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May 11, 2016

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Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Abundance, Gratitude and Ambition

November 19, 2012

This week we celebrate our American Thanksgiving.  Canada celebrated theirs a few weeks ago, and other countries have their own schedules, but this week America pauses to reflect and give thanks.

I know (and love!) that Thanksgiving has become a favorite time for family reunions, enormous feasts, and football.   This is good!

But it is also appropriate to pause and reflect. As much or more than other nations, we have a unique story.

Modern America began with a group of refugees washed up on the shores of theNew World.  They braved the Atlantic in tiny, leaking ships, leaving family and everything familiar behind, knowing that for most of them it was a one-way trip.  They were a desperate bunch, seeking liberty, freedom of religion, and (at least in part) adventure.

The first year, they nearly starved.  They tried forming a communal society, but it quickly broke down and so they divided up the land into personal plots, encouraged individual effort, and by the second year they had cause to celebrate.  They gave thanks.

As we have our day of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to ponder the relationship between abundance, gratitude, and ambition. 

We have much to be grateful for.  Almost everyone who reads this is rich.  We sometimes forget that, and mostly take it for granted.  We have warm homes, clothes on our backs, food on the table, microwave ovens and cell phones. We have cars, which are frequently parked on the street because our garages are full of our “stuff.”

And still we worry about lack and shortage. We worry about the lack of money, or an energy shortage. We worry whether we’ll have enough to retire or put our kids through college.

So it is a vital question: Do we live in a world of abundance, or a world of lack? It’s a very personal decision, based on your own perspective. I can’t give you the answer, but I’m convinced how you answer that question does make a difference. It changes you attitude, your self-image, and your view of the world around you. Personally, I see a world of abundance, but that’s just me.

I see a world of abundant opportunity and energy, a world over-flowing with light and freedom, with creativity, and chances to make a difference.  How about you?

Second, many have noted that the “attitude of gratitude” opens doors and empowers us.  If we live with fear or jealousy, an attitude of lack or anxiety, everything we do is inhibited and hesitant.  Gratitude gives courage. It fosters optimism, and reduces the sense of risk.   In a world in which we strive and fight for every scrap, we dare not take risks or act boldly, for fear of losing what little we have.

But in a world of abundance and with an attitude of gratitude, we are free.  We can strive boldly, we can take wild, crazy risks, and enjoy the ride.  Which, I suspect, is the source and definition of ambition. 

Many have achieved great things with an unhealthy attitude of “getting all you can” or “doing unto others before they do unto you,” but their success seldom lasts.  That attitude of fear and greed and competing for scarce and fleeting success, carries within itself the seeds of its own downfall.

True ambition is the desire to build, to create, to respond eagerly to the riches around us and make things better for as many people, in as many ways, as we can.

This Thanksgiving, notice the abundance around us.  Be grateful!  And out of abundance and gratitude, renew your commitment to create something special, something lasting, something that will benefit all of humankind.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Where Are You Going in Life?

November 11, 2012

by Phil Humbert 

This week, along with doing some good work and enjoying good times with family, I’ve been surrounding myself with history. There’s some amazing history in the old mines and ranches around us in Colorado, and I’ve been sampling moments of the History Channel’s series on the industrialists who built the railroads, steel mills, and inventions of the 19th century. It’s wonderful material and when I get a chance, I’m eager to watch the entire series on DVD.

 I’ve also been reading Conrad Black’s extraordinary biography of Franklin Roosevelt. The thing is massive (over 1300 pages!) but so well written it goes fast and gives a rich picture of this incredible man.

Obviously, there are many things to learn from FDR, but what stands out for me is that he knew where he was going in life.

So many of us never figure that out. Even when he didn’t have a clue how to solve the challenges of the Great Depression, he never doubted his long-term direction in life. When polio robbed him of his health and threatened his life, he never doubted. He simply renewed his determination to hold high office and live the life he wanted. Are you as clear about your goals?

What is the “big idea” in your life? What’s the ultimate destination for you? Whether you call it your purpose or mission, or refer to it as your goal or use some other label, I’m convinced that knowing what we truly want in life is essential. Without a vision, a “north star” or major dream, I think we waste too much time wandering around. We feel “lost” or confused. We try things but eventually our enthusiasm wanes and we end up “starting over.”

That was not a problem for President Roosevelt. Obviously he had flaws and it wouldn’t surprise me if as many of our readers condemn him as admire him. We can disagree over his politics, his values, his behavior and so forth.

But we can still learn from his sense of purpose.

His life took many detours, most notably because of his polio. He was reluctant to run for Governor of New York in 1928, and his personal finances and his family life were often a mess, but through it all he kept his eyes on the prize. He aimed to become President because he saw it as his destiny. He worked for it and he never flinched.

What is the theme and major challenge of your life? What is your destiny?

Many of us say we “don’t know” but I think, deep inside, most of us do know. What we lack is not the “knowing” but the commitment and a strategy for getting there. Without a sense of “how to do it” we are easily discouraged. We get lost or distracted by the stresses of daily life.

Don’t let that happen!

You have a purpose. Dig deep to discover (or recover) your dream and find ways to move in the direction of your most important priorities. The path is unlikely to be straight or easy, but it’s critical that you keep going.

In life, we get pretty much what we think about all day long. In the long run, we get what we expect; we end up where we are headed. In our daily lives, it’s critical that we are clear about our direction and that we keep going.

Surround yourself with people and books and activities and events that move you toward your ultimate goals. You probably won’t get there in a day, or even in a year, but it’s essential that you keep going. But, “Where are you going in life?” really is a vital question. Whatever your ultimate destination, think about it all day, every day, until one day you may wake up to find that you’ve arrived.

