Monday, August 31, 2015

7 Elements of a Strategic Plan

It’s been said that “a vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”

Read my latest post over at to learn the 7 basic elements of a strategic plan: vision, mission, SWOT analysis, core values, goals, objectives, and action plans.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Are Your Employees Dressed for Success?

Guest post from Tom Pandola:

Being a curious student of leadership, I find myself always noticing businesses that are doing things well, and those that are not.  One day while ordering my lunch at a well-established and famous hamburger chain – In-N-Out Burger – I was overwhelmed with the desire to find out why every employee was smiling, being friendly, and demonstrating an absolute focus on customer satisfaction. 

With no one in line behind me, I felt that it would be a good time to chat-up the friendly woman behind the cash register to find out the secret behind all of these smiling faces.  As I received my change, she said in a delightful way, “Thank you for your order, I hope you enjoy your meal, it should be just a few minutes!”  I replied, “Oh yes, thanks. Can I ask you a question?”  Without giving her a chance to answer, I said, “Why is every employee always smiling? Is this something you are trained to do?”

The cashier said, “Our smile is part of our uniform! We learn that in training!”  Her answer was delivered as enthusiastically as the work environment that was palpable in each of this company’s restaurants that I have visited.  I thought that if a smile is truly part of one’s uniform, to be genuine, there had to be an organizational culture behind it that gave everyone something to smile about.  Think about it: this is fast-food. For the employees, what is there to smile about?  And yet, the leadership of this company must be doing something right, because it works!

I have spent 25 years in the world of firefighting, and another 10 years in various business positions, and dressing for success is something that I believe must be a conscious choice.  As a firefighter, a smile wasn’t part of our uniform, but other things that were critical to our success were.  When a firefighter attaches his or her badge to their uniform there are certain cultural expectations that come with it.  Knowing what to expect within our work environment required every firefighter to always dress for success.  Firefighters must be prepared with protective clothing that can withstand up to 1,500-degree heat, breathing equipment that allowed us to work in poisonous atmospheres, and other tools to assist in finding our way in the zero visibility-environment found inside burning buildings.   But that was just one of our many uniforms.  We had others that fit the task we found ourselves engaged in, and provided us with what we needed to succeed.       

Whether it was firefighting, working around the station, training, exercising, or conducting fire prevention inspections, each required a certain uniform that was designed specifically for each situation.  I believe the term “dressed for success” actually means much more than mere clothing choices.  It includes the whole package for what an employee is expected to accomplish, much like a smile being part of the uniform for the food, beverage, and hospitality environment.  How we are “dressed” is more about our level of preparation, and should include everything that it takes to be successful.   

What does it mean to be dressed for success in your business or industry?  Think about what it takes to be successful at the different tasks, vocations, or positions within your organization.  Has your leadership provided your workforce with all that they need to be “dressed for success”? 

The following six cultural necessities are critical to how the fire service ensures their people are dressed for success at all times, including in the hot, dirty, and dangerous environment that defines firefighting.  Your business environment is most likely very different, yet these same ingredients will also work where ever people are the common denominator in delivering success, or failure: 

A training process that will develop a motivated and inspired workforce.
2.    A critical thought process that creates accountable and empowered problem solvers.
3.    A process for creating continuous incremental improvement in search of best practices.
4.    The ingredients needed for high-performance teamwork.
5.    The expectation for individuals to set and prioritize goals.
6.    A checklist for crisis management.

Whether it is serving up fast-food with a smile, fighting fires in challenging environments, or doing what you and your organization do best, to be successful at anything we all need everything!  Start to build an organizational culture that will have everyone consciously dressing for success.  When you do you will have a workforce that is always wearing the right uniform that represents total preparation, and will deliver success every time.    

Tom Pandola is the author of Light a Fire under Your Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership. He is a director of communications in the air medical transportation industry and a cofounder of Third Alarm, a leadership consulting company he started with coauthor Jim Bird. Pandola's work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes.      

