9 Steps to Building A Mentoring Program and Retaining Employees


Mike, an experienced leader, came back to his office after an intense meeting. He had been taken off guard by the exchange he had with a couple of team members. He took a couple of deep breaths to gather his thoughts and think through what had just happened. He knew that part of what he felt was frustration at what he thought would be a simple conversation ended up with a colleague taking offense to what he had done and how he had explained it. He had acted with integrity and was unsure how the meeting had gone so terribly wrong. Through feedback he knew that people see him as a bit aggressive in his approach. He has been working on that and thought he had made some great breakthroughs. So, it was even more disconcerting to see the reaction from someone he trusted and thought he had a strong relationship with. On days like this, Mike wondered if his style was just a bad fit for this company and if he should find another place to work that valued his direct approach to work and problem resolution.

After taking some time to reflect, he reached out to his mentor to help him figure out how much of this situation reflected something he needed to pay attention to. Did he need to build additional interaction skills? Or, was this less about him and more of a reflection of his colleague’s own frustration with a difficult day? He left the discussion grateful to have a mentor who regularly served as a thought partner in his personal improvement and development. Mike knew he could count on this person to provide candid and supportive responses. Over the years Mike and his mentor have been connected, they have built a deep trusting professional relationship. Of significant importance to the company was that Mike left the conversation with his mentor feeling like he was a strong fit for the organization. The company may not have known when they created the mentoring program how much of a positive impact it could have on employee retention.

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm that helps clients make lasting improvements to their performance and realize their most important goals. In its recent article on The Power of People Analytics discussed how it developed an approach to retention: to detect previously unobserved behavioral patterns, they combine various data sources with machine-learning algorithms. The insights have been surprising and, at times, counterintuitive. They expected factors such as an individual’s performance rating or compensation to be the top predictors of unwanted attrition. But their analysis revealed that a lack of mentoring and coaching and of “affiliation” with people who have similar interests were actually top of list. More specifically, “flight risk” across the firm fell by 20 to 40 percent when coaching and mentoring were deemed satisfying.

Do you have a mentoring or coaching program? How would you go about setting one up?

  1. Identify mentoring program goals and objectives
  2. Determine who is offered a mentor (new employees, women, people at a specific level, high-potential employees)
  3. Determine if mentoring should become part of an ongoing development program to support the overall development goals
  4. Identify who is interested in serving as a mentor
  5. Create mentoring processes and tools that will accomplish the program goals and provide resources to mentors
  6. Develop a process to connect protégés with mentors
  7. Pilot the program and measure successes and areas for improvement
  8. Refine the program
  9. Launch the program

Mentors provide a variety of support. In addition to sharing knowledge directly related to business, they also act as a sounding board for protégés to verbalize concerns and frustrations. As well, they also can function as a mirror so that mentees can see an accurate reflection of themselves in a non-threatening way.

Evidence supports that providing mentors to employees increases job satisfaction, greater interpersonal skills, and higher productivity. Employees who are paired with mentors also feel a stronger identity with their employer; hence, the personal investment that leads to higher levels of retention.

Maureen participated in a formal mentoring program while working for a large consulting firm. It was directed toward women because the firm was seeing high attrition rates. She found the additional access to a highly successful executive invaluable in improving my ability to increase my effectiveness.

The program needs to balance organizational goals with the cost (time and money) invested in it. When done well, everyone benefits.

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.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: Nasa Appel

Resilience – Creating an “I’ll do that” Culture

CJTF-HOAThis post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.

November 10 being the Marine Corps Birthday and November 11 being Veteran’s Day I decided it was the perfect time to expound on resilience and how it is key to emerging successful in our changing market place across all industries.

Why should leaders hire, promote, teach, and help identify resilience as a key characteristic of success and aptitude?

Change is constant for better or worse. Organizations change, cultures change, finance changes, customers change, how we market changes, our True North changes etc…Resilience is one of the basic skills that allows us to meet these changes and turns them to success.

I was speaking with a group of Veterans the other day on what makes them successful and what makes veterans successful in general. During the discussion a common theme emerged and we all had a good laugh when someone called it out to our attention. “The problem is we all think we can accomplish any task…and we are probably right”. Just hearing this should be a win for the military. The armed forces produce a spirit and mindset that convinces an individual that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to…seriously. It is the one characteristic that sets aside, in our minds, Veterans from Civilians. So why do recruiters and managers look at this as almost a negative when it is mentioned in the context of hiring value? I asked a lot of questions regarding this to some managers and HR folks and when you really get down to it, it’s too broad and not tangible on paper. It almost sounds silly.

