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Perspectives on the World We Work In

Doing Well by Doing Good: 12 Companies that Got it Right in 2017

The strongest organizations in the world achieve sustainable success largely because they understand the value of culture as a competitive advantage. Whether you nurture it or not, you have a culture. It may be empowering or toxic. Either way, the results are showing up on your bottom line.

Here are the 12 companies we featured in CEE News this year that show how doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive.

1. Dancing Deer Baking Company, Hyde Park, MA, “Scratch-Baked Goodness to the Community”

Dancing Deer Baking Company has flourished since introducing its first cookie in 1994 and so has the community of Hyde Park, Massachusettes. The bakery hires chronically unemployed individuals in the community and dedicates a portion of its profits to local development projects. Dancing Deer has won national recognition for its delicious baked goods, its sustainable business practices, and its community impact initiatives. [Read more]

 

2. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, Vista, CA, “All-One”

 

Open a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Liquid Soap, and you’ll be taking part of a story that dates back over 150 years. It’s a story that began with a family of soapmakers in the Jewish community of Heilbronn, Germany. The story includes the holocaust, an escape from a Chicago mental institution, an attempted crucifixion on a bridge in 1945 Woodstock, and, well, it’s a complex epic that has passed through five generations of the Bronner family. [Read more]

 

3. Masonite, Tampa, FL, “Helping people walk through walls”Not many American companies today can trace their history back for 92 years, or link to inventor Thomas Edison. But, Masonite, a publicly-traded company (NYSE: DOOR) can follow its roots back to Laurel, Mississippi, and its founder William H. Mason, an apprentice of Thomas Edison. [Read more]

 

4. Stonyfield, Londonderry, NH, “Yogurt on a mission

 

While Stonyfield is best known for making yogurt, yogurt wasn’t the way the founders of Stonyfield thought they’d change the world. In 1983, co-founders Samuel Kaymen and Gary Hirshberg were trying to help family farms survive, protect the environment, and keep food healthy through their nonprofit organic farming school. [Read more]

 

5. Igloo Products Corp., Katy, TX, “Culture of commitment”

If you’ve ever gone on a family picnic, packed a boat for a day of fishing, or brought drinks to keep the soccer team hydrated, there’s a good chance an Igloo® ice chest was involved. Igloo chests, along with the iconic red and white coolers, are just two of more than 550 products made by the 70-year old Igloo Products Corporation in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston. [Read more]

 

6. W.L. Gore and Associates, Newark, DE, “Conscious culture”

 

Imagine operating a manufacturing company with no core product, no bosses, and a democratically-elected CEO. How long do you think it would survive? [Read more]

 

7. Sticker Giant Longmont, CO, “Open book management”

 

One political bumper sticker based on the indecision of the Bush/Gore presidential election in 2000. That’s how CEO John Fischer launched StickerGiant from his basement 17 years ago. Today, the company employees nearly 40 people and processes about 18 miles of sticker material every week. [Read more]

 

8. TGI Fridays, Dallas, TX, “The gift of time”

 

You have to hand it to a company that has survived for five decades, fought off imitators, and endured shaming for asking its employees to wear flair. The chain’s signature look – a combination of Antiques Roadshow and Hoarders – actually started in 1965 as one of New York’s City’s first singles bars. [Read more]

 

9. Great Little Box Company, Richmond, BC, “Big Outrageous Xtravaganza (BOX) Goals”

 

For 35 years, Canadian-based Great Little Box Company has created an equally great little culture. What started as a three-person shop in 1982, has grown to 225 employees in locations across British Columbia and Vancouver, Washington. [Read more]

 

10. Meltwater, San Francisco, CA, “MER values”

 

The year was 2001, just after the dotcom bubble burst. Jorn Lyseggen had a big idea for a new business, a coffee machine, some used furniture, and some borrowed office space in a Norwegian shipyard shack. [Read more]

 

11. SEMCO Partners, São Paulo, Brazil, “Big company with (almost) no rules”

 

If your employees could vote you in or out as their leader, would you keep your position?