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Apply Lean Startup Ideas to Achieve Product-Market Fit

Read Dan Olson’s guest post over at to learn the six steps of the Lean Start-up Process, a way to improve the development and commercialization of new products using Lean principles.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Responsible Leadership at Market Basket

Guest post from Daniel Korschun:

If your CEO got fired tomorrow, would anyone notice? Last year, the board of directors at one of New England’s largest supermarket chains fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
Instead of going about their business as usual, as people at other companies would do, 25,000 employees at Market Basket (they call themselves associates) protested in the streets for six weeks to get Demoulas back. Incredibly, they were joined by almost two million customers, who sustained a boycott over that same period. Even vendors contributed to this protest. With 90% of sales gone almost overnight, the company was basically shut down.

The crisis ended when Demoulas the board agreed to his offer to purchase the 50.5% of the company that had been owned by a rival faction in his family. Protesters celebrated in the streets and in the aisles; they had won their battle to keep their beloved CEO and save their company from a sale to a holding company.
What was it that led to such fierce loyalty to a CEO? In my book (co-authored with Grant Welker), which chronicles the history of the company and the unprecedented protest, we lay out some of the management principles that he follows. He relies on many of the tenets of what might be called responsible leadership.

Create a sense of family: Many companies say they create a sense of family, but it is hard to imagine a company that does it better than Market Basket. Associates work very hard, and a lot is expected of them. But the company also looks after them. It starts with generous wages and profit sharing. However, there is a sense of caring that goes well beyond these monetary rewards. Arthur T. himself has been known to attend funeral services when an associate loses a loved one. In these times of personal crisis, someone at the company often steps in. This personal touch, combined with the pay and good work conditions creates a caring environment where associates feel appreciated and even loved.

Encourage questions: Associates at Market Basket say that no matter what level or function in the company, they feel that if they have a question it will be answered. Some of them add, “you may not get the answer you were hoping to hear, but you’ll always get an answer.” The associate takes this as a sign of respect, and in turn give the most respect to managers who adhere to this sort of openness. Some managers at other companies seem to equate allowing questions usurping power; Market Basket managers tend to encourage questions within a strong chain of command.
Give work meaning: So many associates we’ve spoken to at Market Basket tell us that their job description may not be glamorous, but that they are contributing to something very important. They see themselves as helping people, often low-income families or elderly get food on the table at a price they can afford. Arthur T. and other members of the executive teams remind associates constantly that everyone is needed in order to achieve that goal. These executives say something along the lines of, “the person bagging groceries is just as important, maybe more important, when it comes to making sure that customers leave the store with what they need.”

Arthur T. Demoulas and his management team have been extraordinarily successful in growing the business. They are also unsurpassed when it comes to employee’s remaining loyal; they almost never jump ship. We saw that loyalty in full effect during the protest last year. Part of the secret is a commitment to responsible leadership, where leaders try to create a dignified place to work, where associates feel valued and respected, and where they feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves.

Daniel Korschun is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and a fellow of both the Center for Corporate Reputation Management and the Center for Corporate Governance at LeBow.
Dr. Korschun works with companies to develop innovative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices that generate value for both the company and society. Some of these innovative practices are profiled in his first book, Leveraging Corporate Responsibility: The Stakeholder Route to Business and Social Value (co-authored with C.B. Bhattacharya and Sankar Sen, Cambridge University Press).
His latest book, We Are Market Basket (co-authored with Grant Welker, AMACOM), tells the true story of a grassroots movement to reinstate a beloved CEO and save a $4.5 billion supermarket chain.

Find Dr. Korschun @danielkorschun or on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

10 Timeless Time Management Techniques

It’s impossible to “manage” time. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. You can’t slow it down or speed it up.

However, we can control where we spend our time and take actions to reduce or eliminate time wasters. Managing time is really all about managing ourselves.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 10 timeless ways to take control of day and stop wasting time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

How Good Managers Become Lousy Bosses

Why are there so many bad managers? It’s because organizations are designed to create bad managers. 

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to learn more.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

So You Want to Be a Leader? You Better Find a Mentor

Guest post by Nigel Dessau:

I have never met anyone who was successful in life who did not have at least one mentor. Having good mentors indicates that you have a great network—something every 21st century executive and leader should have. However, finding the right mentor can be a challenge.

