Collaborative Leadership Sparks Competitive Advantage: #TChat Preview

We weren’t supposed to win. And early on in the game it looked that way as we were down by 14 points. We were one of the best in our high school league, but our cross-town rivals were just a little bit better.

Right before halftime of our big rivalry football game, with 4th down and inches to go to the goal line on a rain-soaked, muddy field, we scored a touchdown.

It was risky. Our coaches wanted to just go for the field goal, but our quarterback and the entire offensive team wanted the touchdown (I played right guard) — we wanted to recapture the competitive advantage and turn the momentum around.

Any momentum we could get. Well, we got it and won the game 28-14.

I could wax poetic for hours about my high school football glory days, but of course I won’t. Thank goodness it is football season again, though.

My point is that you have to take chances to fail, fail, fail, then succeed. That takes stalwart personal and professional leadership, to be able to gain the trust of your team, to motivate them, to be empathic and emotionally intelligent and embed that same level-headed collaborative adaptability into each and every team member to have the foresight in taking strategic risks from the trenches.

Breathe, but then blink, and where are we now?

Right now the global economy is still an interwoven hot mess. In the U.S., about 46.2 million people were in poverty in 2010, the highest number since the government began tracking poverty in 1959. Profitable companies are sitting on billions in profits while the unemployed become more unemployable.

It’s also too easy to be an armchair manager and leader in any organization and blame politics, economics, financial institutions, weather, hang nails, etc., on why businesses are laying low, especially when they are the real managers and leaders in the same said organizations.

I can’t tell you how many countless surveys I’ve seen in the past three years that validate over and over again how many organizations (leaders across departments and roles including talent management and human resources — especially talent management and HR) agree that leadership development, succession planning, coaching and mentoring, employment engagement and retention, and training and development are of the highest priority.

But yet when it comes to making the business case for the bottom line, we’re not doing so well and everyone is still holding their collective business breath. I mean, the world of work hasn’t come to a complete standstill and there are companies engaged in proactive, collaborative leadership — but still.

Listen, I get it. Too many business leaders are still scared of the collaborative and competitive touchy-feely and so they sit paralyzed pushing their people to do a lot more with a lot less.

But leaders, you’ve got to connect the dots between effective collaborative leadership development and business growth. That’s what leads to long-term competitive advantage.

Join us for #TChat next week, September 21, at 4 pm PT, 7 pm ET, where we’ll talk about developing collaborative business leadership today.

It’s 4th and inches, folks. Let’s go for it.

Speaking Socially, What Is Influence? #TChat Preview

Written by Crystal Miller

Just for kicks, I keep a running list of “industry buzzwords” that make me laugh (or groan) because they are often misunderstood on the application level.  “Influence,” especially as it relates to the world of #SocialMedia, has long since been on my list.  “WHAT IS INFLUENCE?”

If you asked my 14-year-old, she’d answer that influence pretty much comes with popularity.  Come to think of it, in the compulsory school setting, that’s probably true… but in the World of Work, we navigate different jungle gyms than the ones we did during our earlier education. .. Don‘t we?  While who you know, who you spend your time with and how you’re perceived certainly still holds influential relevance; what you contribute, do, and can do for others become primary factors in achieving influence… offline & in a social media setting.   Social media influence tools such as Klout, SocialIQ, and Booshaka seem to back this up… but, as with any system, if it can be ‘gamed,’ can it be fully trusted?

When you do achieve ‘influence,’  what does it do for you, anyway??  In the World of Work it’s generally accepted that influence opens doors, strengthens relationships, and builds credibility.  People tend to trust the recommendation of their friends over the advertisement they saw during the Superbowl; no matter how catchy it might be.  Facebook took that concept all the way to the bank with their “Like” thumbs-up; and now we can tumbl, stumble, and +1 any article, brand, business, or product that catches our eye.

Of course, just as Uncle Ben explained to Peter Parker in Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Influence is, to a degree, power – so those who wield it do face the potential landmine of dealing with the responsibility that goes along with it.  In the world of Social, this often means promoting the causes and agendas of others.  This is not an inherently bad thing; but it does require the ability to balance those requests with our own needs & work.  Actually, that statement probably applies to the world of Social Media in general.  To gain and keep “social influence” online requires a time investment that must be balanced against our business and personal objectives/responsibilities; yet another potential landmine to navigate.  Yes, the connections & engaging conversations you have online may drive up your Social IQ score – but that’s going to be of little comfort if you lose your paycheck in the process… so know your end-goal objectives going in.

This week, we’ll be looking at what social “Influence” really means and how important is it within the World of Work?  Join us in our conversation TONIGHT 9/14 with our moderator @MeghanMBiro, along with Co-Hosts @KevinWGrossman and @TheOneCrystal  from 7-8 p.m. (Eastern) via @TalentCulture and @Monster_Works as we explore how we go about being ‘professionally influential’ and all that goes with it… plus, we’ll take a peek at social influence meters like Klout, too!