That was just one of the many questions that Ricardo Semler started to ask when he went to work for his father’s company, SEMCO Partners, in the late 1970’s. [Read more]

 

12. Thinking Putty, Philadelphia, PA, “Shaping culture one tin at a time”

If you ask Aaron Muderick what he does for a living, he’s likely to say, “Professional Kid”. Muderick, a fidgety computer scientist, was constantly playing with Silly Putty while thinking at work. One day, he borrowed some textbooks from a friend who had just completed her Ph.D. in chemistry. He learned enough from the borrowed books to teach himself how to invent what he calls “Thinking Putty”. [Read more]

 

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

6 Leadership Books for Your Christmas Wish List

Hoping to catch up on your reading over the holidays? Why not put some of the top titles of 2017 on your wish list? We’ve curated a collection of books published in 2017 that stand out from the pack.

These titles aren’t only for CEO’s. Some are deeply reported feats of investigative journalism that are just compelling stories, no matter what your day job.

1.    Janesville: An American Story, by Amy Goldstein

What it’s about. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation’s oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008.

Why pick it up. Janesville is a microcosm of what connects and divides people during economic upheaval. It’s not just a 21st century Midwestern story. It’s an American story.

 

 

 

2.    Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration, by Thomas L. Friedman

What it’s about. In his most ambitious work to date, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman shows that the age of dizzying acceleration is leading to dystopian disruption. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts.

Why pick it up. With his trademark vitality, wit, and optimism, Friedman shows that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations—if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to reimagine work, politics, and community.

 

 

3.    Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella

What it’s about. Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, while tracing his own journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant changes of the digital era.

Why pick it up. It’s a study of how the human ability to empathize will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt the status quo like never before.

 

 

 

4.    The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, by Brian Merchant.

What it’s about. Veteran technology journalist Brian Merchant reveals the inside story you won’t hear from Cupertino-based on his exclusive interviews with the engineers, inventors, and developers who guided every stage of the iPhone’s creation.

Why pick it up. To get a roadmap for design and engineering genius, an anthropology of the modern age, and an unprecedented view into one of the most secretive companies in history.

 

 

 

 

5.    The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day, by Kristi Hedges

What it’s about. Informed by quantitative research and thousands of responses from leaders at all levels, Hedges reveals that inspiring communication isn’t about grand gestures. Instead, those who motivate us most do a few things routinely, consistently, and intentionally.

Why pick it up. Eye-opening and accessible, The Inspiration Code dispels common myths about how leaders communicate, and guides them in cultivating qualities that authentically excite.

 

 

 

6.    Principles, by Ray Dalio

What it’s about. Ray Dalio, founder of one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, shares a painful, public experience from his leadership journey, and how he found the humility to balance his audacity through radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

Why pick it up. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.

 

 

Download our Top Leadership Books for Your Christmas Wish List infographic and start shopping!

Question: What leadership book is on your wish list this Christmas?

The 6 Principles of Humility, by Dr. Tony Baron

Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance.  

 With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject. We are currently co-authoring a book that combines Tony’s scholarship and my straight talk about the challenges faced by today’s leaders. Meanwhile, I will be sharing guest posts by Tony from time to time to give you a taste of what it’s like to have an amazing colleague and friend like Tony Baron. – Sheri Nasim


By: Dr. Tony Baron

Demonstrating modesty has been underrated. Yet, when you read some significant thinkers in the corporate world like Jim Collins or in the church world like Larry Osborne, they think it is the essential ingredient of good leadership.

In 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article on how to cultivate humility as a leader. Authors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin suggested that every developing leader should be taught these 6 principles of humility:

1. Know what you don’t know.  The higher you climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, the greater the temptation it is to believe that you are the smartest person in the room. But deep down, you know that you don’t have all of the answers. You may not even have all of the questions. Know when to defer and delegate.

2. Resist falling for your own publicity.  Part of the leadership role is to maintain a positive outlook. Your confidence boosts that of your team and your customers. While it’s important to have a positive outlook, it’s just as important to correctly assess reality. Keep your spirits high, but your judgment at an even keel.