Categories: Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Sum Up Your Leadership in Six Words by John Baldoni

March 6, 2012

Once upon a time Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story using only six words. Impossible, some thought. Not for Papa, as Neal Conan explained on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” The next day Hemingway produced this: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Clare Booth Luce, according to columnist “Wall Street Journal” columnist Peggy Noonan, once told President John Kennedy that “a great man is one sentence.” Noonan writes that Lincoln’s life could be summed up as “He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.” My colleague, Scott Eblin, adapted the concept to summing up one’s leadership legacy. “It takes time and effort to boil down the essence of what you’re trying to do to a short and memorable idea.”

Read on…

Categories: Leadership, Leadership development, Personal development.

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The Four Keys

March 6, 2012

The Ken Blanchard Companies have found that in organizations where leading at a higher level is the rule rather than the exception, leaders do four things well.

  1. They set their sights on the right target and vision.
    Great organizations focus on three bottom lines instead of just one. In addition to financial success, leaders at great organizations know that measuring their success with people–both customers and employees–is just as important as measuring the success of their financial bottom line. In these organizations, developing loyal customers and engaged employees are considered equal to good financial performance. Leaders at these companies know that in order to succeed they must create a motivating environment for employees, which results in better customer service, which leads to higher profits.
  2. They treat their customers right.
    To keep your customers today, you can’t be content just to satisfy them. Instead, you have to create raving fans–customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they want to tell everyone about you. Companies that create raving fans routinely do the unexpected on behalf of their customers, and then enjoy the growth generated by customers bragging about them to prospective clients.
  3. They treat their people right.
    Without committed and empowered employees, you can never provide good service. You can’t treat your people poorly and expect them to treat your customers well. Treating your people right begins with good performance planning that gets things going in the right direction by letting direct reports know what they will be held accountable for–goals–and what good behavior looks like–performance standards. It continues with managers who provide the right amount of direction and support that each individual employee needs in order to achieve those goals and performance standards.
  4. They have the right kind of leadership.
    The most effective leaders realize that leadership is not about them and that they are only as good as the people they lead. These leaders seek to be serving leaders instead of self-serving leaders. In this model, once a vision has been set, leaders move themselves to the bottom of the hierarchy, acting as a cheerleader, supporter, and encourager to the people who report to them.

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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Improve Performance with Meaningful Direction

February 6, 2012

How are most organizations doing when it comes to managing the performance of people in their companies? Not very well, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies. In talking with managers and direct reports over the past year, Halsey has heard a lot of frustration with the process of leading others.

As she explains, “Managers are upset because their people aren’t doing what they think they should do. Direct reports are upset because they are not getting the direction that they need.”

Part of the problem comes from confusing competence with commitment, according to Halsey.

“When I ask managers what they most want from their people, I hear things like, ‘I want them to have a positive attitude. I want them to communicate better. I want them to be more of a team player.’

“So, managers are thinking about the traits that they would like their employees to exhibit, instead of the actions they would like them to be taking.”

That’s a challenge, according to Halsey, who points out that managing performance means identifying the goals that you are looking for from that teamwork, from that better attitude, etc. In Halsey’s experience, managers are not being clear enough with their direct reports about what they are supposed to do in terms of the specific tasks and goals. Managers may have a gut instinct about what they want their people doing, but they are not communicating it clearly to their people.

Without a clear sense of what to do and how to rank and accomplish their most important tasks, employees are left on their own to prioritize their work. But if people aren’t clear on what they are supposed to be doing, they won’t be as successful as they could be. They will be involved in a lot of activity, but the activity will not necessarily be in line with the organization’s overall goals.

That’s when morale problems arise. To feel important and valued, people have to see the alignment between their day-to-day work and what the organization is looking to achieve.

Managers are mistaking an employee’s need for direction and support as a lack of engagement. That incorrect diagnosis is leading managers to the mistaken belief that if they get their direct reports more fired up, they’ll get the work done. The real problem is that people want to know what their role is and how they are supposed to do it.

This leads to a “where do you start” situation with people wanting more communication and clarity about how their work aligns with overall organizational goals while managers are expecting people to know what to do and believing that if they can just encourage folks to be more positive and have a better attitude, they will figure out the rest on their own.

How Did We Get into This Situation?

According to Halsey, some of the problem stems from the fact that managers are busier than ever today. As she explains, “Most managers have their own task-related goals in addition to their people-management duties. When you are trying to juggle both, it’s easy to fall back into a mentality of, ‘I hired you to do this job and I expect you to get it done.’ And what I’m hearing from people is that managers are doing a great job of telling people what to do, but rarely are they doing a great job of telling people how to do it.”

To illustrate her point, Halsey describes a recent classroom situation where she asked participants to identify a “best boss” they had worked for and list the leadership behaviors of that person. One participant related his story about an early sales position he had with an organization and how the sales leader went on calls with him. As the participant described, “Each time we went out, he added something new that I had to do. He would show me what it was and then he modeled it for me with the next client we talked to. After that, with the next client, I would have to do it, and he would give me feedback. He took the time to develop me by not only telling me what I needed to do, but helping accelerate my development by showing me how to do it.”

A second factor is that today, more than ever, managers want to be perceived as supportive. In teaching Situational Leadership® II skills to hundreds of thousands of managers over the past 30 years, Halsey explains that the facilitators at The Ken Blanchard Companies have known for a long time that of the four leadership style possibilities—Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating, the dominant natural style of most managers is Supporting, which features a lot of supportive behaviors but little direction.