Questions & Recommended Reading for the #TChat Discussion:

1.       What does “influence” mean to you?    Does it matter?

Read:  “Measuring Influence is About More Than Boosting Your Ego” on Klout by Joe Fernandez

 2.       What goes into creating influence?  How does one become ‘influential?’

Read:  “Outside-the-Box Engagement Tools” on WeKnowNext by Matt Charney

Read: “The One Essential Key to Developing Your Social Media Influence” on Social Media Today by Joshua Leatherman

 3.       What are some of the most significant ways “influence” impacts the world of work?

Read:  “How Social Influence Impacts Consumer Behavior”  by David, Search Engine Marketing Group

 4.       Are there any potential downsides or landmines associated with having influence?

Read:  “What are Pros & Cons of Social Media Marketing” on Social Media Today by Matt Ambrose

5.       Do current tools like Klout accurately reflect influence?  Can “influence” be quantified in the first place?

Read:  “Is Klout a Good Judge of Your Social Media Influence”  on Social Media Examiner by Elijah Young

6.       What impact does social media and emerging technologies have on our perceptions of influence or influencing our behaviors?

Read:  “Quality vs. Quantity Online Relationships” on PullNotPush by Justin Cambria

If Work isn't Fun, You're Doing it Wrong: #TChat Recap

Also known by the less fun title of:  The Business Heresy of Uninterrupted Power Supplies….

Are we having fun yet?

On Tuesday of this week at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Our country has a choice — what kind of country are we going to be? Are we going to rise to the challenges, like our grandfathers and grandmothers did? Or are we going to be a follower? It’s sad that we’re having this debate [about investing in clean tech initiatives] — in the past America has always led.”

And then a day later, in the heart of innovation-leading Silicon Valley, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra shut its doors and laid off all 1,100 of its employees, without any severance packages. This isn’t a political post either way; fierce global competition continues to knock the wind out of manufacturing in this country, and losing money on every solar panel you sell isn’t the way to stay in business, regardless of how much investment you’ve received.

In the past America has always led…

There are times when it’s hard for me to listen to the passionate Zappos social media hippie lovefest of culture-centric companies that focus on the customer and strive to create an emotional connection between product/service and consumer.

[Chuckle] Hey, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Tell that to the millions of professionals out of work and scrambling to reinvent their relevancy in a world looking more and more like the surface of Mars.

However, there is life on Mars. According to the latest ADP jobs report, 91,000 new private sector jobs were created in August. It won’t move the unemployment needle, but there’s still a heartbeat out there. The ADP report said the majority of the job gains in August came from small business. Employers with under 50 workers added 58,000 jobs.

Thankfully many of us are reinventing our relevancy; sparks of innovation are flying all over the world like lighting bugs at dusk. The new lovefest of business leaders are helping to rebuild a world where culture and human connectivity are queen, and recombined business models of sustainability are being applied to industries new and old.

Of course not everyone’s going to make it. Businesses will fail and the lights will go out. Those that do keep the power on want self-powered and empowered employees who help drive the business from the top down, the bottom up and side to side like power lines stretched from here to…

Mars maybe. Or at least the UK, since Borri UPS Systems starting following me on Twitter today, manufacturer and distributor of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

We can use more of that business heresy.

A very special thank you to 12 Most for being our special guests last night, including Ted Coine, Chris Westfall, Sean McGinnis, Steve Woodruff, Anthony Iannarino and Daniel Newman. 12 Most is a business and social media blogger collective of amazing credentials and savvy. And thank you to our very own Matt Charney for rounding out the special guest list as well.

You can catch the #TChat precap here as well as relive last night’s 2nd #TChat Radio show, The Realities of Business Heresy.

The #TChat Twitter chat and #TChat Radio are created and hosted by @MeghanMBiro @KevinWGrossman and powered by our friends and partners @TalentCulture @Monster_WORKS @MonsterCareers and of course @Focus.

Separating ‘Business Heresy’ From Reality: #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Crystal Miller on MonsterThinking Blog

It’s something we’ve probably all heard at some point in our lives, one of those aphorisms that’s morphed into a truth: “It’s not supposed to be fun; if it were fun, it wouldn’t be called work.”

But are the concepts of work and fun truly mutually exclusive?  For those of us lucky enough to be practitioners of our passion, we know that work, fundamentally, can be fun, and that when it comes to business and pleasure, it’s not an either/or.

After all, satisfying both interests comes down to personal edification and fulfillment, but is the onus for making work fun really up to the individual?  Or is it the company, or job function, or maybe a little of both?

To try to disprove that age old maxim and find out how it can be work if it’s also fun, I thought I’d ask the experts from the #TChat and 12Most communities to weigh in.  Here’s what they had to say:

“It may be the word work that throws things off.  Your career should be fun and you should be working towards something meaningful … the bottom line is you should pursue passion.  If you are working towards a goal and doing something you are passionate about, changes are more times than not you will be enjoying what you do.”

Dan Newman, Co-Founder of 12most and CEO of United Visual

“The most important question in business is ‘who does it serve?’  Obviously, companies have a responsibility to their shareholders…and they know it.  Economists Michael Jensen and William Meckling kicked this off back in 1976, and Jack Welch ultimately decided you can’t just seek to serve shareholders – it’s a flawed strategy.

On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.  Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.”

Ted Coine, author, blogger & leadership expert

“The challenge is developing a culture that fosters that kind of interaction where new ideas are developed and engaged in the spirit of greater innovation, greater efficiency and (ultimately) greater profitability.”

Chris Westfall, Business Category Editor, 12Most

But the larger question remains: if driving culture is the challenge for leadership today, what’s the answer?  How can we create a workplace and work-life that’s not only fun, but also rewarding – to shareholders, employees and our clients and customers?

