Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happiness: A Leadership Imperative

Guest post from Ray Zinn

Having value is the essence of human happiness, and the essence of leadership.
In life, we have amusements, distractions and entertainment galore. In the United States, we have great wealth – loads of money. And yet none of these things are happiness, nor do they achieve it. But tour the Silicon Valley corporate landscape and one would think these things, provided in abundance, are the soul of man.

In 37 years as the head of Micrel Semiconductor, we achieved the lowest employee turn-over rate in the industry. We also had the highest “boomerang employee” rate, an unofficial measure of employees who left the company and came back. We did not pay salaries above the norm. We did not have lavish bistros on site. We lacked many common frills.

But we looked after people’s hearts and made sure they knew they were valuable.

Having Value

To have “value” is to have relative worth, merit, or importance. It is not an element of one’s self, but what you provide. We all provide some degree of value to others. A parent is immeasurably valuable to a child. A professor is very valuable to the college student. Cops are valuable to anyone craving safety. The plumber who unclogs your toilet on a Saturday night before your dinner guests arrive has significant value.

Where this becomes important to business and leaders is that knowing people have value is a source of their happiness. Leaders that expose the value in each volunteer, soldier or employee give to those individuals a sense of worth. Common humility prevents some people from recognizing their own value, but good leaders make certain that same value is acknowledged. Armored with the exposed sense of value, people then happily push forward to accomplish great things.

This doesn’t take much. One member of my team has accomplished some interesting things in his life, including moving the needle in an area of American politics. Yet one of his most prized possessions is a tiny plaque given to him by a long defunct organization for some software he wrote. He cannot recall where he left his $900 cellphone, but he knows exactly in what room and on what wall that plaque hangs.

The reason it was important to him was that the honor was unsolicited, and approved by his peers. It was recognition that he had provided something of value to the organization and its members. It was confirmation of his value to others.

The Value of Leadership

Providing value is what leaders do. “Servant leadership” is a school of thought whereby leaders see themselves as existing to help others. Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, once opinioned that organizational pyramids were drawn upside-down – that the CEO should be on the bottom, tip of the pyramid balanced on his or her head, and his job was to support everyone else.

Part of this philosophy is that leaders must help their teams know their value. Every employee, from your best engineers, to your brightest MBA, to your janitor provides value to others. Good leaders spend time learning the value of their team members, openly praising them for their contributions, and demonstrating how their value aids everyone in the organization.

Interestingly, this is the most important value the leader provides. When done well and consistently, employees return the validation. I retired in 2015, but to this day I receive emails from former employees thanking me for making Micrel a good place to work, and for making them feel alive, connected, and contributing.

Raymond D. “Ray” Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley. Zinn is known best for conceptualizing and in effect inventing the Wafer Stepper, and for co-founding semiconductor company Micrel (acquired by Microchip in 2015), which provides essential components for smartphones, consumer electronics and enterprise networks. He served as Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of its Board of Directors and President since the Company’s inception in 1978 through to its acquisition in 2015.
In November, 2015, Ray Zinn published his first book with McGraw Hill:
Tough Things First, Lessons On Management, Leadership and Entrepreneurialism from Silicon Valley’s Longest Serving CEO. He publishes regular columns about entrepreneurship and building enduring businesses on Entrepreneur, Forbes Tech Council, FORTUNE and CIO.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Who’s On Your Board of Directors?

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

Many companies have a board of directors, but we often don’t think about having a personal board to invest in our professional (and even personal) life.

I ask you--do you have a group of people around you that are committed to your success, who push you to keep learning, and who hold you accountable to your values and purpose?

Few of us do, yet having a personal “board of directors” or “board of advisors” can be a huge help in our lives.

I was a non-profit executive for 15 years. From my best boss, I learned how important a strong board is to the success of an executive's organization - and, personally, to that executive's success.

Many times, board members are volunteers. (In large corporations, some are paid.) Your personal board would be willing volunteers who are interested in helping you grow. In a “best case” scenario, your own board will be a type of support team and accountability group. They will help you stay true to your values, and encourage you to stay on track with being your best.

