things differently and then be open to feedback, you can get better. Perhaps it’s human nature to try to avoid making mistakes, yet I’ve always found the lessons I learn from making mistakes define me more than when I “get lucky” and succeed the first time.

·     A bias for action. Despite millions of health books and videos sold each year in the United States, public health data show obesity steadily increasing. It’s clearly not enough just to know how to do things – you must get into action and apply your thinking to get results.
Without these, there’s no point in embarking on leadership improvement. I used to think that these three conditions were all leaders needed. However, over the past decade I‘ve discovered to become truly effective leaders, people also need:

 A comprehensive and practical framework for leadership that works in the real world.
Without an overarching framework, many leaders end up trying different techniques. These techniques can often conflict with each other.  And without a clear and consistent set of coordinated actions, leaders find themselves treating symptoms, not finding and solving the root causes.

I wrote Ripple: A Field Guide for Leadership That Works to provide my clients – and you – that comprehensive framework. It starts with self-leadership (knowing yourself deeply and getting into action as a leader), moves through interpersonal leadership (how you respect and enable others to succeed), and finishes at organizational leadership (how you design and tweak the system to enable effective results efficiently).
Most people in leadership positions start working on efficiency (results!) in the organization first. When that doesn’t work, they backtrack to effectiveness (let’s reorg), then to positively enabling others (ah, you need the right resources to do the work), and then to respecting others (silly me, I didn’t realize you have different talents than mine).

If these efforts still aren’t working, things get uncomfortable. If we’re honest with ourselves, we start asking: “As a leader, am I in action about what matters? And if not, could it be that I don’t understand myself enough to get out of my own way?”
It begins with you

From my experience, you will get the best results by starting with yourself, then learn to work well with others, and together you can optimize your organization. All we need to do to kick off this positive chain reaction is to change ourselves.
Relatively simple, yet as Marshall Goldsmith says, changing behavior is one of the most difficult things for adults to do. Why? As adult humans, we believe we are highly competent and effective. We often wrap our self-esteem around this perception of competence. To get better, we have to admit that, in some way, we’re not as competent as we thought.  Yet, we can only admit that if we make it through denial and confusion – our internal barriers that keep us in our place of comfort and known competence – first.
The good news is that with the right mindset and level of willingness, along with some hard work and an overarching structure that works, you too can hurdle your own barriers and train yourself to be a highly effective leader.

 So – what are you waiting for?

About Chris Hutchinson:
Chris Hutchinson has invested the last 25 years working with organizations and leaders to help them reach their full potential. He founded his company – Trebuchet Group – in 2002 to help business leaders tap the abilities of their whole organization to get where they want to go quicker and less painfully.

Chris is an international speaker and published author of Ripple: A Field Manual for Leadership that Works. His experiences in the military and the business world taught him great leadership can be learned, and everyone is in some way a leader.
Chris has a passion for helping people grow and be their best. Clients and peers describe him as an inspirational catalyst for positive change. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Brave Leadership

Guest post from Darrin Murriner:

Most people would agree that good leaders are brave leaders. But our definition of brave may vary widely. For some bravery could mean facing a tough personnel decision or making investment decisions to enter a new market.

And while those decisions can often be brave, I contend that the highest form of bravery in an organizational context is keeping at bay the opposite of bravery; fear.

In our business organizations fear has a growing influence. This can be seen in our capital allocation decisions, how we react to competitors and how engaged our employees are in the mission of the organization that you are leading.

To be a truly great leader you must tackle the three primary areas that fear can influence your organization and prevent your business from realizing increased returns and long-term value creation.

 1. The Cultural Core. I represent this strong cultural core through several key elements including the development of trust, breaking through organizational hierarchies, being willing to take risks or even fail, finding employees that are the right cultural fit and supporting their individuality, and finally, by developing great communication. Building a strong core lays the foundation for the next two areas.

2. External Factors. It is important to avoid the pull to react to the competition, regulation and risk & control functions, but rather, focus on getting out in front of these three areas. This requires staying close to the customer and anticipating where the market is going. You can limit the influence these factors have by leaning into the cultural core.