We’ll be exploring these questions and more Wednesday at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT for our monthly #TChat radio series, sponsored by Focus.  To find out more or to register, check out the event site on Focus and let us know you’re listening.

As always, we’ll still be continuing the conversation on Twitter using the #TChat hashtag; if you’re new to #TChat or want more information, check out “What is #TChat” from our partners @TalentCulture.

#TChat Questions & Recommended Reading (08.31.11)

To help prepare, and inform, your participation in this week’s #TChat dialogue, here are the questions we’ll be covering this week, along with some recommended reading that, while not required to participate in #TChat, will help you prepare for this week’s topic: “The Realities of Business Heresy.”

Hope you can tune in at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT as we kick off the discussion with the thought leaders and influencers behind 12most.

Here’s what we’ll be talking about:

Q1: Is it true if work isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong? Why or why not?

Read: Why Fun at Work Matters by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher

Q2: Who does your business really serve and why?

Read: The Lifeblood of Your Business by Chris Westfall

Q3: Should the leader steer company culture or should the culture steer leaders?

Read: 7 Critical Leadership Lessons by Daniel Newman

Q4: It’s important to act with certainty in business, but is it okay to laugh sometimes as well?

Read: 10 Tips for Using Humor in the Workplace by Drew Tarvin

Q5: In business, should you surround yourself with diverse opinions? Why or why not?

Read: The 12 Most Irrefutable Laws of Business Heresy by Ted Coine

Q6: If you really want the best talent, do you have to always pay for it? What else is there?

Read: The 12 Effective Morale Builders that Don’t Cost a Cent by Mike Lehr

Visit for more great information on #TChat, as well as other great resources on careers and hiring.

Monster’s social media team supports #TChat’s mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate — the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation at our new time this Wednesday night as co-hosts with Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman from 7-8 p.m. (Eastern) via @MonsterCareers and @Monster_Works.

Business Leaders Go Niche or Go Home

A friend asked me this question: “If you could give a client only one piece of advice, what would it be?” Easy answer: Choose a target market.

On the one hand, it seems to make sense that if you sell your products or services to a vast set of demographics, you will make more money. However, the exact opposite is true.

Most entrepreneurs are resistant to defining their niche usually because of the following beliefs:

  • If I choose a specific, niche market, I will lose business.
  • If I choose a target market, I will be stuck with it forever and I thrive on variety.
  • The more I have to sell, the more money I’m going to make.

I hear those statements all the time and at best, they are false. At worst, operating in those beliefs will sink your business.

In his book “Purple Cow,” Seth Godin tells us that the market is very good at ignoring you, just as you’re good at ignoring the market. Think about all the emails you delete before reading, the times you click “unsubscribe” and the T.V. shows you Tivo so you don’t have to watch the commercials. What’s the solution? The answer is “niche.”

Benefits of Having a Niche Market

Defining your target market:

  • Allows you to become an expert to that market
  • Multiplies your referrals – the more specific you are about who you serve, the easier it is for people to send business your way
  • Keeps you focused
  • Streamlines your marketing efforts and dollars

If you’re still not convinced, sit back, relax and prepare to laugh. This YouTube video says it all: Why You Need A Niche

Keep the Engagement Lights on in Rolling Economic Blackout

While the global economy continues its rolling blackout – and who knows what will happen this week with the US at AA+ – we keep talking by candlelight about employee retention, employee engagement and all workplace things touchy-feely as if they’re inspirational anecdotes of an alternate universe we should all be living in.

There are some exceptions of course, but we usually don’t live in that electrified looking glass.

For example, are you employees doing a lot more with a lot less? Are they burned out? Do they tell you they are? Are they looking for a way out? Are you recognizing all their hard work? Are they struggling to keep their families afloat?

And what about you and your business? Is your management not sleeping at night? Are sales flat and revenues in the tank? Are you burned out? Are you investing your own savings and/or playing credit card roulette to make payroll every month and just to keep your own family afloat?

Whether you’re a consultant, a business owner, executive management, or HR and people management professionals in larger companies, hopefully you’re tuned in to your people and are aware of their stress as well as your own, and are trying to do something to alleviate it. You may not be hiring right now, but you’re probably doing everything you can to keep what you have and who you have until the power grids are fully firing.

Listen, I’m sure you’ve seen enough survey research recently to make you pass out from the stressed out and unhappy workers you manage everyday. But here’s another one:

According to a recent study referenced in an HR Executive article, the University of Zaragosa in Spain found that two key factors — workplace stress (mainly monotony and feeling overburdened) and a perceived lack of recognition — are the prime factors in employee burnout.

Regardless of the type of burnout, however, the result is emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of productivity, the researchers concluded.

You and the rest of your management team may not think about these things, or even care much right now as you try to stay afloat, but the reality is you should care a little if staying in business with top talent means anything to you. It’s comes from the top down, and if you’re struggling to keep your business relevant and viable, as well as your very professional existence, then you’ll practice what you should be preaching with the smart meters on.

Here are some suggestions you should consider from the experts in the article:

  • Encourage authentic communication that fosters a sense of belonging between employee and employer.
  • Periodically take the pulse of your employees to identify their specific areas of concern and link employee opinion to outcomes such as productivity and retention.
  • Ensure your employees that their opinions make a difference, and mean it. Practice what you should be preaching.
  • Offer effective training, either within or outside of the company, to enable advancement opportunities and give employees a sense that it’s possible change their environments.
  • Create “influence teams” who can look at ways to improve employee situations, including offering a paid month, 3-month, or 6-month sabbatical for long-term employees.

