How to Keep Up with Workplace Changes in 2018 and beyond

This guest blog is a guest post provided by Abby Quillen and Zerocater, focusing on creating the workplace that meets our current and emerging needs. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Doug McCollough, Jet fuel of Talent Development Feeds Success on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

The economy, technological innovations, and cultural shifts are changing work in 2018. For instance, the oldest members of Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2005, are graduating from college and stepping into the workplace for the first time this year. As the most diverse and digitally savvy generation in American history, their wants and needs will undoubtedly incite change.

Read on to understand key ways the current work climate is shifting, and learn what your business needs to do to keep up.

Qualified Workers are in Demand

The unemployment rate is below 5% and expected to remain there for a while. Around one quarter (22%) of small businesses say a shortage of qualified workers is their top business concern in 2018.

Because of the tight labor market, employers are becoming more innovative in recruiting and retaining employees, especially millennial employees. That’s because that group now makes up the majority of the American workforce. Millennials value work-life balance, career mobility, flexible working conditions, and social responsibility. Gen Z, on the other hand, want independence, face-to-face communication, and for employers to cater to them. Some companies hire Directors of Employee Experience to improve the working experience of their employees.

How to keep up: You may need to adjust your hiring standards and devote more resources to recruiting, training, and retaining workers. Also consider raising wages: In surveys, company leaders say they plan to raise wages by an average of 3 to 4.27% in 2018.

Perks don’t hurt either. Nearly half of millennials in one survey said they could be lured to a new job by a company that offered better perks, including free food.

Automation Is Disrupting Some Industries

The research firm Forrester predicts 9% of U.S. jobs—particularly administrative, call-center, and sales jobs—will be replaced by automation this year. They predict those losses will be partially offset by a 2% increase in automation-related jobs. Other think tanks and research firms have made wildly different guesses based on the available studies. Gartner Inc., another research company, predicts artificial intelligence (AI) will create more jobs overall than it destroys.

The bottom line? Some people may lose their jobs because of automation—even this year. Many more workers will need to adjust to AI tools, such as chatbots, which enable personalized conversations between software and users. But the good news is, AI tools may make some jobs easier and free up employees from administrative or repetitive tasks and allow for more creative work.

How to keep up: Reassure employees that automation is unlikely to lead to a jobless future. McKinsey Global Institute, a private-sector think tank, predicts there will be enough work for humans to ensure full employment in 2030. In the past, new technologies such as the personal computer led to a net increase in jobs. However, jobs will shift. If automation is reshaping your industry, keep your employees well-informed about retraining opportunities.

With more machines in the workplace, social relationships matter as much as ever. Cultivate a company culture that promotes in-person interaction and collaboration.

Workers Will Challenge Traditional Structures

Remote work (excluding self-employed occupations) has grown by 115% since 2005, according to the analytics firm Global Workplace Analytics. In the U.S., more than 43% of the workforce works remotely some of the time, according to a Gallup report.

Millennials and Generation Z will continue to pressure companies to expand flexible scheduling and telecommuting options. More than three quarters (77%) of millennials in one survey said flexible working hours would make them more productive on the job. Some companies, such as Buffer, have transitioned from a physical office to 100% remote work to save costs.

How to keep up: The commute and nine-to-five day aren’t dead yet, and a few companies (including Yahoo and IBM) ended their telecommuting programs for various reasons. But it’s worth considering whether expanding flexible scheduling perks may help your company attract and retain top talent. If you already offer flexible work, consider stepping up team-building efforts by offering catered family-style meals or a shared collaboration area to give employees more time for team work when they’re in the office.



The American workplace is changing quickly. By embracing economic, technological, generational, and cultural shifts, your business will thrive in 2018 and beyond.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the author:

Abby Quillen writes about sustainability, green living, health, business, and other topics. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, YES! Magazine, and dozens of other publications. She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her family. Visit her at

At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovating Leaders, Co-creating Our Future interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”


In At C-Level #10-18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Innovative Leadership Institute’s Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.


Implement and Measure


Preliminary planning is communicated to the organization and transformation initiatives are ready to kick off. Those initiatives have metrics and goals for success that will naturally drive improvement in your overarching transformation metric(s), showing progress toward the mission and vision for the overall organization.


So, now it is time to start executing and your team is ready to go.


But, what about you? As a leader, your visibility, support, and participation are key to the implementation of these initiatives and how your transformation progresses. Your absence would show a lack of resolve and support for the transformation that YOU kicked off! I hope you’ve done some planning for this as well.


The level of your involvement will vary depending the needs of your team and the organization. Your vision, mission and values should drive a lot of decision making at the functional level, so you should not be needed to micro-manage the process. Let your team work their magic, grow, and develop during the transformation.


However, your visible support is critical. Be present, generally aware of happenings at the functional level, and, most importantly, be the main reporter of the major challenges and overall progress to the organization’s stakeholders on a regular basis.


Here is how we implemented and measured progress and achievement throughout the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:


  • Large Manufacturing Company. In our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we had two major initiatives:
    • implementing new automated accounting and financial reporting systems, and
    • creating a “controller-in-training” program to prepare up-and-coming and new controllers to be true financial business partners helping to grow the business.


To implement the new systems, we created a formal project team of current controllers serving as project managers and subject matter experts, accountants and clerical people with significant tenure in their jobs, and an internal auditor, using a well-known project management software. The make-up and experience in this team was key to the success of the initiative. The project re-energized team members who were ready to move on in their careers and were excited to contribute their company and functional expertise to making the implementation successful. They were among the most trusted professionals in the organization, maximizing the acceptance and the benefits of the new systems. The implementations were well managed, tracked, reported on, and successful, although they did take 30 to 40 percent longer to implement than originally expected. We opted for quality over speed – not an unusual tradeoff in these types of projects.