To the lay person hearing someone, who may not appear to have a certain background on paper say “I can do this” in reference to a job or task sounds like desperation or lunacy. But to someone who was been trained and forged to act and think this way, to adapt and overcome countless obstacles, contradicting orders, uncertainty, low budgets-no budgets, and lack of support on a daily basis it sounds normal and expected.

When I was serving in Iraq we experienced a period of time without a communications operator to coordinate a 56 man platoon to include the equipment, frequencies, call signs, etc. that are needed as part of routine communications effort. No worries, Private Jones jumped in and within a few days he was running our communications and servicing the equipment. How? We were faced with adversity and a motivated young man jumped at the opportunity to provide his resilience as a skill set (he was not a radio operator). He sought the information from a nearby group of radio operators. He had them run him through a crash course in radio operation and implementation. Now the good of the platoon could persevere. He bet on himself and knew that all the pieces were out there somewhere. He just had to put it all together. Why not him? After all, he was taught that there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish. It was not his aptitude to learn radio operation that made him successful, it was his resilience. His mind set was not “I could learn the radio” it was “I can learn the operation, I will do my best, and I will do it in a short period of time”.

Situational AnalysisBack to the original question, why should managers focus on hiring and seeking those with reserves of resilience? Let’s break down the indicators and alignment of Resilient Organizations and see if we can’t answer this question. Let’s start with this diagramthat helps us create alignment between individuals, culture and systems. Implicit in this diagram is that expectation that systems are aligned with one another and that those systems are aligned with the overall mission.

At the foundation we identify the basic accomplishments that need to happen to overcome change and be successful. We need to pass or leverage knowledge throughout the organization. If marketing catches a big trend shift the whole corporation needs to follow the trend to better serve the customer and introduce products and values accordingly. We all need to think horizontally not vertically. Breaking down silos…this is business cliché 101. Organizations need to unite and align with their purpose to overcome external changes to mirror internal positive change. We need to be aware of the situation, have creativity, be proactive, make a decision based on little knowledge, partner with subject matter experts and use internal resources. We need to inject resilience into the overall system. There are a few elements of resilient systems that stand out. The culture and the leaders must value resilience. Then, the systems need to be structured in a way that people are encouraged rather than penalized when acting with resilience. That can mean employees are encouraged to find balance and healthy lives and it can also mean the systems they use to do their jobs can be changed to meet the organizational changes.

Even without formal business training Private Jones walked through this diagram focusing on what needs to be done. He sought training on his own from internal subject matter experts, he was pro-active, thinking horizontally, he got creative, formed partnerships, and most importantly he brought the motivation to accomplish this. What else was missing? Managerial road blocks? As his Sergeant I didn’t stop him from running with this. I stepped aside and put my trust in his fidelity and resilience.

Why should managers hire and develop resiliency? Instead of having a “That’s not my job” mentality or culture in the work force, imagine how you can out rebound your competition, gain leverage in accounts, and decrease your down time response in service by having an “I’ll do it” culture? As a manager and leadership team are you equipped with the skills and tools to teach, train, and develop resiliency? Have you measured your own resilience and do you consider yourself a resilient person. Resilience is not something you are born with. You must be trained in the thought and cultured to mentally adapt and overcome. If you are not one to push your comfort zones or try your boundaries then perhaps you could enjoy some resiliency training.

As a leader and manager if you are looking at your work force and scratching your head as to why changing is so difficult, why no one wants to step in and take on a roll, if there is a lack of resilience in your organization it may start at the top. Leaders should have the pulse of the culture. Does it feel like your business is lashed tight and can turn on a dime? Do you feel that if the market were to shift right now that you could overcome adversity with your cultural toughness?

In a previous post I spoke to Strategic Disengagement and Transformation Leadership. These all have to do with change. However, as a leader and as a company it will do no good to simply find the new course and direct that the culture must change to it…we need agents of change internally. These internal agents or shining stars are most likely the most resilient men and women you have when you size up their values.