This list can go on and on. One final sentiment from the experts (and from me for what it’s worth): listen to your employees (as well as yourself), appreciate them, recognize and share in their successes (and yours as a business), reward their hard work (and your own), and never underestimate the power of touchy-feely, whether in full wattage or by candlelight.

It’s only when you’ve lived the rolling business blackouts and survived the economic changes in and around you and your people, can you truly know the difference between what’s real and what’s a sweet employee engagement bedtime story.

Hey, we’re just trying to keep the lights on here.

It's the Brave New World of Work: #TChat Recap

“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” -James Matthew Barrie

Somehow I missed that memo the first time around. The one about making sure to underestimate your marketplace and overestimate your sales cycle when you’re starting a new business.

Or even a new career for that matter. New careers are self-contained yet interconnected businesses within themselves. Entrepreneurship has always included career management, business development, [personal] brand marketing, sales and sticky-sweet (but legitimate) customer service.

Because most, if not all entrepreneurs were employees with careers going anywhere but where they wanted to go. So they launch new careers, some of which eventually grow to make a few hires here and there, and a few others get really big by hiring tons of people, collecting tons of investment capital and riding sky-high (for now) with huge valuations (think social media firms of late).

But I did finally get the memo and read it thoroughly. You’ve heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” From careers, to start-ups, to small businesses to big businesses — American’s longing for success and trying again is hard-wired into our DNA.

This is National Small Business Week, and as Matt wrote yesterday in his #TChat preview:

As Obama (or proxy) observed, it turns out Mom & Pop and VC babies share more in common than size; they share spirit, ‘the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard enough, you can succeed in our country…’

…For many more millions of small business owners, and workers, who have dared to dream and injected so much sweat equity into their bottom line, that creation myth is still being created.   They might call themselves small businesses, or entrepreneurs, or start-ups, but our economy – and our jobs – depends on their growth. So we just wanted to say thank you.

Indeed. Thank you.

Most of the #TChat faithfuls preferred going from small companies to working in big companies. I concur. And even though I’ve always worked for smaller firms, I have worked “with” bigger companies and have always wondered what it would be like to pull the curtain back in Oz and give it a go…

Somebody slap me. Working for yourself, for a small company, launching your own start-up or firm — these activities are what continually breathes new life into the sometimes failing lungs of capitalism (long-time smoker, you know). And it’s this economic activity that sparks job creation as well. Brand name firms may still pull in the greater talent, and they’ve got the revenue to get creative with “total rewards,” but even big firms have struggled of late and now focus heavily on internal talent mobility — I know you’re in there and are just right for this position because I can’t find you out there. Plus, in this (yes, I know how many times you’ve heard it) global, virtual, contingent world where depending on the projects and the hourly rate, talent is fluid from small to big and back again.

It’s the brave new world of work. Just don’t forget to read the memos, even the stinky ones from the ditto machine. Hey, I kinda liked that smell growing up…

Here were the questions from teh #TChat last night:

  • Q1: How do you define ‘small business?’  Is this the term we should be using?
  • Q2: Would you prefer working for a small business or a big company?  Why?
  • Q3: What role does talent play in small business success?  How can small businesses successfully compete with bigger companies in the ‘war for talent?’
  • Q4: What are some of the biggest advantages of working for a small business employer?  Drawbacks?
  • Q5: Do you think employers and recruiters value small business and big company experience differently?
  • Q6: What should big business workers know about moving to a small company (and vice-versa)?
  • Q7: What’s your best advice for someone thinking about starting a small business? Any myths vs. realities?

Being a Good Boss Means Not Being Afraid to Fire; #TChat Recap

Everybody likes to be liked. Most colleagues and bosses that I’ve worked with do. To a fault, which makes it very difficult when dealing with those who need dealing with.

Those who need to be written up and eventually fired.

For those who don’t care about being liked, in particular the bosses, most still don’t deal with confrontation very well and hence don’t fire. Well. Or at all. This of course is all anecdotal, but I bet most of you agree, and we’ve all seen the surveys and the research that validates.

The overall consensus last night during #TChat was that this “fear of firing” affects business performance detrimentally, because not only do poor performers topple the bottom line by falling flat on it, they also affect their co-workers and others in the business, which then creates a domino effect of further poor performance. And if they’re customer facing in any way, then there’s another affront to growth and revenue.

We didn’t really define “poor performance,” but that can include the inability to complete assigned tasks to being a toxic employee. Because which is more important when considering termination: cultural fit or performance? I say performance and lack thereof. I’ve hired great cultural fits who don’t perform (or can’t in that position).

There was a contingent last night who thought if the cultural fit was there, performance issues can be resolved. Maybe. Maybe not. Too many variables and if you cram a lazy square peg into a virtual round hole and then ask them to handle customer services calls from home…

Ultimately it’s the immediate supervisor’s responsibility to initiate the termination process, and why they must document performance and have 1-on-1’s beyond the annual review. I wrote a post last month titled Did you get that last part? Don’t be afraid to fire. Period. where I recommended the following:

  • Create formal and informal employee learning networks for mentoring and career development.
  • Empower, develop and train the average employees so as to develop a more productive workforce.
  • Allow employees in training to dial up and down their roles and responsibilities.
  • Recruit and hire those with high potential — FT, PT, contractor, etc.
  • Reward the high potentials and high producers.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire those who can’t be empowered, developed or trained.