The controller-in-training program was modeled after comparable sales and operations training programs and consisted of potential controller candidates spending three months rotating through all the sales and operational departments in their facility, then spending three months in accounting and three months in activity-based costing and financial analysis roles. A team of senior financial people selected and hired the participants and I tracked their progress, but the facility people really made the training happen. About 25 percent of the participants landed their first controller jobs backfilling for turnover or being placed in the large new facilities the company was building at the time.


We were pretty good at implementing these projects and programs. However, I think we could’ve done better in terms of having more definition around what achievement of the vision would look like, as well as the metrics and goals that would validate our progress in transforming our controller group into “true financial business partners.” Our success on vision achievement would probably get mixed reviews depending on who you talked to in the organization.


In your own transformation journey, how will you measure ultimate success in achieving your mission and vision?

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. In our transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” and improve the lives all our five stakeholder groups, we had three major initiatives:
    • implementing lean manufacturing,
    • putting electronics repair operations in Europe and Asia, and
    • developing and implementing a strategy to better leverage our engineering and manufacturing capabilities and earn higher margin work.


Having the right people in the right seats on the bus was key to our execution.


In a conversation with our quality manager about his wanting to leave the company, I discovered he was a Lean Manufacturing expert! He agreed to stay and took on the role of leading that initiative. We also hired an operations vice president with significant Lean experience. Their execution on the implementation, including ongoing measurement and reporting was incredible!


The executive team leveraged the work of our global sales manager in identifying the right acquisitions and partners for us to expand our operations in Europe and Asia.


We also implemented lean in our new facilities.


Not planned, but totally in line with our mission, our first Agile software development resulted in a company-wide repair tracking system across all our facilities and lauded by our global customers.


We hired a new sales vice president with an engineering background who had significant experience growing companies in the embedded computer industry, which leveraged our engineering talent and commanded the much higher margins we sought.


Everything we did had measurement and reporting systems, and our execution was great.


Did we achieve our vision? We decided early on that we would have to hear that directly from our stakeholders – the ones we named in our five-stakeholder mission statement.


Eventually, we did start hearing from them. You can read more about this in At C-Level #4.


Do you have the right people in the right seats on your bus? Is there any unknown or underutilized talent in your organization that could help lead your transformation?


  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, improve the operational and financial performance of the company, and increase the company’s value, we had three major initiatives:
    • a company culture change driven by a stated mission and operating guidelines, and a change in leadership mindset, communications, and actions,
    • the implementation of Agile software development in our company – which requires the involvement of all major functional areas of the company – and
    • new strategy development and implementation in marketing and sales.


The culture change was all about leadership communications and “walking the talk.” See more about that execution in “At C-Level #15 – Transformation Communications.”


We measured culture change in the success of the Agile implementation. Agile requires so much cross-functional collaboration and communication that if the culture did not change, that implementation could not succeed.


We measured the success of the Agile implementation,

  • quantitatively, by the 40 percent increase in our software development productivity, and
  • qualitatively, by the increase in the usability and functionality of our product.


Our software was easier to use, looked more professional, helped our sales efforts, and benefited from the input of all the major functional groups in the company.


And, we measured marketing and sales success and the achievement of our mission to help sellers sell more by increases in customers and transaction volume.


But were we achieving our vision of increasing the value of the company for its owners? We were. The company realized a 300 percent increase in value through a major financial transaction within two years of the start of our transformation.


Do you have regular reporting and review cycles for all your initiatives and the achievement of your vision?


Key takeaways from these transformations


Discipline and focus are key, as is building repeatable processes that become a way of life.


Metrics and goals were either developed in planning or were built into the implementation processes of lean and Agile. Follow-up reporting, reviewing and analysis for progress and completion were part these processes as well. And where we did not use Agile or lean, we still had regular reporting and progress reviews.


There was so much going on in each transformation, I couldn’t manage it all…so I directed it and left the management to the functional experts and leaders on the team. I constantly and consistently pushed the vision and mission and lived our values to the best of my ability, trusting the team to give them life by making decisions that were similarly aligned. If they were not, we stopped, discussed them, and did the right thing. This is typical of Strategist or Level 5 leadership. See “At C-Level #9: Evolving Leadership for an Evolving World.”


To see more about the results of these transformations, please see my LinkedIn profile at


In “At C-Level #17: Embedding Transformations,” we’ll look at what I’ve found to be the most challenging part of transformation work and the key takeaways that you may need to think about in your own organization’s transformative journey.


Thanks for following us! For more information or help, please visit us at

At C-Level #11: Creating a Vision and Sense of Urgency

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is also the president & COO of Metcalf & Associates, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

In At C-Level #10-18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model similar to the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below. This blog is about the first step in the process.


Create a Vision & Sense of Urgency

“Starting with the end in mind” is important when beginning any new transformation. However, having a vision of what is at the end of a transformation is not enough. The vision must be so compelling to those leading the transformation and those in the organization being transformed that all involved are impassioned and feel an intense sense of urgency to make it happen.

Do you and your team have a vision you are passionately working toward in your organization? How urgently is everyone working toward that vision? What drives that urgency, or lack thereof?

Here is how the visions were created and the sense of urgency developed in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

  • Large Manufacturing Company. Early in my career as a new financial analyst at a $2B heavy manufacturer with over 60 operations worldwide, I wanted to learn all I could about the business and the people in it. I visited plants and met with plant controllers and general managers, I asked lots of questions to better understand their businesses and their needs. The controllers were still using antiquated accounting systems and spreadsheets to produce their monthly financials and had little time for much else. The general managers were anxious to better understand the financial aspects of their operations and the potential new investments they were proposing to Corporate. They wanted more resources, but didn’t understand that they had the right resources in their controllers—they just weren’t using them very efficiently.