In a “worst case” scenario, board members will look out for their personal needs, perhaps using you to advance their agendas.

Before you decide to gather a personal board of directors, you need to formalize your personal purpose and values, which includes defining your values in measurable and behavioral terms.   This exercise will chart your course, giving you an outline of how you want to act and who you want to be in your work and personal life.

Once your personal purpose and values statement is clear, then you can consider 3-4 people in your network that you may want to ask to be part of your personal board. These people should consistently demonstrate characteristics such as:
1. Honesty. These people do not hide the truth. They are willing to share from their perspective, even things that may be hard to hear.

2.Service. These people are inspired by helping others.  They would receive joy by being part of such a group, without looking to gain something for themselves.

3.Success. These people have modeled success in their teams, businesses, and even personal life. They demonstrate getting the right things done the right way.

Once you identify some possible candidates, request 30 minutes of their time so you can explain why you would like them to be part of your personal board. Share your purpose and values statement and that you want their help to stay on track.

If they are interested, go further with establishing parameters. For example, “I would need…”

 - An hour a month of your tie for a one-on-one conversation by phone or face-to-face.

- You to hold me accountable for living out my values/purpose.

- Direct feedback on your perception on how I am interacting with others.

- Coaching on opportunities that may help me improve as a servant leader.

You may want to start with just two board members. As you have conversations with them, share your hits-and-misses.  Ask questions. Moreover, perhaps most importantly, listen intently. (After all, you have identified them as people who can add value and inspire you to grow.)

Your meetings can be one-on-one, or sometimes as a group. Either way, you will find benefit if you listen and apply guidance and suggestions from others who care about your success.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Profit Potential of Investing in 20 Minutes of FUN Each Day

Guest post from Dave Crenshaw:

Are your employees having fun?

A business is a reflection of its leadership. How we choose to take charge shows up in company culture, for better or for worse. This is demonstrated in the research, but it also makes logical sense. Ruling with an iron fist inevitably leads to employees reporting low job satisfaction, high turnover, and poor performance. When leadership encourages employees to schedule routine fun throughout our days, weeks, months...everyone’s productivity and engagement levels significantly improve.

In my new book, The Power of Having Fun, I outline the importance of discovering your “Oasis” in each of the major sections of your life (Personal, Family, and Work). By Oasis, I’m simply referring to a moment of fun in your life—a refreshing respite necessary for rejuvenating your psyche as you crawl through the desert of modern work life. It’s a welcome vision of a sparkling blue pool, palm trees shading a soft cabana, and fruit juice and ceviche by the truckload. Best of all, these moments are not a mirage. They are real and soul-refreshing.

How Does the Oasis Idea Apply to the Workplace?

A Work Oasis is how you go about taking meaningful, bite-sized breaks during your normal work schedule. Whether you work in a multinational behemoth with tens of thousands of employees or you’re at a small start-up, the Work Oasis is vital to you and your team’s productivity. Most often, these are micro-Oases (the plural of “oasis,” seriously!) that occur a few times in each workday. Occasionally you or your company may want to consider also a “next-level” hiatus throughout the day-to-day hustle.

While the employee is ultimately responsible for taking breaks, the leadership of the company and mid-level managers can do a lot to make these happen. They can make employees feel confident and empowered to take a mini-oasis. Leading by example, talking about the shift to more meaningful breaks, and scheduling longer monthly breaks will set the wheels in motion.

Time is Money

Instituting daily, weekly, and monthly breaks is an investment with a small upfront cost. Some C-level execs may intuitively see the value of adopting a culture that incorporates more fun. Some may need a little convincing. Let me help you out.

Let’s consider what you might stand to lose. Let’s imagine that your best sales rep, an earning machine that used to burn the midnight oil for you begins the rapid descent toward total burnout. They become unresponsive. They start calling in sick. Next thing you know they are fielding offers from fun-loving competitors and, just like that, they are gone.

What is the cost of that shakeup? Thousands of dollars? Tens of thousands? Those hiring, firing, transition, and retraining costs, not to mention possible headhunter fees, will add up faster than a math professor counting cards in Vegas.