By no means am I an expert in this area, but based on my experience recruiting, training and developing employees, these are activities that worked for me and my companies. Being a good boss means not being afraid to fire. Period.

Don’t forget to include human resources in the termination process, even the CEO and other leaders when applicable. Unfortunately this is because we live in such a litigious society and HR still need to help enforce compliance and proper procedure.

We had the pleasure of having Kevin Wheeler stop by #TChat last night. He’s a globally-known speaker, author, columnist, and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, and we were thrilled to have him join in our stream. When we got on the subject of hiring better performance fit to prevent eventual firing, better interviewing came up quite a bit. But Kevin reminded us that according to recruitment research, interviewing wasn’t much better than chance in predicting success in a position. Even those who are good at behavioral interviewing, which isn’t many, it’s still not much better than chance. References, however, can help evaluate cultural fit, and I agree with Kevin there. At least beyond the obligatory three five-minute reference check calls.

Thank you again Kevin!

You can see our TweetReach here and these were last night’s questions:
  • Q1: What impact does “fear of firing” have on leaders?  Biz performance?
  • Q2: What red flags should managers look for when recruiting now to avoid firing later?
  • Q3: Who should have ultimate responsibility for firing decisions?  HR, CEO, Supervisor?
  • Q4: Which is more important when considering termination: culture fit or performance?
  • Q5: What can job seekers do to explain being fired when looking for their next role?
  • Q6: Some say being fired can be the best thing that ever happens to someone.  T/F?

Thank you again everyone for joining us last night!  Next week’s topic will be “ “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Workplace Culture Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job”

Leadership Within Your Reach – From Bud to Boss

Imagine my excitement: today I get to tell you all about a great new book on the subject of leadership.

Wait – before you say you’ve read a couple of those and they were completely useless – let me tell you why you may want to read this book.

First, the authors are amazing people. Kevin Eikenberry doesn’t just write about leadership, he is a leader. What he writes comes from experience and from the heart.

At TalentCulture we love leaders who lead from the heart. We’ve written about how many employers are stuck in a crisis – they have lost the ability to be leaders. At a time when the economy seems to be loosening up a bit and employees are reconsidering their options, managers are incredibly ‘tone-deaf when it comes to what they are saying to employees’, as I wrote back in November for the Lead Change Community. I think the core of the problem is a lack of emotional intelligence in leadership – what author Daniel Goleman calls the ability “to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.”

Leadership styles vary, of course, and they should. Otherwise, this would be a very boring predicament and make for a dull workplace culture for certain. There’s also little out there to help a person make the transition from employee to leader, which is why Kevin and Guy’s book is so timely.

Kevin’s co-author, Guy Harris, is also his business partner. A trainer and coach, Guy blogs at The Recovering Engineer about workplace engagement, personal empowerment and other leadership themes. What a team!

Now to the book.From Bud to Boss (published by Wiley imprint Jossey-Bass) is Kevin’s new book and his first with co-author Harris. Not every leadership book states as an article of faith that all workplace leaders have within them the power to be remarkable. Of course my cynicism sets in here – it’s the leadership book equivalent of telling a child ‘good job’ just because he or she washed his or her hands. By proposing the idea that each of us can become a remarkable leader, Kevin and Guy take a risk – after all, how many extraordinary people have you met?

It turns out the extraordinary is within reach, if only we are willing to work hard to be that person. It takes work and focused energy to make this happen on any consistent basis.

In this book – Kevin and Guy explore the transitions new leaders must make to fully realize and inhabit the role of ‘leader’. Plenty of business leadership books suggest that you can become a leader overnight. Kevin and Guy, having coached plenty of new leaders, know the transformation requires effort, commitment and a range of fresh skills and behaviors.

In the book Kevin and Guy review those skills and behaviors. They address subjects such as managing change, learning effective communication and coaching skills, and mastering collaboration and conflict resolution. They do it in a friendly, humorous voice. The book is structured in an easy-to-read format, and it’s packed with anecdotes, checklists and bonus tools.

I would add  learning to trust to the leadership toolbox. Trust is a component of emotional intelligence for sure. Trust also has transactional aspects, as I’ve written, but in the workplace it should be a condition of employment, which means leaders must make a study of trust: telling the truth, being clear and honest, reducing the unknown to the knowable for employees.

New managers or those pursuing the path to leadership may just benefit from From Bud to Boss. It’s on sale now. Then log in to the Bud-to-Boss community (which is home to loads of cool bonus content).

So do what I did – read the book, go to the online community, and please let us know what you think. We’re really excited here at TalentCulture – a new book, fresh insights, deep thinking on leadership issues. We hope you are too. Cheers.

Workplace Violence: Be Safe & Sound, But Be Prepared: #TChat Recap

Most victims of violence feel powerless and alone.  I’d argue most bystanders and witnesses feel the same.

Most of us want to believe that folks are basically decent, not monsters that erupt at work or at home or anywhere and take lives with them.

It can’t happen here.

