Category Archives: Leadership

Personal Leadership Should Focus On Team Success First

Everyone has the responsibility to demonstrate personal leadership. When interacting with others, every communication tells a story of what you value, and it’s critical to model the right behaviors

Here are a few characteristics of an engaging team environment. Ask yourself how you can personally role model these characteristics with your colleagues:

1. Clear goals and commitment to team goals. How will I demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to solving challenges as a team?

2. Accountability to the team. How will I demonstrate that I am personally invested and responsible to the team?

3. Supportive climate and behaviors. How will I acknowledge and complement other team members for their creativity and achievements?

4. Mutual trust and respect. How will I openly share my own strengths, opportunities, and best practices?  Volunteer for more peer to peer sessions.

5. Results focus. How will I reward and celebrate the achievement of specific personal and team goals?

6. Good communication and constructive conflict. How will I engage in open and passionate debate of ideas and opinions, respecting others POV and embracing diversity of viewpoints?

I am privileged to work on the Macmillan Higher Education Inside Sales team where all of these behaviors are already evident.  It’s incumbent on me to increase and enhance my level of contribution as I gain competency and trust with the team.


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The 8 and 5 Rule for 40 Hours of Powerful Selling!

We all know 8 times 5 equals 40, but how do we make those 40 hours (and hopefully not many more), the most effective as possible?  Invest less than 3% of the time reflecting and planning.  That small investment could make a substantial difference in priorities and execution to create dramatic accomplishments.  Can you afford that time?  You can’t afford not to.

EightHere is what I try to do every day.  I call it the 8@Eight and 5@Five rules. Invest 5 minutes at 5:00 PM reflecting on the day and jotting down high level plans for the next day, and 8 minutes at 8:00 AM fleshing out those plans with a focus on high priority initiatives.  Don’t just show up at 8:00 AM and work whatever is in the inbox, it is not likely the tasks that will assure success for the day.  Don’t just pack up and leave at 5:00 PM without thinking of what went well that day and how to change up the process the following day.


I now work for a privately held company, but for more than 30 years working for a public company, I had a text message sent to my cell after the closing bell of the New York Stock exchange alerting me to the stock price activity for the day.  I then reflected on whether the tasks I worked that day could have had any impact on that result.  If the price went up, I tried to identify those accomplishments that contributed to the good result.  If the price went down, I searched for those activities that wasted time or were not high priority business results that might have contributed to the decline.  Since the stock price always fluctuated, there was always an opportunity for reflection one way or the other.

That got me thinking about how to repeat good results and what to do to avoid bad results.  We don’t need a stock price to make an honest assessment of the day.  One way to think about this would be to imagine you were required to send your accomplishments (or lack thereof) to the CEO every day at 5:00 PM.  Would they align with the company’s strategic direction? Would the CFO send you a thank you note?

So here’s the simple plan.  Take 5 minutes at 5:00 PM to have a plan to wake up to the next day.  Then take 8 minutes at 8:00 AM to create the project plan to execute against those ideas.  Try very hard to ignore the easy distractions: emails that don’t need an immediate response, blinking voice mail lights that have beg you to react to someone else’s poor planning, or socialization that goes beyond that needed to build culture and team work.  Try turning off email for periods of the day and work the plan.  Cover up the voice mail light with anything available and work the plan.

BTW, I am not perfect at this technique.  That’s why I am writing this blog – to coerce me to walk the walk and not just talk about it.  I have put myself on notice, hold me accountable and then try it yourself.


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A Persuasion Technique that is Simple and Successful

PersausionThe most important value I bring to every interaction is respect for the individual. With that as a guide, I suggest this technique, supported by multiple studies on thousands of people, and it’s the easiest, most practical persuasion technique available. Try the ‘But You Are Free’ (BYAF) technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose. By reaffirming their freedom you are indirectly saying to them that they have an easy out to say no. They have free choice.