3. Improve Decision Making. Good decision making from a place of strength in your organizational identity keeps you from getting distracted by concerns around possible legal land mines or the possibility of negative media exposure. Good decision making allows the brave leader to go from good to great.

I would love to go into each of these areas in more detail, but this is a blog post and I spent eleven chapters on these in my book, Corporate Bravery.

But the reason why these factors matter is because fear has a way of creeping into your culture little by little through small decisions that are made every day by managers with influence within your organization.

That may seem overwhelming since leaders often struggle with the balance between micromanaging the details and supporting and empowering their managers towards improved performance. But it is achievable, and it starts with great leadership.

For that reason, the selection process for managers must be rigorous and ensure the full alignment of organizational values, management competencies and performance management to protect the cultural core from trending negatively over time.

Too often leaders are derailed by fears that influence their decisions and create cracks for fear to root itself in the cultural fabric of their organization. It can start out small but will eventually have an outsized influence on every area of business performance. Great leadership values bravery over fear and fights to protect culture from fear’s polluting influence.

About the author:
To learn more about Darrin Murriner or this topic you can read more at If you are interested in reading Corporate Bravery, the book is available on Amazon ( & iTunes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Five Degrees of Workplace Culture

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
How healthy is your workplace culture? Is yours a safe, inspiring, productive culture or far from it?
I recently spoke to leaders in two different organizations about the difficult dynamics in their work environment. Both organizations are experiencing “senior leaders behaving badly."

The behavior is disruptive, aggressive, and exhausting for anyone that interacts with these leaders. Tantrums happen frequently. These leaders’ teams demonstrate inconsistent performance and poor service (to internal and external customers). When challenged to improve results or service, these leaders pop a cork, even cussing up a storm, which diverts attention from the core performance and service issues.
These dynamics cause stress, frustration, and heartache. Worse, the bad behavior by these leaders has been tolerated by the top leaders of their organizations - so it continues, unabated.

If leaders want a high performing, values-aligned culture, they must be intentional about the quality of their workplace culture. They must design their desired culture through an organizational constitution, which specifies their team or department or company’s present day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. Once defined, leaders must align all plans, decisions, and actions to that constitution.
Crafting an organizational constitution then aligning practices to that constitution takes time, energy, and attention on the part of leaders, every day. Leaders must demonstrate their values and behaviors in every interaction - and coach everyone else in their organization to do the same.

The problem is that leaders spend greater time and energy on their organization’s products and services than they do on it’s culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organization, for better or worse.
Leaders have never been asked to manage their team’s culture. They don’t know how. Yet the benefits of aligning practices to an organizational constitution are impressive: 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of applying this framework.

To reap these gains, leaders must assess the health of their current team or department or company culture. My book, The Culture Engine, presents five levels or degrees of workplace culture health. They include:

  • Dysfunction - This is the lowest quality level, indicating a culture of low trust, inconsistent performance, and consistent frustration when trying to get things done.
  • Tension - This level indicates that trust is slightly better but below standard. Performance is slightly better but remains inconsistent. Disagreements occur regularly, but overt conflict is not as common.
  • Civility - This is the middle ground and represents the minimum standard of culture quality. At this level, leaders and team members are treated with respect. Interactions are formal and professional. Performance is consistently good. Disagreements about ideas are conducted calmly without denigrating the leader or team member's commitment, skills, or role.
  • Acknowledgement - This quality level is reflected in the active recognition and expression of thanks and gratitude for effort, accomplishment, service, and citizenship. Team members do not wait for acknowledgement from leaders - they proactively thank each other. Customers are treated respectfully. The phrase "thank you” is heard a lot.
  • Validation - This quality level demands the active valuing of team members' skills, ideas, enthusiasm, and talents. Leaders frequently delegate authority and responsibility to talented, engaged team members. Productivity is consistently high. Cooperative problem solving and team work is the norm.
The research proves that teams that implement and align to an organizational constitution enjoy a validating culture. That quality level is reflected in consistent team member engagement, customers being WOW'ed daily, and exceeding performance expectations over time.

To what degree is yours a validating culture? Add your comments 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 Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here.