Aspiration – Making the Pivot

Aspiration Courage HumilityThis is a guest blog by Greg Moran as a companion to the Voice America show aired on September 4, 2018, Leadership Happy Hour: Aspirations- Fuel for Results. This show was a conversation with Greg Moran and Terri Bettinger with host Maureen Metcalf.

During that episode, we explored ways that aspiration affects outcomes – particularly as it relates to people in their careers. What people believe is possible in their lives has a huge impact on what they end up getting accomplished. Our dreams/vision statements/goals (pick your word) initiate the creative tension in us that drives us forward until we achieve. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

As a follow on to this discussion, I wanted to illustrate using my own life as an example. In May of 2016, I left a highly compensated job at a Fortune 100 company. Over the ensuing months, I did some consulting, began working with a fledgling startup and did the normal headhunter thing. I ended up picking 2 companies to interview with and received C level offers from both, the lower of which was a 30% raise from what I’d been making in my last job. I ended up turning down both job offers and taking a 90% pay cut from what I could’ve been making to join the fledgling startup. This seems like an odd move for a 51-year-old at the peak of his earning curve. So why did I do it?

Aspiration, of course!

How can taking a pay cut and giving up all my resources as a C level exec be aspirational? Seriously, I went from having 2,000 people on my team (my team was large enough that I had a group that did nothing but report the operational data from my shop) to being one of the people that regularly take the trash out at a startup.

For me, it is all about learning and growing. As I evaluated my future back in the summer of 2016, I realized that going back into a corporate role was not going to teach me anything – in fact the reason I got the offers is because I knew the answers to all the questions the CEO’s threw at me. I found I was experiencing a strong allergic reaction to re-entering the corporate world with little hope of growth.

What excited me about the startup, now known as Wiretap, was the chance to not only work on a worthy product with a small group of people I trusted and shared values with, but also the chance to learn and grow. I was energized by the challenge of re-inventing myself as a professional who knew how to start a company and build a value chain from scratch. I was energized by the challenge of completely re-booting my professional network from a bunch of corporate staffers and the people that sold stuff to them to the people who fund and grow companies. I honestly knew nothing meaningful about that world.

The key to this was finding both courage and humility. The courage was about believing – aspiring to successfully launch a company. The humility is about accepting the reality that any prior success or power/resources tied to my past positions and success were almost completely irrelevant in this new context. On top of that, I had to re-create all my mental models about risk, leadership, capital deployment, etc.

So, how’s it going? IT.HAS.BEEN.AWESOME! …not because I’ve achieved some big pay day (that is not my goal – I would consider this pivot a staggering success if I broke even on my corporate career), but rather because I found once again the joy and power of aspiration when you don’t know the answers or even the destination. The power of not knowing the answers but believing you can find them. Feeling compelled to work hard to find the answers – not because they seem impossible (though sometimes they do), but because you believe in your soul that they are possible. Embracing the pressure of knowing that if you don’t solve the problems you face, then a lot of people you are on this journey with won’t get to experience the high of doing something that very few people truly get to do. We are giving life to a new organization – a community that has a unique culture and a set of differentiated capabilities that has never existed in the world before!

I’ll pause there with this story, because there are many chapters to write and I must get back to work! If you are still unclear of the message, go back and re-read the Goethe quote 3 times. Cheers to a 2019 filled with aspiration in your life!

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

Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He is the COO of Wiretap in Columbus and sits on the board of Koios Medical in NYC. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen/Accenture, working across industries with ~100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part time on the topic at Ohio University.

Leveraging Generational Differences to Drive Success

Team Working cc poughkeepsie Day School

Today’s guest post is from Cam Marston, President and Owner of Generational Insights. He is an expert on the Demographic Trends and Generational Bias Impacting Work & Sales. This post is a companion to the Voice America interview with Cam to air on March 8, 2016.

How important is workplace atmosphere to a millennial? Apparently it was important enough to at least one of them to blow off one of the premier employers in her desired profession.

Hannah Gordon, a journalism student at St. Bonaventure University, recently shared her thoughts about a visit to the New York Times in a letter to The Times is considered by many journalists to be the pinnacle of the profession, a place to which the most ambitious reporters and editors aspire.

Gordon, however, saw it differently, noting her disappointment at finding a “near-silent newsroom” instead of “the bustling, comradery-filled (sic) newsroom I imagined.”

“My visit,” she concluded, “made me realize it was sterile journalism.”

Gordon did not give examples of work produced by the Times that she considers sterile, but seemed more concerned with the newsroom environment, saying she knew she “wouldn’t fit in with the culture” in a place where she couldn’t “fully express my creativity and quirkiness.”

She illustrated her point by noting that an internship coordinator at the Times may not have appreciated the “shooting stars and flying bats” on her portfolio.

While Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers will laugh this off as a millennial living down to the stereotype (and wonder what kind of journalism student would show up to the New York Times with stars and bats drawn on her clips), we also must assume that Gordon isn’t alone. Finding a collaborative atmosphere and an outlet for their creative passions is important to millennials – and finding talented millennials is important to employers.

So who should give? Should employers like the Times reconfigure their workplaces to cater to the desires of millennials like Gordon? Or should Gordon realize that not every office is going to feel like the campus newspaper?

There’s no one right answer here, but my hunch is: perhaps a little of both.

As more millennials flood the workforce, many workplaces are moving toward environments that foster the kind of collaborative atmosphere for which Gordon seems to be looking – and one day, even the Times may join them. It makes sense for companies that want to attract and retain the best and brightest to make sure their office environments are going to be seen as an asset.

But millennials like Gordon also need to understand that it isn’t the job of a workplace to fulfill their every desire. It’s to get work done. Very few of us, no matter the generation, are fortunate enough to find a job that feeds all our ambitions and interests. Many of us find other outlets for our creative and quirky sides that aren’t satisfied at work.

Perhaps Gordon will find a job that meets all her expectations. Or maybe she’ll have to temper those expectations to find a job.

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.

Avoid Toxic Behavior and Build Self-Worth to Retain Employees

Akken Cloud Avoid Toxic Behavior

This guest post was provided by Akken Cloud.  In the past, it was common for people to stay at a company for years, even decades. Loyal employees were rewarded with stability and good benefits. But in recent years, even the promise of stability is not enough to keep top talent. In fact, employees may find that changing from job to job can be lucrative, often resulting in a 10 to 20 percent salary increase.

While that’s great for the employee, it’s very difficult and costly for employers. Factor in the time it takes to recruit and train a new hire, loss of work production, and higher salary demands, and turnover becomes a very costly experience for a company. In fact, the Center for American Progress found that turnover costs a company one-fifth of that employee’s salary. Now more than ever, retaining great employees is crucial for a company’s bottom line.

While some companies work to combat high turnover by creating a system to quickly assimilate new employees, it’s not a sound business model. Not only does this model devalue the advantages of a seasoned employee, but it also neglects the influence of turnover on company culture as a whole.

A company culture that encourages each team member to grow can result in tenured employees who add value. Tenured employees are more productive and thus more valuable to a company. But the productivity doesn’t end at one person—it affects the whole team. The longer people work together, the more likely they are to better communicate, which can also result in better productivity. In fact, a survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 34 percent of respondents noted that “communication bottlenecks impact their productivity” negatively.

But once someone leaves a company, questions emerge from the remaining employees. Why did they leave? Are there better opportunities out there? Could I find one too? One employee’s departure can lead to two, and then maybe three, costing the company even more money.

There are many effective measures employers can take to reduce turnover. One of the easiest ways to reduce turnover is to ensure your workplace instills respect and self-worth among its employees.

Why Respect and Self-Worth Matter


It’s simple, really: People want to feel valued and believe their work has meaning. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 50 percent of employees who reported not feeling valued at work were looking for a new job, while only 21 percent of those who reported feeling valued said they were doing the same. In addition, 93 percent of the employees that felt valued reported they were motivated to do their best work possible. Self-worth and respect not only improve retention, but showing employees you value them can improve work productivity and engagement. Multiple studies show engaged and happy employees perform better, miss less work, and are better assets to a company overall.

By becoming aware of some of the pitfalls many employers make and adjusting a few simple practices within the workplace, employers can create a better work culture that results in happier employees. Happier employees equals reduced turnover and ultimately saves money.