Supporting is not a “bad” style, but it can lead to frustration among people who are not getting the specifics they need about how to be successful. This can be confusing for managers, especially when employees complain that their manager is not communicating.

As Halsey asks managers who are faced with this situation, “Yes, you are communicating, but are you communicating about the right things, to the right people, at the right time?” She explains, “It is so exciting when you see a leader with a good plan for developing someone through all of the phases of development that employees go through. Most managers are pretty good at assigning the task and then celebrating success, but sometimes they don’t have everything in between figured out.”

So, What Can Managers Do?

Managing performance is challenging these days with all of the different things people need to do and with working managers pressed for time. But, savvy managers can improve the situation by focusing on three areas:

Clarify roles and goals. Create alignment between individual tasks and the organization’s initiatives. Use impact mapping to connect the dots.

Identify individual development levels and needed leader behaviors for each employee’s key tasks. What is the employee’s experience with this task? What does he or she need from a manager in terms of direction and support?

Schedule weekly one-on-ones. Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with direct reports to see how they are doing. A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the direct report can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive.

Get Clear on What’s Important

With time and resources at a premium, leaders need to focus their people on the critical tasks to be accomplished. Begin by identifying the goals and strategic imperatives of the organization. Next, clarify what each team and department needs to be doing to help the organization achieve its goals. Finally, break it down to individual tasks and goals to achieve the desired results.

People will get up to speed faster and produce the results your organization is looking for. In addition to increased productivity, your organization will also see an improvement in morale and engagement. As Halsey explains, “There’s a greater sense of pride in your work and everyone feels better when you’ve worked together to achieve a common goal.”

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Performance Management.

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How to be a Leader at any Level

February 6, 2012

By John Baldoni

When purpose is clear, it provides something upon which to build for the future. Such a future depends on harnessing the talents of employees and developing them to lead into the future. In too many organizations, front-line managers are viewed as doers not deciders, implementers not contributors, and compliers not creators. If these precepts seem arcane, more in keeping with nineteenth-century management principles than twenty-first-century ways of managing, it is because they are, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company. Unfortunately, this study found that these ideas are still au courant in today’s world of front-line management, particularly in distributed management locations – for example, retail, transportation, and real estate. McKinsey concludes that such practices are making organizations “less productive, less agile, and less profitable.”

Most corporations operate on principles of hierarchy. That is good for ensuring the development and execution of strategy, but it falls flat, as the McKinsey study and others like it have found, when it comes to being responsive to change and responsible for people. One highlight of the study noted that managers were spending more time on transaction than transformation-that is, more on administration than people. In contrast, “at best-practice companies, front-line managers allocated 60 to 70 per cent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching.” Additionally, such managers had more opportunities to make decisions and “act on opportunities.” If I were a manager, I would use this information as my entree to advocate for more autonomy, or what we might call “leading from the middle.” Here are some ways to put your ideas into action:

Read on…

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, High performance team, Leadership, Peformance management.

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Curious Insight into Employee Motivation and the Pygmalion Effect

February 6, 2012

Great Performance Starts with Great Expectations No, by “great expectations,” I’m not referring to the Dickens book. Presumably when you hire or promote someone, you expect great things from them. You don’t think, “Yes, this warm body will be adequate enough, I suppose.” If so, then you’re probably not reading this article. Studies based on the … Read More

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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We Are Not Billiard Balls!

January 15, 2012

You and I are not ruled by Newton’s Laws of Physics. It’s true that Newton’s Laws do explain a lot about the world around us–gravity and stuff like that. But you and I are not billiard balls bounced around by nature! We are not planets wandering aimlessly through space.

We seem to have something called “Free Will.” We make decisions and occasionally we surprise ourselves! 

Philosophers can debate the details, but as far as I can tell, I DECIDE what to wear each morning. I think you really can DECIDE whether or not to read this article. You can decide what’s for dinner. You can decide what you’ll read or watch or do with your time. And sometimes, just for fun, we make decisions that shock and amaze even our best friends– “You’re doing WHAT????”

This issue of free will has a rich history with philosophers and theologians. It played a huge role in the Reformation, the founding of the early American colonies, and it still troubles behavioral Psychologists today.

And it is the power behind all success (and failure) in life.

In the most practical sense, the biggest force I see opposed to Free Will is a little thing called, “Habit.” Sometimes it goes by other names and you may recognize it as your Comfort Zone or Tradition or Other People’s Expectations.

Try to imagine two grand forces, a very personal little war between Good and Evil, except there’s nothing spiritual or super-natural about it. It exists in your own life, in your thoughts and imagination.

On the one side is Free Will.  For now, this is the good guy!  (Free Will can get us into a world of hurt, too, but for now let’s look at the Good Side.)  Free Will asks you to explore new ideas, to pursue your dreams, and try things. It’s full of possibilities and daring new options. It argues that you could double your income, learn a language, learn to dance or move to Paris, just for the fun of it. Free Will says, “I can if I want to!”

On the other hand is Habit. Habit says things like, “Don’t rock the boat.” Don’t take chances, and “this is how we’ve always done it.” Habit keeps things safe and familiar to the point of boredom. Habit keeps you in a rut.

Personally, I prefer to focus my time and energy on Free Will. It’s seems to be more fun!

If I have Free Will, I can change things. If I have Free Will, I can learn stuff. With Free Will, my life can be different and better than it is! What a concept!

With the power of Free Will, I can look at my life and dream big dreams. Powered by this wild idea that I’m not a billiard ball bouncing through life, I can DECIDE my trajectory! I can break old Habits and learn new skills.