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.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: US Marine Corps

Implementing and Measuring Big Data/Embed Transformation

Big Data Art Museum ImageIn this blog series, James Brenza has been talking about implementing big data and analytics programs using a composite case study to illustrate the process. Each week James focuses on one of the seven steps giving specific examples to help illustrate how the tools can be used in a very practical manner. This is the last of the series that corresponds with the seven stage implementation model (shown below). More information on that robust model is available in the seven stage implementation model. More information on that robust model is available in the Innovative Leaders Workbook for Implementing Analytics Programs by Maureen Metcalf and James Brenza (scheduled for release in September 2014).

Leading Organizational Transformation

Embed into operations: As an analytic initiative produces transformational results, it’s the leader’s responsibility to ensure the changes are operationalized. If the sponsors, stakeholders, and extended team have been effectively engaged throughout the initiative, this could be a straightforward effort. By ensuring the extended team of system and process owners have received regular updates, they should be prepared to embrace the new methods. Ideally, they’ve been sufficiently involved to prototype and test the new processes. While existing systems may require revisions, small, incremental deliveries may help reduce the impact of the updates.

Celebrate success: As the new models are implemented, success should be celebrated with the entire team. It’s important for the leader to recognize and reward the entire team even if the change is relatively small.  The recognition should commend the use of enterprise data, the effort to validate and integrate the data, the work to build new models, and the energy required to operationalize them. Recognition should reference the business outcome and how it will be measured. It’s also a perfect time to identify which process steps or systems will be retired as a result of the new methods. If the leader includes that in the same message, it sends a much stronger signal about how firmly the enterprise espouses the new approach.

The measure of the outcome and process control cannot be taken lightly. It’s critical that the new methods are delivering the intended results. While analytic models are robust, it’s important to recognize they should be monitored and refined. The leader should guarantee that an ongoing process to monitor the results has been institutionalized. That process should include a feedback loop for ongoing model refinement and initiation of future initiatives.

Enable on-going visibility: The outcome measures initially identified and refined throughout the initiative should be documented in an executive dashboard and reviewed frequently. This will help reinforce the success and benefits of the initiative. The owner of the outcome should be encouraged to reference those measures in their regularly scheduled executive updates. This affirms they own the outcome as well as acknowledge the benefits of the initiative.

As the team celebrates the success of their outcome, they should also acknowledge their contribution to the process. This will reinforce the adoption of data and model-driven process improvements. When the models require maintenance, we recommend creating a list that will act as a reference for which team members should be re-engaged. It’s also important to recognize that model maintenance is a requirement and an expectation.  Regular or intermittent maintenance is a reality and should not be viewed as a deficiency of the team’s effort.

How is leading a big data/analytics initiative different than other projects? So let’s take a moment to reflect on what’s unique about data and analytic initiatives.

  • The leader should be certain the celebration of the implementation is not simply for the analytic effort. They need to ensure it is associated with the business outcome realized.
  • It should always be referenced by the measures that will be impacted by the outcome.
  • The leader needs to make sure the organization understands that the models will evolve as the journey continues.
  • Most significantly, the leader needs to tout that the victory is owned by the sponsors and stakeholders. Allowing them to share the celebration, helps the leader change the culture to be open to data and model driven transformations in the future.

Throughout this series, we’ve looked at the unique aspects of analytic initiatives and transformations. If treated like a system deployment or upgrade, the leader will encounter significant struggles to maintain engagement and attain the outcome. By putting strong emphasis on executive sponsorship, robust stakeholder management, broad team engagement, deep reviews of capabilities and skills, thorough planning that embraces flexibility, thorough communication planning, transparent progress reporting and strong execution, the leader can guide the organization to tangible results. By ensuring that results are measured through a financial or customer-centric lens, they’ll provide a lasting impact to their organization. Ultimately, the leader’s success will help the organization become more comfortable with analytic driven initiatives that will help guide the organization for decades.

Click to purchase the Innovative Leaders Workbook to Implementing Analytics Programs.

If you are interested in reading more by James, you may want to read:  Evaluating Big Data Projects – Success and Failure Using an Integral Lens, Integral Leadership Review August – November 2013. You can also listen to the NPR interview that accompanies this paper including a dialogue between James Brenza, Maureen Metcalf, and the host Doug Dangler.

We also invite you to join the LinkedIn group Innovative Leadership for Analytics Programs on LinkedIn curated by James.

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.

If you are interested in receiving James’ seven part blog series or our other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: David J. Staley, Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Strategic Disengagement – Managing Chaos During Change

Adjusting the Sail - Strategic DisengagementThis post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.

