Tag Archives: leadership

Engage Your Workforce: Use Conversations Not Dissertations

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Communication that successfully engages and focuses the workforce means getting off your soapbox so you are accessible. This means interaction and conversation – not unapproachable dissertation.

Nineteenth century communication methods such as lecturing, impersonal written missives and top down delivered information result in workforces disengaging, productivity dropping, reduced performance and limited profitability. Engaging everyone at all levels of the business through conversational communication helps to prevent or resolve issues faster, creates a workplace environment that improves job satisfaction, while reducing stress and increasing productivity, profitability and overall performance.

“Keep things informal. Talking is the natural way to do business,” said T. Boone Pickens, American business magnate and financier. He believes great things come from casual conversation at lunch meetings consisting of a sandwich and a cup of soup. While you may not be able to have a conversation with your entire workforce over a light lunch, you can re-create that same casual informal method of communication that engages and focuses your workforce.

Soapbox communication acts like a one-way street with the message coming from the leadership only. Engaged communication flows in a circle, allowing the message to reach the workforce and allowing the workforce to engage in communication back to the leadership – it must be played back. What you think you’ve communicated isn’t necessarily what your workforce heard. Pickens had the perfect method for engaged circular communications when sitting around a table over lunch – everyone contributed and was involved in achieving success as a result of the conversation.

Make the decision to upgrade your communications: Simply becoming aware of the need to change isn’t enough. While it is important to evaluate your current communication methods, it is critical to create a plan that leads to a sustainable future by taking action. To be a world champion swimmer like Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, you need to eventually jump into the water.

Engaged communications begin with circular conversations not linear dissertations – preferably eyeball to eyeball. Small group conversations are much more effective than auditorium seating. If the auditorium is the only option, then use words that touch them audibly, visually and within. Key in on two or three members of the workforce looking them directly in the eye, calling them by name if possible, and have a one-on-one conversation with each of them about your message. Your message will be received by others as if you were speaking directly to each of them.

Create a circular flow to your new communication methods: This is a simple three-step process, whether communicating to a huge workforce or a three-person accounting firm. First, tell them what you are going to tell them. Second, tell them what you want them to know. Third, have them feedback what they heard so you know if they understood what you meant. The third step is critical. Unless they properly receive what you wanted them to know they will rapidly disengage.

The circular feedback is what leads to an engaged focused more productive workforce and a sustainably profitable business.

Reinforce your communications: Communications are no longer linear and in a single format. With telecommunications exploding in recent years, people, including your workforce, are constantly in contact. Not only can they be tweeting someone in India, texting a friend in California and talking to a family member in Michigan, they can be watching a movie on their phone. These communications models are your competition. To engage them you need to not only be in contact but connected.

Connect first through conversational communications that engage them. Then reinforce your message with a full complement of other communication formats – much as you would unveil a new product or service to the public. Use the written word on a secure internal social media business site, create visuals for bulletin boards that are communicated in the visual equivalent of a 30 second sound bite, send audio messages to your workforce, and have them create vision boards based on their interpretation of your message so they become part of the solution.

According to Lee Iacocca, former President and CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Take action today to create a new communications roadmap that engages your workforce and creates sustainable profitability.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Ten Tips for Solid Team Development

By Gregg GregoryGregg Gregory

I have been writing about teamwork for quite some time. I am often amazed at the questions I get about how to structure a team and how the team actually develops. The biggest challenge goes back to something that my father told me when I was in the third grade. He used to always tell me; “You can’t put the roof on the house until the foundation is complete.”

Now as a young boy and my Dad being in real estate I just thought he was talking about building a house. Well quite frankly I thought to myself… DUH. Actually he was talking about everything but real estate. I don’t know when I came to understand what he was teaching me, though I am sure I was well into my 20’s if not older. In life we have to have a foundation just as in construction.

Teamwork is no different yet I am floored by the number of people who fail to meet the first six of these tips. After all they are the foundation. Go back over your life and see if any of your previous teams helped in defining these 10 tips.

1. Purpose: Every team must have a purpose for its existence. Purpose can also be referred to as the vision of the team. If a team has no vision how can you expect the players to hit the target? Simple answer you can’t! Purpose as to why the team exists includes the complete understanding of what role the team plays towards over all goals and vision of the organization.

2. Mission: We have heard so much about the word mission. Many people confuse vision and mission. Vision is about where the team is going and the mission is what they are about. The senior most part of an organization its mission. Why don’t most lower level teams? The simply feel they should just absorb the corporate mission. While the team mission should be congruent with the corporate mission it should reflect the mission of the people on the team.

3. Goals: Do not confuse goals with job or performance standards. Goals are people based where performance standards are position based. Each person should have specific goals as well as a tracking system. Goals are easily modified throughout the year and should be.

4. Objectives: Like goals objectives are people based and objectives are more geared towards the entire team’s objectives. These are the results that the entire team is striving for. Objectives need to be task driven and focused on the end results.

5. Common Values: If you have members who do not share in the common values of each other then the friction will be difficult to overcome.

This goes back to Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”, and in particular chapter three, “First Who Then What”, getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats and the wrong ones off of the bus.

6. Behavioral Norms: A strong leader sets the expectations in advance and begins to hold members accountable. As the team progresses each member begins to hold everyone else accountable. In the beginning acceptable behavior needs to be established.

7. Job Fit: Understanding one’s natural behavioral tendencies is critical to see if a person will be a good fit in a particular position.

For example my natural DiSC® dominion is a very high D&I. This means that my style would not really be suitable for an accounts payable position because most likely my attention to detail would eventually reveal numerous errors because of repetitive work bores me. It is this stage that most leaders pick up the process. You see this is also where the “job description” comes into play.

8. Maintain Standards: In fact I would suggest that instead of maintaining standards you actually raise the standard. This goes for both the team and the individual on the team. One of the biggest challenges is that many leaders start off with high standards and after a short while they soften up on the standards. They say they are conforming to the needs of the team and easing their leadership style.

As soon as basic standards are eased the team begins a downward spiral that may be too difficult to regain control.

9. Identify and Deal with Conflict: The first part is usually quite easy. The challenge comes with the second part. One of the key reasons leaders fail (leaders does not necessarily mean bosses) is their failure to deal with conflict. Many feel that if they ignore it the conflict will go away. Wrong!

10. Recognize Performance: Performance recognition does not need to begin from the top down. In fact peer recognition is critical to the success of any team. Recognition up down and across every team will increase the overall performance faster than almost anything else.

While every team is a little different, the process is still the same.

Gregg Gregory, of Teams Rock, works with organizations to create a culture where people work together and perform at peak levels. Through his interactive workshops and consulting, Gregg’s clients achieve greater team focus, cooperation, productivity, and impact. His experience includes more than two decades of human resources, real estate, mortgage banking, as well as radio and television broadcasting. Please contact Gregg at 866-764-TEAM or greg@teamsrock.com see how his keynote speeches and breakout training sessions can help your company or organization.

Leading with Honor: Do You Have What It Takes?

By Lee EllisLee Ellis

Are you alarmed by the frequency of ethical scandals in recent years?  No doubt, you have seen the headlines about Wall Street greed, but ethical problems are just as prevalent on Main Street where bookkeepers, purchasing agents, and business owners violate the trust that others have placed in them.  Think of the headlines in recent months: a highly respected coach resigned for covering up NCAA violations by his players; a Congressman is convicted of accepting bribes; a religious leader cheated on his wife, another is accused of using his authority to fleece the flock; teachers changed students’ responses on standardized tests and administrators collaborated in cover-up; a college inflated the average SAT score of their students to improve its image. 

What is happening to our society?  Does anyone care about honorable leadership?  What can you do about it?  What have others done that might guide those of us who seek to turn the tide in this onslaught against character-based leadership?

It seems ironic that some of the best examples of leading with honor come from the POW camps of North Vietnam, an environment so life-threatening that one might expect to see frequent examples of self-centered, self-serving leadership.  But when life and limb were on the line, these brave leaders chose honor rather than comfort, humiliation rather than cooperation with the enemy.  Their courageous service can inspire and show us what is required to lead with honor. Let’s look at some of the lessons they offer to us today.

Know yourself: The POWs leaders were experienced and strong yet they had no choice but to be humble.  The enemy used torture and isolation to try to break their will and force them to cooperate in making propaganda. They were vulnerable, stripped to their core; they could not pose or pretend they were something they were not.  Fortunately, they were solid—healthy people with a strong character that enabled them to lead with honor through the most unimaginable humiliation. 

If you don’t know yourself and have a peace about who you are, your fears and insecurities will take you out.  Rather than pursuing your passion and purpose using your unique talents, style, and convictions, you will constantly be comparing yourself to others and trying to guide your life by someone else’s ways and standards.  Alternatively, when you know and accept yourself, you can be authentic, leading from your own true north.  Objectively knowing your strengths gives you confidence, while awareness of your weaknesses gives you humility.

Few will ever be POWs, but eventually we will all face situations that expose who we really are.  Spend time with yourself and go deep. Accept who you are, but realize there is always room for growth; work every day to build yourself strong so you can lead authentically, from the inside out. 

Clarify your values and standards and commit to them: The POWs had a uniform code of conduct that everyone knew and was charged with following.  It acted like signs along the road giving direction and providing a framework for decisions, choices, and behaviors, helping them stay on the right path even in the most difficult situations. 

Unfortunately, most people have only generic assumptions and a superficial understanding about their moral values and ethical commitments. Jeb Magruder, White House advisor who went to jail, said that he had been taught right but somewhere along the way he “lost his ethical compass.”  We are all cut from the same cloth as Magruder and without regularly clarifying our commitments, we will drift off course as well. 

Confront your doubts and fears: Fears and insecurities take out more leaders than anything else and they generally can be traced back to the first point above—your identity—knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself.  Even the smartest, toughest, and best leaders face insecurities and fears. 

The POW leaders were tough warriors but they all struggled with fear.  Commander Jim Stockdale endured frequent physical abuse and more than four years in solitary confinement, so naturally, there were fears, but he did his duty and suffered the consequences. Great leaders know that fear is the norm, and they know they must lean into the pain of their fears to do what they know is right.  Courage does not mean that you are not afraid, but that you do what is right when it feels scary or unnatural. 

Connect with your support team: In your struggle to lead with honor, you are like any other warrior—it’s not good to fight alone.  That’s why the enemy tried so hard to isolate the POWs in North Vietnam and why the POWs risked everything to keep the communication lines open.  Even the toughest POWs relied on the counsel and encouragement of their teammates.  Authentic leaders realize they cannot see every situation objectively.  On the tough choices, you will usually need the perspective of someone who is outside the issue to help you evaluate the situation. Build a network of a few key advisors who can help you navigate the treacherous waters ahead. 

Our culture desperately needs men and women who will lead with honor. Don’t take it for granted that you will lead honorably. Engage in the battle required to guard your character. To be prepared, know yourself, clarify your values, standards, and commitments, confront your doubts and fears, and connect with your support team.  Then you are ready to face the giants and avoid the headlines of failure. 

Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton,” in which he shares stories from his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee has consulted in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, executive development, and succession planning for more than 15 years.  For more information, please visit www.freedomstarmedia.com.

A Business with a Soul Inspires and Motivates Its Workforce

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Some businesses are born out of ideology and conviction. Others spring up out of necessity, to fill a void or meet a burgeoning need. Then there are those born out of innovation with a vision for the greater good that have soul – companies like Apple, Disney and Ford. 

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple wanted to produce products so imaginative and appealing that people didn’t even know they wanted them until Apple released them, not just another computer.

  • Walt Disney, founder the Disney Empire wanted to create the happiest place on earth for children of all ages with Disneyland and Disney World – not just another amusement park.

  • Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company wanted to build a horseless carriage that would be affordable by every family in America, not just the wealthy.

What is a Business Soul? A business’ soul is well defined by Henry Ford who said, “Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit … then the business must die as well, for it no longer has a reason for existence.” He did not want the Ford Motor Company to be a soulless giant business, known for its coldness and aloofness.

A business with a soul is built on principles that inspire, bring to life and permeate thought, action and end-user products. It is the driving force that propels a business innovatively and creatively forward.

Does It Matter? Research in the late 1990s of 3,000 of the largest U.S. businesses reported in the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America showed that businesses with a soul averaged 5.5% more annual profits. A business with a soul was defined as those having a meaningful purpose and a proportional relationship between bottom-line profits, people relationships and products. A business with soul not only nurtures and grows human talent and the human spirit, but sees healthy profits as a facilitator and by-product of achieving other worthwhile ends.

Businesses with soul yield an inspired workforce with higher productivity and job satisfaction, increased brand and customer loyalty, and increased productivity and profitability with sustainable results.

Begin Here: Be who you claim you are. Soul is authenticity, which comes from being who you are, not what you say you are. Itis about being sincere and honest in a way your workforce and customers feel, see, touch, and experience your business to be what you say it is.

Determine your reason for existence: Creating a business soul begins with soul searching by leadership. Determine the “who, what, why and how” of your business and how you can make a difference in the lives of your workforce, community and customers through your business. Do you have a meaningful purpose for existing other than bottom-line profits? 

Once you have drilled down so far that you cannot get more succinct, develop a one sentence description of your soul. Then drill down once again to get that sentence into a three- to five-word statement. This is your business vision and everything you do should be measured by this statement. Then, share this new vision with your workforce.

Create Genuine Connections: Share your new soul/vision with your workforce. Only once you share it can you determine its accuracy and whether it properly reflects who your business really is. Encourage feedback. There is a natural circular flow to the soul of a business which needs to be in harmony at all levels. If the workforce perceives a facade harboring a different reality or the creation of a fake soul, their productivity will drop and chaos will erupt.

By asking for their input you will create genuine connections with your workforce and complete the circular flow. Incorporate their input and republish your soul/vision to see if it resonates. When this process is finalized, don’t just put this nice new statement on the shelf and continue as before. Take the necessary action to make it a reality. Then implement collaborative decision-making as the rule not the exception.

Incubate Human Potential: After discovering and applying your soul in your business, unleash the human potential of your workforce by creating a physical workplace environment that is representative of your new soul/vision. Keep the enthusiasm flowing by removing or eliminating things (unwanted paperwork, stashed boxes, items for storage) and old thoughts (industrial age thinking and organizational charts) that clutter the workplace environment – they will stand in the way of focus, growth and expansion if left unchecked. 

By creating a workplace environment that engages and unleashes the focus of your workforce, and maintaining a circular motion of communication and nurturing, you will inspire and empower your workforce. This results in increased productivity, employee buy-in and profitability.

It is easy to overlook the importance of or discard your company’s soul because of the economy, the desire to expand, increase market share or simply the pursuit of the dollar.  But if you desire sustainable growth, an inspired workforce and an empowering workplace, discovering and nurturing your business soul is a significant key to success. 

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Hooked on Experience

By Eric J. RomeroEric J Romero

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

How much experience do you have is a question that is often posed to job applicants, and lack of experience is the main reason why many applicants do not get an interview. It also prevents entrepreneurs from getting access to capital to start new businesses and current employees from being promoted. The over-reliance on experience as a selection criterion results in missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Poor Old Experience: Experience is a poor indicator of what has been learned in the past and what can be done in the future. Driving is a good example of how experience often fails to lead to learning and expertise. Many people who have been driving for years, and therefore have ample experience, are still poor drivers. The weak relationship between experience and expertise is evident in many organizations as well. Anything that you do admirably today, you at one point did not know how to do, so experience was not a valid predictor of your future success. Therefore, for the same reason, it is unreasonable to use experience indiscriminately as a selection criterion.

Organizations depend on new ideas and innovation for survival. Since innovation is by nature something new, prior experience in often irrelevant. Some of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs had no experience at all in their fields when they started their firms. For example, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was started by two friends who knew nothing about the ice cream business. In fact, they learned how to make ice cream from a $5 correspondence course. Despite their lack of experience, they built an American icon with unique ice cream products such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. Perhaps the secret of their creativity was their lack of experience based barriers to limit what they could do. If they would have applied for jobs at a mainstream ice cream producer, they would have likely been rejected due to a lack of experience. Ben and Jerry illustrate the notion that work experience is a poor measure for future creative performance. Personality characteristics and behavior patterns are far more reliable predictors.