Which is why many employers don’t plan for workplace violence until there’s violence, unfortunately. And even then…

In a Workforce Management article titled Waking Up to the Risks of Workplace Violence, the author writes:

In one recent training class, a senior HR leader told me he had no issues of workplace violence.

Yet, as we continued to talk, it emerged that a man had come into the company’s Midwest office looking for his girlfriend. He wanted to hurt her, and when he couldn’t find her, he pulled out a gun and shot five employees.
Stunned, I turned back to the senior leader and asked if he knew about it. “That was different; it was more of a domestic violence issue that took place at our plant.” The amazing part of this discussion was that we were in Oklahoma City, the site of one of the worst incidents of workplace violence in U.S. history.
The lesson is that violence that occurs in the workplace is workplace violence whether it takes place between spouses/domestic partners, between co-workers, by a third-party with a relationship to the organization (client, partner, etc.) or in conjunction with the commission of other crimes.

And that’s critical to understand — violence is violence is violence and companies need to be prepared.
That was what #TChat was all about last night — the dark side of workplace culture, violence and what to do and not do.  You can read the transcript here and here were last night’s questions:
  • Q1:  How does everyday violence & security breaches (like Wikileaks) impact workplace culture policies?
  • Q2:  How does your org address workplace violence during onboarding – and at other times?
  • Q3:  What is HR’s role in workplace violence intervention, prevention and post-incident?
  • Q4:  What is the CEO’s role in addressing workplace violence before it occurs, when it occurs and after?
  • Q5:  Under OSHA, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace. Discuss.
  • Q6:  How can EAPs be designed to provide maximal workplace/domestic violence assistance?
  • Q7:  How effective are your org’s workplace incivility, bullying and violence prevention programs
  • Q8:  If a colleague is threatened with violence at work from anyone, what should you do and why?

As per usual, we had a great group of HR and business professionals participating and sharing their knowledge.  It was refreshing to hear from some organizations that bake incivility, bullying and workplace violence awareness and prevention right into their hiring, onboarding and ongoing employee performance activities, whether they have an EAP or not.  A special thank you to Felix Nater for sharing his workplace violence expertise.

Along those lines, here are some ways to enlist your employees’ help in ensuring that your workplace is a violence-free zone (from the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence website):

  • Empower employees to take a stand—as caring co-workers and as your company’s ambassadors.
  • Let employees know they will not be penalized for seeking help—for themselves, their families, or co-workers in need.
  • In conjunction with your human resources department and EAP program (if available), offer counseling and referral for both victims of partner violence and abusers.
  • Help employees recognize the signs of a troublesome or abusive relationship and know where to turn for assistance, for themselves and for co-workers.
  • Invite local resource groups, such as local shelters, counseling groups and/or law enforcement representatives to make a presentation to your company. Most groups are happy to provide speakers and information to interested parties. (National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October is a great time to do this!)
  • Give each employee access to brochures and flyers to distribute to their schools, religious organizations, clubs, and other civic or social groups.
  • Invite interested employees to form a communications task force, working within the guidelines established by your cross-functional steering committee to implement your partner violence communications plan.

You can also review all the information we shared in the pre-TChat posts:

Be safe and sound, but be prepared.

Taking Work-Life Balance By The Horns

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

A colleague recently told me she was suffering from anxiety about heading back to work, after a week off.  In gory detail, she described a nightmare in which her manager littered her office with big black hairy spiders. Pretty much how she feels at work, she effused.  “The creepy crawlies never seem to go away.”

That type of stress dominates her work life experience, and it’s not foreign to many of us. And sharing news and tips on how to reduce that work life stress is where my focus will be here at Talent Culture.

The American working pool has been thrust into what I refer to as “a work-related field of cognitive dissonance.” Stuck in a vacuum of perpetual information overload, courtesy technology and our human response to it, we’re also pressed to pay attention at work and excel or suffer potential consequences.  Survey please! The numbers tell the story:

An American Psychological Association survey on work-related stress found that sixty-two percent of Americans hold work as having a significant impact on stress levels.

A survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates found seventy-five percent of employees believing that on-the-job stress has increased compared to the previous generation.

We are under enormous pressure to perform. To deliver. To excel. We juggle our working and living experience, but often fall into a merry-go-round of stress in what I refer to at as the  “UPED U” Cycle which is described below.

In simple terms, “UPED U” is the chaotic cycle we enter when our work life merge gets out of control and  “ups” our stress level leading to emotional turmoil and potentially less productivity.

The solution – to find creative ways to throw a kink into that cycle.

Here’s what happens in that cycle, along with a few pointers on how to stop the insanity! I’ll be writing more about the antidotes to these cyclical monsters in future posts.

1.     Unlimited Incoming:

A barrage of information continually comes our way.

NEW RULE: Consciously limit your news intake. Aggregate your favorite news sources and blogs on line and choose one time a day to focus on them. Depending on your job, determine the best time of
day to check e-mails and stick to it. If you are addicted to web surfing –limit your time doing that.

2.    Perceived Availability:

We’re all wired to our families, work and communities and everyone else knows you’re tethered to technology so we’ve created the perception that we’re always available.

NEW RULE: Come to agreement with the most important people from work and in your family that you communicate with regularly. Speak with them and share your daily work life scenario. People will assume that you are available unless you tell them otherwise.

3.    Expectation of Instant Gratification:

That perceived availability leads to other people’s needs to be attended to. They want to be heard and answered in the moment.