3. Never underestimate the competition.  No matter how smart you are, how many hours you are willing to put in, or how creative your team is, do not allow a residue of hubris to form around your culture. There is always competition for your customer’s attention.

4. Embrace and promote a spirit of service.  The term servant leadership was coined by Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf in the late 1960s.  In his book, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, Greenleaf writes, “The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness.” Use you power for the sake of others.

5. Listen, especially to the weird ideas.  Dame and Gedmin write that “the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend to come from left field, from some associate who seems a little offbeat, and may not hold an exalted position in the organization.” Step outside of your inner circle to get a fresh perspective.

 6. Be passionately curious.  Leading during uncertainty and change requires a healthy dose of curiosity. Without curiosity, we are unable to sustain our attention, we avoid risks, and, essentially, stagnate. Embrace curiosity and promote it among your team.

Larry Osborne, in his 2013 article in Leadership Journal, believes that every leader must avoid the 3 curses of leadership failures: the curse of the spotlight, the curse of hype, and the curse of leadership ADHD. Osborne recommends keeping leadership hubris in check by leading with a low profile, underselling and over delivering, and keeping the team focused on strategic goals.

The first task of any leader is to assess reality correctly. You can’t do that well without humility.

Question: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?

Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.

Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership and a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard. Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.

How Not to Fall for Your Own Fake News

Putin issues international arrest warrant for George Soros.

Black Lives Matter thug protests President Trump with selfie . . . accidentally shoots himself in the face.

Passenger allowed onto flight after security confiscates his bomb.

All three of these headlines were widely reported last year. Two of them were fake. Can you tell which one is true?*

Fake news has become part of the world’s daily news cycle. Many people now operate in virtual gated communities or information echo chambers. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction in both the political and popular press. To combat fake news, a growing body of websites and apps give consumers the ability to stop to fact check before sharing headlines in the social media feeds.

But the echo chamber effect is not limited to our smart phones. The same theory can apply to leaders. The higher we climb up the org chart, the greater our tendency is to spend most of our time with our direct reports. By operating in our own virtual gated community at work, we can severely limit our ability to assess reality correctly.

Author and Center for Executive Excellence’s Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Tony Baron, suggests that leaders must be intentional about building community. To build an inner circle to help you assess reality correctly, Dr. Baron offers this criteria for choosing your community:

1.    Choose those in your community who are with you the most, not those who see you the least.

 

2.    Choose those in your community who can see you at your worst, not just those who see you at your best.

 

3.    Choose those in your community with whom you are willing to eat or play, not just those you are willing to work with.

 

4.    Choose those in your community whom you respect for their integrity, not just those you admire for their accomplishments.

 

5.    Choose those in your community who are willing to listen to understand, not just those who want to be understood.

 

6.    Choose those in your community who care about you as a person, not just those who care about you professionally.

 

7.    Choose those in your community who are willing to ask the tough questions, not just those who provide the easy answers.

 

8.    Choose those in your community who maintain confidentiality, not just those who are compelling in personality.

 

Every one of us needs a small number of people in our inner circle. People whom we can be honest with. People who will be honest with us. Because it’s just too easy to fall for our own fake news.

 

*The correct response to the opening quiz was the third headline. A teenage passenger in Edmonton, Canada, was allowed to board a flight after a pipe bomb found in his bag was confiscated by airport security. He claimed to have forgotten the device was in his bag after making it with a friend for fun some months before.

 

Question: What are you doing to assess reality correctly as a consumer of news and as a leader?

How to Give Thanks Like a Boss

We’ve all come across them. Those leaders who people naturally gravitate toward. Though it seems counterintuitive, the magnetic effect these leaders have on people is not because of how people feel about the leader. It’s because of how the leader makes people feel about themselves.

These leaders have mastered two basic facts about people. Fact 1: Every person matters. Fact 2: Every person wants to feel valued.

As Thanksgiving approaches, this is an excellent time to review the skills necessary to express meaningful gratitude to your team. Here are three skills that will yield the highest return:

1. Write a Note. Do not. I repeat. Do not mistake a thank you email for the real thing. Handwritten thank you notes are about relationships. Emails are about transactions. When you take a little extra time to write a personal message to team members to acknowledge your gratitude, you are also acknowledging that they are more than just a tool. They are human beings who matter and are valued. If your note writing skills are rusty, here’s a quick primer to get you started.

