Tag Archives: leadership

Maintaining a Leadership EDGE in Turbulent Times

By Jill J. Johnson 

Jill Johnson

Why is it that some people seem to weather any business storm or crisis without appearing to break into a sweat? How is it that they always seem able to recover from a stumble and move on to even greater success? Are they immune to failure because they have won the Success Lottery? No. Those who achieve success during turbulent times do so because they have an EDGE to their approach to leadership: They understand the value of external information. They establish a framework for their decision-making. They develop goals to provide a focus on accountability. They also take advantage of outside experts to provide them with additional insight. 

External Information is Essential

Leaders who have an EDGE in achieving success no matter the situation understand the value of using external information. They know it is vital to understanding what is going on with the target markets they serve, especially when they are in a distressed situation. These leaders continually reassess their assumptions about their circumstances and they look for deeper insights to help them understand the complexity of the distressing situation.

EDGE leaders focus their time and energy on asking the hard questions that help them go deeper into understanding the alternatives available for resolving their situation. They do not hide in their office with the door closed when they are working through a challenging situation. They get out of their day-to-day bubble and look outward to gain new ideas.

EDGE leaders leverage abundant external information to provide them with insights to use for reviewing their own situation. This external information is often the catalyst for a new beginning. They adapt and take advantage of evolving circumstances and emerging opportunities to provide a foundation for even greater future success.

Leaders who have an EDGE use outside advisors to augment their understanding of their options and to serve as an objective sounding board. Click To Tweet

Decisions Use a Framework of Critical Criteria

Leaders who have an EDGE always develop a solid framework for making critical decisions. They understand that this framework will help them manage their emotions as they deal with the anxiety and pressure brought on by a business crisis. A solid decision framework provides the focus on the criteria that they will use to evaluate their options. They also use their decision framework to consider the implications of each choice available to them.

Leaders with an EDGE use the questions they asked during the information gathering phase to ensure they consider a wide range of alternative solutions. Yet they drive their decision-making by using their decision criteria to help them establish a framework for their priorities. They are attentive to the nuances each option provides. They prioritize the value of each element of their decision criteria. They use their decision framework to determine what they need to do to reclaim their success as they sort through their various decision options. Knowing the boundaries for their decision-making gives them a more objective sense of how to evaluate their options. It moves them to a more detached and impartial view as they go through their evaluation process.

These leaders do not avoid making decisions. They use decision criteria to control their emotions and stay focused on the most critical decisions that need to be made. They consider the consequences of implementing each option and are laser-focused on the elements that matter the most to resolving the critical issues.

Goals Focus on Daily Accountability

Leaders who have an EDGE set high goals for themselves. When circumstances collide to put up barriers to their achievements, they reassess their goals and then create new ones. Their goals stretch their leadership capability and provide them with clarity for their on-going learning to expand their excellence. They establish metrics to measure their goal achievement. They use data and information to measure their performance.

Everything they do is focused on moving through the tough time to seek out options for resolving the situation. Yet these leaders take it further by pushing themselves to achieve even more. They view a difficult time as something that tests their abilities. They embrace the challenge this provides and they trust themselves to succeed by using thoughtful processes. They know they have the tenacity and focus to reach their goals each day and throughout their careers.

EDGE leaders view their role as one in which they need all hands-on deck to solve the problem.  They share accountability with other members of their team which helps to deepen team bonds while creating stretch challenges for them too. The best EDGE leaders hold their teams accountable but they never abandon their team or the challenge. They work collaboratively to resolve it.

Experts Provide Additional Insight

Leaders who have an EDGE use outside advisors to augment their understanding of their options and to serve as an objective sounding board. The best advisors are the ones that challenge the leader’s thinking and help move them beyond the status quo. Seasoned advisors have seen challenging situations like this countless times. These leaders take advantage of outside expertise to gain deeper insight and move more quickly to understand and implement their available options.

Outside advisors may bring forward alternatives that had previously been dismissed because they were not fully understood or how to tweak them for effective implementation. Once the array of options is on the table, working with outside advisors helps EDGE leaders assess the real benefits of each alternative while supporting them as they deal with the overload and pressure of a distressing situation. These leaders don’t feel so alone or isolated from deeper insights. Outside experts also provide a buffer so they can maintain their leadership authority in front of their employees.