NEW RULE: Unless your work requires it, do not respond to e-mails in the moment and limit your texting.  This takes a lot of discipline and you will break this rule a lot depending on the circumstances.

4.    Desire to Deliver and Excel:

Our nature is to not fall short. To nurture and want to please in what is a competitive working environment. To make our boss or clients happy, we desire to deliver and excel to keep up with the Jones’.

NEW RULE: Don’t be so caught up in how other people define success. Be confident in your work your deliverables. Only you know how productive you are andwhat might need to change to up your game. There will be times when you might have to enter into the extreme work zone, but be aware of your limitations to avoid burnout.

5. Unlimited Interruptions:

In order to please everyone at the same time, we are often taken out of the moment, are
lead astray from the initial task and surrender to multi-tasking.

NEW RULE: Stop the insanity. Find a place in the cycle to make that tiny aberration in the stream of chaos to offset the tumble effect. It’s really about you taking control a little more control. Being conscious that the choices you make can mean the difference between burnout and a productive work life merge.

The trick is to monitor your incoming, and make concrete choices somewhere in this cycle to stump the system. Where do you think is the best place to stop the cycle? Please share your solutions to avoid an “UPED U.”

The Ever-Changing Face of Leadership

The term, ‘leader,’ can be such a broad word. According to, the definition of ‘lead’  follows (I’ve bolded my preferred wording):

– To go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort.
– To conduct by holding and guiding.
– To influence or induce.

Scrolling down a bit, the definition of ‘lead’ also includes:

  • to command or direct.
  • To go at the head of in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.). Proceed first in.

I’ve been struggling a bit with the whole ‘leadership’ terminology for a while now. Possibly, it is because individuals anointed as leaders sometimes are perceived by non-leaders to be ego-driven, and that can be untenable and unattractive.

Or, perhaps it has more to do with the fact most of us don’t want to consider ourselves followers – most folks want to be important, in their own right. Whether we are considered a ‘leader’ in our field, ‘leader’ of a specific subject matter or, leader of our own self, most of us want to be independent and impactful, independently of others’ telling us how to be so.

Gripped by Inspiration, Not Dictated to by a Boss

Mike Henry, Sr., Leadership Developer and President, Lead Change Group, invited me into a radio conversation last year. During that interview, he used the term, self-leader. According to Mike, “No one wants to grow up to be a follower.” I agree!

In the best of situations, individuals never feel like they are following, but instead are inspired and compelled to engage their limited amount of energy into an initiative, event, project, program, etc.  The feeling of inspiration is so gripping, therefore, it seems that there just ‘happens’ to be a leader at the ‘helm’ who is doing the coaxing, inspiring and orchestrating of the collective energy to come together for a harmonic outcome.

I collaborate with leadership folks every day – they are my professional and executive clients who are either in the throes of career transition, wish to make a vertical or lateral move, and/or wish to propel their careers to new heights. Whatever the case, many of these folks have been bestowed the leadership moniker: Finance Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Engineering Director, Vice President of Technology, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer … and the list goes on.  Most of these leaders earned those titles through progressive career advancement and continual proof of leadership results, measured ultimately by corporate revenue and profit growth.

However, without an innate and well-honed ability to guide their teams through obstacles, challenges, change and other improvement and growth activities, these leaders would not be where they are today, at the helms of their own ships, steaming forward.

The Best Leaders Are Beacons of Light

The best of these leaders are both directors of initiatives and beacons of light to which their individual contributors, managers and teams aspire to reach. They are not ‘in charge’ of others, bossing them around; they do not wield their authority to ensure their plebes simply heed their commands, without question.

No, in fact, most successful leaders I have interviewed over the past 13+ years possess a unique combination of attributes including confidence and humility and a focus on individual and team needs equal to, and sometimes, above their own.

As one recent client divulged, during a merger and acquisition initiative, he selectively ‘took bullets’ for his managers so that they could better foster relationships with members of an acquired company. In other words, he didn’t put his own agenda over the company’s or individual contributors’ and managers’ needs. At the end of the day, in fact, he sacrificed his own position for the betterment of the company and the individuals thereto.

Moreover, the best of the best leaders identify the strengths of their staff and leverage those to create a win-win for both the company and the individual talent contributors. A focus on people’s talent strengths, versus exerting undue energy on what is someone’s weakness, therefore, propels an organization forward.

#TChat contributor J. Keith Dunbar, Fearless Transformational Global Leader, underscores this idea well, by saying:

“I leverage people’s strengths and put them in a position to be successful. By taking this approach, it positions the team, and ultimately the organization, for increased opportunities for success.”

Finally, strong, effective leaders lead by example. As Felix P. Nater, CSC, President of Nater Associates, Ltd., recently said on Twitter:

“Leading by example empowers adults.”

Sometimes We Must Simply Follow

That said, from time to time, we all put on our follower hats, and I believe there is a good reason to do so.

For those of you on Twitter, think about reasons you ‘follow’ others. Perhaps it is to learn from them as they fuel their Tweets with nourishing information, including thoughtful data, insights and blog post links that further drill down to the why, how, when, where and what of the matter. In other words, you look to that person for guidance, experience and lessons that you may incorporate in your own knowledge bank and day-to-day activity.