2. Make It a Habit. When it comes to business, we can fall into the trap of not seeing people who come in, get the job done, and don’t require constant attention. We take these employees for granted and just assume they don’t need a show of gratitude. To turn your attention to those who don’t ask for it, take a few minutes each morning to make a list of three team members you appreciate and why. Over time, you’ll begin to cultivate of habit of putting yourself in a gratitude mindset.

3. Give People Sincere Appreciation. People who don’t feel appreciated are often the first to burn out or jump ship. It only takes a minute to recognize a team member for making a positive contribution. But, doing it right requires more than the occasional “Attagirl!” Give timely and specific praise to show your team members how you value their contribution. Here’s a quick demo to show you how.

One final secret to mastering leadership gratitude – you can’t fake it. Leaders who genuinely care about their team members will invest the time to help each one feel valued. Make it a habit to sincerely recognize their efforts. Every day is an opportunity to help people see the best in themselves and feel like a valued contributor to the team.

Question: Have you had a leader who gave you a handwritten note of thanks? What did you learn from that experience? 

 

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Being Misunderstood: 4 Ways to Respond Instead of React, By Dr. Tony Baron

Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance. With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject.

By: Dr. Tony Baron

Nobody likes to be labeled. And nobody likes to be misunderstood. Given the context of our national dialogue recently, this may be a good time to talk about how to respond, instead of react, when we are misunderstood.

I am not talking about times when there is a lack of clarity in communication. I am talking about when others judge you based on misinformation they have received (or conceived) that results in them questioning your character.

The injustice hurts deeply. But, as leaders, our ultimate responsibility is to not to react, but to respond by modeling the behavior we would like to see in others. It is a true test of how we use power. Will we use our position to force others to bend to our will? Or, will we use our position to practice the discipline of transformative leadership?

Here are four ways that you can practice transformative leadership and respond, rather than react, when others attack your character:

1.   Practice the Discipline of Not Having the Last Word

A transformative leader influences others by modeling appropriate behavior not only in positive situations but also in periods of criticism. When people attack your character, they often want to engage you in a verbal volley. Don’t do it. Transformative leaders have the discipline to not have the last word.

2. Practice the Discipline of Humility

An attack on your character may immediately send you into defense mode. If you have power, you may be tempted to use that power to punish the person who is attacking you. However, a transformative leader must refrain from presuming you can silence another person, and refrain from letting others know how wronged you feel. Humility comes from the word “grounded.” A grounded person reflects deeply to see what truth may be in the midst of falsehoods, what path may be used for reconciliation, and what direction you need to follow.

3. Practice the Discipline of Civility

A transformative leader understands that people who attack their character often betray their own fears and anxieties in the process. When people spew words at you in anger, recognize the pain or anxiety behind their words. Pause to reflect before you engage, then practice the discipline of civility. In Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square, civility is defined as “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

4. Practice the Discipline of Wisdom

Knowledge is a compilation of things true, maybe true, and definitely not true. Knowledge can lead to pride and a sense of superiority over others. Wisdom, on the other hand, is insight into reality. Reality is the only thing a transformative leader can count on. People of wisdom seek reality – not illusions, innuendos, or ill feelings.

So, to those who feel you have been misunderstood, take courage in the midst of adversity. Seek reconciliation. Practice the discipline of not having the last word, humility, civility, and wisdom.

Question: Have you felt misunderstood recently? Which of these practices might help you respond instead of react?

 

Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.

Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership and a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard.  Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, visit us today at www.executiveexcellence.com or subscribe to receive CEE News!

 

Cure Initiative Overload with the Balanced Scorecard

A few weeks ago, I was asked by one of my clients if I could help her company with strategic planning. My answer was, “Yes and no.”

Like many of today’s organizations, this team was already suffering from initiative overload. Without a system for tracking business critical and mission critical goals, their strategic plan was doomed to fail. I explained that, “Yes, I would be happy to help your team create a strategic plan, but only if I can also help them put a system in place to help them execute that strategy.”

