Thursday, December 28, 2017

How to Make Certain Your Team Doesn’t Flatline Before the Finish Line

Guest post by Craig Ross:

When teams lose the heart, focus and energy they need to succeed, it isn’t pretty.
Imagine you’re running a meeting with two cross-functional teammates: Chen is participating via video and Ava is sitting at the table across from you. As the meeting nears its end, you suddenly think to yourself: “I’m not sure my teammates are committed to our plan. They don’t seem focused, nor are they making our work a priority.”

Your heart quickens. You are aware of the consequences if the team doesn’t execute the plan.
If you’ve ever been in this situation, you’re not alone. We’ve observed many of leaders at all levels who recognize this numbing moment: The point where the avalanche of competing priorities buries the team, causing team members to lose focus, commitment, and thus begin to flatline.

This doesn’t have to happen to your team. You can quickly elevate your team’s attention to what matters most and mobilize hearts and minds forward to the finish line.
First, what do many people do in the scenario described above when they sense a lack of engagement in teammates? With the best of intentions, they ask, “So, what do you think? We’re ready to go then, right?” To which Chen nods his head. (Or was that an interruption in the video feed?) And Ava lifts her eyes up from her smartphone and replies, “Sure.”

“Good then,” the well-intentioned leader nervously says. “Let me know if you need my help with anything. And let’s check progress next week. Okay?”
Chen, however, has already signed off; the screen is black. Ava smiles as she picks up her laptop, then puts her phone to her ear and begins a different conversation as she walks out the door. And the numbing gives way to flatlining; one more objective is heaped on top of countless others.

To save a team from flatlining, we as leaders must not do what is normal, and must instead do what’s natural. Normal is to get deep into the details by asking standard, boilerplate questions. You likely recognize these inquiries:

·         What has to be done?

·         How will we get there?

·         Who will do what?

·         When and how will we measure progress?

·         (Oh, and what’s for lunch?)
These questions are essential for great execution. And, they’re normal: Everyone is asking them everywhere. And that’s the point. Meeting after meeting, day after day, with functional plans conflicting with the objectives of other teams…few can sustain the repetitive, low-conscious thinking being required of them. And this doesn’t even include adding the stress in the lives of each teammate outside the workplace. Kids, spouses we’d like to see at least once in a while, aging parents—it is no mystery why people go numb. There should be little question why in the normal meeting people tune out and the team flatlines.

To solve this, leaders can and must go beyond the boilerplate execution questions by making inquiries that research shows naturally make people think about what matters most.
We’ve found something consistent in the 39 countries we’ve worked in: People want to think at higher levels. They want to be inspired. They want to break free from the mundane. And while people recognize the following five categories of questions that mobilize hearts and minds, they also agree that they’re not asking them enough. Not even close.

Consider the meeting with Chen and Ava. Imagine what would have happened when the leader of that meeting would have accomplished by asking questions like these.
5 Classes of Questions that Trigger Hearts and Minds


·     “Quick guys, before we leave let me ask you: How is delivering on our plan entirely aligned with our purpose as a team?”

·     “How does delivering excellence on our plan communicate to the rest of the organization that we’re delivering on our purpose?”

·  “What do you see our customer doing differently or better because of our ability to deliver successfully on this project?”

·    “What will we be thinking and doing more of as a team as we demonstrate that we are successful?”

·    “We’ve all got a lot on our plates. Is delivering on this project a high priority to you? And if so, why?”

·    “We all know the external rewards for delivering this project successfully. What I’d like to know: What intrinsically motivates you to give your best now?”

·    “How will we know we’re functioning as one team as we move forward?”

·    “What will we agree to do if we discover we’re behind schedule or challenged in our responsibility?”

·    “What ultimately is it that we’re trying to achieve as a team even beyond hitting our numbers?”

·    “What is our objective as it relates to how we’ll function as a team while we deliver on the business imperative?”
These five classes of questions make people think in ways they often don’t get to during a typical day. This means that using these questions isn’t normal. But if what’s normal is seeing too many teams flatline due to the pressure of endless and competing priorities, why keep doing the same thing? By asking these types of questions, you mobilize hearts and minds, which causes a higher level of consciousness among the team. This is how you make sure your team crosses the finish line: mobilize hearts and minds.