This is what Self-Directed Evolution is all about. If Free Will exists, we should use it! If we have freedom of choice, it seems likely that over time and with some effort and persistence, we can actually create the life we want. Again, what a concept!

Can you change everything about your life over-night? Or in 30 days? It seems unlikely. But by exercising your Free Will and persistently doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, you can evolve to become the person and enjoy the life you truly want. I believe this!

There are some key questions you must ask and answer, however.

  1. What do you want?
  2. What will I have to change?
  3. Will I make the appropriate choices day by day, until I get there? 

If you don’t agree that Free Will exists, then of course I’m mistaken and this is just wishful thinking. Without Free Will, we really are just billiard balls bouncing through space. But if we do have Free Will, then a world of choice and responsibility opens up for us. It’s your call.

For myself, I choose Free Will and the responsibilities of Self-Directed Evolution. I really do believe I can choose, and with time and effort, create the life I truly want. I hope you agree with me!

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Leadership, Leadership development.

Self-Directed Evolution in 2012

January 1, 2012

In the next twelve months you will learn things. You’ll leave old habits behind and acquire new ones. In fifty-two weeks, you will learn new skills, eliminate old beliefs and delete old software. There will be new things to entertain us, and new problems to challenge us. A year is a long time.  Stuff happens.

In a year, you’ll grow into a brand new person!

The question is not whether you will have new skills and new habits a year from now. The really important question is whether you will direct and control your own evolution.

Self-directed evolution is vital for your future!

 Many people set goals to create specific changes in their lives. That’s good! Whenever possible, I favor committed, focused effort to transform your life! Set goals.  Develop plans. Work your program and make the changes you want for your life!   

Goals are good! Go for it!

But even more powerful than goals, we are influenced by every-day evolution. We are gradually influenced, every single day, by a thousand small shifts that come into our lives.

I remember an episode of the old “Seinfeld” TV show that introduced the phrase, “Yada, yada, yada!” Suddenly, everyone, everywhere was using the phrase to complete stories and finish sentences. It was amazing! And unplanned.

With the possible exception of a few writers and performers on the show, that addition to our vocabulary was not planned or anticipated by anyone. And yet over-night, the English language changed! Suddenly, we had a whole new way of communicating ideas and telling stories.

We evolve like that all the time.

I am convinced that we are influenced far more than we know by our environment.  When we watch stories filled with war and catastrophe, it frightens us. Many studies have shown that people who watch the most television are more fearful, more anxious and more stressed. The things we think about do shape our lives.

Fortunately, however, we can easily surround ourselves with art and literature, with interesting people and dynamic conversation. We can listen to the best music, and focus on opportunities, on our goals, and the people we love. We can surround ourselves with humor and encouragement, and once again, the things we think about will shape our lives.

You will evolve in 2012. You will learn new words, new ideas, new skills and new abilities. You will meet new people, read new books, watch new things. And they will all, slowly but surely, shape your life.

One of the keys to both external success and internal happiness is choosing (carefully!) the ways in which we evolve.

Only humans can intentionally direct their own evolution.  It’s one of the most powerful tools we have! And yet only a tiny handful take advantage of it.

Most people carefully choose their goals each year. That’s good!

But, I hope you will be just as thoughtful about the “little things” that influence you more quietly, the things that fill your environment with hidden or subtle messages.  Choose the radio station in your car. Choose the books on your coffee table. Choose the shows and movies you watch. Think about the people you associate with and listen to their words with a “third ear” that scrutinizes everything and asks, “Is this good for me?”

Your life will be shaped in powerful ways by the “stuff” that surrounds you every day, all year long. Choose well!  

Control your environment so that your world “automatically” encourages and rewards you for becoming the person you want to be. Remember, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It applies not just to people we associate with, but to books, television, activities and most of all, to the thoughts we think.

In 2012, evolve wisely!

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

The Value of Trust

November 9, 2011

This post was written and published by Susan Mazza at Random Acts of Leadership.

When we don’t trust the people we work for, it can be very difficult to lead.  When trust is lacking we are more likely to try to figure out what “they” want and how we can play it safe than we are to speak up, step up or stand up in any noticeable way.

When we don’t trust our peers we are likely to build a virtual fortress around our particular silo of responsibilities.  Once again the focus is on protecting ourselves and our turf.

When trust is lacking, fear is present.

Protection is the typical strategy for dealing with people and situations in which our trust is weak. We may not even feel particularly afraid.  In fact the better we are at protecting ourselves, our people and/or our turf we may just experience an illusion of safety rather than the fear that is pressing on us to take protective action.  We may even experience the satisfaction of winning every time our protective maneuvers pay off.

Consider the real value of trust, however, is not ultimately that we feel safe to be where we are.

Effectively protecting ourselves from those we don’t trust can create the same effect, except in this circumstance fear is driving us to mitigate the perceived risks.  I use the qualifier “perceived” because whether real or imagined, the feeling of fear is very real.

The real value of being able to trust others is this:  trust creates a condition in which you are more likely to choose to face your fear to do something that matters even if it does scare you.

Mistrust puts our focus on mitigating risks.  Trust fortifies our courage to risk leading the way.

I was reminded recently of this when I had to choose whether to back down on an issue or continue to press on the the face of the resistance of someone with whom I was working.  I could have chosen keeping the peace over ensuring my concerns were fully addressed.

Everything inside of me wanted to back down and take the path of least resistance to keep everyone happy.  Yet it was because I trust this person and believe they trust me that the discomfort of the moment was less important than the achieving the best possible outcome.  It was difficult.  It was uncomfortable.  There were moments when I felt frustrated.