The global economy makes change occur far more rapidly than in the past. Furthermore, change is occurring too rapidly for prior experience to be used as a selection criterion for many jobs. Even if people consistently learned the maximum possible from past experience, knowledge becomes obsolete rather quickly in a rapidly changing environment. This is particularly true at technology firms like Google, which was formed by two Stanford graduate students who had no business experience at all.

While prior experience is important for technical jobs, such as nuclear power plant engineers, or medical doctors, it is not required for many of today’s jobs. This is particularly true for jobs that require personnel to develop new products, work independently, use their knowledge in new ways, create new markets, etc. For example, Richard Branson has created numerous unrelated ventures (Virgin Record, Virgin Airway, etc.), which have made him one of the richest men in the world, despite the fact that he did not have any experience in many of these areas.

Hooked on Experience: Why does the over reliance on work experience persist? Dependence on work experience is like a crutch on which employers and financers have come to rely. It is measurable, easy to use and it has long been used as a selection tool. Since most organizations do not measure personality characteristics, skill levels or assess behavior patterns, using experience is a convenient, although often inappropriate, surrogate for more valid criteria. Additionally, using experience is often arbitrary (i.e., minimum 5 years of management experience) and helps decision makers lose cite of far more reliable predictors of success. It ignores that fact that some people learn little, even if they have a lot of experience, and other people can learn much in a short period of time. When one uses experience as a selection criterion, one assumes that everyone learns at the same rate, which is obviously false. The result is poor hiring, promotion and investment decisions and missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Just Try Something New: One may ask, what are good selection criteria for selecting unconventional thinkers who can work in a dynamic environment where personnel are expected to figure stuff out? Seeking people who are open to new ideas, have a vision similar to the company, and are comfortable with ambiguity is likely to yield better results than focusing on how much work experience applicants have or whether they have a university education.  The ability of learn quickly and adapt are particularly important.  Each organization should devise its own selection criteria and process that is matched to its culture and strategy. Keep in mind that the process you create is not static, it should be tweaked and adjusted over time. Experiment with new ideas that come from almost anywhere; movies, military, psychology, etc. Below are some general ideas that one can use as a start.

Finding and Selecting Unconventional People

  • Do no use “professional attire” during interviews and encourage people to be themselves, you want to learn about the real person in an interview

  • Have people do a creative activity as part of the selection process

  • Hire people from diverse backgrounds (music, arts, sciences, etc.), unconventional ideas will emerge from a mix of heterogonous people

  • Using psychometrics to measure personality characteristics

  • Use job previews for select candidates so you can see how they actually work

  • Hire people who are good listeners

  • Hire some people who have no education or experience, but have a lot of energy, ambition, great ideas, etc.

  • Hire people who are a little weird and wouldn’t fit in most organizations

  • Hire people who have traveled extensively or lived overseas

  • Have a debate with the candidate to see how he or she hold up to conflict

  • Hire self-motivating workers (described in the next chapter)

  • Use team interviews for people who will join a team

Summary: Kicking the hooked on experience habit is hard. As an unconventional leader, you will have to do some convincing and selling of the ideas presented here. It will take time for a company to devise a new custom designed system and to refine it.  When using an innovative selection process, you might spend much more time searching for personnel. That is the price to pay for doing things differently. For example, Google interviews are a day long affair, or more. Google is also one of the most unconventional companies in the world. A customized and innovative selection process will help you to find and select more unconventional thinkers who can help your company beat the competition.

Eric J. Romero, PhD is a speaker, consultant, and coach. He helps managers become unconventional leaders who beat the competition. Eric teaches them how to create competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking. Eric has written over 20 articles and presented his ideas around the world for over 14 years. Originally from Brooklyn, his presentations are delivered with a sense of humor, 100% unedited honesty and street smarts! For more information, go to competeoutsidethebox.com.