Next, consider how you might benefit from a 2 percent increase in productivity due to implementing the Oasis principle. Based on field experience, I would estimate that the boost from taking small, meaningful breaks is closer to 5 to 15 percent. But 2 percent is a nice, safe, conservative estimate. This would yield one extra workweek of gained productivity from every employee, every single year. What’s the ROI for that kind of a boost?

Also weigh the impact of new referrals from both potential customers and employees. Your team is the greatest group of potential advocates—or detractors—your company can have. Imagine a plethora of people who continually rave about your company to others because you’ve made it so simple for them to enjoy a workday! That’s the kind of marketing goodwill no PR company can buy for you.

Getting Into the Rhythm

Most of us are familiar with circadian rhythm or “body clock”. Similarly, in a workplace context, you have an optimal cycle for how long you can work until you need to take a break. A sleep researcher, Nathan Kleitman, gets credit for discovering the “basic rest-activity cycle”—also called the ultradian rhythm.

Ultradian rhythms are shorter, recurrent patterns in our circadian day. Each person has an optimal cycle for how long they can work before needing a break—or a Work Oasis.

Just as each person has unique nightly sleep needs, a person’s Work Oasis needs to
vary from around 90 to 120 minutes per ultradian cycle.

Translation: if you’re a person that needs a break every 90 minutes, failing to take a break after that period of time will result in a diminishing return. However, by taking and enjoying your oasis, your body will rest its internal clock, recharge its internal battery, and return to optimal levels of performance.

Amazing, right? Once you discover your ultradian rhythm, you can then build a schedule that supports it. The fastest way to find your unique workday ultradian rhythm is through—you guessed it—experimentation. Encourage your employees to experiment and determine their rhythm too. This will help get the ball rolling on having more fun in the workplace.

Time to Act

If you now see the value in adding more fun to your office environment, create an action plan. If you’re not the one calling the shots (yet), discuss this article with leadership and work together to see the change come to fruition. 

Start by scheduling a meeting with your team to discuss the following questions:

1. What are some ways to facilitate our employees taking meaningful, self-planned breaks daily or multiple times per day? (Think of these as occurring every 90 minutes or so, and lasting about 10-20 minutes.)

2. What about on a weekly basis? (Think of these as lasting one to three hours.)

3.What might we do on a monthly basis? (Think of these as lasting a half-day to one day.)

4. What can we do annually?

Wherever you sit on the org chart of your company, you have the ability to affect productive change far more than you realize. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen companies that have changed for the better simply because one employee had the courage to speak up and share something that they learned. That gentle push of the domino started a chain reaction all the way to the top. Even if you don’t influence the whole company, you can certainly influence your coworkers and team and have a little fun for yourself every day.

It all begins with making the Work Oasis an essential part of your productivity strategy.

Dave Crenshaw is the master of building productive leaders. He has appeared in Time
magazine, USA Today, FastCompany, and the BBC News. His courses on LinkedIn Learning have received millions of views. He has written three books and counting, including
The Myth of Multitasking which was published in six languages and is a time management bestseller. His fourth book, The Power of Having Fun, is due for release in September 2017. As an author, speaker, and online instructor, Dave has transformed hundreds of thousands of businesses leaders worldwide.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Changing Where People Sit Accelerates Change

Guest post from R. Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio:

Several months ago, we took a taxi from our hotel to our client to teach a class about change. After a longer than normal ride, we realized the driver didn’t know where to go. Because we didn’t speak the same language as the driver, we found it hard to communicate that we were going in the wrong direction. After several failed attempts to find out where we were (including changing taxis), we eventually arrived in time to teach the workshop. But not until we were anxious, upset, and worried that we might not make it in time. Just before arriving, we realized that our little taxi adventure was similar to how people experience change.

With the accelerated pace of change today, we can all feel a little out of control, frustrated, and anxious about what is happening in our world—just like riding in the back seat of a taxi in a foreign city. Why? Several reasons. First, it feels different when we are receiving versus leading change. When we are the recipient of change, we don’t always get to lead. Consequently, are we confident in the “driver” of the change? Do we feel like we’ll reach our destination using the most direct route? Or is it more like our taxi experience—do we feel lost and unsure about where to go? To some it feels like they’re being taken for a ride, while others wonder “Are the only options to suffer or sever?”