Final Thoughts

Using the leadership EDGE to achieve success in turbulent times is not easy. It requires discipline, laser focus and daily effort. Those who continue to achieve success even after surviving a crisis recognize that they have to change and adjust to the evolving situation. When they do, they create opportunities to develop a real strategy for enduring success. When you thoughtfully look at your own circumstances, you can develop your own leadership EDGE to evaluate your situation and chart a course for ongoing success.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Flexing Your Leadership Courage

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli-leadership courage

Remember in The Wizard of Oz how the Cowardly Lion—when he got to see the Wizard—was like, “What? I already had courage? WTH?” It was kind of not cool that the Wizard made the poor guy goes all the way through that drama, only to say, “That gift you want? You already got it!” Well, leadership courage is a lot like that. Often when leaders ask, “How can I get more courageous in my leadership?” the answer is—like the Lion—you already got this; just tap into that which you already have.

At its core, it’s easiest to think of courage as that adrenaline-filled action hero that you see in the movies or when you’re home Netflixing and chillin’. Amazon warriors like Wonder Woman, death-facing young wizards like Harry Potter, countless soldiers and sailors entering the massive battle to win the war: you see these images in media and get an idea of what “courage” is supposed to be. But if you’re not a Navy SEAL or a wand-wielding wizard or an immortal Amazonian princess, you’re in luck! Courageous leadership doesn’t require you to be any of those. But—by nature of being in that leadership role within your organization—there’s a strong argument that you already have some semblance of courage up your sleeve. The challenge is to build and harness that courage to be even more effective as a leader.

When you think about being courageous in the workplace, even if you’re being your bravest self, there’s still a lot of factors that can prevent you from being your most courageous (and effective) leadership self. Time and again, these are the top three “courage-inhibitors” that tend to come up for many leaders:

Leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members and organization. Click To Tweet

1. The Challenge of Fear

If you were to ask around, you’d likely find that a lack of courage and abundance of complacency in the workplace comes down to one simple thing: fear. When you think about this in the business context it can be broken down into two subtypes: (A) Fear of (Perceived or Actual) Failure, and (B) Fear of Feeling Like an Outsider.

With Fear “A,” you tend to strive for perfectionism, where the idea of submitting anything less than perfect could alter the opinion of a boss or trusted ally. Typically, most folks want their best foot forward; they want to be seen as a rock star performer. Anything less is deemed a failure (even if your “C” work is on par with some others’ “A” work!).

But Fear “B” comes from a more personal place, where challenging the status quo may make you feel like an outsider within your own workplace. At some point in your career, you’ve likely had that feeling before (or maybe you currently do). It’s not fun, it’s alienating, and, for some, it’s a feeling they don’t want to ever feel again.

So, in a work context, this desire to avoid the feeling of being the “other” leads you to be compliant, even if in your core you know the idea at hand really needs to be challenged for the good of the organization. Having leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, being OK with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members or moving your organization forward.

2. The Challenge of Assumptions (or “Filling in the Blanks”)

As humans, it’s common to fill in the gaps when presented with a situation where all the data isn’t available. It’s easy to connect the dots between one problem and the next, even when the two aren’t related, without taking the time to examine your own approach. It’s how humans are wired.

When you think of this in the context of courage, you’re either avoiding truly understanding the situation, or you’re scared (back to fear again!) to dive deeper into the truth of the situation. Having leadership courage means lifting up those rocks and seeing what’s underneath. Lack of courage here is making assumptions about the situation without knowing all the information.

3. The Challenge of Being Locked into Current Behaviors  

Let’s talk about change for a minute. Here’s a little secret you probably already know: most people don’t like change. On a fundamental level, change is a really awesome idea: it’s fresh and new, it expands horizons, it allows for innovation and to have new experiences. In the workplace context, you initiate change so that the organization can grow and prosper. But the hard truth?

The vast majority of people hate change. Why? Well, on one hand (at an unconscious level) humans don’t like to change because it hits a part of our brain that likes safety and security. As our cave-ancestors survived and grew as a species, they (like us) were wired to be fearful of changes. Engaging in something new could lead to a dangerous situation. 

Now, flash forward to today: you’re still wired like this in changing situations. When most people engage in change, it leads to an unsettling feeling of vulnerability. On the other hand, your conscious self doesn’t like change because it’s difficult. There’s a tendency to simply get used to situations and know how to act and adjust to them, even if the situation isn’t ideal.

You might have heard the old adage: “The devil you know versus the devil you don’t,” meaning that we as humans tend to be OK with even bad situations/bosses/friends/ relationships/etc. because we know where we stand in this context. Some people don’t like change so much that they’d sooner stay in a bad situation because it’s familiar rather than make a move to newness. So, whether unconscious or conscious, for most people change is hard! It takes courage to try something new, something different, and individual resilience to keep at it when it doesn’t work perfectly the first time.

As a leader, courage should be the bedrock that’s your foundation—the courage to challenge the status quo, and to be your authentic and effective self in front of the world. It’s a super power that every leader has within them: it’s just a matter of avoiding the three “courage-inhibitors” and channeling that courage just like the not-so-Cowardly Lion did.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over twenty-five years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle came out June 2019.

Remote Control

8 Tips and Tricks for Conducting Stronger Conference Calls and Virtual Meetings

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-meetings

Despite large advances in technology, few people look forward to participating in remote meetings. When fellow participants fail to mute their lines, don’t give the interaction their full attention, or commit some other virtual-get-together sin, the mood of the group quickly deteriorates. So is there no hope for the countless teams who must connect through broadband instead of boardrooms? Of course not. By taking eight simple steps and following some proven guidelines, almost anyone’s virtual gathering can improve.

Tip One: Keep the meeting’s focus narrow. The more specific your agenda, the less likely you will find your conversations jumping off-topic. For example, instead of discussing office security training, narrow the focus to non-technology-related office security for customer-facing employees. By shrinking the field of discussion, you may realize you need less time and fewer people to arrive at a satisfactory decision.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. Click To Tweet

Tip Two: State the goal of the meeting at the beginning, end, and several times throughout to remind people why they are there and how they are expected to contribute. 

Before we begin, I would like to thank Ted, Rhonda, Nel, Jerome, and Fred for joining the discussion today. Each of you comes from a different area of the business and can offer a perspective the rest of us may not readily see. As we move through the discussion, I’m going to call on you to offer your point of view. Our goal today is to come up with some preliminary topics for training our customer-facing employees on security measures they need to take to keep themselves, the company data, and our customers safe. When we’re done, we should have a robust list of non-technology ideas. We’re going to deal with technology during a separate meeting.

Tip Three: Think like a newscaster. Newscasters plan in segments or blocks. Your agenda should do the same, and your language should advertise what’s happened previously and what’s coming next. 

First, we’re going to talk about our current occupancy rates, next we’ll look at forecasts for the next quarter, and finally, we’ll review plans to ensure we make our forecast.

Tip Four: Steal a few more ideas from the news. Dialing your energy up by 10 percent to 15 percent and editing your content should help you increase engagement. Edits might include such activities as removing weak or uncertain language. “I’m not sure, I don’t know, and this may be dumb” have no place in any meeting—especially a remote one. After all, if you don’t believe in or know about what you’re discussing, why should anyone else?

Tip Five: If possible, use a platform that allows people to use cameras, chat, and screen sharing.

Cameras allow people to use their faces and bodies to supplement their verbal messages. Cameras also keep people honest, as it’s difficult for most of us to multitask or go on mental vacation when you’re doing it in plain sight.

Chat engages people’s fingers. If you are typing in a chatbox, you aren’t checking email, texting a client, or doing anything else unrelated to the meeting. Furthermore, chat levels the playing field and allows opportunities for both extroverts and introverts to weigh in at essentially the same rate.

Screensharing focuses people’s attention on the topic at hand. It’s human nature to want to look at something. If you can, do yourself a favor and provide visuals. One word of caution: do not read from your slides. If you put slides in front of a team, they’re going to read them. They don’t need you to insult the repeat what they’ve seen verbatim.

Tip Six: Assign roles. You don’t have to be the leader, timekeeper, notetaker, and so forth. Delegation engages people and allows the leader to lead the meeting. Of course, role delegation will work best if you model what’s expected. 

For instance, provide a notes template and an example of notes to the notetaker and provide the timekeeper with some instructions, “Ted, I’d like you to serve as our timekeeper and agenda monitor today. If we wander off-topic, please poll the group to ascertain whether we should deviate from the agenda or take the topic offline.”

Tip Seven: Be prepared to do a little warm-up as you are waiting for people to join in. That means jumping on a call early and giving people something to do before the start of the meeting. If people are regularly late to your organization’s meetings, this is especially important. If you are using technology beyond the telephone, this is particularly easy. For example, you might set up a poll with everyone’s name listed and take attendance by asking them to select their names from the list. You could also show reminders (e.g. how to mute your line) and the notes from the last meeting and request people take a minute to review them. The possibilities are endless. The main idea, however, is to ensure that you don’t lose people who come early or on time to your remote meeting and that you can absorb people who join late with little disruption.

Tip Eight: View your remote meetings as works in progress. Ask those who participate what’s working for them and what isn’t. As teams change, technology evolves, and workplace demands vary, what works now might not work in the future.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. The key is trying, assessing, learning, and repeating the cycle. Happy meeting!

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

7 Reasons to Put Golden Handcuffs on Your Best Employees

By Patrick Ungashick

Patrick Ungashick-top employee

High-performing employees are often the most valuable asset in most companies. Customers, products, technology, inventory, and many other assets come and go. A company that cannot hold onto its best employees, however, likely cannot grow. Yet ironically, few companies take any formal steps to minimize the risk of losing top employees. Sure, you pay your best employees well, and presumably , have a great culture and work environment. But your competitors can offer the same incentives. To truly hold onto your best people, consider tying them to your company with handcuffs made of gold.

“Golden handcuffs” is a generic term describing a wide range of programs that share one core purpose—to incentivize top employees to stay with your company for the long term. There are many types of programs: incentive compensation plans, stock options, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights, synthetic equity programs, share bonus plans, and more. Making things even more confusing, each of these types of programs have variations in their design and operation. This complexity makes it difficult to approach these programs and select a plan design that best fits the situation. However, learning about golden handcuffs programs is worth the effort. They offer a unique combination of advantages and benefits that can help your company reduce risk, propel growth, and maximize value at exit.

Companies that design and implement effective golden handcuff plans can accomplish the following seven important outcomes:

  1. Reduce risk that top employees leave prematurely or unexpectedly. Golden handcuff plans accomplish this by offering a future compensation payout that is partially or completely forfeit if the employee should terminate employment prior to an agreed-upon date (such as retirement age) or an event (such as the sale of the company). To create the desired impact, the potential compensation amount must be significant—typically several times the employee’s current annual income or more.
  2. Incent top employees to help create long-term, sustained company growth. The potential for a future compensation payout orients the employee towards achieving the company’s business goals, especially if the payout amount is tied to long-term company growth.
  3. Create incentives for top job candidates to join your company. A golden handcuffs program offered to a desired recruit—in addition to competitive pay and compelling career opportunities—can be the tipping point that convinces that important hire to join your organization. 
  4. Protect the company against the risk of losing customers, other employees, or trade secrets should an employee who has those relationships and information leave. Golden handcuff plans should include a legal agreement which commonly includes provisions such as non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure language wherever possible. 
  5. Provide a way for business owners to create alignment with non-owner top employees around creating business value prior to exit. Many business owners are understandably concerned about discussing their future exit plans with their top employees who don’t have an equity stake in the company. In those situations, the owner’s future exit is a potential wealth-building event for him or her, but it presents career uncertainty and risk to the non-owner employee. Golden handcuffs plans build a bridge between owner and non-owner top employees, by including those employees in a wealth creation opportunity at exit and providing for their career stability. 
  6. Enhance business value at company exit, particularly upon sale of the business. Your future business buyer will often see greater value in your company if a golden handcuffs plan has been effectively implemented, particularly when the plan includes “stay bonuses” which incent top employees to stay with the company after a sale, typically for one to two years.
  7. Thank top employees for their service with the company. Most business owners want to thank high performing employees after they have given years of effective service to the organization. While golden handcuffs plans are primarily intended to incent and reward top employees, they can provide double-duty by also providing lucrative compensation awards in the future to the very same people you likely will want to acknowledge. 

Many business owners and advisors assume that a golden handcuffs plan requires sharing actual ownership interest with the employees who will be included in the plan. This not always true. Some programs such as stock options plans include the potential for actual ownership sharing. Other plan types such as phantom stock or executive bonus plans involve compensation and do not share actual equity. Sharing ownership with employees presents significant risks and downsides. Whenever possible, consider a golden handcuffs plan that pays out compensation to the employee rather than shares actual company equity.

Business owners and leaders need effective tools to motivate top employees, retain them for the long term, and drive company growth. Few tools have the potential to address all of these needs simultaneously like a well-designed golden handcuffs program. A little research here can go a long way to securing a bright future for your employees and your company.

Patrick Ungashick is the CEO of NAVIX Consultants, a celebrated speaker on executive and business owner exit planning, and the author of A Tale of Two Owners: Achieving Exit Success Between Business Co-Owners. With his wealth of knowledge on exit planning, Patrick has provided exit advice and solutions to business owners and leaders for nearly thirty years. For more information on Patrick Ungashick please visit: www.NAVIXConsultants.com.

5 Keys to Protect Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset: Its People

Providing Your Teams the C.A.R.G.O. to Succeed

By: Jason O. Harris

Jason Harris_team memberes

Your company’s most precious cargo is its people.  Each day that you walk into your office, establishment, and organization, you are responsible for cultivating the culture. You are responsible for fostering a workplace culture that is one based on commitment and trust. As you nurture and grow the culture of your workplace, it is imperative that you realize that your most valuable resource—your most precious cargo, as they say in the aviation business—are your people. 

As you look to understand what you can do each and every day to impact your company culture, you need to look at the ways you can best take care of your teams. The foundation of taking care of our people is creating and cultivating a culture of trust. It is only when you cultivate cultures of trust and commitment that you can truly begin to support your company’s most valuable resource: the people within it.

When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success! Click To Tweet

A simple way that you can create the professional environment that you want is to implement a model, the C.A.R.G.O. model, designed to create and nurture the workplace ecosystem that thrives on commitment and trust.

C: Creativity to address challenges

As you look to take care of your people, it is essential that opportunities are provided that allow for creativity. This creativity is useful for many things—primarily in addressing the many challenges that present themselves constantly in the workplace. When you trust and empower your people to harness their creativity to address and solve problems it does many things across the many levels of your organization. Freedom to be creative instills a sense of intrinsic trust and helps to reinforce an employee’s innate abilities and talents. Creativity to address challenges strengthens the case as to why you hired them to work in your organization in the first place. 

A: Access to tools and resources

When the right tools and resources are provided, people know that they have all that they need to succeed. Too often there is an expectation of the people in an organization that cannot be fulfilled due to a lack of resources or support. Effective leaders must be prepared to properly equip their teams with the right people in addition to the right tools and resources to set them up for success. Access to the appropriate tools and assets is imperative to creating and building a company culture that is rooted in trust. 

R: Responsibilities

It is essential that team members are empowered to own their unique responsibilities in an organization. When team members truly own their piece of the daily duties, tasks, and projects, it reinforces the reality that their work really matters.  When your team is aware of their value to the entire operation and that others are counting on them, like a combat aircrew, they will step up and perform to their best abilities. Empowerment of staff, ensuring that the training and processes clearly define and delineate their responsibilities, will lead to an empowered organization. This empowered organization will be full of team members that know what they are responsible for and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. 

G: Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives of your team(s) and organization have to be plain, clear, and articulated in a way that the team members can understand and appreciate. The best leaders must share the goals and objectives with the team. Your team needs to know that its leaders are fully invested. In turn, it’s necessary for members of your team to share their individual goals and objectives with each other and the leadership. This ensures that everyone holds each other accountable. Beyond holding one another accountable, knowing the goals and objectives of each other allows you to know that everyone is committed, in some shape, form and fashion, for the greater good of the organization and each other.

O: Opportunities for success

As a leader, you must provide the opportunities for your people to succeed. These successes exist as large and small opportunities. When provided with incremental chances to succeed and win, team members will stay engaged and continue to be committed to the organization and the team. Consider opportunities for team members to succeed in the simplest ways, that lead to team wins, that lead to organizational wins. Everyone loves to win. Everyone loves to be on a winning team!

The most precious resource in your organization, the most precious cargo in your aircraft, is your people. As you conduct business each and every day, are you and the leadership team equipping your people to sustain themselves and your organization through the inevitable turbulence that they will encounter en route to accomplish their mission?  When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success!

Jason O. Harris is a leadership and trust speaker, consultant, and certified character coach. As a decorated combat veteran, Jason brings unique perspectives gained from his battlefield experience to your organization. Jason’s No-Fail Trust™ methodology was crafted from his own harrowing, life-altering experiences, and conveys the importance of cross-generational communication and mutual trust. Jason enjoys working with organizations and leaders that are no longer willing to settle for cultures of compliance and are ready to build and cultivate cultures of commitment.  For more information on Jason O. Harris, please visit www.jasonOharris.com.