A few years ago, I worked for a company that was acquired by Sun Microsystems. I was undecided about whether to stay with Sun after the acquisition, so I consulted with one of my mentors.

My mentor was very supportive of the move to Sun. He noted correctly that, as a Silicon Valley company, Sun offered a very different organization compared to the companies I had worked for. He emphasized Sun’s speed and innovation and the fact that having Sun Microsystems on my resume would be a very good thing.

Ultimately, I considered his input and the overall impact of taking on the role on my own personal portfolio. I accepted the job at Sun. Today, I believe that the skills and experience the job provided were instrumental in rounding out my character and helping my career growth. My experience with Sun helped significantly in my getting my next job.

Do you need a(nother) mentor?

While searching for the right mentor, you need to consider why you want to develop that relationship. What do you hope to get out of it? Your answers will help you identify potential mentors who can meet your needs.

Most people seek a mentor because they know they need help in certain areas of their work or personal lives. If you want someone to help you improve in your current role, then you need to look for someone who has a background similar to yours, but with more depth and experience. Sometimes, you want someone to be your mentor simply because you respect her as an individual, considering what she has accomplished and what you think you can learn from her.

What to Look for in a Mentor

Finding the right mentor is similar to dating. You need to meet a lot of people and not everyone will be the right fit. Before starting a mentor relationship, talk a few times about both parties’ expectations for the relationship.

In these conversations you determine if you both can find the common ground that is the foundation of any good mentoring relationship. In other words, don’t get married until you have dated for a while.

When deciding to ask someone to be your mentor, you should consider three questions:

  1. Is this someone I can relate to and does this person have what I need? Sometimes, we expect a mentor to be a parental figure. At other times, the mentor serves as confessor. There are a variety of mentor relationships. The core of any positive mentor relationship should be some commonality of experience and viewpoint.

  1. Does this mentor have a background that is different enough from mine? Although relating to your mentor is important, an effective mentor cannot be your mirror image. You need someone whose experience is not exactly the same as yours. Look for someone who has worked in a different function, role, department, country, company or some combination of these.

  1. Will this person push me? There is no point to having a mentor who agrees with everything you say and reinforces your own perceptions. Intentionally find someone who will push you and take you to the next level in your career and development.
Building the relationship

A mentor relationship is a sharing relationship. If you want to avoid ‘Muddle Management,’ you also want to avoid ‘Muddle Mentoring.’ Your mentor is not your psychiatrist. He or she is more of a management consultant. Here are some steps to building a stronger mentor relationship:

  1. Think about this relationship not just in terms of what you can get out of it, but what you can and are willing to put into it.

  1. Build a relationship based on trust and honesty. If you don’t think you can do that, you may have the wrong mentor.

  1. Think through how you will manage the mentor relationship. Too many people make the mistake of assuming their mentors will drive the whole experience forward.

  1. Respect your mentor’s time and make sure you use it wisely.

  1. If the mentor relationship is not working out, you need to consider your part in the problem and take whatever steps necessary to make things right or end the relationship

  1. Consider whether your expectations for the mentor relationship are reasonable. You cannot expect a mentor to do your job for you or to give you all the answers.

  1. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. Different people bring different perspectives to your life. Having multiple mentor relationships can provide you with a strong sounding board before you make decisions or take action on something.
In the end, each of us has different careers and different needs to mentors. Moreover, we all know people who could benefit from what we have learned from our mentors. As much as you will get from talking and spending time with your mentors, you will get more from mentoring yourself. It really is the best was to ‘pay it forward,’ which in itself, is the sign that you are a 21st Century Executive.

Nigel Dessau is the author of Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. As a nationally award-winning marketing professional with over 25 years of experience leading corporate marketing and communications for several multi-million and billion dollar companies, he is also the creator and driving force behind the 3 Minute Mentor website, which provides significant career guidance in three-minute videos.
Learn more about the 3 Minute Mentor and Become a 21st Century Executive at or and connect with him on Twitter at @3minutementor and @nigeldessau.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My 10 Favorite Classic Management and Leadership Books

There have been over a million books written on management leadership. I’ve read a bunch of them, but there are 10 that are on my bookshelf that don’t sit still long enough to gather dust.

Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership to see my list, then come back to add yours in the comment section.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Organizational Transformation Requires Leadership at all Levels

Guest post from Satish P. Subramanian

The Business Challenge
The low success rate in organizational transformation and the organizational inability to positively move the dial on the success rate over the years is a strategic problem.  Organizational transformation is the complex endeavor of redesigning the organization which significantly impacts all or most aspects of the business.  Per the 2014 McKinsey research study of 1323 companies involved in organization redesign, less than a quarter of those transformation efforts succeeded.  The success of strategic transformation is gauged by the attainment of strategic objectives, improved organizational performance, and sustenance of the business change. 

Key Characteristics of Successful Organizational Transformation
The silver lining in that organizations have overcome this business challenge.  Organizations with higher success rate in large-scale transformation initiatives have steadily built and improved their ability to do so.  They have planned, designed, executed, and sustained organizational transformation in a holistic, structured way.  These high-performing organizations have integrated and aligned the six dimensions of strategy, people, process, technology, structure, and measurement to realize the transformation success and reap the planned business value.  These organizations have developed strong transformation capability.  Another key characteristic for a successful organizational transformation is an active, end-to-end, and comprehensive leadership. 

Leadership is the Deal Breaker

The extent, level, and nature of leadership on an organizational transformation that redesigns the entire business or significant parts of the business is a key determinant of the transformation success.  Transformations are typically cross-divisional, cross-functional, and intended to make significant changes to the business.  Given organizational matrices, work complexities, and corporate politics, the transformation team relies heavily on leadership traits to secure support, overcome barriers, resolve escalated issues and manage risks across organizational divisions, functions, and levels.  Leadership in analyzing and communicating the impact, securing stakeholder but-in, reinforcing the long-term commitment, and sharing the benefits of transformation with all stakeholders is paramount.  Leadership on both fronts, the technical and human, is essential for the entire duration of the organizational transformation. 

Organizational Transformation Leadership

The lack of a leadership structure and comprehensive leadership significantly jeopardizes the purpose and strategic objectives for embarking on the transformation. Organizational transformation leadership is a critical success factor for strategic objective alignment, integration of the six dimensions mentioned earlier, stakeholder engagement, organizational change readiness, and business value realization.  Leadership in actively and effectively engaging with key stakeholders and sustaining their buy-in ensures the expected business outcomes are realized at each phase or stage gate of the organizational transformation. 

The business need for proactive leadership across all the impacted organizational areas and from the beginning to end of organizational transformation is critical.  Without a multi-level and holistic leadership approach, transformation will inevitably be a failure by it not accomplishing the business objectives and improving organizational performance. An organization transformation leadership model has to be architected and implemented upfront to effectively confront cross-divisional, cross-functional, and cross-level barriers and challenges.

Multi-level Leadership Model for Transformation
The organization structure model details the reporting structure and governance practices for the transformation to redesign the organization and transition it from its current to future state.  The leadership model complements the organization structure model and enumerates the leadership structure.  The multi-level leadership model for organization transformation spells out leadership at each tier of the transformation program organization structure.  In addition, it factors the varying styles and levels of involvement of leadership is needed from the beginning to end of the transformation odyssey.  The holistic leadership model addresses the leadership needs on all fronts – multiple organization levels, organizational functions, divisions, and geographies.    

The below illustration delineates the multi-level leadership model that has enabled many executives to successfully get to the finish line of an organizational transformation marathon. Leadership on organizational transformation cannot reside just at the highest levels.  The business context, leadership scope, leadership level of influence, and style at each organization level are different.  The leadership responsibility and accountability at each level is clearly articulated.  The design, socialization, and deployment of a multi-level leadership model ensures the leadership needs for a successful organizational transformation are met.

Effective organization transformation leadership is a “must have” for transformation success.  The transformational change that organizational transformation is driving requires cross-divisional, cross-functional, and cross-level leadership to realize the transformation purpose, change vision, and sustain business outcomes.  The significant business change initiated by transformation heavily impacts a large number of stakeholders at different levels and the entire organization.  Organization transformation leadership and the right leadership model is the secret sauce for organizational transformation success. 