Second, do leaders of change share ownership and accountability? Do they allow employees out of the back seat and into the front seat? Do they engage all of those effected by the change in planning an effective route to get everyone to the correct destination? Are employees allowed to influence the speed of the journey? And are all passengers confident in the leaders’ ability to get them where they are going? In some of the change initiatives we have seen, people have told us that riding in the back seat of the change would be an improvement. Their reality is that they feel like they’re locked in the trunk getting banged up, flailing around, and getting car sick from smelling the fumes.

And third (just to take the metaphor a little further), who gets access to the keys of the change vehicle? Are employees expected to just receive the change from those above, or do they get to take ownership? Do leaders give responsibility but then micromanage every move by taking the wheel out of employees’ hands if they aren’t driving quite right?

Buy-in, commitment, and accountability for change is dramatically different depending on where people sit in the car and if employees think they have some control over the outcomes. Announcing the change and hoping that people will voluntarily change behavior (a typical approach we see a lot), or mandating the change and expecting people to comply (an approach we see even more) never works. Why?

Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian historian, philosopher, and writer said: “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders by all those who could profit by the new order. This lukewarmness arises from the incredulity of mankind who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experiences with it.” If we are not careful, it would be easy to label Machiavelli as a change pessimist. Phrases like “nothing more difficult,” “nothing more doubtful of success,” and “nothing more dangerous” could easily discourage the most courageous of heart. Why would anybody embark on such an adventure—no matter how bright the change vision may be? Yet careful analysis of the Italian politician’s insights could also yield a less pessimistic and a more realistic view of change. Yes, it’s hard; there are enemies to change; and it’s going to take effort to overcome the “lukewarmness” of the status quo. But the real secret to change is getting people out of the back seat (so to speak) and engaged in the process. Changing seats changes employee’s view. And when they can see and influence the direction, speed, and process, most employees will want to be part of the new order of things.

R. Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio are authors of Change The Way You Change: 5 Roles Of Leaders Who Accelerate Business Performance. Lyman is a founding principal of The Highlands Group. Daloisio is founder and CEO of Charter Oak Consulting and a principal of The Highlands Group. Please visit for more information.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

3 Reasons Why Great Leaders Welcome Help

Guest post from Victor Prince:

A few of summers ago, I hiked the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail across Spain. It was the best month of my life for many reasons. Along with a lot of other great things I got by walking almost 500 miles, it also taught me some valuable lessons in leadership.

One lesson came as I stopped for lunch in a café in one quiet, small town and sat by a window while I ate a sandwich. The only sign of life outside was three older men sitting in plastic chairs in the shade in front of a house. They didn’t seem to be talking or doing much other than just sitting next to each other watching pilgrims go by. I supposed it was a better pastime than being inside watching television alone.

A couple of other pilgrims who had just finished eating left the café. They looked around for a yellow arrow and, when they didn’t see any, decided to go to the left. Instantly, the three men sitting in the shade started yelling and pointing to get the pilgrims’ attention. They were pointing them in the other direction to show them the correct way to continue on the Camino. The pilgrims stopped, said thank you and turned to follow the men’s directions.  The old men waved them on and bid them farewell with a “buen camino.”

The speed of their reactions made me think these three men did this regularly. Then it dawned on me these men weren’t just people watching. They were waiting for these opportunities to redirect lost pilgrims. They were perfectly positioned across the street from the only café in town. The corner they were on would have been an ideal place for a painted yellow arrow corners like that usually had. The suspicious part of me wondered if these guys were sitting in front of the arrow to obscure it so their help would be needed.

I finished my sandwich a few minutes later. As I walked out, I too looked for an arrow, and when I didn’t see one, I purposely went the wrong way. Once again, the old men leapt into action and pointed me in the other direction. I thanked them and they wished me a good walk. I smiled as I wondered how many times they had done this ritual before.