This is the season of the year where many of us are busy working on strategic plans. For some, those plans get shelved in favor of jumbled priorities and unfinished initiatives. For others, the goals that come out of the plans get added to the already impossibly long list of projects our overloaded teams are already working on. Either way, if we don’t have a process to turn our most important goals into an executable strategy, our plans can be pronounced dead on arrival.

Don’t let this happen to your organization. Instead, track your strategic goals with a performance management system like a Balanced Scorecard. First developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in the late 1990’s, today’s Balanced Scorecard platforms help organizations of all sizes and in every industry turn strategy in executable goals in four important ways:

  1. Communicate the business critical and mission critical goals the organization is trying to accomplish.
  2. Align the day-to-day work that everyone is doing with strategic goals.
  3. Prioritize projects, products, and services.
  4. Measure and monitor progress toward strategic targets.

The system connects the dots between big picture strategy, operational goals, and key performance metrics. I have my favorite balanced scorecard platforms, but one-size does not fit all. Check out this site for options that may work for your organization, and ensure that your strategic plans get executed in 2018!

Question: What is your organization doing to manage initiative overload?

 

Bonus! Download our simple, FREE strategic planning template here – a framework to help you measure organizational performance beyond key financial metrics.

 

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

6 Things Successful Change Leaders Know

Can you feel it in the air? For the past few weeks, everything around us has been changing. The sun is setting earlier. Leaves are changing in color to vibrant reds and deep yellows. There’s no denying that fall is here and winter is just around the corner. As humans, we are hard wired to accept the inevitability of seasonal changes. Although we can manage extreme weather changes of four seasons a year, why are we so resistant to organizational changes?

If you’re engaged in the effort to set a new direction, orchestrate innovation, or mold a culture, here are six universal truths that can guide you along the way.

1. People don’t resist change. They resist being changed. As management guru Peter Senge suggests, resistance is greatest when change is inflicted on people. If you can give people a chance to offer their input, change is more likely to be met with enthusiasm and commitment.

2. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Big goals can seem overwhelming and cause us to freeze. This simple truth, attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, is a reminder to get moving. Take the first step, however small it may seem, and the journey is underway.

3. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Many change efforts fall short because of confusion over the end goal. In the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire cat which road she should take. The cat’s response reminds us to focus on the destination first, then choose the best path.

4. Change is a process, not a decision. It happens all too often. Senior executives make pronouncements about change, and then launch programs that lose steam. Lasting change requires an ongoing commitment to the process reinforced by constant communication, tools, and milestone recognitions.

5. Do not declare victory prematurely. In his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide, author Dan Cohen suggests that short-term wins do not necessarily equal long-term success. Cohen writes, “keep urgency up and a feeling of false pride down.”

6. Be the change you wish to see in the world. These famous words attributed to Gandhi reminds us all — executives with associates, political leaders with followers, or parents with children — that one of our most important tasks is to exemplify the best of what the change is all about.

Any form of change requires an adjustment period, and some are easier than others. While seasonal changes are predictable and tend to go over smoothly, organizational changes cause more chaos. Leaders trying to implement changes in the workplace can take heart in these truisms, settle in and enjoy the journey.

Question: Chances are, you’re going through a change effort now. Which of these truths can you apply today to help you succeed?

4 Steps to Breathe Life Into Your Strategic Plan

Stand up if you can locate a copy of your organization’s strategic plan in less than five clicks from your desktop (or in a 3-ring binder on your bookshelf). Now keep standing if you’ve opened that file (or binder) in the last quarter.

Most likely, your organization is going through another season of strategic planning this time of year. But, if you haven’t cracked open last year’s plan, then the hours and hours of work you’re about to repeat will likely become another waste of valuable time and effort. To be relevant, strategy must be both planned and executed.

1. Make your goals short and clear. Fuzzy goals are easy to agree on but hard to execute. Fuzzy goals are open to interpretation and a waste of valuable resources. The outcome needs to be empirically verifiable. Everyone involved needs to be able to gauge whether the target has been met.