The vision became clear to me and I began sharing it with everyone who would listen. The controllers spending most of their time in their offices working on accounting and financial reporting needed to be upgraded to financial business partners in their business units. That vision resonated with both controllers and general managers and catapulted me into leading a significant organizational transformation that affected a large part of the corporation and, up to that point, was the largest transformation project in my career.

What are the challenges in your organization that would have the greatest positive impact if things were changed? Do you have ideas on what those changes should be? Will people see the urgency in making those needed changes?

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. As a new CFO in this company, I led a financial turnaround of an unprofitable $25M company to a $15M profitable one. Three years of significant revenue growth later, we had become a $75M company. However, we were making about the same profits as we did at $15M! I was then promoted to my first CEO job to “fix” it. I immediately jumped into talking with people across the company to get a sense of the challenges we were facing. We were still trying to run a $75M company like we ran the $15M company. Overall people liked the company, but they were lacking general direction, goals, motivation, processes—and more than a little structure. There was a lot of work to be done, but toward what? …and where should we start?

Having never been a CEO, I employed a leadership development coach who made me go deep into myself and define my personal purpose in life, as well as my own personal vision, that I could very closely link to a vision for the company. After much soul-searching, I also wrote draft missions and general operating philosophies for the whole leadership team to help me refine so that all could buy in. Knowing what we were doing was not working, and, with a downturn looming, we could be in serious trouble again, a very high sense of urgency drove us to a vision that was essentially “to be the best in the world at what we do.” As vague as that vision was, being the best in the world (not the biggest) mostly meant we needed to be a vastly different company than we were, in everything from leadership to strategy to execution. It opened people’s minds to substantial change.

The vision was a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) and it drew people in. Do you have a BHAG that could energize your organization?

  • Global Internet Payments Company. As a management consultant in this business, I could see that the company was vastly underperforming despite having some great talent and a significant global business opportunity. The business had grown to processing over $200M in payment transactions per year in 200+ countries and was still operating as startup with the same culture it started with for most of its ten years in existence. The organization was operating in silos and simply just tossing their problems over the wall for other departments to fix, which never seemed to happen. People were no longer as happy working there as they once were. A significant cultural transformation was needed to get the company back to higher levels of profitability and prepare it for a possible sale. But what would that look like? And where should we start?

After a few months, I was hired as COO. I immediately drafted missions, visions, and operating guidelines for the executive team to further develop and adopt. We eventually dropped the idea of a stated vision and adopted a mission of “We help our Sellers sell more!” That mission really helped the leadership team focus every day, week, and month. But frankly, it was the combination of the mission, improvement in leadership (we brought in a leadership development coach for the entire leadership team) and the operating guidelines that drove the entire organizational transformation. While not stated, the vision was of a company providing the highest value to its clients (the sellers using its payment services), growing in its financial value, with everyone working in harmony toward those reaching the first two goals. We talked about these three things all the time.

If your vision is not stated, what might be the “behind the scenes” vision for the company? Could it be stated to rally the troops and reach it faster together? Do you talk about your mission and goals on a regular basis?

Key takeaways from these transformations

The larger, more complex and/or faster-evolving an organization’s environment is, the higher the need for a stated vision that everyone can rally around and work toward in transforming the organization to get it to the next level. Does your organization need a stated vision?

To develop a great vision, you must know yourself, your organization, and what will stir deep passion and a sense of urgency within you, as well as the people you will be leading on this journey. Involve the leadership team in the process and get out and talk to others in the organization who have been, or will be, key to the success of the business. If you don’t know where you are going, what path do you follow? How will you know when you’ve arrived?

You don’t have to be a top leader of a large organization to start a transformation. If you can create a vision that…

  • you and others are passionate about,
  • is well thought out,
  • leverages your area(s) of expertise,
  • is widely recognized in the organization,
  • is supported by your leaders, and
  • is believed to be an urgent need with a real return on investment (in other words, a priority),

…and you have the confidence to step up, then you will have the opportunity to lead it. Is there a transformation in your organization waiting for someone to step forward and lead?

And lastly, if there is no sense of urgency, progress will be slow, at best. There is urgency as in a challenge that must be overcome, and urgency as in a destination everyone can’t wait to get too. What drives the urgency of your organization’s progress today? Can you combine the urgency of the challenges you face along the way with the urgency of getting to your destination to speed that progress up?

In “At C-Level #12: Building Transformation Teams,” we’ll look at how the teams were built in these same three organizations and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in building your transformation leadership team.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

Thanks for following us! To learn more about transforming organizations and/or get help, visit us at

Leveraging Multigenerational Leadership – Navigating the Graying Demographic in the Workplace and Marketplace

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was co-written by Karen Sands and Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Karen Sands.

According to Steve Vernon in MoneyWatch June 2016, “The bottom line is that we’re living much longer than prior generations, but we can’t afford to keep adding years at the end of our lives when we’re fully retired and no longer working. Therefore, it only makes sense to work longer, but we’ll want to take steps to make these additional working years enjoyable and productive.”

Whether you are excited about the prospect of working until you are into your 80’s or 90’s or terrified, as leaders we all need to think about how the longevity economy will impact our workforce and our customers. As people live longer and work longer, their work habits and buying habits will change.

The intersection of people living and working longer, combined with the rapid acceleration of changes in how organizations conduct work, will lead us to a new Triple Bottom Line—people, planet, profits. s. But, only if organizations can overcome the immense challenges coming our way in the Longevity Economy- – representing an increase of the sum of economic activity of services and goods serving the 50+ demographic from $7.1 Trillion today to over $13.5 Trillion by 2032. Businesses that choose to leverage the largest pool of multigenerational skilled and knowledge workers to engage and capture the new ageless consumers as clients will beat the competition hands down. This big shift will foster creative processes to leverage the business acumen and skills of seasoned workers, along with the adaptability and tech finesse of younger workers will create a strategic advantage.

This more diverse workplace comes with great opportunities and significant challenges. Organizations will need to find ways to overcome the “generational gap” associated with the perception that older employees are “taking jobs” from younger employees and are not keeping current with technology, therefore less productive. Or from the mature employees point of view, the Millennials are “lazy” and don’t have work ethics of yesteryear. Here are some recommendations Karen suggests:

First, we need to communicate with each other about it. This seems obvious, but how often do the generations really talk about this situation with each other? It tends to get talked about through politicians and the media, rather than in collaborative, hands-on, deliberately multigenerational conversations.

These conversations are crucial not only to get our fears and perceptions out in the open, but also to clear up the misconceptions that can lead us all to make decisions based on incorrect information or assumptions.

Second, we need to explore alternative solutions together based on the probable future, not the past. Yes, social security was an effective solution to many problems that stemmed from the Great Depression, and it continues to be a necessary element in our economy, but pursuing ways to once again push millions of post-65/70 people out of the workforce is not going to work. Being 65/70 today is not even close to what it was in prior eras.

Third, we should look at generational partnerships, such as job sharing/mentorship arrangements that enable two people to be employed instead of one, enable training costs and salary to combine, stretching a company’s dollar and quickening the pace at which younger employees can gain the skills, knowledge, and some of the experience they need to be more valuable to that company and in the marketplace. These could work with a shifting percentage of time, starting with the mentor working 3/4 of the job, then gradually decreasing to 1/2, then 1/4, with an ultimate shift into mentoring another employee or into a consultant arrangement.

Fourth, we need to encourage people over 60 (in fact over 40) to remain employed by starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs or by creating new profit centers within their current companies and organizations. These could range from simple solopreneurs to larger operations that will both remove the competition for the same job between two generations, while it generates additional employment.

People, organizations, and governments need to focus on encouraging experienced professionals and executives, especially women, to start businesses with a strong focus on the Triple Bottom Line In this way, we can solve or at least ameliorate multiple societal problems simultaneously through the specific social missions of these companies as well as their effect on the job market, offering a way for all generations to make a living and a difference, and to secure their future and that of the world for generations to come. This means many leaders will need to expand their perspective about how jobs get accomplished and by whom.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the Authors:

Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Proven Path to Leadership Maturity and Effectiveness

This post is a companion to the Voice America interview featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about leadership maturity and vertical development to build the leadership qualities required to lead large complex organizations and those that aspire to make the greatest impact.

The following article was first published by Forbes Coaches Council in August 2016.

Future trends indicate complexity, accelerated change, and near-constant uncertainty in the coming years. These conditions will require significantly different leadership skills.

With these new demands for evolving leadership, is there a predictable path to develop leadership? If so, what does that path look like?

Leaders develop both “horizontally,” increasing their ability at their current level of operation, and “vertically,” increasing their level of complexity, emotional maturity, and opening to new awareness. Many researchers are now saying that “vertical development” is required to navigate the complexities leaders and their organizations face.

To answer what the vertical evolutionary path looks like, I reference the research of Dr. Cook-Greuter, who developed a Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF) and measurement of adult development as part of her doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. Dr. Cook-Greuter is now the Co-Founder with Beena Sharma of The Center for Leadership Maturity, a firm that facilitates vertical development in individuals, teams and organizations. The LMF is the basis of my work with vertical leadership development because it provides a model that is both grounded in research and practical to use in coaching and leadership development.

Vertical development does not mean that more developed people are “better” people, but rather, in many cases, are likely to be more effective in key leadership roles within large complex organizations. The following is a brief summary of the LMF describing the predictable developmental trajectory people navigate as they grow:

The Group-Centric Level

This level is about conforming and belonging. People at this level follow rules, norms and observe hierarchy. They conform to social expectations, work to group standards, seek membership and approval, and appreciate outward signs of status as a sign of approval. They attend to the welfare of their own group; those who are not like them are the “other,” and therefore outside their circle of concern. They avoid conflict, think in simple terms, and often speak in generalities. Feedback is taken as disapproval since their driving value is to gain approval and be included.

Example: This is the employee who looks to what the group is doing to determine his actions. He looks to meet the “expectations” set by the organization, fit into the culture, and do what everyone does. Belonging is his key to success; standing out or having a different opinion feels risky

The Skill-Centric Level

This focuses on comparing self to others and perfecting skills. Individuals at this level focus on being competent in their own area of interest and improving techniques and efficiency. They aspire to quality standards and are often heavily invested in their way as the only way of doing things. Decisions are made based on incontrovertible “facts.” Given their focus on problem-solving and detail, they can get caught in the weeds and not see the big picture necessary to effectively prioritize among competing demands. All consuming attention on being right can lead them to be critical of and competitive with others. They hear feedback about their work as criticism of them as a whole person.

Example: This is the employee who points out when others make mistakes and tries to correct them so they can meet the standards. Her development efforts focus on building expertise. She usually has a “better” opinion unless she is in the presence of a subject-matter expert.

The Self-Determining Level

This focuses on analyzing and achieving to effectively deliver results. Leaders at this level look toward longer-term goals and initiate rather than follow expectations. They value objectivity and scientific knowledge, seeking rational, proactive ways around problems. They often seek consensus — “agree to disagree” — and value mutuality and equality in relationships. They accept feedback to promote learning and success.

Example: This employee continually drives to meet organizational goals. He works both efficiently and effectively and is continually competing with himself and others to drive the best results. He has a five-year plan, is open to new learning, and is beginning to be more reflective.

The Self-Questioning Level

This level focuses on self in relationship and contextualizing his/her experience. Leaders at this level are concerned with the difference between reality and appearance and have an increased understanding of complexity and unintended effects of actions. They begin to question their own assumptions and views and realize the subjectivity of beliefs; and talk of interpretations rather than facts. They can play different roles in different contexts and begin to seek out and value feedback.

Example: This employee is continually inquiring, challenging assumptions, and aware of the limitations of conventional thinking. She focuses on creating an environment where everyone feels valued. She is committed to appreciating value in different perspectives.

The Self-Actualizing Level

This level is about integrating and transforming self and systems, and recognizing higher principles, complexity and interrelationships. People at this level are aware of the social construction of reality — not just rules and customs. They are problem finding, not just doing creative problem solving. They are aware of paradox and contradiction in self and systems and learn to have a deep appreciation of others. They demonstrate a sensitivity to systemic change and create “positive-sum” games.

Example: This person is continually evaluating the organization’s strategy against long-term industry trends as well as global economic conditions while embodying her values and using herself as an instrument of transformation. She is self-aware and firmly anchored in principles while having the ability to adapt based on context.

As we look to the changes leaders are facing in the near and long term, it is helpful to have a robust model for development that allows them to focus their development energy effectively. This framework, along with it, measurement instrument — the maturity assessment for professionals (MAP) — is the most robust I have seen, and I find it highly effective in supporting leaders.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

At C-Level #1: What’s it like to be a first time CEO?

First time CEOAt C-Level #1 is the beginning of an eight-part blog series following a first time CEO’s educational journey in a very challenging business environment, and exploring global concepts in leadership theory and practice.

At the end of each blog are reflection questions for readers to consider as they navigate their own leadership journey.

This guest post by Mike Sayre — experienced software, e-commerce and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO and Board Director—is based on his first-hand experiences as a fledging CEO. Its intent is to provide additional insight or ideas to those in, close to, aspiring to, or trying to understand the top leadership role in any organization. Mike was also featured in the October 4, 2016 Innovative Leadership, Co-creating Our Future interview with Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica focusing on the importance of leader trustworthiness in driving organizational change.

I had been the CFO of a manufacturing services company for about five years, reporting directly to the founder and CEO. Over that time, I was able to lead in greatly improving the financial operations and reporting of the company, engineered a significant financial turnaround, learned everything I could about the business and the people in it, became the founder’s closest advisor in the business, and gained the total trust and confidence of both the founder and the board.

In an unexpected turn of events, the founder of the company, much more experienced and happier leading technology development for the business, asked me to take over as CEO of the company while he took on the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

The founder was the third CEO I had worked closely with in my career and, through observation, I actually thought I knew what the CEO’s job was all about…strategy and planning, relationships with large customers and suppliers and the board, driving for higher sales and lower costs, rallying the troops around the company’s goals and objectives, etc. I also loved the company, its people, capabilities, and prospects for the future. So I accepted the job.

The first couple of days were fairly calm, but over the ensuing weeks the problems and questions got more complicated and began coming at an accelerated pace:

  • We are losing money on a couple of new very large accounts representing most of our sales growth. What do we do?
  • Our largest customer, upset with late deliveries, is requiring a daily meeting in which he verbally abuses our best customer service representative, and she is talking about leaving. How should we handle this?
  • Our latest acquisition is not well integrated and is bleeding money. Why is this happening?
  • Our competitors all have locations in Europe and Asia and some of our largest customers will no longer let us bid on new work because we only have one location in the U.S. How can we develop international capabilities?

However, the most pressing questions to me came from the vice president of sales who was trying to figure out what exactly he was trying to sell:

  • What are we trying to do here? What is our mission? What do we want to be when we grow up?
  • Who is our target market, and what is our value to them?
  • What are our core values?
  • What are our goals and priorities?
  • How do we make all these decisions that we’ve never made before, let alone execute on them?

At this point, I realized what the company had been missing, why being the CEO had been so frustrating for the founder, and what being the CEO was really about…leadership and focus.

Gene Early wrote an executive summary of Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great. I review that executive summary from time to time to help me keep the focus on what it can take to “breakthrough” from being a “good” company to becoming a “great” one. “Understanding that drives action” is one way to describe it. Good to Great companies worked to understand at a deep level what made their company work, and by continually looking for new answers to the question, they developed the momentum to break through to greatness. Their leaders understood these seven basic tenets that Collins put forth in the book:

  1. Success is not about the leader as a person, but about the success of the company;
  2. The right people in the right seats on the bus make all the difference;
  3. Find the truth and act on it by facing the brutal facts of reality while maintaining an unwavering faith that you will succeed;
  4. Tapping passion, extraordinary competence, and the key economic driver builds progressive momentum;
  5. Stay focused on the essentials and stop the distractions, and cultivate that discipline;
  6. Technology is best used to accelerate momentum, not create it; and
  7. Greatness comes from a sustained commitment to disciplined people, disciplined thinking, and disciplined action that creates breakthrough momentum.

Collins placed the leaders who moved companies from good to great in the top level of his developmental hierarchy and called them “Level 5” leaders. He characterized them as having “a unique combination of humility and fierce resolve.”

Reflection questions:

  • As you assess your current situation, on a scale of 1–5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, how would you score yourself on the seven tenets above? For example, using the first tenet, how would you rate yourself on putting your company’s success before your own?
  • How can you use your scores on the seven tenets to shape your leadership development plan?

If you scored below a three on any of the factors or scored an average below four, please consider creating a personal leadership development plan with us. Metcalf & Associates and I offer leadership development support and executive advisory services, including transformational change and turnaround consulting.

In At C-Level #2, Mike will tell us what he did to get started and how he decided—after much inner turmoil—to approach the new and very exciting challenges before him!

About the Author

Mike Sayre, executive advisor and organizational transformation practice lead, has been a successful CEO, COO, CFO, and board director for multiple organizations in technology (cybersecurity, e-commerce payments processing, and engineered computer products) and manufacturing (electronics and steel products). He shares his expertise with client boards and C-Level leaders, and advises, designs, plans, and oversees the implementation of successful strategies for turnarounds, growth, profitability, and sustainability.

Mike brings 25+ years of organizational and business leadership and hands-on implementation experience to his clients.  His teams have achieved significant increases in growth, profitability, and valuation, as well as shareholder, customer, supplier, and employee engagement and satisfaction.

Developing Emotional Intelligence: Are You Listening Actively?

This post is written by Kara Rising, an associate at Metcalf & Associates who specializes in coaching emerging leaders. 


A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I went to the Chamber Escape Room here in Columbus, Ohio. This live, interactive experience is essentially inspired by computer escape games. You and 11 other people are escorted into a room, a tape is played, and then you work together to solve riddles and puzzles. Oh, and you only have 45 minutes to find the key to unlock the door and escape. It. Was. Awesome! Even though many of us had never met before, we managed to work together, and solved the puzzle with 10 minutes left to spare! I was impressed.

Playing this game highlighted how critically important communication is to getting along in life and in business. How were we able to solve the puzzles when, according to the game organizers, 50% of groups don’t even make it out of the room? What does this statistic tell us about lack of communication and problem solving skills? I think our group was successful because we all communicated openly and cooperatively.

The sad truth is that the Chamber Escape Room percentage is an accurate depiction of how we communicate in daily life. Many of us don’t communicate well. Why? How is it that for the millions of years that humans have been around we still suck at it? While I might not be able to answer why, I have an insight into how we can be better about communicating. It starts with listening.

How many of you believe you are good listeners? I bet most of us think we are decent – or at least average – at listening. The truth is most of us stink. In their article in The Harvard Business Review, Listening To People, Ralph Nichols and Leonard Stevens provided some pretty surprising stats. One states that A University of Michigan study of thousands of students and business professionals found only a 50% retention of information immediately after it was communicated to them – no matter how carefully the participants judged themselves to be listening. Now this might be simply because our brains just can’t store that much information all of the time. However, this is also because of a great lack of attention and training into this skill that we do daily.

Fortunately, there are ways you can improve your existing (or non-existing) skills. Here is a list of the Do’s and Don’ts of listening to help you listen more effectively.


  1. Practice training your brain to use your internal thinking effectively. It’s easy for us to start mentally wandering off during a conversation- if the speaker is too slow, we judge the content to be uninteresting or a word triggered a memory or thought. By the time we even realized that we have wandered off, we’ve missed a significant portion of what the speaker is saying. To avoid this, practice reading for ideas, emotions or meaning that is spoken (or perhaps unspoken) within the conversation.
  2. Periodically summarize what has already been said in your head so that you can recall more easily when you then do it out loud.Paraphrase what the speaker has said. This is where summarizing in your head will come in handy. Do not parrot what the person has said- that’s not true listening and comprehension, that’s just memorization.
  3. Ask the question “did I get that right?”Once you are done paraphrasing what you heard the speaker say, ask if you heard him or her correctly. Not only does this communicate that you are interested in understanding what is being said but it also gives the speaker the chance to correct anything you heard that was incorrect. This helps eliminate problems in the future.
  4. Give verbal and physical cues that you are listeningFor example, nodding your head or the occasional (but not frequent) “mmhmm” or “interesting
  5. Put away all distractionsTurn away from your computer, put your phone away, stop writing and face the speaker


  1. Fidget. Not only is it a distraction but it communicates you are bored or anxious with what the person is saying. Even if you are a natural mover, try to curb your inner energy and stay still.
  2. InterruptSometimes you want to jump in on the conversation to clarify or argue a point the person just said- please refrain.
  3. Get defensiveListen with an open mind to what is being said- perhaps there is some truth in the content that can be used to improve your skills as a leader. Even if you feel there is no truth, arguing will stall the conversation and keep resolution from being achieved.
  4. Jump to judgmentsWhether it is about the content you are hearing or about the person speaking, do not make judgments. Not only is this good practice for listening, but it is also good practice for everyday life. Keep in mind sometimes even positive judgments can be harmful.
  5. Change subjectsHave you ever had someone ask you a question, you answer and then that person fails to acknowledge your answer but asks another question or begins to talk about something unrelated? I can tell you it communicates that what you have to say is insignificant- regardless of the person’s intent. Save it for the natural conclusion of the conversation.

Many studies and polls have found that having effective communication skills is the number one thing employers look for in hiring and promoting. If within the four parts of communication we write 9% of the time, read 16%, speak 30% and listen 45%, it stands to reason that we should focus more efforts on being better at listening. Not only will this help you succeed at work, but it will help you succeed in leadership and in your personal life. Sounds like a no brainer! Now go out and be good listeners!

Stepping Into The Smoke: Developing Emotional Intelligence- Empathy

This post is written by Kara Rising, associate and Emerging Leader Coach at Metcalf & Associates.


I want to start off this blog entry with two statements about empathy I believe to be true:

  1. Empathy is absolutely the most important skill to have if you are ever going to interact with people at work
  2. Even those of us who are not “warm and fuzzy” can become good at developing empathy.

I believe I am living proof of number two. Besides sharing my journey to developing empathy, I will share the five simple tips I’ve used to develop empathic responding, so you use them too.

I’ve received this feedback in the past:

  • Your personality is like a punch in the face.
  •  People either absolutely love you or they absolutely hate you.
  •  You’re kind of an intense and direct person.
  •  You have a short fuse.

These are not qualities you would want in a therapist or coach, so it’s interesting I even went into coaching in the first place! However, through education and experience in working with people, I have  effectively beat the insensitivity out of me – for the most part! Now, instead of challenging people, my first response is to empathize. This has changed how I view myself, and the comments I hear from others. So, even if you are known as a gruff manager who scares people, you too can learn to empathize and to be more effective. You just have to overcome your aversion to emotions.

Most of us are born with a capacity for empathy, some more than others, but it is also a skill that can be developed. Empathy is simply the ability for us to experience and understand the emotions of another person (although to a lesser degree). Empathy is the foundation of relationships. It is what allows us to connect with others, and is our greatest asset in communicating with co-workers, supervisors and subordinates.

No matter what type of a leader you are, if you can’t develop your empathy capacity you will not be able to develop your leadership capacity. Before I go on to explain some tips on empathy, I want to share an analogy my father once shared that has been one of the most helpful description of empathy.

You and your spouse are standing around a campfire. Suddenly the wind changes directions and the smoke begins to blow directly into your spouse’s face. He or she starts coughing, sputtering and commenting on how awful it is. (Now, at this point of the analogy I usually ask my clients, “What would you do in this situation?” And almost 100% of the time I get the same answer: “I’d tell my spouse to move!” Keeping in mind that this is an analogy to prove a point so therefore a bit exaggerated, I would then tell them that in terms of empathy that would not be considered the best response. Ok, now back to the analogy.) As you are watching your spouse cough in the direct line of smoke, you decide to step into the smoke and begin coughing, sputtering, and remark, “Gosh, this DOES suck. Why don’t we move to the other side of the fire?” The two of you move from the smoke and continue to have an enjoyable evening.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is a bit over the top for teaching’s sake, but it demonstrates an excellent point about empathy: you can’t help a person to move without first getting into the smoke too. People desire to feel understood and to feel there is someone who can relate to them. Without such it feels condescending and isolating.

Here are some practical tips on how to respond empathically:

    1. Don’t interrupt

Allow the person to express emotions fully before responding. I know it’s hard sometimes to bite your tongue and keep quiet- but it’s a must if the person is to feel understood and heard (and then be open to listening to you).

    2. Keep appropriate eye contact

Everyone knows when someone isn’t paying attention and thinking of other things. Keep your attention and focus on them while they speak, i. It shows you respect them and what they have to say.

     3. Do NOT give advice

Nothing shuts someone down faster than getting unsolicited advice when he or she he or she did not ask for it and just wanted to connect. After you feel you have empathized appropriately and the person was able to fully express himself or herself him or herself, you can then ask if you can offer advice- but understand the person is allowed to say no.

     4. Respond by acknowledging the emotion expressed, or if you are really good, unexpressed.

A simple formula to follow when you are just practicing is this: “You feel ______ because ______”. Be careful how you use this, it could easily be interpreted as mocking if not done well. Try practicing this at home or with a friend first before attempting this in more difficult situations. If you have average empathy skills, you can “read between the lines” and also begin to pull out emotions that haven’t been said and empathize with those.

      5. Resist the urge to help.

This is a hard one- we want to reduce the other’s suffering but also want to reduce our own internal emotional reaction to the other person’s emotions. However, as helpful as you may think you are being, you are not. Resist the urge and just listen and respond with empathy statements.


Practice this at home periodically. Be a scientist and observe how the dynamics change within your relationships when you practice more empathic responding. Once you have a firmer handle on how to appropriately respond with empathy, you can then translate that into your working environment. Developing this skill in the workplace will help you grow and connect with your employees while simultaneously engaging them. I hope that you can use these tips to be even better leaders than you were yesterday.


Book Excerpt: The Ten Disciplines of Leadership

The 10 disciplines of LeadershipToday’s blog is a guest post by Rich Jacobs, Principal of the Richard Jacobs Management Institute and former Vistage International Chair for sixteen years. Rich recently published a book: The Ten Disciplines of Leadership – The Ultimate Playbook for Success. (Richard A. Jacobs & Charles B. Dygert, Ph.D).

Following is an excerpt from his book. It applies to leaders at the beginning of their journey and can be used as a “review” or “check list” for experienced managers to identify areas of potential improvement. A future post will provide the remaining fundamentals.

Creating a strong foundation of management skills is critical for success of both the manager and those being managed. Jessica is a new manager in a technology firm. She is highly committed to doing a good job and proving herself. Early in her tenure she finds herself overwhelmed with the volume of work and struggles with delegation. She is worried that people will think less of her for “pushing her work off on others”. Her team is complaining that they are bored with the mundane tasks and frustrated that she is so busy that she isn’t able to meet with them. Jessica is struggling with elementary management skills like most new managers. By strengthening her ability in the fundamentals, she will quickly create an engaged team and correct the productivity slump her team experienced when she took over this role.

Four Management Fundamentals:

1: Set clear values and consequences for nonconformance. If you are a person with assigned authority in an organization and observe behavior/acts that are counter to your company’s values/culture – what do you do? You must go to the “scene” and acknowledge – in some fashion – that this is unacceptable. There are many ways to do this – select the one you feel will be the most effective and is your normal “management style”. One approach is to walk over to the area and engage each person in a probing manner by asking questions. “Is this how we do things here? If not, what should we be doing?” The objective is to point out the error in their behavior and acknowledge the correct approach. If the situation escalates, then action should be taken. This may come in the form of a formal letter of discipline in their file.

2: Set expectations and deadlines and follow-up on progress. Do not do their job for them – even though it might be easier and save time. Give an example of how you might follow-up that supports employee performance and engagement. Each week sit down with your manager and decide on the projects to be worked on for the next week. Agree on what results are expected and how they will be measured. This can be done in person or via e-mail. Coach them on how to succeed. Define the consequences if results are not met. This is how accountability becomes part of the company’s culture. It defines what is expected of each associate.

3: Set boundaries – each person in a leadership position has “limits of authority” – stated or unstated. Each person should work his/her direct reports and with the people he/she report to establish these boundaries. There are different ways to do this – here is an example.
• Items I want you to always come to me first to talk about and decide action plan
• Items I want you to come to me with your recommendation and action plan to discuss
• Items I want to know about but do not need the details
• Items you should just do and not bother me with

4: Discuss strengths and weaknesses – There are several schools of thought on this one. However, most of us do best when working with our strengths. What are your strengths? Are you using a strengths based assessment like the Gallup StrengthsFinders to identify your strengths? What additional skill training would you like to have? Make this a part of your personal strategic action goals.

We will explore the additonal fundamentals in a future blog from Rich.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.system to a regenerative, inclusive one that can ensure the thriving of our biosphere and ourselves.

Four Activities for Managers and Emerging Leaders to Build Resilience

This post comes to you written by Kara Rising, a new associate with Metcalf & Associates.

As leaders, we all experience frustration when plans and goals are derailed by events we cannot control.

How can we remain productive when all the items on our to-do lists are pushed aside by whichever

demanding issue is yelling the loudest?  Suddenly, we are coping with 20 new emails needing immediate

attention, 5 dissatisfied clients waiting for us to return their calls, and a seemingly continuous stream of

employees needing our attention.  At the end of the day, we have not accomplished a single one of our

original goals.

All leaders have experienced this frustration and, as a manager, I was no exception.  Snapping at my co-

workers, ignoring my spouse, or yelling at my dog were, embarrassingly, my reactions to this frustration.

How could I be a successful manager of others if I could not manage my own emotions?

Learning to be aware of your internal state and build resiliency in stressful environments is an important

and essential skill.  How often do you look inside and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now and where

is this coming from?”  “How will I begin to learn how to manage my emotions?” If these are questions you

routinely ask yourself, great!  Learning this skill will come easier for you. But if this line of thinking is

foreign to you, don’t fret.  By starting with the basics and fundamentals of emotional management, and

practicing exercises every day, you can build this awareness known as “Mindfulness.”

Try these exercises:

    1. As you are reading this blog entry, become aware of your breathing. Feel the sensation in your stomach as it rises and falls with every inhalation and exhalation. Take a few minutes and just pay attention to your body while you breathe. Are you aware of other sensations going on? Where are they? Do you feel a tightness somewhere? Maybe your neck or back? Sit with it and notice the feeling in that area. What emotion do you associate with it? Maybe the tightness is from an earlier confrontation with your boss about the quarterly report. Maybe it’s anger you’ve ignored until now. Sit with that. Do not do anything with that anger or thought. Simply observe it. It’s not good nor bad; it just exists.


    1. Mindfulness is difficult to put into practice in the beginning because our brains try to solve whatever negative emotion we are feeling at that time. If we’re feeling angry, how do we stop? Maybe we decide it was our boss’s fault for not giving clear instructions. By blaming him, our anger can go away. Or we might get a beer or go to the gym to stop feeling stressed. This video offers some suggestions for when you are feeling negative or unpleasant emotions. I recommend taking 5 minutes to try this video out.


    1. It is unrealistic to believe you can take control of your internal state immediately- It is common to find that your thoughts will wander back to that original stress. This exercise is what I do if those thoughts get in the way: Imagine standing in front of train tracks. Vividly imagine the colors of green in the grass, dark brown of the tracks, and feel the cool breeze on your skin. Then imagine a train passing in front of you. On the train is spray-painted or written whatever thought you are having or emotion you are feeling. Watch that thought or emotion slowly pass by and follow it as it continues out of view. Repeat this as many times as you need. You are a spectator of your own internal state, not a participant. Then come back to focusing on your breathing. Your mind is now clearer and more focused. And as you slowly come back to reality, notice that what was bothering you or running frantically through your brain no longer seems so pressing. With an objective mind you can evaluate your goals for the situation and deal with each task professionally and calmly.


  1. Building awareness to your internal state takes time and diligence.  Adopt mindfulness as a daily practice so it becomes an accessible tool in your emotional intelligence toolbox. One of the best tools I use to keep me on track is “Headspace” developed by Andy Puddicombe.  This free app is a 10 day meditation practice, and teaches mindfulness fundamentals. I challenge each of you to download the app and commit to the 10 day program.  Evaluate changes in yourself and your self-awareness.


Give yourself grace and time because you might slip up sometimes and go back to letting emotions get the

best of you.  But if you are persistent, mindfulness will make your days more productive, improve your

relationships, and give you a calmer and more pleasant demeanor- thereby increasing your leadership

skills and even your health!


Good luck on your new journey to becoming an even better leader!