As I walked on, that interaction made me think about how I offered and received help in my career. I loved giving advice. If someone sought my advice, I took it as a sign of respect. It gave my ego a boost. It made me feel helpful.

On the flip side, however, I realized I didn’t ask others for advice very often. If I didn’t know something, I would rather figure it out myself. I didn’t want to show weakness. I didn’t want to bother other people. And if people gave me unsolicited advice, I would often be defensive, and take it as criticism. Far from welcoming help from others, I pushed it away.

A light bulb went off with me that told me to be more welcoming of help from others at work for three reasons:

1.    I actually need help sometimes. I have a lot of expertise and experience, but I don’t have all the answers to all the problems and opportunities that arise at work. Whenever I can swallow my pride and ask for help, I can make better decisions. 

2.    It makes others feel good to help. When I do ask for help, I don’t only benefit from the assistance I receive, I also make the helper feel good. That helps me build a stronger relationship with the person helping me. The person helping me is investing in my success. That can help me get their support in the future. I am also giving them the same ego boost and sense of value I get when I provide help. Simply by enabling others to grant the gift of help, I am also giving a gift.

3.    I should model the behavior to others. As a leader, I would be showing the value of welcoming help. It would empower me to demand that people on my team also welcome help. If I modeled that behavior, I could make it explicit in their goals and expected competencies.

Great leaders are always looking to improve themselves. Sometimes that starts by asking others for help.


About the Author: Victor Prince is an author and speaker who teaches strategy, communication, and leadership skills to clients around the world. Victor’s new book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain, comes out in July 2017 from the American Management Association in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. You can find his books, training courses, keynote speeches and more at

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Key to a “Whole Person Culture”

Guest post from Susan Scott:

More and more companies recognize the importance of engaged, fully developed people as employees, and are working to build a “Whole Person Culture.”  Health and wellness programs are a good start, but the way in which employees interact with their leaders and one another trumps perks and benefits. Transparency, candor, compassion, playfulness, ongoing face-to-face feedback, connection, mutual respect and genuine affection are newcomers to old-school organizations. This desire to embrace the whole person is admirable, however at the same time, when it comes down to it, an organization must also take care of the organization itself, or none of us have a place to go every day. 

How can an organization develop successful products or services while also nurturing human beings, flesh and blood, not just business plans and KPIs? How can we care for the whole person AND meet the organization’s goals? And what does “the whole person” mean, given that we don’t all want the same things?  What is the protocol when special circumstances surface?

Think agility. Think conversations. Think flexibility.Think customization, just like organizations do for their clients whenever possible.  

Here are a few examples:

1. A new mother, chose not to disconnect entirely from work during her maternity leave. She wanted to stay involved to some degree and reminded her colleagues that it was okay to give her a call if they had a question.  On the other hand, another employee, a new father, disconnected entirely during his paternity leave.  No one called him and he didn’t check in.  Which was fine. He chose unplugged and she chose partially involved. Same policy, different interpretations. A conversation with their leaders and teammates ensured that expectations were clear up front.  Both got what they needed and came back to work energized.

2. What about snacks in the communal kitchen/cafeteria?  Those more health conscience want bananas, string cheese and hardboiled eggs.  Others want milk duds and doughnuts. What is an organization’s obligation?  The solution may be to stock a variety of snacks, erring on the generous side, and suggested that if someone’s “must have” snacks aren’t on the list, they are welcome to bring their own. 

3. A woman going through IVF talked with her boss and colleagues about her need for flexibility.  They were happy to accommodate her as she went through the process, however they declined her request that the company educate all employees on what IVF is like and what to say and not to say. 

We tend to think that everything is about us. It isn’t. And as John Ruskin said, “When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.”  As a teenager, I remember being told, “The world doesn’t owe you anything. It was here first.”  That may seem harsh but it has served me well. Employees can and should expect reasonable accommodation, but should also realize that they may not get everything they want. If everyone did, the chances of working for a successful organization would likely be nil.

I believe that whoever cares the most wins and it’s important to recognize that what’s going on in our personal lives  - our marriages, children, illnesses, pregnancies, aging parents, the death of a beloved person or pet, not to mention any number of celebratory or heartbreaking events we cannot always foresee and that are not spelled out in a policy - will at times complicate our work lives.  But any organization that has tried to meet everyone’s needs appreciates the truth of this quote: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Since blanket policies don’t work for everyone, we need emotionally intelligent leaders who can handle variances from the norm. What if an employee would prefer something that is not spelled out in a policy? What if something happens that’s not on this piece of paper?  You’ve got to talk it through instead of defaulting to the knee-jerk concern that if you do this for one person, you’ll have to do it for everyone.  Not everyone wants “that”, so no, you won’t.  And what we want is never simple.  Sometimes we no longer want what we thought we wanted and sometimes we want what we thought we’d never want. Other things are clearer. 

We want to bring our whole selves to work.  We want to carry ourselves around with us all the time.  Our real selves.  We want to live our lives in full.  To pretend that what’s going on in our personal lives can be boxed, taped shut, and left in the garage while we are at work is hogwash. It seeps in everywhere. Who we are is who we are, no matter where we are.  Sometimes we need help from our employers as we navigate a personal challenge. 

So how can organizations care for the whole person and the organization?  Ask individuals what that means to them and, if at all possible, make it so. Have the kind of conversations we all long for and have a right to expect. 

Fierce conversations are an effort to understand—first of all, for yourself—something that is worthy of your pondering. They are deeply probing explorations. Speak about the things you want to understand. Most people want to share journeys of this kind. Forget about being clever or impressive. Forget about persuading others to your view.  Saying something louder doesn’t make it true.

We want conversations of the quiet kind, where no one tries to outtalk everybody else, where we really ask and really answer. Where we come out from behind ourselves into our conversations and make them real. Where relationships are enriched rather than depleted.  Where we are glad for what we contribute to the subject and for what we take away.  In a “Whole Person Culture” we have face-to-face conversations where we learn what is needed, help when we can, decline when we must. 

You don’t need permission.  Just do it.

Susan Scott is a best-selling author, popular and sought-after Fortune 100 public speaker, and renowned leadership development architect.
Susan Scott founded Fierce, Inc. in 2001 after 13 years leading CEO think tanks, more than 10,000 hours of conversations with senior executives, and one epiphany: While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, or a life—any conversation can. In 2002, Fierce Conversations — Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time, was published in 4 countries and, shortly thereafter, was listed on The Wall Street Journal and UPI best seller lists, and was one of USA TODAY’S top 40 business books of 2002. She recently released a revised and updated version of the book.  Her much anticipated second book — Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today was published September 15, 2009. In its debut week, the book was listed on The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times best seller lists.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

9 Must Haves for Business Success

Guest post from Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell:

Ask any manager and they’ll agree that people issues are some of the most important ones they face in their day-to-day routine. What can an organization do to assure they’ve got great practices?  The following are nine essentials that must be in place to ensure success.

1.    Corporate culture. Whether an organization realizes it or not, it has a culture. Elements that define your culture is leadership style, communication, the work environment – formal or informal – and how mistakes are handled.  Culture sets the tone for everything you do and everything you stand for.  Leaders matter in any organization because they are so visible.  Be conscious about the culture that you set for your organization.  Manage it through your culture and your actions and hire staff who will fit it.   

2.    Strategic staffing. A key success factor for any organization is having the right people in the right jobs. Hire for attitude and train for skill. Know your culture, have clearly written job descriptions, and train your managers to interview so they can find people who will be successful in their jobs and in your organization. Follow best practices, such as checking references to be sure that you bring in the right people.

3.    Welcoming new employees. There is a wonderful time between when you hire a new employee and when the person starts. It’s an opportunity to reinforce how glad you are that they accepted your offer.  Have the hiring manager send a welcoming letter or e-mail before they start. Be ready and carefully plan out their first week.  Meet with them, take them to lunch, introduce them to co-workers, assign a co-worker to be their mentor and have all of their resources (phone, computer, e-mail address) ready for them.

4.    Employee engagement and retention. Engagement and retention are inextricably linked.  Focus groups and stay-interviews can reveal why people want to come to work every day.  Build on those reasons to encourage excitement about your organization. Don’t forget rewards and recognitions programs. The most incredibly affective recognition strategy is saying thank you – letting employees know you appreciate them.  It costs nothing and can have a huge payoff.