It was even a little scary since I seem to have been wired from a young age to keep the peace.  To this day challenging someone for any reason feels uncomfortable.  So far there is no amount of trust in anyone that has ever changed the way it feels for me.  The degree of trust, however, makes the difference in just how willing I am to press on to forward my commitments despite the discomfort.

I also had to choose to trust myself. I had to make sure in the process I was being trustworthy.

In this case it meant I had to check in with myself a few times along the way to make sure I was keeping my attention on doing what was best for the team rather than reacting when I was triggered or getting caught up in the all too human need to being right.

There were a lot of times along the way in this exchange where it didn’t feel very good.  There is a myth that when we work with people we trust it is always going to be easy and comfortable.

That may be true if we want to stay right where we are, but if we aspire to anything together there will be times we put our trust to the test.

And every time we do and we succeed, our foundation of trust grows that much stronger and ensures we will be ready for the next even bigger test.  Of course, sometimes we may fail.  In the wake of that failure we may have misunderstandings.  It may take some honest conversations to reestablish trust.  Yet this is not an indication that trust is permanently lost or broken, but rather an indication that we have more work to do to build the foundation of trust necessary to fulfill on our aspirations.

When we know someone has our back we are more likely to speak up, step up, and stand up for something that matters to us.

We are more likely to challenge the status quo for the sake a future possibility.   When we are surrounded by people we trust we actually believe the future we want is possible and that our willingness to take a risk serves more than just ourselves.

When we choose to trust the people around us, we are willing to risk feeling uncomfortable for the sake of a higher purpose.

What about you: Do you have sufficient trust in your relationships to face your fears for the sake of doing something remarkable?

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

Where are you going?

October 25, 2011

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village.  A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

Not very long, they answered in unison. 

Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more? 

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

But what do you do with the rest of your time?

We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives.  In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. We have a full life.

The tourist interrupted, I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!  You should start by fishing longer every day.  You can then sell the extra fish you catch and with the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. 

And after that?

With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.  Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.  You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise. 

How long would that take?

Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years. replied the tourist.

And after that? Afterwards?

Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting, answered the tourist, laughing.  When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!

Millions?  Really?  And after that? asked the fishermen.

After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends. With all due respect sir, but that’s exactly what we are doing now.

So what’s the point wasting twenty-five years?

The moral of the story…       

Know where you’re going in life….you may already be there! 

Author unknown

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Mirror, Mirror . . .

September 26, 2011

My life reflects my beliefs and my consistent thoughts.  My powerful mind produces for me what I believe and gives me what I focus on.

When I look in a mirror I see me. I see me reflected back at me.  When I look at my life I see my consistent thoughts and beliefs reflected back at me.  

We reap what we sow.

If we don’t like what we see in our life, we must sow different seeds.  We must focus our consistent thoughts and pictures on what we want in our life, not what we don’t want. Our focus must be on the affirmative, not the negative.

If our life reflects sadness, anxiety and/or lack, guest what? We are sowing those seeds.

If we want our life to reflect joy, happiness and abundance, guess what? We need to start sowing consistent thoughts and visions of joy, happiness and abundance.

Use your skills to change what is reflected in your life.

 by Michael Price

Categories: Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Be All You Can Be!

June 29, 2011

Years ago, the Army had a recruiting campaign that used the slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” and I love that phrase! 

Who wants to settle for mediocre or average, or for anything less than what’s possible? That’s just silly! 

And yet, one of the Laws of the Universe is that inertia and comfort and habits and ordinary patterns of life conspire to keep us where we are. Even if we are frustrated at work or wish we had more money, a bigger home or more education, the great tendency is to “settle.” We’re busy people and we run out of time, we run out of energy, and our ambition evaporates. 

That’s normal. And it’s tragic! 

It’s long been known that humans use only a tiny portion of our intelligence. We develop only a tiny fraction of our talent and ability. We work hard, but we don’t generally push ourselves to develop our potential to become something

— and someone — special. 

Inside each of us is a genius eager to break free. Inside every single person is an inventor, an artist, a writer, an engineer or a researcher who could change the world.

Except we’re too busy and we lack faith. 

I love Malcolm Gladwell’s little book, “Outliers: The Story of Success.” He writes that genius actually has very little to do with intelligence. Rather, he shows that what most people call genius is actually the result of unusual dedication and effort. He talks about the mathematicians, musicians, scientists and business leaders who transformed our world not because they were unusual people (they weren’t “born that way”) but because they put dedication and focus into pursuing their passion. 

And that opportunity is available to each of us. While they worked or went to school, or raised a family, these “geniuses” also pursued a dream, and they kept at it “until.” 

I love that Albert Einstein was not particularly brilliant at math! He didn’t do well in school and couldn’t get a teaching position when he graduated. I love that he published his Special Theory of Relativity while working as a clerk in the Post Office! And that throughout his career he depended on talented mathematicians to develop his theories because he always felt his “genius” was in his exquisite imagination, more than his math skill. To me, that’s inspiring! 

We all know of former couch potatoes who go on to run a marathon. We know of people who were bankrupt and later built major fortunes. Or how about those who struggled with drugs or alcohol or some other problem who go on to become extraordinary parents or community leaders? It’s called Personal Development, and it’s available to each of us. 

People have been writing to ask me how to get started. I write back suggesting they “start where you are and do what you love.” 

Would your career be richer if you were slightly better at your job? Would your world expand if you learned a new language, or if you added a new word to your vocabulary each day this summer? Would you feel better if you were healthier, stronger or slimmer? It’s called Personal Development! 

Would your family benefit if you developed your skills as a parent, spouse, lover or partner? Would you enjoy reading a bit more, or listening to audio programs on your daily commute? Would your retirement be a bit richer if you joined an investment club? It’s called Personal Development. 