Analogy- Sailing: We must always focus and put the customer’s desires first and foremost and strive to parallel our organizations culture and motivation to align to this. Like sailing, you face into the wind, sails taught, ropes tight, boat crew looking and eager to accelerate in one direction…..then the wind changes (customer needs change), next comes controlled chaos (the need to tack or turn a different direction to meet customer desires), sails luff and bang, ropes go loose, the boom sways, the crew is no longer smiling in the same direction. Ah! But we found the new wind. Again, the sails pull tight, the ropes hug the rigs, the crew looks in the same direction and the captain, ever vigilante of the wind, keeps the vessel on course & on direction…until the need for another change.

According to Gallup:

  • Economically, $370 Billion is lost due to lack of production associated with disengagement
  • Companies with highly engaged employees improve operating income by 19.2% YOY
  • 67% of employees were classified as Engaged….33% are bailing out
  • 70% of the engaged employees say they know how to meet customer needs
  • 75% of all employees say they would work harder if they were better recognized

Summary: When your customer facing culture needs to change to better align with the customer’s needs and your businesses objectives focus on  serving the customer, what do you do or think about disengagement?

My view: Worker Disengagement is “OK”, as long as it is strategic. Disengagement is not a chronic disease but collateral and proxy to following customer needs which are always in flux.

The Gallup entries I referenced are incomplete in that they suggest to me that employee disengagement is bad. While this is generally true, I submit that it is a necessary element in a change process. The ultimate goal is to recognize the disengagement and manage the amount of time they are disengaged, returning them to full engagement in a reasonable span of time. Every business changes as customers’ needs change. We should not meet disengagement with anger but with help and effort. Not everyone is going to go along with the new twist. However, as leaders it should be on us to communicate help and development instead of disappointment. You will lose some employees in turnover during a major change, but will gain stronger, leaner, more efficient culture once the business is aligned to the consumer/customer and the hiring is done on point with this. Recruiting the right people for the “Current” cultural/customer alignment…balanced with needs  for the long run, at each turn will build success. Engagement will still run high if effective leadership prepares the users not just for their current roles but for other positions when the need for change must take place. Hire the motivated and adaptive!

While your business is changing direction to find the wind; this is the right time to communicate with employees and users. This is the controlled chaos phase. Embrace them if they fear or dislike the change and help them through it. They will either adopt and thrive in the new culture or need to seek their hierarchy (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) in a different division. And that is ok! Foster seeking and motivation.

After the controlled chaos settles and the leaders have set sail with the new wind; just image the motivation and engagement you will get when you hire talent that is aligned to your needs and the customer! Like the NFL draft, Special Forces, Strategic Kaizan Events..etc. That’s a powerful team.

Personal Case Study: My observation of The United States Marines as a former Marine – Disengagement is low, morale is high, esprit de corps and motivation drip off every palm tree on every base. The reason:  Marines are trained to adapt. We welcome change, understand change is the only constant, and the Corps promotes the fact that you will take on various tasks in various environments. Change, adapt, and overcome….success since 1775. We in the business community need to focus on hiring for ability, resilience, and adaptability, to learn so we can lower and limit disengagement. Recruit the motivated, smart, and adaptable talent that CAN BECOME the specialist in new positions – which means we must understand our environment and know what we are looking for when we recruit.

Thoughts and expressions stem from Maureen Metcalf’s book Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations. This book quantifies and encourages managers to become leaders by being more engaged with the pulse of your work force. Strategic disengagement is not a theory in the book but examining motivation and workers engagement are. Strategic Disengagement is a personal theory of mine in part from my experiences.

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.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: Finn Class

Critical Leadership Skills for Global Leaders

Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global LeadersThe following post is an excerpt from the recently released Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders by Maureen Metcalf, Steve Terrell Ed.D., and Ben Mitchell.

Confronted with a world that is strikingly different from what it was just a decade ago, we face rapidly shifting economic, political, and national security realities and challenges. To respond to these changes, it is essential that our universities and companies build globally competent leaders—that is, leaders possessing a combination of critical thinking skills, technical expertise, and global awareness allowing them to comprehend, analyze, and perform efficiently and effectively in the context of an increasingly globalized world.