Satish P. Subramanian is author of the new book, TransformingBusiness with Program Management Integrating Strategy, People, Process, Technology, Structure and Measurement. He is also a Principal at SolomonEdwards. He has spent over 25 years as a leadership consultant in management and technology, and worked with many Fortune 500 companies in the health care, financial services, technology, and manufacturing industry sectors. He has also held executive-level positions at Ernst & Young, Infosys, Point B, and Cambridge Technology Partners. Subramanian holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Mumbai and an MBA from California Lutheran University. He is Program Management and Project Management certified by the Project Management Institute and Change Management certified by Prosci.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

9 Essential Budgeting Tips for Rookie Managers

New managers are often not prepared to manage a department budget.
Read my latest post over at Management and Leadership for 9 essential tips to avoid some of the most common budgeting mistakes made by rookie managers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

9 Meeting Facilitation Skills for Managers

Many managers think they know how to “run” a meeting. They set the agenda, do all of the talking, and make all of the decisions. While this may feel easy and efficient for managers, it’s often a waste of people’s time and does not tap into the creative potential of the team.

What they really need to do is to learn and practice some new skills: meeting facilitation skills.

Read my latest post over at About,com Management and Leadership for 9 skills required to facilitate a meeting, all of which can be learned and improved with practice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Three Little Words

This post was recently published in SmartBlog on Leadership:

What are the most important three words for any relationship between a manager and employee?
No, it’s not “I love you”. Now that would be inappropriate, although not everyone would agree with that opinion. Love their jobs – yes. Love their managers or employees? Eew!.

No, the most important three little words are: “I trust you”.
Trust is the foundation that a positive manager-employee relationship is built on. The absence of trust leads to micromanagement, fear, risk-aversion, backstabbing, destructive rumors, a lack of innovation, mistakes, and a lack of engagement.

What does trust look like? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but here’s a starter list from both the manager’s and employee’s perspective:
When an employee says “I trust you” to their manager, it means:

1. When I share good news and accomplishments with you, you will let your boss and others know.
2. You won’t claim credit for my accomplishments.

3. When I admit a weakness, you will work with me to improve myself, not hold it against me on my performance review.
4. I can come to you when I make a mistake. You’ll treat it as a learning opportunity, but also hold me accountable when needed.

5. You’ll look me in the eye and give me honest, fair, direct feedback when I need it. You won’t sugarcoat it. I’ll know where I stand with you and won’t be blindsided during my performance review.
6. You won’t ignore performance issues – my own, as well as the rest of my co-workers. If I see a co-worker slacking off, I’ll assume you are dealing with it. If I have to bring it to your attention, I know you’ll look into it and deal with it fairly.

7. You won’t “shoot the messenger” if I bring a problem to your attention.
8. You’ll do what you say you’re going to do. I won’t have to remind you more than once.

9. You’ll look out for my best interests. Yes, I know you have a business to run and have to make tough decisions, but you will do whatever you can to make sure I’m treated fairly and with respect.
10. You’ll tell the truth and not hold back critical information.

11. I can discuss my career aspirations with you and you won’t hold it against me.
When a manager says “I trust you” to their employee, it means:

1. When I ask you to do something, I know you’ll do it. I won’t have to follow-up, inspect, ask again, etc…
2. You’ll tell me when you think I’m wrong or about to make a stupid mistake.

3. You won’t throw me under the bus in front of my boss, or behind my back.
4. If you have a problem with me, you’ll come to me first to discuss it.

5. When I ask you to do something and you say you can’t, I’ll know you have good reasons.
6. When we discuss your career aspirations, you’ll be open and honest with me so that I can support you. I shouldn’t be blindsided when you give me your notice.

7. You won’t cover up mistakes. If you screw up, you’ll admit it, take ownership, and focus on solving the problem.
8. You’ll give me a heads up regarding any urgent issues or problems so that I’m appropriately informed and not surprised when I hear about it from others.

9. If your workload slows down, you’ll let me know, or offer to help your teammates with theirs.
10. When I ask you how long something will take, you’ll give me a realistic and honest estimate. No padding.

11. When you complement me, I’ll know it’s sincere. No sucking up.

What would you add to the list? What does “I trust you” mean to you?