A recent review of the 42 psychology studies carried out on this technique has shown that it is highly effective. (Carpenter, 2013). Over 22,000 people have been tested by researchers and the studies found it doubled the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to the request. People have been shown to donate more too good causes, agree more readily to a survey and give more to someone asking for a bus fare home.
The exact words used are not especially important. What is important is that the request is made face-to-face: the power of the technique drops off otherwise. Even over email, though, it does still have an effect, although it is somewhat reduced.

The BYAF technique is so simple and amenable that it can easily be used in conjunction with other approaches. It also underlines the fact that people hate to be hemmed in or have their choices reduced. We seem to react against this attempt to limit us by becoming more closed-minded. The BYAF technique, as with any good method of persuasion, is about helping other people come to the decision you want through their own free will. If they have other options, like simply walking away, and start to feel corralled, then you can wave them goodbye.
On the other hand, respecting people’s autonomy has the happy side-effect of making them more open to persuasion. You can look good and be more likely to get what you want. It’s all about respect for the individual with the intent of team centric collaboration.


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Virtual Work Place of the Now

Virtual Work Place of the Now

Social media provides instant feedback.  If you struggle with that thought, toss something controversial on Twitter and see how quickly it gets re-tweeted.  The virtual workforce is more aligned with Social Media behaviors and requires and demands immediate feedback to advance the goals of the organization.  Performance appraisals that are now performed on a semi-annual or annual cycle are outdated.  You should be getting performance feedback every day in our ultra-connected virtual world.

When working virtually, most communication is work centric transactional without the emotional investment of social and non-verbal feedback.  The imperative of feedback is critical to keep progress towards objectives aligned.  It is equally critical to allow more prudent risk taking.  Consider the role of the waiter in a restaurant.  The server receives instantaneous feedback on their “performance” through customer interactions and the compensation feedback through the tip at the end of the meal.  Presentation style, fluency of the menu, and checking for feedback during the meal together provide a table by table appraisal for the server.  How does this fit into our virtual meeting and conference call process of today? Do you get regular and immediate feedback from virtual meetings or conference calls?  If not, what might not happen that can propel the team forward to meeting and exceeding their goals?

Virtual work can attenuate risk since the physical feedback of facial expression and body language can’t be assessed to determine whether the risk is additive or aggravating to the process.  For the majority of the less courageous and politically insecure workforce, risk will be averted in the virtual workplace.  Consider how much quicker and more creative a result can be achieved when risk inviting processes are part of the decision process.

There are ways to mitigate this challenge. One advantage of the virtual workplace is less time spent commuting.  In my case, my commute consists of descending a flight of stairs and crisscrossing a busy kitchen to get to my home office.  How best to spend this found time?  Set aside time each day to invest in the relationships with those you need to collaborate with.  Schedule time with someone you don’t know well or is new to the team and spend 10-15 minutes to get to know them as a person, not just a work colleague.  Learn about their backgrounds and experiences.  Ask them what they enjoy most about the work problem and what they find the most challenging or frustrating.  Share the same with them such that each of you understands better how to partner in the virtual work place.

Special attention should be directed to those that participate at a minimum level.  Are they not challenged in their role?  Are they bored?  Do they feel they are an outsider to the team?  Not knowing the answers puts their contribution at risk.  Spending 10-15 minutes understanding their concerns could provide many hours of positive ROI for that small time investment.

By now I hope you see my theme.  Virtual work places will become the norm.  If we do not invest in building the emotional cultural fabric that exists by default in the physical work place, the results will be pedestrian and the euphoria of celebrating as a team will be non-existent or disingenuous at best.  Virtual work is harder and challenging as it demands purposeful reaching out to build the pathways to relationships necessary for organizational success.

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Independence Day? – Aren’t We More Dependent On Main Stream Media, Prescription drugs, and … ?

Let me declare up front that there was much to celebrate on the 4th of July, and this blog is not meant to distract from the great beginnings of this country that July 4 commemorates, and the many outstanding accomplishments that the USA can claim as our own over the past 235 years. In many ways, it’s remarkable how well the subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights have fared over such a long period of dramatic change in the country.

We celebrate Independence Day as freedom from overt government intrusion into our lives, yet gazing back over the landscape of events and behaviors in recent years, I sense that we have allowed ourselves to become more dependent. The freedom and advances we benefit from today have come at a cost of our critical thinking skills and accepting responsibility for outcomes that effect each of us, our communities, and our nation.

I’ll touch on a few that are top of mind. You’ll likely have a different set, but these are top of mind as I write this.

• Main Stream Media – Stories That Sell Advertising Revenue Instead of Objective Informing

• Prescription Drugs Abuse

Main Stream Media

We use Main Stream Media (MSM) to educate and inform us on global and national events knowing full well that each major MSM channel has its own political and commercial (revenue) agenda. You can scan the channels any evening and hear very different “news reports” depending on whether you are watching Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or your local programming. We tune to the MSM channel that best fits our belief system and then allow the flow of information to confirm and advance those beliefs. Remember that MSM is a for-profit business, and you get what you pay for, meaning MSM will follow and report on the rubbernecking story at the expense of what events here or abroad are truly shaping our future.

I have been using the remote much more lately to scan between the major MSM channels in an attempt to triangulate on the information provided and then go off and coalesce those disparate reports such that I can make a more informed assessment of the information provided. When that isn’t enough, I’ll do more research to better understand the issue. I refuse to allow my belief system to be informed or altered by simple sound bites from the most polished, handsome, or politically biased newscasters. Be cautious when forming an opinion dependent solely on one news source, regardless of the stature it carries in MSM.

Prescription Drugs Abuse

This past April, the White House announced taking action to try to reverse what it characterizes as a growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. A look at recent numbers demonstrates there is a ton of work ahead to reverse this problem.

• 33 million: Number of Americans aged 12 and older that the Food and Drug Administration estimates misused prescription drugs in 2007 alone. It represents an increase of 4 million from the 29 million who abused prescription drugs in 2002.

• $234.1 billion: Amount of money spent on prescription drugs in the United States in 2008 alone. This sum more than quadrupled the amount spent on prescribed medications in 1999.

• 48: Percentage of Americans who used at least one prescription drug per month from 2005 to 2008. This is a 4 percent increase from usage levels a decade ago.

• 90: Percentage of Americans aged 60 or older who have used a prescription drug in the past month. Most of these are a result of combating age-related diseases. Some are a result of doctors over-prescribing medicines.

• 20: Percentage of U.S. children who have used a prescription drug in the past month.

Just recently, four people were killed in a NY pharmacy by a person intent on gaining access to pain killers, one of the most insidious addictions that arise from the abuse of pain management in what are otherwise normal people. Parents run off and acquire antibiotics when their child develops a sniffle. Poor test grades? Try an ADD drug. Can’t cope with work or relationships? Pop a few benzodiazepines to get through the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many medically necessary prescriptions written, though I can’t help but consider how many of these have now become the new normal when dealing with pain, minor infections, or manageable stress. I’ve tried gutting it out after knee surgery and that was clearly a mistake, pain medicine was needed. But are prescription pain pills needed for what are everyday aches and pains? Minor infections have a way of running their course instead of abusing antibiotics and creating a more drug resilient bacteria. Stress seems to be the new normal for many as more work is heaped upon a “right-sized” organization. Can benzos (like Xanax) really get more work done, or are they removing the eustress we need to accomplish more in tight time frames.

That’s my two for now. You will likely have your own top two or three and someone else will have another few. There seems to be an abundance of ways to become dependent on expedient decision-making or eluding difficult issues. I’m doing my best to better understand the issues that are framing our collective future and our ability to enhance the way we go about shaping that outcome. Our personal leadership in action can translate into community and corporate leadership. There is a huge opportunity to make a difference, if we once again declare our Independence.