The temptation is to settle. We are busy, no doubt about that! We have obligations, commitments and responsibilities.

But we also have the ability to grow, to learn, to become more than we are. And, of course, the fact is that we do change over time, whether we guide and direct that change or not. 

One of the greatest secrets of long-term, magnificent success is Personal Development. Over time, day by day and moment by moment, we change and become someone new. The question is whether (or not) we intentionally grow to become the people we want to be. In the moments and hours of your day, take charge of your life! “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”

By Phil Humbert

What is the last thing you did for your Personal Development?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Who Are Your ‘Eyes On the Ground’?

June 15, 2011

No matter how long we’ve been doing it, many of us who own and ride horses continue to take lessons from time to time.  The major reason is to see what we can’t see.  When you are in the saddle, you can feel your horse, move your horse and communicate with your horse.  And, your horse can feel, move and communicate with you.                           

Taking a lesson gives you ‘eyes on the ground’ . . . someone who can see what you are doing from a different perspective and view.  This person sees your hands, your legs, your posture, your movement, your reactions, your communication.  They also see what your horse is feeling, how he/she is moving and responding, what he/she is ‘saying’.  This different perspective helps you be your best so that your horse can be his/her best!  It increases the rider’s performance and confidence and increases the horse’s performance and satisfaction.  

Just like riders need eyes on the ground to continue to improve and grow, people who manage people can benefit from the same.  How do you know how well you are doing to bring out the best in your people?  How do you know what could be improved to increase your employee’s performance and satisfaction?  

Here are a few ways to gain perspective and to regularly assess and increase your effectiveness. 

  1. Ask your employees how you are doing.  Do they have the information, resources and support they need from you?  Do they understand your expectations and how well they are performing?  Are you available?  Are you communicating clearly?  What else do they need from you to be their best?
  2. Ask your peers.  What’s working, what could be improved?  If they could give you one piece of advice, what would it be? 
  3. Ask your manager.  Are you meeting expectations?  What are your strengths?  What is one thing that you could do better? 
  4. Complete a formal 360 process.  Work with your HR department or a management coach to source and conduct an anonymous feedback process on you where input is provided by your manager, your employees, your peers and you.
  5. Work with a management coach.    A coach can see you and be candid about what they see.  They can be your ‘eyes on the ground’.  During your regular conversations, they see your style, your reactions, your strengths, your confidence and how you manage stress.  They can also collect input from your employees, peers and/or manager, facilitate open dialog with you and others and teach you new skills to be a more effective leader and bring out the best in your people.   

Having ‘eyes on the ground’ will increase your awareness of your strengths and opportunities and increase your employees’ and your own performance and satisfaction.

Question:  How do you regularly assess your performance?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

Your Pursuit of Happiness

May 25, 2011

I’ve been thinking about happiness. Specifically, in the days since our World Class Life Conference ended, I’ve been pondering the keys to total happiness and a wonderful book by the Dalai Lama, “The Art of Happiness”. 

The Dalai Lama argues that, fundamentally, we all seek more and greater happiness in our lives and that the one really key questions in life is, “What makes me truly happy?” 

For many people, happiness is related to money, and happiness means accumulating wealth. For them, money has great value and they are motivated to work hard and smarter, and to use money in ways that make them happy.  But there are thousands of individual differences in the details of exactly how that works. Some make money and give it all away. Some make money and hoard it, even burying it in the backyard, while others invest it, and still others make a show of displaying a wealth of possessions.

For others, happiness has little to do with money, and they seek fulfillment in their creativity, or they find ultimate happiness in family relationships, or by serving others.

There are many paths up the mountain called “happiness”!

One of the most important distinctions the Dalai Lama makes is between happiness and pleasure. We can all think of experiences that bring us delightful pleasure but which utterly fail to make us “happy” in life. Almost everyone enjoys a fine meal, perhaps with good wine, but we all reject a life of gluttony and drunkenness.

 So the question:  What makes you truly happy? 

This is a central question for the World Class Life Conference because in order to have a GREAT life, we must first determine what it might look like. What are the key pieces of a great and joyful life FOR YOU? 

Almost 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation”, and sadly, I think that’s still true. All our wealth and freedom, our education and power, even access to the greatest wisdom and literature of past generations, has not created a society in which most people seem truly happy. 

Indeed, many people seem to be incredibly unhappy. While some are overtly miserable, millions more are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable or angry. Some focus their discomfort on their work, others on politics or public policy, while some are simply annoyed by noise, pollution or road construction. Whatever the details, the question remains:

With our incredible freedom to create the life we truly want and live as we please, why aren’t more people happy? 

I think this is a vital question. It may even be THE question for modern adults to ponder and answer. Given that you can live almost anywhere you choose, read and learn almost any skill, and have pretty much any lifestyle you want, WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? 

What are your happiest memories? What are your happiest fantasies, dreams and aspirations? Who do you know who seems to be truly, massively happy? 

What makes you happy? At the end of life, what will let you say, “I did it right. I made good choices. I am HAPPY with how I lived my life!” Whatever your answer, in the coming days and weeks, do more of that, and less of everything else.

by Phil Humbert

Question:  What makes YOU happy?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development.

A Gift in Disguise

May 18, 2011

All of us have had, and continue to have people/situations/occurrences/events in our lives that we interpret as good or bad, happy or sad.  We know how to handle the good and happy events in our lives.  We enjoy!

In each event we interpret as bad or sad, there is a gift disguised as a problem.  Each of us have had, and will periodically continue to have bad, sad or negative events/encounters in our lives.  In each of those situations, there is a lesson for us to learn, an opportunity to grow.