Behavior and Habits That Are Toxic and Disrespectful


Behavior and attitudes, both good and bad, can affect the people around us. Research suggests happiness can rub off on others while negative behavior can cost businesses billions. Negativity is extremely harmful and can poison the workplace. As an employer or manager, it’s important to take a look at your own practices and avoid these behavioral pitfalls:


Showing up late to a meeting, even if it is informal, shows a disregard for other people’s time. Yes, you may be really important within the company. But if you have a meeting time, stick to it. Of course there are unavoidable situations that mean you need to reschedule. In these circumstances, make sure to let the person or people know as soon as there is a roadblock in your schedule, and apologize appropriately. Don’t make a habit of being even a few minutes late to every meeting. The message you send to other people in the meeting is: My time is more important than your time. That is no way to make people feel valued and respected.


Common courtesy can go a long way. There are varying forms of disrespect. For example, showing disregard for an employee’s ideas or talking over him or her is incredibly disrespectful. If you are unsure how employees perceive you, the tried and true method of “treat others as you would like to be treated” is the best way to keep yourself in check.  In addition, make sure employees know they can speak up about workplace disrespect either to you or an HR person, reinforcing the point that their voice matters.

Allowing others to be disrespectful

Equally bad, if not more hurtful, is when a manager sees one peer disrespect another peer and does not appropriately correct the action. This sends the message that you don’t care about the way your co-workers treat each other. Additionally, your silence can be interpreted as agreement with the disrespecting person.

Broken promises

Employees look to their managers for support. If you give your word that you’ll do X or accomplish Y, then you better do it. Otherwise your employee will lose faith in your ability to follow through on your promises, and eventually they may lose respect for you in general. If you can’t produce what you promised, then let your employee know right away and explain why you cannot deliver. This candor shows honesty and leadership, and provides the employee with an example of how you expect him or her to act in the workplace.


A healthy relationship is one where there is honest and open communication. If you’re defensive every time someone questions one of your ideas or actions, people will think communication is not welcome. This leads to employees who eventually shutdown and remain silent even when they have important and innovative ideas. A company then receives decreased value from its employees.


Gossiping about team members to other employees is a recipe for disaster made only worse if you’re a manager. Telling an employee sensitive information about their peers suggests not only that you disrespect that person, but that you cannot be trusted.

Lack of interest in team members

Showing a lack of concern or interest for your employees’ lives, especially their work lives, says you don’t care about them as individuals and probably don’t care about their personal growth or happiness at work either.


Nothing can lose the respect of your team faster than blaming others for your own mistakes. It makes people fearful and wonder when they’ll be thrown under the bus. It’s best to own up to your mistakes and quickly work to resolve whatever issues are present. This will help fix the issue, and help earn the respect of your team.

Behavior and Habits That Build Self-Worth


Creating a work culture that builds employees’ self-worth means a happier workforce. And a happier workforce means higher quality work, a drive to exceed expectations and goals, as well as more long-term employees. In addition, a positive atmosphere may attract other similarly minded, high-performing employees. Employers and managers should help build their team’s self-worth with the following steps:

Praise good work

Nothing feels better than validation for a job well done. This is not to say you should praise every little thing an employee or team member does. (If you give out praise constantly, then it loses its significance.) However, when someone has completed a project or task exceptionally well, praise them. Acknowledging someone’s hard work costs nothing, yet it boosts an employee’s self-confidence and increases his or her willingness to continue working hard.

Celebrate and reward success

Praising good work is a great place to start, but it’s also a good idea to celebrate success and reward hard work. Whether it’s a celebratory happy hour for completing a project ahead of schedule or give a bonus to someone who had an outstanding sales quarter, celebrations can improve the entire team’s morale and motivate all workers to keep up the hard work. A word of caution: Celebrations and rewards should match the work that’s being recognized. A last minute and poorly planned gathering to acknowledge the end of a project will feel less meaningful. Additionally, financial bonuses should correlate with the amount of money the employee either saved or earned for the company—maybe a $50 gift card won’t cut it if someone just closed a $1 million deal.

Acknowledge strengths and weaknesses

Calling attention to an employee’s weak point in a constructive manner can help foster growth and show you care. The trick is to be helpful in this criticism and demonstrate you’re willing to assist toward making a positive change. In addition, when discussing weaknesses, it’s a good idea to praise an employee’s strengths. By addressing weaknesses and acknowledging strengths, you help an employee feel like you appreciate and value them enough to work on self-growth.

Help employees grow professionally

Employees want growth opportunities. One of the main factors that leads to losing talent is the lack of growth and advancement opportunities. For this reason, it’s crucial to help employees succeed in professional goals, even if it means losing them to another department at the same company. If your company is small and doesn’t have much upward mobility, provide other ways to help employees grow, such as teaching new job skills and providing more challenging projects.

Create open discussions

Employees want to be a part of the team and company. They want to feel that their opinions matter and can directly influence their work. By creating open discussions that allow team members to be included in decision making, you create an environment where employees know their opinion matters.

Trust employees and stop micromanaging

Micromanaging can be the death of employee happiness. Micromanaging every task conveys you don’t trust employees to do their jobs.  And, no one wants to be micromanaged.  Instead, focus that energy on providing adequate training. Then allow the employee to do that job, perhaps away from the office at times (if possible). Allowing people to work from home from time to time shows you trust them to get the job done. In addition, studies suggest flexible work arrangements are also related to employee happiness and job satisfaction, further increasing higher morale and self-worth.


Engaging with your team members can go a long way in growing an employee’s self-worth. By engaging with people on a personal level at work, employers show they legitimately care. A simple “hello” in the morning or check-in after lunch takes little time out of the day, but the overall effect it has on morale is astounding.For managers, this reduces the potential hesitation for an employee to ask for help.


Just like engagement, listening to an employee can positively affect self-worth and company culture. Meet with team members and allow them the opportunity to tell you what is going well, what went horribly wrong, and what landed somewhere in between. A lot can be learned in these check-ins, but you have to listen. Ask a few questions to get things going, but allow the employee to direct the conversation. They will feel valued knowing their manager took time to listen to what they had to say. These quick meetings can also bring your attention to anything that may be amiss and needs correcting.

By avoiding negative behaviors that show disrespect and instead engaging with employees in a meaningful way that improves their self-worth, employers will create a more positive company culture, reduce turnover, and ultimately save money.

About Terra Clarke Olsen

Terra Clarke Olsen is a writer and content manager with a background in sales. She is a member of GeekGirlCon’s Board of Directors, also serving as treasurer. Terra has a BA from UCLA and a MA from University of Toronto. She resides in Seattle, WA with her husband, son, and two cats. Find her on Twitter: @Terrasum

6 Steps to Building Emotional Intelligence: Learn from Lincoln

Emotional IntelligenceWhen we consider what set Abraham Lincoln apart from so many other leaders, emotional intelligence is often noted. His behavior indicates that he was aware of his feelings and managed them well. I believe he understood that managing the feelings he expressed would impact the outcome he received. He had a broad range of emotions and used them as the situation required, not indiscriminately as he felt. His ability to “curate” his feelings to drive outcomes was – and still is – a rare skill that has become even more critical to leaders in today’s complex world.

Daniel Goleman wrote in the Harvard Business Review article, What Makes a Leader, ‘I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities;” that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.’
Interestingly, we primarily teach leaders how to work. We don’t focus on who they are as people, but rather, on what they do. The average organization is full of “leaders” who are highly skilled in their functional roles but lack emotional intelligence.

As the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 describes, ‘Middle managers stand out, with the highest EQ scores in the workforce. But up beyond middle management, there is a steep downward trend in EQ scores. For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond. CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace… Among executives, those with the highest EQ skills are the best performers. We’ve found that EQ skills are more important to job performance than any other leadership skill. The same holds true for every job title: those with the highest EQ scores within any position outperform their peers.’

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

Using the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 framework, emotional intelligence is comprised of four competencies; two are about relating and managing self, and two involve relating to others.

Emotional Intelligence

Personal and Social Competence
Leaders must manage themselves first. Since emotions are contagious, it is important to ensure that you, as a leader, are aware of your emotions and control them so the message you convey to others is one that motivates them to move forward irrespective of how you are feeling. Lincoln was a great example: when he became frustrated and, some even say, depressed with the progress of the emancipation proclamation, he expressed emotions that motivated his team to get the votes they needed.

The ability to manage emotions is particularly important to leaders as they navigate difficult projects. The leader has often been involved since inception, has worked to advance it every step of the way, and may be the first to become exhausted by the sheer amount of energy and emotion involved in creating forward momentum – setting the vision, getting people committed, allocating resources, and dealing with the inevitable issues that arise. Somewhere along the way, the leader will feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It is these times, particularly, where leaders must be clear about how they are feeling, why they feel that way, whether it needs to change, and whether there is value to sharing it. This insight enables them to ensure that what they ultimately convey is what constituents need – not simply what they feel.

It is important to balance authenticity with sharing feelings that will cause unnecessary stress in others. In Lincoln’s case, he would have been less effective if he shared his concerns. Rather he shared that he was a highly powerful man who made things happen. It is likely that he deeply questioned this statement in his more reflective moments. As you read this – you may be thinking I am talking about manipulating others – I am not. I am talking about walking the line between being authentic and managing relationships so I allow everyone to be as successful as possible at meeting the overall goal. If as a leader I share my deepest fears, I will disempower some people who need to believe their leader knows what to do and how to get there. For others, it will be important to share more authentically. The art is in knowing how much to share with each person or group.

Building emotional intelligence requires ongoing practice in each of the four areas of the graphic above, starting with self-awareness. To begin the practice of self-awareness, use the following process:
1. Develop a list of feelings – Emotional Intelligence 2.0 has a useful sample on p. 15.
2. Identify what you are feeling once a day during the work week; log it in a journal or spreadsheet that is easy to access.
3. At the end of the first month, identify trends you noticed and discuss with a trusted friend or colleague.
4. Get feedback from that person. Is s/he noticing the behavior that you logged?
5. Think about how you can use what you have learned about your feelings to manage them in a way that will contribute to your professional success. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 provides several self-awareness strategies (starting on p. 61) that are quite helpful as you begin this practice.
6. After you have developed the habit of self-awareness, move to the practice of self-management, followed by the social competence areas.

If you are interested in taking an emotional intelligence assessment, please contact us.

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.

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Performance Management AND Coaching Drive Success

Employee EngagementBill goes into his boss’s office to receive feedback on his annual appraisal. He learns that he is meeting expectations, and, subsequently, he is excited to shift his focus to further developing his plan. He is disappointed to learn that performance management only involves determining what he will deliver next year and not at how he can grow in order to expand his capacity to perform better. He feels as though he is falling behind his peers who focus on both performance and development.

I teach a class on managing employee performance and coaching employees that proposes we shift from emphasis on managing performance to emphasis on coaching employees. The Gallup Q12 Meta Analysis in 2013 showed that organizations with engaged employees are 22% more profitable. Employees are more engaged when they feel as though the organization cares about them and their individual development.

Performance management involves setting employee and organizational goals into alignment and providing feedback about performance within those goals. When supervisors connect employee skills with employee goals, employees become more engaged, and the organization benefits. Furthermore, performance management includes identifying the top performers to succeed important roles and identifying the lower performers to receive assistance. The person giving feedback requires proficient skills in evaluating and motivating employees. A strong relationship between manager and employee is necessary when providing effective feedback – this relationship should be one where the employee feels safe receiving constructive criticism and believes that, by making the requested changes, he or she will be rewarded in the future.

To meet stated objectives effectively, improving performance is needed. After employees are able to meet their objectives, it is important to then focus on meeting new goals to continue building employee capacity. At this point, coaching becomes fundamental to the process.

Coaching helps employees achieve their developmental goals beyond their mere ability to perform the job. A coach helps foster an employee’s developmental goals which are typically in sync with organizational goals. Development is vital in order to advance to the next level within an organization. It is also necessary when building skills like executive presence or resilience. The coach can be an employee’s manager or someone in a different reporting line or work group. It is important that the coach and coachee have a strong relationship of trust and respect.

The distinction between performance management and coaching may appear to be one of semantics, but it is nevertheless important. It is important for leaders and managers to have BOTH skills and to know when each skill is best used. When employees are performing poorly, the manager must determine the cause, which is often either a result of a training deficiency or a motivation/engagement gap. Once a manager identifies the cause of the underperformance in an employee he or she can create an improvement plan to help the employee meet the stated goals.

We prepare managers and leaders to

  1. Teach the basics of employee engagement – learn the basics of what engages and disengages people.
  2. Teach performance management basics – understand how the organization’s performance management system is designed. Performance management can have legal and financial implications, so it is important to understand the impact of the actions surrounding this system.
  3. Teach/practice giving and receiving feedback – PRACTICE (capitalized to emphasize skills are developed through ongoing practice) giving and receiving feedback with difficult employees.
  4. Teach coaching basics – practice coaching conversations. Coaching conversations have different objectives, content, and tones. Managers who are good at performance feedback still need to build coaching skills.
  5. Teach/practice coaching – PRACTICE coaching employees who are focused on growth.

For many organizations, employees are the biggest driver of success and, consequently, failure. To outperform competition, investing in employee engagement and development is crucial. If focus on performance management and coaching is mediocre or an afterthought, the ability to deliver positive end results will likely suffer.

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: get everwise

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

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.

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photo credit: Finn Class

5 Benefits of Investing Time in Innovative Leadership

I had lunch with a dear friend and executive yesterday talking about her sense of dread about getting out of bed in the morning and going to work.  She is a very upbeat person so this is a new experience for her.  She believed about 80% of her executive peers had similar dread on a daily basis and really wondered how they could make it through their day. 

People are actually hoping the 2012 disaster predictions are true so they can escape the jobs that they dreamt about and worked their entire lives to achieve.  How can that be? 

We go to college, take the right stretch assignments, relocate for jobs, and work crazy hours so we can reach this goal – being an executive.  All those sacrifices, time with friends and family, missed events, putting off relationships and family.  Then the question – I gave up so much to get here?  Now what?  Is this really it? 

How does this tie to innovative leadership?  Most of the leaders I know are working longer hours than they ever imagined at this point in life.  We all expected to pay our dues and we expected that the long hours and crazy schedules would be rewarded with promotion and an opportunity to live a more balanced life. Many are at the top of their game with regard to skills and abilities and still working crazy hours and feeling burned out.  As they look down the road, what are they working for? 

Innovative leadership helps leaders change how they see their role as leaders and develop additional awareness and skills to shift their experience. What do you get from focusing on Innovative Leadership?

  1. It can help you become more self-aware – providing a foundation for different choices and more productive interactions
  2. It can increase your ability to find innovative approaches to solve problems
  3. It can help you change your habitual thinking –  moving away from unproductive thoughts
  4. It can help you become more systematic in your problem solving and decision making – more comprehensive solutions mean more efficiency
  5. It can guide your leadership behaviors to a more generative (less controlling) style – increasing engagement and productivity among your team

So, with those potential benefits – can you afford the time to explore what it is?  Please see our blog post on Innovation Excellence site explaining more about Innovative Leadership – titled Is Your Leadership Innovative.  You can also take the free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to test your own development.

Based on feedback from busy executives, we are in the process of condensing the highly acclaimed Innovative Leadership Fieldbook into a much shorter workbook format.  While it does not have the depth of information, it is shorter thus requiring less time.  We provide practical tools and templates that help you in your leadership development along with an example of what completed worksheets look like.  You can use this as a stand-alone process or work with a coach. If you as a leader find the content and process helpful, you can use it with your staff to help them develop. 

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.

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Photo credit:  flickr h.koppdelaney

10 Steps to Building and Leading High Performance Teams

One of the key skills referenced in the Execunet 2011 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report is the Ability to build and lead high performance teams.  Since this is a one of the top five areas in both hardest to find qualities and most sought after, we wanted to share a high level look at key factors that drive team success.

I have worked with a range of teams.  I have seen those that are far less effective when working together, where individuals will not share their input and insight with others for fear of being criticized or disregarded.  These teams demoralize most of the participants and drain productivity from the organization.  I have also worked with teams where the team leader gave attention to team process, dynamics and results in the appropriate balance.  These teams delivered results far beyond expected, team members were engaged and worked together to overcome challenges.  The difference is a combination of the team leader and the team process. Both are important for team success.

We draw extensively from the Drexeler Sibbet model and augment it with our own thinking, tools, and other sources.  The following bullets are key elements in building high performance teams from scratch.  If you have a team that is not performing well, you may want to use these steps as a diagnostic to identify the root issue.  We offer a wide range of team development solutions based in part on the following team development model.

  1. Establish purpose FIRST – determine why we are working together – since many people are motivated by making an impact consider stating the purpose in a way that they will understand and be proud to tell others about.
  2. Charter the team and establish goals and vision – clarify what success looks like in the form of specific goals with timeframes and resources requirements.  Ensure the appropriate level of money and staffing is identified early and available.
  3. Build trust among members – the amount of time and money wasted covering our backs and protecting ourselves can be as much as 50% when working with people we do not trust.  Unless you want to increase your resource requirements by 50% and extend your timeline – investment in trust starts to look like a good idea.
  4. Act with grace – own our mistakes and be kind to others – we only succeed if we can work together.  We work in a world that is increasingly complicated and things will fall through the cracks.  It is unavoidable so learn to accept this in yourself and others and minimize the mistakes while being kind to yourself and others.  This does not mean tolerate non-performers, it just means we make mistakes, emails go to spam, calls get dropped, and family members get sick.
  5. Establish processes, rules of engagement and decision responsibility and processes – knowing how decisions are made is critical to progress and minimizing confusion and hard feelings.  Be clear early who is responsible for which actions and decisions as well as how do we treat one another.
  6. Plan the work – establish a work plan in sufficient detail to know what resources are required and when each task should be complete including interdependencies.  Manage to the plan with the assumption that it will need to change based on changes in conditions in the environment.  Something will go wrong; part of the secret sauce is how the team responds to the normal ebbs and flows of business. When in question, act with grace.
  7. Do the work – follow the plan and accomplish the work on time, with the quality expected, using the resources expected.  When deviations happen, be proactive and discuss with the team to allow adjustments as quickly as possible.
  8. Measure progress and success – measures should have been established early in the process.  Collect the data, analyze, and adjust.  Remember this is where we learn what went wrong and get to learn and correct.
  9. Recognize others – celebrate success when it happens.  Life is way too short to skip over the small wins.  Make a point of recognizing the people around you when they do something well.
  10. Learn and improve – at appropriate steps in the process stop and reflect on what you accomplished and what you can learn, from success and challenges.

For most of us, these principles are not new and yet, as leaders, we often allow the culture of results drive us to skip over the very important steps in the process that ensure our teams will be successful.  By taking the time and focusing on building the team foundation, we improve our success rate.

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.

Leadership Innovation & Friends at Work

As we talk about innovative leadership, many people are likely wondering what this really means in concrete examples, not some theory.

One concrete example is the shift from the view that good leaders and managers ensure their employees are doing their work and not spending time on activities that take away from their focus on tasks.

Early in my career, my boss asked that I make sure my team members do not spend too much time talking.  When they talked for more than about two minutes, I was to go over and ask them if there was anything I could help them with.  If not, they were to get back to work.  Now we have interesting research that suggests that this focus on productivity at the expense of camaraderie at work is counterproductive.  I understand there is a balance in all things and this this case is no exception.

So, what changed?  As we moved from the industrial era model for many jobs to a knowledge based economy, we are now more worried about “employee engagement”.    The world’s top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative — it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.

Research by Gallup and others shows that engaged employees are more productive. They are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave. The best-performing companies know that an employee engagement improvement strategy linked to the achievement of corporate goals will help them win in the marketplace.

One of the questions in the Gallup engagement survey asks if employees have a best friend at work.  According to Gallup, “Those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.  Social relationships at work have also been shown to boost employee retention, safety, work quality and customer engagement.”  So think about this – if I take time to have conversations with people at work enough to consider someone a good friend, I must be breaking the 2 minute rule.

Beyond the time, I was also taught that my personal life is private and not to be shared with colleagues.  I remember a boss who shared her struggles with this notion.  She was very private and she seemed distant and a bit uncaring.  My favorite boss was much “warmer” and more open.  She was professional and appropriate and could have a very direct approach and yet no matter how frustrated she became with the work, I always knew I could count on her to be fair.  My trust in her ran deep because I had a “friendship”.

So, this is one example of how the rules have changed in many workplaces.  If employee engagement is a differentiator, then we need to move beyond the old rules to a new and more innovative view of leadership.  This is one small example of how innovative leaders look at work and people in the workplace very differently.  They are not “human resources”, rather they are real people who have hopes and dreams and friends.

Do you have a colleague or friend at work that you trust to give you honest feedback?  Someone to help think through a challenging work situation?  Do you feel like someone cares about your career success?  What are you doing to be a “friend” at work to your colleagues?

Photo credit:  Al Abut