Cultural awareness and sensitivity is one of the critical leadership skills for global leaders. It is reflected in awareness and understanding of, sensitivity and adapting to cultural differences. It includes being open to differences in various cultures, and having a commitment to learn about other cultures. One global leader described the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity in terms of understanding “how people in other cultures make decisions, or how they think in terms of the whole process. I found some cultures not straightforward on the decision process.” He used Brazil as an example: “People would move around the bushes, but they don’t get to the straightforward, logical thinking to make a decision. As I learned the particularities of each culture, it gave me a much better understanding, I think, of how to deal with its people.”

Some of the behaviors associated with a high degree of cultural awareness and sensitivity include:
• ability to see different perspectives
• capacity for introspection and self-awareness
• interest and excitement for working across multiple cultures and locations
• desire to explore

Having a global mindset or perspective goes hand-in-hand with cultural awareness and sensitivity in that it concerns the ability to deal with different perspectives. Each of these different human perspectives is an important reflection of its own cultural context. A global mindset gives one the ability to align and integrate multiple perspectives, and deal with ambiguity and the complexity endemic in global business. One global leader described a global mindset as:

…having an appreciation for all differences and the value of diversity… recognizing those that you’re impacting around the globe…thinking about the value that you can bring when you take in different ideas, instead of focusing on what may be traditionally viewed within one venue. This doesn’t only apply to a country or region; it might be within a function because you could have a shallow mindset based on a functional view as well. And I think for me, it’s just being very open to others and being able to connect with their ideas—not set aside or dismiss them—you know, giving their ideas value and hearing them out.

Some of the behaviors and characteristics associated with global mindset or perspective include:
• ability to see different perspectives
• ability to align multiple perspectives
• dealing with ambiguity
• dealing with complexity
• being flexible and adaptable
• learning about different ways of doing business
• living outside a comfort zone
• managing multiple priorities
• thinking beyond the borders of one’s home country
• understanding the impact of one’s decisions on the rest of the world

To learn more about global leadership purchase the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders.

To become a more innovative leader please sign up for the online leader development program or purchase the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders – coming April 2014. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations and participating in the online innovative leadership program with coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

By Maureen Metcalf

Is My Company Vibrant? A Case Study

Metcalf Survey ResultsI met Jim Ritchie-Dunham and learned about Harmonic Vibrancy research when a highly regarded colleague, Terri O’Fallon, asked me to participate in a study that evaluated the vibrancy of my company. Terri is one of those people who is always involved in something interesting so I responded quickly. Additionally, the request came as part of a research study Jim was doing on vibrancy and I personally love to participate in leading research to contribute to and learn about the latest thinking in organizational effectiveness. Jim is the President of the Institute for Strategic Clarity and an Adjunct Researcher at Harvard University.

Taking the Assessment

I took an individual assessment with Metcalf & Associates as the company I was evaluating. I found the assessment and results interesting, and because of our scores I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Jim, the lead researcher. After our conversation, I was committed to learning more—and support his research— as it seemed as if he was making a unique and important contribution to the field of organizational effectiveness and organizational leadership.

Creating a Vibrant MBA Class

My next step was to require that my graduate students take the assessment for multiple organizations to both build the database and to help them begin to get a feel for which organizations are most effective and which are least. We also tried an experiment in which students evaluated the class environment at the end of the semester (after grades were finalized). My personal research question was: Could we create a vibrant organization in an MBA class in the relatively limited length of a semester? Interestingly, the answer was yes. While we needed to refine a few of the questions, overall, we could all participate in a process to build a vibrant organization in a short period of time. I love the idea that the class could not learn only the theory; they could also have the actual experience of being in a vibrant organization during the class. Then the question was what they could do to create this for themselves. We asked some students with particularly high scores to participate in the research.

Improving Our Organizational Vibrancy

My next challenge was to see if I had created a vibrant organization within my own company. I certainly thought it was vibrant—but what did others think? Again, we were a company that did not perfectly fit the profile, but I decided to test us before going out to our clients. I have committed us to being a learning lab, a company that tests new ideas on ourselves, and proves them valid and useful before going to our clients. As the owner of the company this was intriguing because while the feedback was about the company it was also very personal—it was about the company I had created and about me as a leader.

So, the moment of truth; I selected my key team members and invited them to complete the survey. Like those in most organizations, some people responded immediately and others required several reminders. The end result was seven responses from our core team.

Our scores were high in six of the seven categories. In the seventh, “process of innovation” we scored a four on a scale of one to five. This would not seem terrible except that our company tag line is Inspiring Leadership Innovation. What were we doing wrong? What was I doing wrong? I thought we were very innovative. We had published a very well-received book about innovative leadership that won an International Book Award in 2012 for Best Business Reference Book and we were in the process of writing several workbooks that also won multiple awards. How could we possibly be lacking innovation? What I learned was that we balanced innovation with meeting client goals. We are both innovative and focused on client results. As a company with limited resources, we were balancing the very real limitations of our resources including the time we had to commit to innovating versus the time we had to deliver impeccable results every day to our clients.

This helped me see that we were on the right track—and while I will still strive for a higher score, I understand our results and envision our opportunities to grow. One of the best outcomes of this assessment was the very candid conversation I had with this group. I learned that I held some assumptions about how we were working that were not true; specifically, I assumed people did not want to get together regularly because of their busy schedules. I learned that they did want to spend more time together as a group (which we have now done). Some of our gatherings are social in nature and allow for people to informally incubate ideas that will move us forward. Additionally, the team is deepening their relationships with one another.

I have appreciated the insight from this assessment. We have implemented changes and in other areas it validated that we are on the right track. Each participant had the opportunity to express an individual perspective as well as hear perspectives from others, building our shared sense of what we want from our organization. Round two of the assessment is in the plan for 2014. For now, we are using this assessment with our clients and getting great results. In an upcoming blog, I’ll share the results working with a client.

To learn more about becoming a more effective leader using Innovative Leadership we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations and participating in the online innovative leadership program with coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.


Becoming an Authentic Leader: Using Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis How to use the five elements of innovative leadership to become a more authentic leader is the focus of this five-blog series. We’ll explore each element and provide recommended next steps. The fourth component of innovative leadership is how an understanding of situational analysis helps you become more authentic and creates a more authentic workplace.

According to a Forbes article, “What is Authentic Leadership?” most theorists agree on four points. The first is: Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.”

I recently conducted a workshop with a client that used the situational analysis framework to address a very complex corporate issue. The company, like many, is trying to balance cutting an employee benefit to remain profitable without impacting employee morale, engagement and organizational culture. This is a private company with a very strong belief in caring for their employees and consistently providing benefits higher than the industry standard. In a highly competitive industry with very thin margins, these benefits impact overall organizational performance and—if not managed carefully—can have a negative financial impact on the organization.

During the workshop with the entire leadership team we asked a set of four questions to encourage an open discussion of the balance between their beliefs, behaviors, culture, and organizational systems.

Situational Analysis Reflection Questions

Individual self/beliefs

    1. List my top three personal values as a leader.
    2. How do my values impact this decision?

    1. How will this decision impact my ability to live my values?
    2. How will this decision impact my behavior as a leader?

    1. How does this decision align with our purpose and values?
    2. How does this decision impact our ability to meet our goals

    1. Is this decision aligned with our systems? If we implement it, will there be conflicts that confuse people?
    2. Will making this choice cause us to miss our goals in other areas of the business?

Using these questions as the foundation, the leadership team explored the pros and cons of their possible options. In addition to addressing this specific complex issue, they also adopted this approach to addressing other issues.

So, what does this have to do with authentic leadership? Leaders must be self-aware and genuine. The first two sets of questions in the table help leaders discuss their personal values in an organizational setting and explore how those values impact current decisions. Then they talk about how to address a current challenge by taking action on their values. This approach becomes most valuable when the leadership team grapples with the balance of personal values and organizational requirements. These often come into conflict and leaders are compelled to choose between two undesirable options: violating their values, or making decisions that are opposed to the organization’s best interest.

While there is no easy solution to the complex problems organizations are facing, we believe this approach to exploring challenges candidly and discussing personal beliefs and values, individual actions, organizational culture, and organizational systems creates shared support for decisions and provides a powerful platform for open dialogue about complex issues. Because it takes into account values along with profitability, this approach builds trust among leaders that the process is ethical.

As an authentic leader in a complex environment, you will regularly be making difficult decisions. This approach to decision making can help you think through the challenges and ask yourself the questions that allow you to remain authentic and ethical, and still make the tough decisions required for your organization to survive. As others begin to understand and trust this process, they will also see you as more authentic and more readily trust your leadership.

To learn more about becoming a more authentic leader using Innovative Leadership we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

Randy Wilcox – Culture of Customer Service Creates a Competitive Advantage

Randy Wilcox is a Principal in the firm of Long and Wilcox which is a central-Ohio based real estate development company, a partner in Wilcox Development which is a Chicago based real-estate development company, and the Founder and Owner of Quest Business Centers. He founded Quest Business Centers in 1998 and Quest is currently the leading provider of business conference space in central Ohio.  He founded SARCOM, Inc. in 1983. SARCOM grew to become a national provider of technology products and services and had nearly $1 billion in sales by 1999.

Randy Wilcox has served on a number of non-profit boards including the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Ohio (board member and Treasurer), the Technology Leadership Council and the OhioHealth Foundation which he chaired. He is also the former Columbus Chapter Chairman of the Young Presidents’ Organization, and a member of both the World Presidents’ Organization and the Chief Executives Organization.

Randy was a featured speaker of the TechColumbus 2011 Leadership Series sponsored by Vorys in December.

Randy talked about the key themes for success of his businesses over the past several decades:

  • Customer service must be a priority
  • Culture matters
  • Hire and retain great sales people
  • Implement strong financial reporting and controls

While all of these themes were critical to his success, the one that struck me as most interesting was how he differentiated a technology service business through creating a culture of exceptional customer service.  If your product is not differentiated, price is the main factor in making the buying decision.  Why Culture?  It is hard to create and copy so a company that gets it right can create a relatively sustainable advantage.

How did he use culture of customer satisfaction to create a premium product in IT Services?

Every employee at SARCOM knew that customer satisfaction was the most important thing they did.  When customers came in to meet Randy, he indicated that if they could walk around and ask any employee what their top priority was, all employees would indicate customer satisfaction.  If they did not, the person asking the question would get $100.  Evidently, universally, employees gave the same answer, customer satisfaction is most important.  So how did he create this culture?

  • Employees were given customer skills training
  • Employees were empowered to spend up to $500 to fix the customer complaint
  • He personally attended monthly meetings at 18 locations
  • They conducted surveys and USED the data as the foundation for root cause analysis and change

What did the company do to fix problems?

They tracked employee ability to solve problems and created a standard process based on the success they observed.  The process was:

  • Listen
  • Agree with the customer
  • Apologize for the inconvenience and frustration they experienced
  • Fix the problem
  • Follow up to ensure the problem was fixed
  • Offer a token to restore the balance for their inconvenience – often a note of apology with a tin of cookies.

This culture of satisfaction was very similar to the culture Cheryl Kruger created at Cheryl’s Cookies.  Her company was also known for a very high level of service as well as innovation.  The proof of success is in the level of customer retention and in the top and bottom line performance.  SARCOM was a very successful company at the time Randy Wilcox sold it.  He is using similar principles for Quest Business Centers.  I am a regular customer of Quest and select them over other providers because of their exception service.

Randy Wilcox has combined his value of customer service the following elements to create a winning formula for the success of multiple companies he has run or advised as a board member:

  • time to attend regular customer satisfaction meetings,
  • empowering employees to spend the company’s money to address issues,
  • creating consistent processes to address customer problems, and
  • surveying customers to find ways to improve

What are your company differentiators?  Are you creating a comprehensive system of leadership behaviors, culture, processes and measures to leverage those differentiators?

Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader?  If so, take this free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale.  If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.

Integral Leadership Collaborative Conference – Innovative Leadership Concepts and Application

Title: Integral Leadership Collaborative Conference – Innovative Leadership Concepts and Application
Location: Virtual Conference
Link out: Click here
Description: We will be presenting Innovative Leadership Concepts and Application on the “front lines” applying our latest insights and perspectives on what is working and what isn’t. Participate in rich dialogue.
Start Time: 17:00
Date: 2011-9-1
End Time: 18:00

Women For Economic Leadership & Development(WELD) Leadership Conference

Title: Women For Economic Leadership & Development(WELD) Leadership Conference – Innovative Leadership Track
Location: Otterbein University
Link out: 
Description: After years of consulting with top companies on organizational transformations, Metcalf & Associates started compiling lessons learned from their clients. This experience combined with extensive research, led to launch of a book on developing innovative leadership. Knowing that the future of organizations is irreversibly tied to a world of erratic change, you can no longer afford to improve your systems and offerings without equally advancing your capacity for leadership. Qualities such as introspection and the ability to inspire cultural alignment offer your organization significant value and need to be implemented as shrewdly as strategic planning.

Topics will cover:
Innovative Leadership Framework
Key differentiators for innovative leaders
Tools used by innovative leaders

Start Time: 8:30
Date: 2011-09-17
End Time: 17:00