5.    Total rewards programs. Rewarding employees goes beyond wages. It includes indirect compensation such as benefits, rewards and recognition, and flexibility. Your total rewards package should link to your recruiting strategy as well as your goals and objectives. These programs should be compatible with your culture, appropriate for your workforce and industry, and be fair and equitable both internally and externally. Communicate with your employees and make sure they understand that their benefits and other indirect programs that you offer are part of their overall compensation package.  Take the time to educate your employees about their benefits.  They will be very grateful.

6.    Employee development. Development helps employees to be effective in their current jobs and prepare for future opportunities that help the organization to grow.  Training, coaching and mentoring, and stretch assignments are just some of the ways to develop employees. Development opportunities must align with the company’s mission, goals and objectives, so use measurements, benchmarks and metrics to assure they are.  Giving your employees the opportunity to grow and succeed is a good value proposition and will help you to grow a successful company.

7.    Performance reviews. Performance reviews are just a part of performance management – an ongoing process of planning, continual monitoring and frequent feedback.  Managing performance is crucial to employee motivation and feedback is an integral part. Feedback lets employees know they are making a contribution and doing things right.  Make sure expectations are clear and don’t assume your employee’s know them.  Performance reviews should focus on outcomes and results. 

8.    Positive employee relations. Policies communicate expectations and create the framework for fair and respectful treatment. They assure consistency in making decisions while recognizing that each situation is unique and requires flexibility.  Benchmark with other companies in your community and industry to understand best practices, but develop policies unique to the needs of your organization and your employees.  Communicating with employees is critical to positive employee relations.  With communication methods changing rapidly with technology and social media, it’s important that you deliver messages in a method in which your employees like to receive information. 

9.    Ending the employment relationship. Even in a culture with positive employee relations and frequent, open communication, employment relationships end. If the company is initiating the termination, it’s important to be fair and consistent.  Consider how similar situations were handled in the past.  Consider the individual’s tenure and history.  Review your policies, but don’t forget to use judgment.  Keep other employees in mind.  Good performers want to work with other good performers.  After a layoff, the employees who are still employed are also impacted, often being asked to take on more work and responsibility.  Regardless of the reason for the termination, even voluntary terminations, treat the employee with dignity and respect.  Former employees may turn into future employees or they may recommend others with great skills to meet your future talent needs.

About the authors: Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell are influencers to the HR & Business Communities. They’ve taken their collective years as Human Resource professionals and consultants and shared it in The Big Book of HR. They’ve also written The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and collaborate on a weekly blog, Making People Matter. For more information visit

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Leading From Within: Shifting Ego, Ceding Control, and Rising Empathy

Guest post from Sophie Wade:

Leadership is in the midst of a major makeover. The identity of an organization is shifting away from the CEO; elements of control are being willingly transferred to the employee, with empathetic and individualized attention being paid in order to increase engagement. Greater internal transparency is leading to more peer-based relationships and a flattening of the corporate hierarchy. The enterprise environment is evolving and in order to succeed within it leaders’ styles are changing too.

In the emerging “Future-of-Work” settings, it is employee egos that matter, not the CEO's. Identity is increasingly being defined at the company level, and as a manifestation of the corporate culture that is rising in importance. The culture is more an expression of the values of the composite body of the workforce than the identity of the leader of the company--although these are certainly best aligned.

The shift marks a significant move away from Henri Fayol's autocratic “command-and-control” type management theories and methodologies which have been in vogue since the early 1900s. These were coupled with Frederick Wilson Taylor’s popular scientific management theory that focused on financial compensation and the concept that workers’ motivation resulted from payment for volume-based repetitive task work.

Numerous research studies since then highlight compelling evidence of a number of other important—and non-monetary—levers available for motivating workers and improving generally low productivity levels. Autonomy is a key one that impacts leaders’ positions and roles which has been found to be a critical component for increasing employee engagement and thence productivity, as noted already by Peter Drucker decades ago, especially in relation to knowledge workers.