We normally feel the emotion of the event, which is natural.  However, many times we fail to learn the embedded lesson.  Often, we continue to feel the emotion long past what is healthy for us.  We re-live the situation over and over (Self-Talk).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  If this is true, then we should view our mistakes or events in our lives as an opportunity to learn.

Certainly we need to feel the emotion.  And the more severe the event, the longer we will naturally feel the emotion.  However, at some point it is time to “Learn the Lesson” and move-on.

We are feeling beings.  We are also problem solving beings with the gift of “Original Thought”.  So, when the time is appropriate, we need to “Leave the Event” behind, and carry the lesson into our future.  We can then put the lessons learned into our tool-box of experience to deal with future events.

Use your skills to “Learn the Lesson – Leave the Event” and move-on.

By Michael Price

Question:  What are YOU learning this week?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

Lessons from my Horse

May 11, 2011

It still amazes me that I learn so much about myself and how to deal with others from spending time with my horses.  It happened again this weekend!

Blue and I were out riding with a friend and her horse.  It was a gorgeous day . . . blue sky, warm sunshine and no wind!  It was clear that the horses were enjoying getting out, too.

After a long ride, we were beginning our journey back to the trailer and decided to turn around and stay out a bit longer.  Blue did not want to turn around and started behaving badly.  My initial reaction was to scream at him and force him to do it my way.  Since all horses are different (just like people) this may have been the right response to correct that behavior for some.  For Blue, this would have stirred him up more and made the situation worse for both of us.

The good news is that I know my horse and knew that he wasn’t scared of something ahead –  this was a temper tantrum to get his own way.  I knew that I needed to help him understand that his behavior was unacceptable in a way that he could hear.  And, I needed to give him an expectation that he could meet.  I controlled my reaction and calmly turned Blue so that we could do circles around the small pine trees nearby.  He understood the expectation – to listen and follow my direction – and soon he and I were both calmly heading down the trail again.

Moral of this story

  1. Manage your response – Know that your behavior and reaction to a situation can have a positive or negative impact on the results.  Be aware, take a deep breath and consider the results you are after before you take action.
  2. Know your ‘audience’ – Understand the style and needs of the person you are trying to correct.  Some individuals may need a stronger message than others.  Be sure your style is one that they can hear and understand.
  3. Listen – Assess the situation – together. The person may have a different perspective and that information may lead you to a different, better solution.
  4. Set clear expectations that can be met and move forward.

Question:  How do you correct performance – yours and others?

    Categories: Attitude, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Employee engagement, Leadership, Peformance management, Personal development.

    Communication 101

    May 4, 2011

    Never talk over people, rarely talk at them, at the very least

    talk to them, and try to talk with them.

    Talking over = diatribe They’ll leave at the earliest opportunity because you’re insulting them by treating them as if they’re not there. They’re thinking: “What a buffoon, I’m outta’ here at the next break.” Never do this.

    Talking at = debate  They feel like you’re sticking your finger in their face. They’ll either: a) hunker down in a submissive pose with their chin tucked into their neck if they’re intimidated. It’s as if they’re saying: “Please don’t be angry at me;” or b) they’ll stick their chin out at you and narrow their eyes if they’re ticked off. It’s as if they’re saying: “You can’t talk to me like that!” Do this only in a situation such as being in overtime in the seventh game of the NBA finals, your players know you respect them and you need them to execute, not think.

    Talking to = discussion  They’ll nod from the neck up as if to say, “Yes, that makes sense,” and may or may not follow through. This is the language of doing business as usual. Use this as your usual mode of speaking.

    Talking with = dialogue They’ll relax their shoulders and neck as if you’ve moved over to their side and put your arm around their shoulder like a loving parent or grandparent. It’s as if you’ve told them: “It’ll be okay. We can work this out.” This is the language of intimacy. Aspire to this in matters of the heart and when possible in matters of the world.

    Question:  What’s your preferred communication style?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

    A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

    April 20, 2011

    by Sherry Law

     When I returned to my seat after saying a few words at my 94-year-old Uncle Bob’s memorial service, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked to my left and my cousin’s grandson Kai, age 3, leaned into my face and with a big smile said, “You did a great job!” Since Kai lives 1,300 miles from me and hadn’t seen me since he was 2, we are virtual strangers. Stifling giggles with my cousin, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if every CEO could communicate spontaneously like this little guy?”

    Recognition and celebration are too often forgotten in today’s lean-and-mean business environment. I’m not talking about formal reward programs, which are good and necessary but also generic and impersonal. I’m talking about informal, unrehearsed, from-the-heart communications that take less than a minute to bestow and cost nothing at all. Although all managers should be recognizing employees thoughtfully and regularly, we value praise most from the people we hold in the highest esteem-or in awe, like the CEO.

    Spontaneous appreciation may be the only employee benefit that increases employee engagement, enhances recruitment and retains talent-at zero cost.

    A little energy, a lot of value

    When behaviors are modeled by the CEO and other leaders, they are emulated down the line. So if you want to create a culture of recognition, it should start at the top. While it may take concentration at first, expressing appreciation is an easy habit to acquire. And you may find that it makes you feel as good as the people you recognize.

    What would it take one morning to surprise your assistant, who does the same routine things for you every day, with: “Thank you for reminding me about the day’s appointments when I walk in every morning; you always keep me on track and I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Or, maybe something outside the ordinary would lead you to say: “Thank you for playing host to the person waiting for me; I was proud of the positive impression you made of our company with your friendliness and concern.” You might even try appreciating people for ideas that didn’t succeed, but took some extra effort.

    Be spontaneous, sincere, and specific about what the employee did. If you add in how it made you feel, that’s even better. Acknowledge in public or private, or in a hand-written note, but make your comments either on-the-spot or very soon after. You’ll expend little energy while creating great value throughout your organization. You’ll be astonished at how fast good news travels, especially if it’s personal notice by the CEO.

    Tie it to desired performance

    If the ability to attract and retain the best talent isn’t reason enough to establish a more appreciative culture, there’s another hard core business benefit to spontaneous recognition. When you tie recognition to desired behaviors, you inspire employees to repeat those behaviors, and that increases overall performance. Author and recognition specialist Bob Nelson refers to this as “contingent” recognition.

    Companies that bring in doughnuts on Fridays and give people cards on their birthdays create an entitlement culture, says Nelson. If you do “nice” things, people begin to expect them. But if you make recognition contingent upon a specific behavior or performance, they’ll value the recognition more and you’ll get better results as people repeat or copy that behavior.  Just say, “Thank you.”

    Question:  What behaviors will you recognize with your employees this week?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management.

    What’s In It for Me?

    March 23, 2011

    Setting clear goals and expectations is a two-way street.  Managers have expectations for employees that are job specific.  And, employees have development expectations of their managers and company, too.  It’s important for managers to understand their employees’ development and career goals.  

    Employee development planning is typically a part of the performance management process.  As part of the process, the manager and employee discuss plans for individual development that will take place during the coming year that support the employee’s development goals.  Development plans can include special projects, seminars or conventions, rotational assignments, self-study, specific skill acquisition, to name just a few. 

    The best development you can provide is to build on your employees’ strengths.  How can you unearth and nurture those strengths? Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.  

    • Identify ways to apply existing strengths in new ways.  How can you look at your employee in new, different ways? What qualities has your employee demonstrated, and how can these translate into transferable skills?
    • Ask employee what they like to do.  People who excel at a specific job are typically promoted to management level.  As a result, we’ve often taken the person out of the exact environment in which they succeed and which they like and sometimes reducing their success in the new position.  You cannot fully uncover a person’s strengths without their input.  Tap into what the employee discerns as his or her strengths by asking what they enjoy most, and why, and in what role they believe they are of most value to the organization.
    • Get co-workers thoughts.  As the business leader, you work with employees in different ways than they work with each other.  Asking peers to share kudos and thank-yous at staff meetings can provide insight into traits and behaviors that suit  and benefit the entire team and help you assess the strengths of each employee from their peers’ point-of-view. 
    • Look to history for clues.  If you’re having a difficult time identifying an employee’s strengths, spend time thinking about why you hired them, what their references told you and what your first impressions were. There were reasons you brought this person on board — revisit those reasons to refresh your thinking about strengths, contributions and potential.
    • Turn a weakness upside down.  Physicists know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Applied to employees, consider, “What’s the opposite of this weakness?” to unearth possible strengths. For instance, if an employee inconsistently completes projects that he developed in the first place, perhaps his strength is in generating ideas, not executing them.
    • Allow the employee to test-drive a new role.  Maybe you’re seeing the employee in a specific role, yet more of their strengths would blossom in another role. Consider establishing a cross-training program, in which employees shadow co-workers for a day to learn more about the roles and responsibilities available. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you (and them) to see where a role-shift may make sense for the company. Set clear goals and intentions for the exercise, including, “What we want to know at the end of this day.” 

    Creating development plans that build on strengths and provide opportunities for your employees to learn and grow are key to promoting a great company culture and building employee retention and loyalty.

    Question:  What are your development goals?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Collaboration, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management, Teamwork.

    Making the Goal!

    March 17, 2011

    Employee productivity is one of the first places where less-than-optimal management practices drain an organization of financial performance.  When employees don’t receive the clear direction and support that they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results and costly rework.  The primary culprits?  Unclear expectations, lack of follow-up and ongoing feedback.

    An old organizational development saying is ‘you get what you measure’.  If we set clear expectations and don’t follow-up, employees may believe that the task is not as important as something else. 

    Following up helps to ensure that goals are on track and will be met.  It provides timely identification of potential obstacles in meeting those goals such as lack of tools, skills or resources and ensures that employees get the support needed to meet expectations.  Follow-up may also uncover lack of commitment or employee nonperformance issues. 

    The best way to follow-up with employees is to have regular one-on-ones with each of your employees.  Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with your employees to see how they are doing.  A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the employee can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive and meet expectations.

    While follow-up ensures goals are being met, feedback is essential for improving performance. Throughout the year, it is important to understand how you and your employees are performing.  Managers and employees should have a solid understanding of the areas where they are most effective, as well as the areas where they could improve. 

    Here are some keys to providing effective feedback:

    • Include the positive. To keep employees motivated, managers must recognize their accomplishments.
    • Make feedback frequent and informal. Going an entire year without feedback is like having a toothache in need of a dentist.  Employees need to know how they’re performing in their jobs – and this is especially true in the case of new employees or temporary workers, who need to have early feedback on a regular basis.
    • Keep documentation.  Records should be kept to document progress and accomplishments, as well as performance problems discussed. These records need to be dated and the corresponding expectations and next checkpoint noted. This information will make the formal review process simple and can also serve as documentation in the event of promotional opportunities or legal or disciplinary actions that could develop.

    As you can see, regular feedback and follow-up are key to ensuring individual and company goals are met.  See below for more information on purpose and process for an effective follow-up process – One-on-One meetings with your employees.

    Question:  How often do you follow-up on key goals with your employees?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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