Craig Ross is CEO of Verus Global and co-author of Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact. For 20 years Craig has partnered with C-suite executives and leadership teams across numerous industries in global organizations, such as P&G, Alcon, Oceaneering, Cigna, Nestle, Universal, Ford, and other Fortune 100 companies. Combining a passion for uniting people and a conviction that organizations achieve extraordinary things through teams, Craig delivers practical and real-world expertise to those he serves. With his high-energy and dynamic approach, he equips client-partners with the how to shift their thinking and actions to drive greater outcomes and activate their greatness.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Eight Ways Leaders Inspire Us

Guest post from Andy Cunningham:

Great leaders inspire others to take action. They confer a feeling of meaningful contribution. And they seek to improve the human condition. They come in many different flavors, but they all have one thing in common: followers. The reason for this is that somehow, some way, they inspire those around them. Here are eight of the ways.

1. Vision: Some leaders, like Steve Jobs, have the power to see what’s next and with that power they attract people who are committed to changing the world and adopting that as a lifestyle. Tee shirts worn by members of the Macintosh team in the early 1980s boasted “90 hours a week and loving it.”

 2. A Worthy Cause: Appealing to an inner sense of social responsibility with a point of view makes leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, amass followers who want to make a difference. Her opinions on important social issues such as gender discrimination, abortion, and search and seizure have been the catalyst for a virtual RBG movement.

3. Superior Talent: People who choose to work with leaders who possess off-the-charts talent, like Michael Tilson Thomas of the San Francisco Symphony who has won 10 Grammy awards, do so with the hope that some of that talent will rub off and make them better at their craft. A former child prodigy and third generation artist, Tilson Thomas was awarded with the National Medal of Arts in 2010 by President Obama.

4. Self Improvement: Leaders like Suze Orman, who was named one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes, provide powerful and personal incentive for people to reach beyond themselves and gain control of their financial lives.

5. Team Building: Some leaders just know how to build teams that move mountains; and they do, even in the presence of failure. Repeatedly facing insurmountable odds, Elon Musk, entrepreneur, investor and inventor, attracts people who are challenged by naysayers. 

6. Winning: Those who create cooperatively functioning groups offering members the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves tap into a spirit that unites people in a common purpose. Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, which has the highest all-time NBA regular season win-loss record percentage, knows how to put a team together, how to win and how keep a fan base engaged. 

7. Tribal Affiliation: Because humans are tribal by their very nature, leaders who offer a sense of belonging, like Mark Benioff of the immense Salesforce ecosystem, gather up people in droves with their influence and inspiration. In Benioff’s case he went a step further and applied his charisma and leadership to inspire other leaders to move from success to significance.

8. Opportunity: Advocating equal opportunity for women, leaders like Gloria Steinem, social activist, author and entrepreneur, inspire millions with courage and bravery and manage to change the status quo to create opportunity for others.

About the Author:
Andy Cunningham is the founder and president of
Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition (McGraw-Hill). An entrepreneur at the forefront of marketing, branding, positioning and communicating “The Next Big Thing,” Andy has played a key role in the launch of a number of new technology categories and products (including the Apple Macintosh) over the past 35 years. Today she advises startups, serves on several corporate boards, is a Henry Crown Fellow and a trustee at the Aspen Institute.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hey Leader… PHAT is Good For You!

Guest post from Dean Lindsay:

I read a funny cartoon in Fast Company magazine a good while back.  It was of two fish
swimming next to each other.  One of the fish had a hook dangling from its mouth.  That fish said, “Oh, it was a scary couple of minutes, but now I am making a fortune as a motivational speaker.” 

A few times over the years I have been referred to as a motivational speaker and at first I really didn’t care for it. It doesn’t bother me so much anymore, it kind of helps my day rate.  Anyway, I had this image of a motivational speaker as being a kind of smarmy, slightly out of touch and over-the-top “people person,” who sprinted through crowds giving everybody high fives, before ascending to the podium to share his rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story. 

He or she might then encourage seminar goers to turn to their neighbor and repeat a soulful mantra like, “I am.  I will.  I can,” followed by a cleansing breath, a mindful hokey pokey, the sharing of a deep secret and a good cathartic cry.

But as I sought the fundamental meaning of being motivational, I came to realize that each of us has the need and the opportunity to be motivational every day of our lives. 