Another factor relates to the fundamental essence of the employer-employee relationship that is evolving as empathy becomes a key characteristic of new leadership. At any level of the organization, leaders can develop a new, positive dynamic by focusing on each employee’s personalized needs, demonstrating respect for the employee and allowing trust to build, thereby increasing engagement as well.

With a talent-focused, individualized approach, each worker’s contributions are recognized and supported, and their opinions more valued and decisions followed. As a result, there is movement along the employer-employee continuum with responsibility and accountability shifting towards the employees. A trust-based, reciprocal relationship changes the nature of interactions and alters the bond with a consequent recalibration.

Acknowledgment of the individual embodies the philosophy behind the “bring your whole self to work” concept. Employees are encouraged to show up at work in the fullness of who they are, more disposed to engage when they can be comfortable and open. Their reciprocal acceptance of others is expected as well. This attitude from leaders promotes an inclusive environment in which they themselves are integrated at the core and from where they lead.

At the same time, the advent of the Internet generating almost ubiquitous accessibility of data caused the collapse of the “information power pyramid” where those previously at the top of corporations who had the most information were able to wield the most power. This leveling of this pyramid has been reflected within the internal corporate playing fields.

In parallel, in a fast-evolving, technology-rich marketplace, flexibility is essential and expertise is increasing its weighting relative to tenure with authority being assigned accordingly. As a result, certain leaders within an organization may be defined temporarily on a project basis depending on specific business needs, with responsibility being distributed to different employees to lead particular teams over time. The consequence is a more flexible and fluid concept of leadership.

Greater transparency is also both causing and promoting less stratified corporate structures, further changing the focus and scope for leaders. Previously, they could control most of what was presented to the public about the company, whether through advertising, press releases, newsletters and other corporate communications.

Now, social media and other applications and platforms have enabled everyone—especially customers—to voice their opinions publicly about business decisions and performance as well as the organization’s products and services. Greater exposure of company information dictates that core messages, which communicate the essence of the corporate culture, values and vision, be consistent. So leaders are now tasked with ensuring the same vision, values and cadence of communications are shared clearly internally and externally.

Wider data dissemination has also created the expectation of employee involvement at all levels of the organization, including participation at every stage of the process. This prospect offers opportunities for more peer-based interaction and a better flow and exchange of information and ideas. There is now a more equal give-and-take between workers and leaders, further reducing the tiers of internal operational dynamics and helping dissolve barriers between departments and divisions enhancing corporate agility.

Overall, the effective transformation is from fixed, highly-structured and tightly-controlled tiered pyramids of accountability to flatter, broad umbrella frameworks that empowered employees work under, enabled to be responsive to the needs of the evolving marketplace. Leaders manage from within as integrated members of the corporate community not lofty, distinct and distant figureheads.

However, these new circumstances are not so simple to adjust to. Directing from the top, issuing instructions, even ordering people to work on strictly-defined tasks in standardized ways can be much more straightforward than dealing with employees on a personalized basis. Adjusting for each person and engaging them from a more equitable position takes attention and sensitivity. However, research such as Gallup’s new State of the American Workplace report (2017) indicate the adjustment is undoubtedly worthwhile and energy well-spent.

This is an opportune evolution. Empathetic environments, energized by leaders whose purpose is to catalyze and enable engagement by treating people individually with respect, are a welcome change as the foundation of the emerging workplace. In tandem, the new leadership styles are also able to generate much-needed boosts to productivity levels yielding better corporate results.

Sophie Wade is author of EMBRACING PROGRESS Next Steps For The Future Of Work and founder of Flexcel Network, which provides consulting services to maximize the benefits
and minimize the disruption in the transition to the new work environment.  Wade is an authority on the wide-ranging Future-of-Work issues impacting companies – such as attracting, engaging and retaining talent, workplace flexibility, Millennial demands, purposed-driven culture, new latticed and diversified career paradigms and more.  She is the 2015-17 President of the New York City chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).  Wade holds a BA from Oxford University in Oriental Studies (Chinese) and an MBA from INSEAD.

For more information please visit