Or, maybe those you follow are more experienced in the job or industry with which you aspire to connect. In addition to wanting to learn from them, you may also want to model their behaviors, get to know them personally and network with them – perhaps tapping into their intellectual knowledge base and wealth of relationships to further your own career and business needs.

Our Roles, Regardless of Title, Assume Traits of Influence and Leadership

At the end of the day, though, each of us, as individuals, wants to assume a position of independence, specifically and uniquely contributing to individual and group goals. As well, we all, from time to time, regardless of our titles, switch from leading to following, then back to leading and then to following  … and (you get the drift). It’s a continuum and the roles of leading and following are not clearly distinguished by titles and job descriptions. In fact, the leadership ideal is one that we all carry around and exude in our individual and group, personal and work lives.

The Fight Club Guide to Leadership Humility

I bet when someone asks you to name great leaders you think of Churchill, Sun Tzu, Jack Welch, Lincoln or others. Well listen up people because you’re missing someone. His name is…Tyler Durdin. Yes, Tyler Durdin. He is the main character in the movie Fight Club (Rated R) played by Brad Pitt.

In Fight Club, everyone loves Tyler Durdin. The girls want to be with him and men want to be like him. He’s smart, confident, passionate, holds true to his convictions and has an innovative way to change the world: Help people beat each other up so they can experience freedom from the entrapments of life. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that leaders engage in violence. However, metaphorically, there is a lot we can learn from Mr. Durdin.

In the movie, what started out as a fight in a parking lot turned into regular fights on Saturday nights which turned into fight clubs being cloned all over the country. Tyler’s fight clubs grew. But what’s interesting is that he never recruited anyone to join. In fact, he did the opposite. He told people not to talk about Fight Club. (The first rule of Fight Club.)

Imagine for a moment, being a leader of an organization that doesn’t have to recruit anyone because people are standing in line in the cold and rain to be a part of your vision.

So how did Tyler do it?

Humility – An Essential Leadership Trait

Tyler says this: “You’re not your job. You’re not the amount of money you make. You’re not the car you drive. Nor the contents of your wallet. Not your f-ing khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Does that sound a bit radical? Good. Leaders need to be less radical about their positions and more radical about their humanity.

I saw a great example of leadership humility two weeks ago. Enter Graham Weston. In case you don’t know who he is, Weston invested in Rackspace during its early stages, became the CEO and is now the Chairman of the Board. He is also the CEO of Weston Properties and owns 700,000 square feet of industrial and office properties in Texas. Successful? Oh yes.

Graham was one of the speakers at TEDx San Antonio; it was there that I met him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve met people with less power and position who made others feel like the dead ant in the mud under their feet.  So truthfully, I was prepared for the worst. Yet here was Graham, interacting with everyone. More than a few attendees shared their surprise at how approachable and sincere he was. At one point, he said hello to one of his Rackspace employees. This employee was not a VP or even in management. He was a techie.

Graham not only knew who he was, he knew this employee had been working the 3rd shift. He spent several minutes talking with the employee on a personal and professional level.  They were equals. This employee knew it. I could see it. And I was moved.

Does humble leadership work? Take a look at Rackspace’s growth and profitability. Need another example? Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ come to my mind. They were both incredibly humble, servant-focused men. One delivered his nation and the other delivered the world.

If you want to radically change your organization, take French politician Charles de Montesquieu’s advice: “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

Or as Tyler Durdin says, remember that “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else.”

Falling Asleep at Work Increases Productivity

(Editor’s Note: This guest post is by our talented colleague, and friend Cathy Taylor. Cathy is a social media expert who helps businesses develop comprehensive communications strategies to achieve business goals and objectives. More of Cathy’s insightful articles can be found on her blog.)

Imagine going to work and finding the boss has roped off a section in the back of the office for the new sleep pods set to arrive next week.

Sleep pods? Are you serious?

A few minutes later you wander past the HR director’s office and she confirms an order was placed for ten new sleep pods. She adds that a new policy will go into effect next quarter. All employees who need a nap during the day will be encouraged to use the sleep pods for twenty minutes after lunch. As you walk back to your cubicle scratching your head you are reminded of that day last month when you locked yourself in the bathroom stall to catch some Z’s. It couldn’t be helped. It was either take a nap or startle your coworkers with a thud sound as your head hit the desk.

This sounds like a far-fetched idea but more companies are beginning to embrace the idea of sanctioned naps during day. Companies like British Airways, Google, Nike, Pizza Hut and Procter & Gamble have implemented policies that allow employees some downtime in the office.

The concept of workplace napping is attributed to former Harvard researcher Sara C. Mednick. She advanced the idea in her book, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life!” Feedback from employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work say it’s so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar.

However, there is no denying workplace napping is counterintuitive in the United States. It begs the question: How long before company leadership begins to view napping as a competitive advantage?

Here are some compelling arguments for workplace naps from Dr. Mednick’s research:

1) It results in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Dr. Mednick cites epidemiological studies that show decreases in heart disease and stress.
Workplace naps restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills… and can produce improvements previously observed only after a full night of sleep.
3) 51% of the workforce report that sleepiness on the job interferes with the volume of work they can do.

At the moment, workplace napping is still a long way from becoming prevalent in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only five percent of employers allow their workers to take a nap during the day.

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. And as more employers look for ways to fill job vacancies, enhance employee engagement and retain the best workers taking a nap might not be such a bad idea. Nap time at work may no longer be just for slackers!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng