Get Employees To Act Like Owners Of The Business

“I want my employees to act like they own the company.”

I’ve heard senior executives say something to this effect dozens of times over the past few years. The idea that if everyone acted like they owned the place and gave it their all, we could be amazing. However, a few weeks ago, when I talked with a front line supervisor in a call center about what it means to “act like you own the business,” he responded with: “So does that mean I get to do what I feel like, drive a nicer car, and live in a nicer house?” Clearly, most employees in the corporate environment have never owned a business, or been in significantly senior positions to understand what having an equity-stake in a company really means.

So what do CEOs mean when they wish for employees who act like owners? Digging deeper, I hear: “I want people to be more accountable,” or “My employees should work harder and be more committed, not just trading time for money.” “They would be able to understand how we all work together to bring value to our customers,” and “I want them to get the big picture of our business.” These statements start to sound a lot like leadership. But not leadership in the way we’ve been taught to view it.

We tend to look upin organizations to position and title for leadership. But the truth is, leaders can and should be found at every level of your company. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, writing in the foreword to my new book, The Hidden Leader, put it simply: “It’s not about position or title. It’s not about power or authority. It’s not about being a CEO, president, general, or prime minister. Leadership is not about who you are or where you come from. It’s about what you do.”

Bridget Jay is an individual contributor in program development for a mobile technology company called Q-Stream. Bridget’s job is to translate the client’s business goals into a strategic program plan. But Bridget has gone above and beyond her defined role at the company, by taking accountability for her work, seeking a deeper understanding of the client’s business and by working across divisions of the company to widen implementation of Q-Stream’s product. Thanks to Bridget’s ownership and leadership within her service role, this account has grown from $25K to $1.5 million within two years. Want more people like Bridget on your team? If you do, you have to identify the characteristics and observable behaviors of employees who act like owners:

  • They are enthusiastic and they are not just trading time or talent for compensation. Not enthusiastic in a rah-rah kind of way, though a little bit of that can be nice occasionally. They have passion, positive energy and excitement about the business or some element of the work. These employees have a clear perspective on how the company provides value to customers and specifically how they contribute to that value. This has a contagion effect, bringing others along with them: the lab tech who enthuses to colleagues about aiding in the diagnosis of disease because of accuracy in the team’s specimen processing, or the sales rep whose fervent belief in the product energizes her fellow reps. That’s inspiring leadership.
  • You can count on them to do what they say they will do and act with integrity. These employees are honest, trustworthy and consistently reliable. They should be easy to spot because if there is an important assignment, they get it. A priority client to work with, they are involved. A mission critical project, they are on the team. Because they hold themselves accountable for the results of their efforts, they might even do things outside their job description, like the customer support rep that chooses to come in on her day off to make good on a commitment to finish a team project. They take responsibility the same way successful leaders or business owners are accountable and demonstrate their commitment.
  • These employees have strong relationships across the business, not just within a silo. The strength of their relationships isn’t just about being friendly or collegial, but are based on trust. They develop trusting relationships with team members, colleagues in other parts of the company, and even “higher ups”, through their expertise. It could be a technical expertise like software coding or expertise in a discipline like marketing or sales. This expertise forms a base of credibility and creates confidence in their decision-making. When your company needs cross-functional collaboration to launch a new product or implement a new system, the key to making it work are these employees with influence across divisions and often up and down the chain of command. They help knit an organization together with their leadership.

If you want to create a culture where everyone behaves like an owner, or a leader, seek out and reward the hidden leaders within the ranks of your company. They are the exemplars that will help you to establish standards. Then measure, coach and develop these behaviors and characteristics with the rest of your employees. What is hidden now just may become one of your greatest assets.

Do you know of individual contributors or front line supervisors that display strong leadership? I’d love to hear about them as part of my continuing research on Hidden Leaders and the impact they make, so send me a note about them by clicking here.

The 4-Hour Leader

When I bought the The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss in 2007, I was captivated by the concept of working just four hours a week. I enjoyed Tim’s writing style and I started to apply some of his philosophies to my work life (although I never did achieve a four-hour work week.) A few years later, I heard Tim was writing a follow-up called The 4-Hour Body, which at first struck me as a very odd sequel. Then it hit me that his work was really about rapid learning and how to achieve the greatest results with the least amount of effort. Tim was simply applying the same principles he’d used in decoding work place efficiency to diet and exercise. It turns out that these principles can be applied in many disciplines, if you know precisely what needs to be done and the most efficient way to do it.

I interviewed Tim Ferriss about the principles behind his “4 Hour” series. In order to break down the task to be accomplished to its essence, Tim uses a process of Deconstruction, Selection and Sequencing. Here is how I’ve applied similar principles in my work with leaders.

Deconstruction breaks a complex process or practice in to discreet parts or tasks. For instance, in research for the article I coauthored here in HBR, Making Yourself Indispensable, over 20,000 leaders were analyzed using 360-degree feedback data on dozens of leadership competencies. The goal was to determine which leadership characteristics most often separated excellent leaders from their average and poor counterparts, and 16 competencies emerged from our process of deconstructing great leadership.

Selection is about isolating the most impactful of these essential characteristics to focus on the critical few versus the (more) trivial many. It’s the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. When I coauthored the book, The Inspiring Leader, I was able to do additional research to delve deeper and understand which of those 16 key competencies was most valuable and had the greatest impact on the people they lead. In medicine it’s sometimes called the minimal effective dose, (MED). In pharmacological terms it is the lowest dose level of a pharmaceutical product that provides a clinically significant response, beyond which dosing is wasteful, or even harmful.

Finally, Sequencing allows you to test theories in different circumstances and make adjustments based on the results, to ultimately put them in logical order. In other words, to create an optimal progression. I’ve had the chance to apply my research as I’ve coached hundreds of leaders with varied styles in developing these competencies in diverse situations.

Tim is an investor and/or advisor to Uber, Facebook, Twitter, and Evernote, so I asked him about applying these principles to what he referred to as the “somewhat-nebulous area of leadership”. I took some of our conversation, combined it with my own findings, and below is what I’ll refer to with Tim’s permission as The 4-Hour Leader.

Leaders are bombarded with suggestions for improved leadership, and many of the articles, books and lectures on the subject offer ideas that may be helpful on some level. I know from my work with thousands of senior leaders that when you start to identify leadership characteristics, you will have a hard time finding one that you’d say isn’t somehow valuable or useful. But if you want the MED, then throw away those voluminous leadership development plans (that you aren’t following anyway) because here it is, The Four-Hour Leader.

1. Express a clear definition of success for your team, business unit, or company. Don’t equivocate about what you expect the team to accomplish and what the priorities are. This doesn’t mean verbose vision statements, but a well-defined and articulated objective and a few specific and measurable goals that you can communicate in a minute or two. The discipline of focusing on one unambiguous purpose (or Key Performance Indicators, also called “KPIs”) will enable you drive for those results and maintain focus, while avoiding deviation from the course and the distraction of “shiny objects”. We don’t know yet if A.G. Laffley’s plan to shed half of P&G’s brands is a good idea, but there is no question about the focus and direction of the entire company.

2. If you want buy in, then as the leader you have to sell. And be able to sell to a wide range of stakeholders, from board members and investors, to senior managers and front line employees to generate individual and group commitment to your direction. Leaders need people to buy in to your larger vision and be excited about their specific role in contributing to it. Change management guru John Kotter identified this as a vital component for leaders to gain the support needed for their ideas to achieve valuable results.

Ann Mulcahy, who led Xerox from the brink of bankruptcy has said that a good plan is important “But the bottom line is that it’s all about getting your people aligned around a common set of objectives. At Xerox, that was the difference between success and failure.

Leaders sell their ideas about the future by making an emotional connection, because while logic will get people thinking, it is emotion that will ignite passion and spur them to action. In my work studying how leaders inspire, statistically, the number one attribute of leaders who excel in motivating others is the ability to harness the power of emotions to move people to action. Enthusiasm, passion, caring, concern, and even anger have a strong impact on people and can be expressed in myriad ways.

Think about leaders you’ve observed. From Richard Branson to Herb Kelleher to Indra Nooyi. When they talk to people from small groups to large audiences, they are expressing emotions and it is anything but simply conveying the facts. They are excited about achieving great things, or concerned about the consequences of not taking action. They create a sense of deep commitment.

3. Demonstrate your integrity and make it visible. One of my clients recently delivered a restatement of earnings to Wall Street. That restatement could have been avoided because cash reserves were considerably higher than what was needed to deal with the change. The CEO took the position that it was necessary to disclose this difference in earnings, despite the attention and cost of doing so, because it was simply the right thing to do. When communicated to shareholders and employees, a sense of pride and belief in the future of the business was obvious because “this is the kind of company we work for…a company that does the right thing.” When I ask people about important leadership characteristics, an interesting thing happens on the topic of integrity (or character, honesty, etc.) They tend to rank it first, or they don’t mention it at all. Through discussions, I’ve concluded it means the same thing, which is that it is fundamental to leadership. As I highlight in my new book The Hidden Leader, it is viewed as the primary trait, or it is table stakes to even have the chance to lead. Either way, integrity is vital to leadership success.

That’s your MED for leadership and the prescription for accelerating your leadership ability: toss all the leadership competencies in a pot and they boil down to this. Many of the leaders I work with have a sense of massive overload, so Tim’s technique of narrowing one’s focus to a few things that make a huge difference is very appealing. The best part is that you can do each of these three things without much, if any, additive time. In fact, I bet you can do it in less than four hours per week.

Scott’s interview with RainToday Editor Michelle Davidson

Listen to Scott’s interview on the qualities required for sales leadership with RainToday Editor Michelle Davidson. Discover why sales leadership is the toughest job in business and why having great selling skills is just part of the equation.


The Leadership Resolutions That Work Best

TSE 1 copyake a look at my article, originally published by Harvard Business Review, in Switched On Leadership magazine. The publisher presented it really well. The article is also available on this site or by clicking the link in the magazine.

Click here to download PDF of The Leadership Resolutions That Work Best article…

To access the entire magazine available exclusively on the Apple Newsstand, from your iPhone or iPad click this link, and use Subscription Bonus Code “LeadersAreReaders” (without the quotes) to get a three month free subscription.

In the Spotlight: Leadership Speaker Scott Edinger Helps Companies “Move the Needle” and Achieve Their Goals

So you’re looking for leadership speakers for your next meeting or conference. No problem:

Turns out finding leadership speakers is easy. Finding the right leadership speaker for your people and your company — that’s a little more challenging.

After a while, all the videos and bios start to run together. But what if you could actually sit down with the speaker candidates and ask them point blank: Who is your ideal audience? What results can I expect when I hire you? Do you customize for our company and our people?

Of course you don’t have time to do that, but no worries — we’ll do it for you! We call it putting our speakers “In the Spotlight” — where we ask them some of the key questions on your mind (and then you can listen in).

Today, we’re shining the light on one of our leadership speakers, Scott Edinger, co-author of The Inspiring Leader and the The ASTD Leadership Handbook (along with Ken Blanchard, John Kotter, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and others).

Below are some excerpts* from a conversation between Scott and Shawn Ellis, founder of The Speakers Group

Shawn: You’re a bit different from a lot of leadership speakers in that you don’t just talk about, say, “five keys to great leadership.” What you really talk about is how organizations can achieve their goals through their people, and of course that involves putting people in the right environment to succeed. 

Scott: Right. I think what’s important to recognize is that there is, I guess, what you’d call the classic motivational speaker. I sort of smile when I say that because when I first started doing this my friends would haze me a bit and say, “You’re kind of like Chris Farley, you know? You tell people that you’re living in a van down by the river or something.” That is the poor stereotype of the motivational speaker – which is essentially nothing but a bunch of rousing kind of cheerleading versus the way I approach things which is really to use my expertise in a few different areas.

The broad umbrella as you described is leadership. Within that there’s a very clear connection to the business outcomes and results an organization is trying to achieve and needs to achieve. Underneath that there are a handful of things that I really have great expertise in because of the background that I’ve had. I’ve spent a lot of time focused on sales organizations, specifically sales professionals who interact with clients and the sales leaders; those who manage them. That’s one area of leadership that I specialize in.

Then another area of leadership that is in the area of strategy formulation and implementation – vision and implementation being a critical element of leadership. How do you determine where the organization is going, and how do you get it there? Those would be two of the categories I guess, that I put under the broad topic of leadership, and of course in the overall sea of leadership there’s a handful of components to that. Whether it be how leaders inspire, how you get the most out of leaders at the front lines of your business or people who are individual contributors. Of course most importantly, individual leadership and how does one develop their unique strength, and develop those strengths in a way that is different than fixing weakness.

Shawn: I know the first time we spoke, you said that you’re a great speaker for a client who’s looking for someone not just to entertain the crowd, but to really move the needle and to make a real change. How do you move the needle, as you said, from the stage where you’re speaking to a large audience?

Scott: Well I think if you consider those topics — leadership or strategy or sales effectiveness, sales leadership – all of them can be spoken about in an entertaining and philosophical kind of way. Unfortunately, too many times that’s like the sugar doughnut of a motivational or conference speaker because it’s entertaining while it happens, but there’s no real benefit from it. Usually when I have seen that happen it is because the speaker has failed to make things pragmatic.

One of the things, regardless of what the topic is, is to understand what the organization is trying to accomplish. What’s the real change or difference they’d like to see following that event? Then to figure out connected to the message, what are the pragmatic things that people can immediately begin to do differently?

Sometimes it’s reorienting their thinking. Sometimes it’s a specific action, but I find it really important to provide people with practical, tactical things that they can do immediately that start to change the way they approach things. There’s limited things that you can do within an hour or an hour and a half, but certainly helping people with pragmatic things that they can begin to do differently, and a context for why they need to do it is a really powerful and a tremendous way to use that very valuable time.

Shawn: What types of organizations or industries are in the sweet spot for you? 

Scott: I’ve worked across 22 different industries between my individual consulting with specific clients or speaking. Hundreds of different clients from Fortune 10 companies to companies with 30 employees. I’ve seen a wide range and I’m able to relate many of those areas of expertise to how they specifically apply to a given company — because it’s hard to say that leadership or strategy or sales effectiveness isn’t important for “a company like this” or “in this industry.”

Figuring out how it applies — that’s my expertise. I take those bodies of work – stuff that I’ve written and worked on, and provided clients with – and translate them to a real clear way to apply it.

Shawn: So that covers the organizations and industries. What types of audiences do you typically speak to within those organizations?

Scott: I typically end up with three different types of audiences:

First would be… call it the sales meeting. National Sales Meeting or Sales Manager Meeting. A couple of years ago I did a huge sales meeting for a standard chartered bank in Singapore. Four hundred people from 18 different countries, and we had six different interpreters in the back. That’s one kind of audience, a sales meeting.

A second kind of meeting would be a managers meeting. Companies do this with all different levels. “Managers Meeting” — whether it be mid managers, senior leadership. Last year I was doing some work with Lenovo when I spoke to their top 100 leaders.

Then the third kind of meeting where I do a lot of speaking is conferences. That could be industry conferences representing a specific industry, and the leaders of the companies within that industry who share a common set of issues. That’s an interesting kind of audience to speak to as well because you don’t have the company examples for your content, but you have the industry examples and that’s kind of fun.

Strategy, Plans, And Running With The Bulls

I’m on a flight back to the USA from Spain, where a few days ago on July 14th, I was running with the bulls in Pamplona. The running of the bulls is part of theFestival of San Fermin, which has been held annually since the middle ages, honoring the patron saint of the city. I ran on the last day of the festival with a small group of friends. On the return flight home I couldn’t help but reflect on the experience, and some parallels to my work with clients designing and implementing successful strategies. Here they are.

1. Clearly define your strategy in specific detail. We wanted to complete the run safely by:

  • Holding off on our start until the bulls ran by. Nobody can keep up with a bull running 22-24 mph and we wanted to run with the bulls (behind them really,) not in front of the bulls.
  • Running as close to the left side of the street as possible. (In our observation of the run on the previous day, and video footage of past races, it seemed that because of the turn before the area of our starting position, they tended to drift to the right side).
  • Sticking together in pairs. We used the buddy system to look out for each other.
  • Finishing the run by breaking left toward the 9 o’clock position of the bullring as soon as we entered.

Defining the outcomes with specificity is much harder than it seems, and good strategies are clarified so that they are easily understood. They are precise and specific as it relates to objectives, and how those objectives are going to be achieved. This is the most difficult part of executive work, as it requires patience, making tough decisions and judgments, as well as a lot of critical thinking. Because of that, leaders are often in a rush to just get this work done. It is much easier to read and respond to emails, attend meetings and focus on the tactical work that doesn’t require as much thought.

2. Be prepared for your strategy not to go according to plan. How many projects or initiatives in your business have turned out exactly as they were planned? My experience has been that it is rare. On the morning of the run there was a light rain, which made the streets a little more slick than usual. Instead of the bulls running together in a pack (which is the best case) they got separated as they came around one of the turns. On this day, they were running closer to the left side of the street.  Despite your best efforts and research, you will never be able to rely completely on it, and you will never have all of the facts. For example, we learned only on the morning of the race that the Miura Bulls, renowned as Spain’s largest and fastest bulls, were reserved for the final day. Imagine how that made us feel.

Even if the assumptions we make in formulating strategies are incorrect, it is critically important to go through the progression of doing so. In the process you become keenly aware of different alternatives, capabilities, and scenarios, and if necessary can adapt quickly and make adjustments in real time. As Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

3. Getting everyone in your company to understand and behave consistently with your culture is the most important thing you can do to get your strategy implemented.  Most of the runners in Pamplona shared the same goal—to finish without being punctured, pierced, or steamrolled. While there are always a few with different goals (some want to touch or run in between them), the vast majority shared that objective. But as soon as the rocket to start the race went off, things got pretty chaotic with runners of different speeds getting in each other’s way, and often hindering one another in their own rational self-interest.

Even when people in an organization have the same overall goals for the company to succeed, individual approaches can vary greatly. This tends to reduce quality of work and productivity, as well as create conflict. To prevent this, people must understand what is expected of them in your culture, and how they fulfill your strategy. Further, they need to have exemplars to look to as role models, and appropriate rewards and consequences.

4. Take time to evaluate your performance. For the entire day following the run as we traveled from Pamplona to Madrid before heading home, we relived every moment. The emotions leading up to the run, what happened during the run, what others saw from their vantage point and so forth. We only ran once, and in your organization the run is continuous.

My most successful clients are unquestionably those who review their strategy at regular intervals, make adjustments, and keep it dynamic. It doesn’t sit on a shelf in a binder. They work hard to integrate strategic a perspective into all of the work they do and for any projects or initiatives.  They ask the question “how will this help us to achieve our strategy?”

The running of the bulls is an extraordinary and unique experience. While I’ll never do it again, I found valuable insights from the run that illustrated what is critical when creating and executing a strategy. Done well, you can still succeed even when everything doesn’t go as you expected. All 8 of us completed the running of the bulls, unscathed.

English: Running of the bulls during Sanfermin...
English: Running of the bulls during Sanfermines in Iruñea – Pamplona, Spain. Español: Encierro con toros durante los Sanfermines de Pamplona, España (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do You Have A World Class Sales Culture?

A couple of months ago I was having dinner with Neil Rackham, sales guru, and mentor of mine. We talked about recent changes in the nature of sales and sales management, and agreed that companies with a sales oriented culture would have a source of significant competitive advantage.

In my client work and two stints an EVP of Sales, I’ve observed a handful of characteristics that stand out in the best sales cultures. Here they are.

  • The sales function is recognized as a critical component of how the company creates value for clients. It isn’t simply distribution, and it is widely understood that the sales organization provides the business with an asset beyond products and services. They get it that there is value created in the sales process and how they sell. That value can only be derived in the interaction between your clients and sales professionals. It happens when a seller helps a client to identify issues or opportunities they hadn’t considered or to recognize the unintended consequences of a decision. They may even be seen as valuable to a client by bringing additional resources or capabilities that your company can offer in the service of addressing their needs. This is what Neil termed, and I have written about for Harvard Business Review, as sales calls your customer would be willing to pay for.
  • They manage sales as a process. In a high performance sales organization the sales process is understood based on the expectations of the company and clients at each stage of their decision making process. Doing this enables sales professionals and management to replicate activities that portend success, and address predictable failure points. In a high tech company that I’ve worked with, we identified several pivot points in their successful sales cycles that most often resulted in acquiring business. Isolating those common variables helped them to concentrate resources, and focus on key milestones at each stage of their sales cycle. This enables organizations to decode and replicate a vital part of the success of their top performers and provides a roadmap for rapidly getting new hires up to speed and productive.
  • Coaching is a business imperative. Selling is one of those professions, which few people (I know of no one) actually go to school to get a degree. As a result there isn’t really a blueprint or defined standard to follow like GAAP rules for accounting and so forth. Professional selling is learned almost entirely on the job. A successful manager coaches their sellers on process, skills, and approaches to increase effectiveness. They understand where limited coaching time will have the greatest impact and consider that in planning. They avoid the pitfalls of doing the selling for their reps, being the discount approver, or worse, the closer. They observe sales calls and provide feedback, and help to plan account strategies. This is important for sales leaders too, because done well; they are coaching sales management to be more effective. Not just double and triple checking forecasts, which is the next topic.
  • They manage the right metrics. While it is important to forecast performance as accurately as possible, doing so rarely if ever helps improve sales. In fact, every minute spent reporting or inspecting the results, is a minute lost trying to improve them. In a sales culture the right practice is to create some equilibrium between analyzing results (which can’t be managed), and coaching optimal activities and behaviors (which can be managed with great benefit). Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazana, coauthors of Cracking the Sales Management Code, studied over 300 sales metrics that were tracked by companies, finding that only a fraction could actually be affected by management. The remaining were the results of coaching and completing the right sales activities. Activities like sales call management, opportunity management, account management, and territory management. It’s the difference between inspecting the results that have already occurred, and actively improving the results.
  • They have a clear sales strategy beyond “get out there and sell!” This includes some kind of ideal client profiles, an understanding of where the best opportunities are likely to be, and what differentiators will be most effective in the market. The cornerstone of that strategy is a vividly clear picture of what the improvements in the client’s condition you are able to make. It doesn’t have to a big strategic science project to do this, but you will need the discipline, focus, and process to do the hard thinking about what your strategy will be.

The glaring omission for some of you reading this will be incentives and rewards. I didn’t forget that, but rather, intentionally left it out here. In great sales cultures, while compensation and incentives must be available for high performance, they are simply part of a good performance management system. But compensation won’t create the culture.

So what kind of sales culture do you have?

Be More Inspiring In Just Ten Minutes Per Day

If you are a leader in any capacity whatsoever, odds are that you have heard, or perhaps even been told that you should be more inspiring. When I co-authored the book The Inspiring Leader, we studied the ability to inspire and motivate others and found that it was the most influential leadership trait promoting employee engagement. Additionally, when subordinates were asked what characteristic they most wanted from their managers, it was to be more inspiring. But who has the time?

The secret is not to create additive work in your efforts to inspire others. Rather, take small steps to change your approach to doing the work you must already. So as you try to be more inspiring to those you work with try the following.

  • Be an exemplar of the behaviors you wish to see in others. If you want to instill greater collaboration in your business, be a role model of doing so and visibly demonstrate your cooperative efforts with others. Discuss it in meetings. Celebrate team success. Recognize collaboration efforts elsewhere. Behaviors of key leaders tend to proliferate. Make sure you are proliferating good ones by getting out in front and displaying the traits you want to see flourish in your organization. You know this, right? People will do as you—and other key leaders do. This takes virtually no extra time.
  • Connect on a human level and use emotions to your favor. One of my clients is a manufacturer of major commercial equipment. In a meeting with their senior managers we discussed that while they build machines, they build those machines through people. We don’t operate like machines and because of that we need to connect with those around us as people. Not as a job function to be completed or a task to be accomplished, but as people with feelings, goals, and individual needs. For some leaders a good place to start is simply using some good manners (something I find all too often lacking.) For others, understanding a persons point of view and what is important to them, is a powerful means to further develop someone’s engagement in your team. You are already interacting with the people you want to inspire so take a few precious minutes to change the tone and tenor of the conversation.
  • Prioritize innovation over problem solving. The best leaders I work with are constantly seeking to raise the bar. When presented with challenges, they use them as a chance to innovate and try something completely different and creative. My avatar for innovation is Antanas Mockus, the former Mayor of Bogota Columbia. When confronted with major traffic problems in Bogota, he didn’t go the conventional problem-solving route of more police, harsher fines, or typical traffic problem solving approaches. He hired 420 mimes to mock people misbehaving at intersections throughout the city.  Fatalities and accidents decreased due to his very creative approach. As an aside, this is not permission to go mock your employees. That’s not the point here. You are already spending this time trying to solve problems so thinking creatively doesn’t have to take more time. But it does require you to be intentional about it and create an environment where it is safe to express new ideas.
  • Stop emailing and do more live communicating. Sure, email a form of communication, but it is one-dimensional. Personal interaction is best when you need to communicate matters of strategic importance, engage in discussions about alternatives, or topics that are nuanced and can’t be sufficiently addressed using the forum of email. I’ve heard suggestions that when an email thread has been commented on three times and an issue is still lingering that email is no longer an effective medium to resolve the issue. If you are not in the same location, pick up the phone. Walk down the hall. Use a videoconference. Anything that brings additional dimensions to your communication with others. Don’t kid yourself about email being efficient. Just because you send an email doesn’t mean something is done. Try adding up the collective wasted time on extending decisions, discussions, and deliberations on email. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say this will save you time.
  • Develop the skills of someone else. Nothing inspires loyalty like helping someone improve. This rarely occurs as an HR or talent development initiative as a means to develop bench strength. This happens most effectively when a leader highlights the growth and learning of people on their team. In one of my first jobs I worked for a manager who prioritized my development with training, coaching, and investing in my growth as a professional. Twenty years later he still inspires me when I speak with him. Helping others to grow and coaching to improve performance almost always drives loyalty, increases engagement, and ultimately improves performance. This will take you more time. But it doesn’t have to be a lot. In fact, if you focus on developing others in the context of the work you are doing through modeling, planning, and debriefing, you will accomplish two things at once.

None of these are particularly onerous time commitments. Pick one or two of these areas of focus and work on them. Here’s the trick. It is tough to become an inspiring leader with one action per week that you remember to check off at 4:45pm on Friday afternoon. You need to create simple and demonstrative actions daily, even multiple times daily to develop a habit with impact. In most cases, it is not about creating additive work. Rather, it is finding ways to integrate new behaviors in the work you are already doing. Surely you can spare ten minutes a day, right?

Don’t Fall In To These Leadership Traps In 2014

TSE 1 copyake a look at my article, originally published by Forbes, in Switched On Leadership magazine. The publisher presented it really well. The article is also available on this site or by clicking the link in the magazine.

Click here to download PDF of Don’t Fall In To These Leadership Traps In 2014 article…

To access the entire magazine available exclusively on the Apple Newsstand, from your iPhone or iPad click this link, and use Subscription Bonus Code “LeadersAreReaders” (without the quotes) to get a three month free subscription.

Strategic Leadership As A Competitive Advantage

ISE 1 copy’m in good company with Dan Pink and Peter Bregman in Switched On Leadership magazine. The publisher transcribed my podcast of the same title and presented it quite nicely. The podcast is also available on this site or by clicking the link in the magazine.

Click here to download PDF of Strategic Leadership As A Competitive Advantage article…

To access the entire magazine available exclusively on the Apple Newsstand, from your iPhone or iPad click this link, and use Subscription Bonus Code “LeadersAreReaders” (without the quotes) to get a three month free subscription.