Effective teachers are motivational.
Effective parents are motivational. 
Effective leaders are motivational. 
I sure as heck better be motivational.  As a leader, you had better be too.  Why else would others listen to us or be led by us? 

The word “motivation” can be broken down into two root words:  Motive & Action.

Motive: an inner drive that prompts a person to act in a certain way.  Motive is the goal or object of one’s action.  Other words for motive include reasons, purpose, intention. 

Action: the doing of something.  Examples of actions include:   Do, rent, read, act, try, sign up, show up, eat, move.

Motivation, therefore, is: the inner drive to do, to try, motivation is the internal reasons to act.

Simply put:  Internalized Reasons Create Movement.  It is not a goal that motivates, but internalized reasons behind a goal that propels action. 

Shakespeare wrote, “Strong reasons make strong actions.” For others to choose to take the strong actions we need them to take, they have strong reasons. These reasons have to way heavy in there mind. These reasons must be PHAT!

PHAT stands for Pretty, Hot And Tempting.  Basically PHAT means attractive and not attractive like I want to smooch you, but attractive like I want follow you, be lead by you.

It must weigh heavy in the minds of the people we desire to inspire to action (lead) that our ideas, our leadership, and our initiatives will help them personally move forward.  Organizations are only as strong as their team members’ personal goals and the team members’ belief that the organization’s progress helps them progress toward those goals.

Effective leaders learn about team members, employees, coworkers, and customers, uncovering their unique reasons to act.  The more we can get into the shoes, hearts, and heads of the people we desire to inspire to action, the more powerfully we are able to share why our initiatives, ideas, products, and services are beneficial and valuable to them.  It’s Influence.  It’s Persuasion.  It’s Attraction.  And, yes it's motivational.  Make your leadership PHAT (Pretty, Hot And Tempting)… it’s good for you, your team and your organization!!  

Dean Lindsay, author of HOW TO ACHIEVE BIG PHAT GOALS, is a graduate of the University of North Texas and served on the advisory board for UNT’s Department of Marketing and Logistics. He has helped build engaged sales leadership and customer service cultures at a variety of companies, such as New York Life, Gold’s Gym, and many more. For more information, please visit

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Developing Great Leaders: The Human Workplace Perspective

Guest post from Andy Swann:

To develop great leaders, we need to develop everyone. In the modern world of work, being a leader doesn’t require a job title, it’s something any or all of us can take responsibility for. Sure, some of us agree to be tasked with it, but that doesn’t mean those are the limits of leadership in any given organization.

Over the years, I have discovered many examples of instances where individuals and teams had taken the initiative to do something they believed was in the best interests of the organization, even when it put their jobs at risk. It’s this kind of entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be nurtured in all workplaces and forms the basis of great leadership in leading by example. Whether through giving permission explicitly, or creating the freedom for people to thrive in their own way, great leadership often just needs the organization to get out of the way and allow it to happen, rather than try to actively develop it.

Because organizations today are different.

In an age where increasingly, we can get robots to do the robotic jobs, what we really need people for is what they are great at – being people. It’s individuality that unlocks the future of great work and by unleashing people, we allow them to create impact in very real ways – through creativity, collaboration, communication, compassion and other human traits. These things are the basis of innovation, which in turn is the basis of a successful future, so by enabling people to thrive, we enable organizations to succeed.

Removing all restrictions and creating a free-for-all where anyone can do anything with no accountability will always fail, but by starting from a position of freedom and implementing only the absolutely required parameters (#1 don’t break the law!), people are given license and opportunity to try things in the interest of the organization. There is evidence of this working within organizations as simple as the software startup Rarely Impossible, through to the most complex global players like Schneider Electric and Microsoft. The question is about responsibility and empowering the individuals.

Our organizations are platforms for people, because for an organization to thrive, it only needs three things – the right people, in the right places, doing the right things. Leaders, both those tasked with the responsibility and those who assume it, are the guardians and enablers of that platform. Think of them as the helpful pointers that pop up when you use an app to show you how to get the most from the interface and use it properly.

This may seem like a simplistic view, but time and time again, the examples I encountered showed that when acting as a platform for people, organizations can achieve great things. When the basis of the organizational platform is the right people, everyone and anyone can be a leader, because the platform is set up to allow them to act in the interest of the organization at all times. Leadership becomes natural!