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EthiCorVigilance and Integriology Create an Ethical Culture and Employee Engagement

A Podcast of this blog post is available at

In a previous blog, Hello, I Must be Going – Employee Engagement in a Recovering Economy, I suggested some ways that management could enhance employee engagement. That discussion was focused on retention of employees that drive the success of the firm. The short list included communicating the company’s strategy and goals, developing a sense of community, recognition, and supported development plans. Click on the link above for a more detailed discussion of these topics.

EthiCorVigilance and Integriology (ECV&I) or Ethical Corporate Vigilance and Integriology (my term – study of integrity) is the practice and processes necessary to not just retain top performers; it is the defining set of ethics and values that gains the maximum benefit from these employees. Engaged employees recommend their company to friends and family and take pride in working there. They are willing to go the extra mile for their organization, making it possible for the company to do more with less. They can be counted on to make independent decisions and take action in ways that are consistent with the company’s culture, objectives, and values. They require less supervision and direction and adapt easily to changing roles and responsibilities. Employee engagement can be linked to observation of the company’s commitment to Ethical behaviors and demonstrated processes that support Ethical conduct.

In a 2009 National Business Ethics Survey from the Ethics Resource Center and the Hay Group, a key finding showed that “positive perceptions of an organization’s ethical culture are associated with higher levels of engagement. Furthermore, management’s commitment to ethics is particularly important for employee engagement”. Their key takeaway was “given the profound connection between a com¬pany’s ethical culture and employee engage¬ment, managers should work actively to demonstrate a commitment to ethics, foster open communication, promote ethical role modeling, and encourage accountability.”

Ethics are central to situations where “the right thing to do” is in question, and the outcome of the decision affects many people including employees and customers. Identifying the “right thing” is often a complex challenge that in¬volves identifying conflicting responsibilities to a wide range of stakeholders. Challenging every employee to act as ethicists and keep the company’s core values in sight provides an opportunity for each employee to see their contribution in the larger picture of the company’s public profile and brand in the marketplace. As each person experiences their unique contribution to building the company brand through ethical and value driven behaviors, employee engagement is amplified.

Some questions that every organization should grapple with are

1. Can every employee identify one or more key executives who have proven to uphold the company values?

2. Does the company have the right values in place to guide them in a difficult situation or crisis?

3. Will the company be proud of their core values if exposed to a critical public, government agency, or customer segment?

4. Which values will the extended stakeholders of the company expect in challenging or crisis situations?

It’s not enough to talk about “company culture” when a firm says that their culture is a defining competitive advantage. The company must come forth with their value statements, articulated by senior executives and board members. It must be instilled in every manager and employee through training and measurement of adherence to ethical and value driven behaviors. The growing power of social media, which provides a platform for employees to share their perspective with a wide audience, greatly amplifies employ¬ees’ impact in the marketplace, and creates both opportunity and risk. It is imperative that every employee experiences ethics and values through the consistent behaviors, decisions, and actions of every member of the leadership team.

EthiCorVigilance and Integriology (ECV&I) must be the overarching and sustainable practice for enhancing brand awareness and creating proud and passionate employees wanting nothing short of amassing competitive market success creating strong career opportunities and growth. Done well, ECV&I will create an ethical culture that indeed creates a unique competitive advantage.

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A Death in the Giro d’Italia and Corporate Social Consciousness – Compassionate Competition?

 A podcast version of this blog is available at

Cyclist Wouter Weylandt died after a crash on a mountain decent in Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia.  I imagine that many reading this blog will wonder why this is the lead paragraph in an otherwise business blog.  What happened next in the Giro should be what we expect from our corporate behaviors.  Allow me to set the stage for our collective reflection with a few important facts about the event.

      • The Giro d’Italia is one of three Grand Tours of cycling. 
      • There are 21 stages over 23 days totaling 2189 miles.
      • This year is the 94th year of competition and coincides with the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. 
      • The event is contested by 23 professional teams each consisting of 9 members for a total peloton of 207 riders at the beginning of the race. 

Professional cycling is big business and the Giro is a major international event, so lots of revenue and operating expense are at stake. Given that, take a moment and recall how your company responded to the tragic death of one of their key employees.  Was it to mention the event at the beginning of a meeting, ask for thoughts for the family, and then move onto to the agenda for the day?

Weylandt’s death was tragic and had a profound impact on all of the cyclists.  It’s what happened on the next stage that sets a challenge for all of us in our highly competitive corporate world, where winning is everything, and damn those that would slow our pace towards that victory.  Weyland’s parents and finance flew in and met with his Leopard Trek team the evening of the crash.  The team then met with each of the 22 competing teams and collectively changed the following stage into a funeral cortege instead of the planned competitive race.  In effect, the race was neutralized for this stage with no team or rider gaining or losing any advantage.

The pageantry normally preceding the start of the stage was canceled.  Weylandt’s Leopard Trek team bus was brought to the starting line and each of the 9 members of the 22 competitor teams rode by single file to pay respect to Weylandt and his team. His team then lined up side by side at the starting line with black arm bands while taps was played and the procession started.  Each team took turns pacing the peloton for 10 kilometers, and then rotated to the back of the peloton to allow the next team it’s turn at the front, for the entire 200 kilometer stage. On a day when competition would have been intense, the peloton stayed together as one single body through the corridor of muted applause that greeted them along the way. 3km from the finish line, race leader David Millar finished his team’s pace-setting, and he waved Weylandt’s Leopard Trek teammates to the front and together they rode 10 meters ahead of the rest of the peloton. In a touching moment, Weylandt’s close friend Tyler Farrar was invited to join the Leopard Trek riders as they crossed the finish line arm in arm with tears in their eyes.

Where else could this happen?  I’m trying to think of a different sporting event suspending competition and working together in remembrance of one of their sport.  Now try to think about this happening in our corporate landscape. Imagine a bidder’s conference where all the competing firms agreed to suspend their pursuit efforts for one or more days, instead replacing it with a conference that all the firms attend.  Possible topics could be employee wellness or engagement.  Maybe because I’m writing this on Memorial Day with all the imagery of the day forefront in my mind is this creating such a challenge for me?  I know my CSC colleagues would stand arm in arm if such a tragic death happened to one of our corporate teammates, but I sense this behavior is becoming extinct in the recession induced management style that treats employees as transactional and fungible assets of the corporation.   

There are many examples where corporations compete in friendly events such as the Wall Street Walk/Run, Susan B Komen Run, and the MS Rides to name a few.  These are excellent examples of corporations competing for fun and charity.  But can that spirit move back inside the board room and create a compassionate corporate competition? Recall the scene from Miracle of 34thStreet when the Santa Claus at Macy’s sends a customer to Gimbels, their arch rival in NY.  As the press picks up on this, two arch rivals compete for which brand cares more about their customers than short-term seasonal profits, with the Macy’s customers telling Macy’s management of their future loyalty for such an unselfish act during the holiday season. Fairy tale Compassionate Competition? Maybe, but who reading this blog doesn’t recall that scene and wonder what if….? 

Imagine any new RFP containing a requirement that the bidding company would need to demonstrate and commit to Corporate Social Consciousness as a weighting factor in the selection criteria.  Imagine a company that requires Corporate Social Consciousness as a key measurement for their employee’s performance management process and backs this up with time away from normal job responsibilities.   

If you could make a difference in your company’s culture and enable your firm to compete on the hypothetical Corporate Social Consciousness requirement of a future RFP, how much more business could be won?  How would this create a market pull for the best of the best future employees?  What members of your business or social community would benefit? How proud would you be of being a member of a successful and compassionate company?  Commit to be a Compassionate Competitor and stand steadfast in that resolve to brand your company with the leadership that comes not only from industry success but also from proactive responses to tragic events and enabling Social Consciousness in the lives of those on your team and those with which you compete.   

Universal Sports was thoughtful enough to make a brief 3 minute YouTube available for you to experience this first hand. The power of this video clip comes at the end, please watch all the way through.  

Please come back at me with comments on this blog since I fully recognize it suggests corporate behaviors and commitments that vary widely from the norm.

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