Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leader Priorities

As leaders, what do we focus on? Typically, results! The challenge for us as leaders is to recognize how our organizations really get those results.

As Steve Bruce points out in his article for, it's our employees that drive our results, and happy, engaged employees get us better results. This is just like our ability to keep our businesses going by ensuring that our customers are happy.

Our customers don't have to spend their hard earned money with us; there are many other places they can go. And our employees don't have to work for us; there are many other employers out there.

Leaders need to recognize that they are leading a volunteer workforce. Yes, they may be making a wage for the job they are doing, but there is almost always somewhere else they could go and make a similar wage.

By viewing our workforce as volunteers or as our customers, we focus in on the one area that often suffers in the efforts to drive results, that is a happy, engaging work environment.

Does that mean that we ignore results? Of course not. I think the chance of any experienced leader ignoring results is just about zero. But with the pressures to produce results, the chance that we ignore the work environment is much higher.

So, think of your employees as volunteers or as your customers, and you can have a big impact on the results that they achieve for your business.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Have A Dream – Is There Value in a Strategic Vision?

While at a recent strategic planning seminar in the Washington, DC area, I was struck by the power of a great vision. This view of the future can be a strong influence on an organization, group, or individual.

I think I was especially struck by this as I had in the days before the seminar toured Washington, DC including the Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Evidence of the power of vision was evident all around.

I sometimes hear that mission/vision stuff is silly and not useful. I don’t buy it, and I don’t think you should either. So the next time you hear people mention that a vision statement is unimportant, have them read:

The Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream Speech, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Powerful, clear visions allow for actionable goals, which focus the efforts of individuals and groups, allowing them to achieve more than they thought possible. Vision statements, done right, can be very powerful. 

Does your vision statement inspire action?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Lisa Lampanelli Can’t Win Celebrity Apprentice

Outside of Barclays Premier League football, the Detroit Red Wings, and (thanks to my youngest) SpongeBob Squarepants, I really don’t watch much TV. However, I have been watching the current season of Celebrity Apprentice.  

I know that there have been several college professors that have used the show as a tool to discuss business management with their classes. And I agree that the show can be educational, demonstrating things like: management style, delegation, project management, collaboration, communication, etc.

What I find intriguing at times is the way the game is played. The impact of the personality of the players becomes an integral part of the game. Does the nice guy finish last? Does getting nasty and using cut throat and back stabbing tactics make you standout and succeed?

This brings me to Lisa Lampanelli. Lampanelli is a strong player who delivers results for her team. She is talented in many areas that make her an asset on a project. She also is a hot-head with a demonstrated tendency for verbally berating co-workers.

How much of that can a team and its manager tolerate in order to reap the benefits of the talents that she brings to the table? When does it cross the line and the benefits no longer outweigh the costs?

I don’t believe that a team can be successful for long tolerating this type of behavior. There are times for team members to be firm, decisive, question one another, and even engage in a conflict of ideas. These things should be part of a healthy team.

In this case, Lampanelli has crossed the line from conflict of ideas to personal attacks. Not only is the tone of her conflicts nasty, the content of her conflicts are to attack fellow team members even to the point of name calling.

This has even moved outside of the show/workplace. Referring to fellow Apprentice star Dayana Mendoza in a recent radio interview, Lampanelli said, “I actually would love to see [Dayana] giving birth. She’s a sp*c! She’s going to do it f**king soon, anyway. She’ll be knocked up before the end of the week.” Personal attack turned now even more vicious to ethnic slur, attacking a whole group of people.

In a real workplace setting, allowing these behaviors to continue poisons the team atmosphere and will lead to voluntary turnover of other talented team members. No company should tolerate this type of behavior in the workplace.

And Celebrity Apprentice shouldn’t reward this type of behavior either. And I don’t believe Donald Trump will hurt the Apprentice and Trump brand by crowning Lampanelli as the next Celebrity Apprentice. 

Which is why I don’t think Lisa Lampanelli can win Celebrity Apprentice. What do you think?        

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

Leading others takes a wide range of, sometimes, complicated skills. So improving your "leadership" can be a tricky proposition, much like any complicated skill. The key is to focus on one thing long enough to produce a habit.

Sometimes that can best be done by taking something away, so that you force yourself to rely on the skill you are trying to improve on. If you struggle with face-to-face, one-on-one communication, take the option of email out of the equation whenever possible. This forces you to utilize the skill that most needs developed. It provides that practice that may not quite lead all the way to perfection but does lead to permanence.

This topic reminds me of teaching my son to ride a bike. It's actually pretty complicated to learn when you think about all that goes into it...the pedals, balance, crash avoidance, etc. So I focused in on what I felt was the most important skill...balance.

Fortunately, there are innovative companies that have also taken things away from a bike (pedals) to help make this easy for me. So my son began riding a Glide Bike at age 2 1/2 and just recently, at 4 1/2, started to ride a regular two-wheeler with no training wheels. The switch took minutes, because he had practiced and made permanent the skill of balance.

So when you want to improve as a leader, ask yourself, what can I take away to build an essential skill?

You can see my son making the Glide Bike to pedal bike transition in the video below.

Be A Leader!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Are Your Employees Looking to Leave?

There are many personal and professional reasons that any employee may have for looking to leave your company. I think right now there are three main workplace stressors that are pushing many employees out the door.
  1. More with Less – The lack of a significant rebound from the last recession has exacerbated this problem. Companies are not yet adding staff, but the increased workload continues to grow on those that remain. Slow incremental growth is masking the need for more staff. This prolonged incremental growth is building small, steady workload increases to existing employees with no apparent end in sight, causing ever higher levels of stress. These talented employees that have been able to handle the increased work are now primed for a move that will reduce their workload stress. And your A-players that are relied on most heavily are the most likely to leave. Your best talent may be looking for a less stressful alternative. What can you do to reduce the stress on your strongest talent?

  2. Micromanaging Boss – We’ve all heard, “People don’t quit their company, they quit their boss.”  The majority of the time it’s true, and one of the major stressors that cause this, micromanagement. Nothing screams “FIND A NEW JOB” like the lack of trust that is communicated by managers who don’t trust seasoned staff enough to let them do what they do best, what they’re paid to do. Whether it’s from the flattening of organizations or the shrinking of the bottom-line, many managers and executives have taken up the microscope and are sending a strong anti-trust message. Set clear goals and give your staff the freedom to deliver. Or manage every little piece of the process and watch your best talent flee.

  3. Senior Management Dysfunction – Instability in the economy and in company results, among other things, can lead to dysfunction with the senior management team. And when it’s apparent to front-line employees that senior management can’t get along, they lose confidence in where the company is headed. And senior management loses credibility with their staff. You might think it’s all under wraps; it rarely is. Don’t get me wrong, conflict is good at the senior level, when it leads to more discussion and ultimately to better decisions. But when resolution and consensus doesn't happen, employees can see the difference. The senior management team must work together to build consensus amongst themselves first, then their consistent message and direction can provide focus for the entire organization. 
Beware, your employees are searching…but there are steps you can take to minimize your vulnerability. 

Be a Leader!