If an organization wants to actively develop leaders though, it needs to guide them as platform builders and skill them to:

·         Listen to user feedback objectively.

·         Provide solutions to problems (fix bugs in the platform).

·         Meet the needs of the user base.

In short, they need to be human.

Leadership expert Chris Barez-Brown believes that leadership should be refocused in two ways. If leaders are both creative and conscious, they become aware enough to understand what is required and do what it takes to remove that barriers to their colleagues (and the organization) thriving.

Developing great leaders is about enabling people to thrive and ensuring that in turn, they enable others. It’s simple, better and more human.

Andy Swann, author of THE HUMAN WORKPLACE, leads the development and delivery of people-focused transition management at BDG Architecture + Design.  He is also the founder of Simple Better Human, a creative organization development consultancy. Swann runs the All About People conference and speaks around the world on the benefits of taking a more human approach to organizational development.
For more information, please visit

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Key to Productive Relationships: Honoring Separate Realities

Guest post from Larry Senn:

Think about the last argument you had with a colleague or even a loved one. Chances are, it was because you saw, experienced, or truly believed something that was different from the other person. Most confrontations, arguments, break ups, and irritations stem from seeing things differently from others.

Many of this day-to-day irritation, anger, blame, and self-righteousness can be avoided by a simple concept called Honoring Our Separate Realities. A lot of needless conflicts can be avoided and time saved if we just remember certain truths about life:

- Things are not always the way they appear to us

- Others inevitably see things differently

- Our views and judgments are shaped by our backgrounds and experiences, as are the views and judgments of others

- It’s generally impossible to say who is “right” or “wrong” when matters of opinion and perspective are involved.

Everyone lives in a separate reality – and the only reasonable thing we can do as mature individuals is to respect those realities. If we don’t respect other’s realities, we risk living on the judgmental/blaming floor on the Mood Elevator* -- in this stage you will be much more argumentative, irritable, and angry. In addition, if you truly believe you are right and others are wrong all the time you will experience much less growth and learning because you believe you have all the answers and won’t be open to new ideas. This stagnates your personal growth as a leader.

How do we honor other’s realities?

As with most things, the first thing is to be aware that every person sees the world through their own set of glasses and their viewpoint has been determined by their beliefs, and professional and personal experiences. What they see is what they see. It’s not right or wrong; it is what it is.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eventually have a conversation with them to understand how they see things, but the conversation will go much smoother if you first understand that what they see may be very different from what you see and that’s OK.

The next step is to pause when we hear a colleague saying something we disagree with.

Then ask yourself the following questions internally:

- What is their thinking? Why do they see it differently?

- How has their background, their experiences, or their education shaped their worldview so that they perceive something I don’t perceive?

These questions shouldn’t focus on who is right or who is wrong. These questions serve to open your mind to understanding how that person sees the world. It also expands your perspective to new  information, perspectives, and even relationships, if you allow yourself to try to see something from a different perspective

Another way to honor others’ realities is by being conscientious of how you communicate with others. If you make it clear that what you are saying reflects your personal point of view rather than implying to others you know the absolute truth, you’ll come off as less dogmatic and certain. Use phrases like:

- It appears to me....

- The way I see it…

- From my point of view…

- I think…(versus I know)

- If I’m not mistaken…

- I may be wrong, but…

By taking the time to listen and communicate in a way that will help guide you to honor other’s realities you will experience more time up The Mood Elevator. As with many pointers out of my book, use your feelings as your guide.

When we are overly certain about our opinions and ideas – being too bossy, in some ways – we tend to experience such feelings as defensiveness, judgment, self-righteousness, and impatience with others. As a leader, it helps to become acquainted with these emotions and learn to recognize them when they pop up. They are signs that you have stopped listening and learning, and instead are shutting out people and possibilities. When this happens, stop talking, sit back, take a deep breath, and try to shift to a mood of curiosity and interest.

* The Mood Elevator is a concept and awareness tool Senn Delaney uses to describe our moment-to-moment experience of life. It encompasses a wide range of feelings and together, these emotions play a major role in defining the quality of our lives as well as our effectiveness.

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator, the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more About Larry and his work at his website,