2. Assign individual responsibility for each goal. It may take a team to achieve each goal, but if everyone is responsible, no one is accountable. Clarifying responsibility will lead to accountability. Bonus: don’t assign most goals to the top executives. The further down the org chart goals are assigned, the more likely your organization will be aligned for success.

3. Measure twice. Cut once. Take the time up front to establish the best way to set targets for goal achievement, then report monthly on target-to-actual measurements. If you’re measuring something that your organization hasn’t executed before, look for industry benchmarks to set targets.

4. Review performance monthly. Execution-focused leaders meet regularly to review target-to-actual performance.

a. When performance slides, ask this series of questions:

b. Why is performance sliding?

c. Keep asking “why” until you reach a root cause.

d. What are we doing to fix the problem?

Do we need to put a cross-functional team on this to improve performance now, or is this an anomaly that will correct itself next month?

When leaders create explicit goals, assign individuals responsible, agree on achievable targets, and revisit performance every month, they are more likely to stay connected to strategic plans, and those plans are more likely to become reality.

Question: What is your organization doing to move from strategic planning to strategy execution?

 

Winter is coming! Need a roadmap to turn your most important goals into results? Whether you’re a startup or need a restart, we can help you develop a strategic plan and help your employees connect the dots. Click on the link above or email us at info@executiveexcellence.com to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

 

Sheri Nasim is President and CEO of Center for Executive Excellence, a leadership consulting firm headquartered in San Diego, CA. She is the author of Work On Purpose: How to Connect Who You Are With What You Do.

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, visit us today at www.executiveexcellence.com or subscribe to receive CEE News!

The 5 Levels of Listening

Picture this. The CEO needs to make a decision about a cost-saving measure, and has turned to your team for advice. In support of the initiative to go paperless, she wants to eliminate either pens or pencils from use by employees across the organization. The program will be considered a success if it is rolled out in 30 days from today, 100% of employees have converted from the legacy writing instrument, and employee morale does not drop.

As ridiculous as this initiative may sound, the scenario sounds all too familiar. Teams are often given limited time, little supporting data, and high expectations to make decisions that will have enterprise-wide impact.

What is also familiar is that teams are working on several other initiatives with compressed due dates. When the topic of pens versus pencils comes up on the team meeting agenda, only one member of the team has a strong position. Let’s call him the Advocate. The Advocate has studied the issue, has prior experience with a successful rollout of a similar initiative, and has drafted a plan to share with the team.

When the issue is brought up at a meeting, the team members are scattered in focus, and don’t practice the listening skills that would take advantage of the Advocate’s expertise and passion. Instead, they fall into four types of listeners: Ignore, Volley, Judge, and Apply.

Ignore. The Ignorer must attend the meeting, but obviously has other issues pressing for his attention. He’s buried in his phone, but throws out occasional comments like “Uh huh” or “Wait. What are we talking about?” from time to time. His guiding statement is, “You’re not important to me right now.”

Volley. This person doesn’t really agree or disagree with the Advocate about this issue, but wants to be a part of the conversation to get his own remarks on record. He’s preparing his comeback while the Advocate is talking, and interrupts in mid-sentence. His guiding statement is, “You think that’s right/wrong, I can top that.”

Judge. She strongly disagrees with the Advocate about this issue. She’s constantly fact-checking, and making assumptions and conclusions before she hears out the Advocate. Her guiding statement is, “Here’s your problem.”

Apply. This person considers the Advocate a subject matter expert and is here to learn, but not ask clarifying questions or offer feedback. She pays close attention as she downloads information from the Advocate and her other teammates. Her guiding statement is, “What can I take away and keep myself safe?”

Scenarios like this play out all too often. The ability for teams to share information, and make decisions gets bogged down by the inability to listen. Instead, we accept unproductive listening behavior. We let Ignoring, Volleying, Judging, and Applying pass for listening. But to truly hear one another productively, we must practice listening with empathy, as follows:

Empathize. Team members don’t initially agree or disagree with the Advocate, but are present to the Advocate’s words and, more importantly, are open to being changed by what is said. They give their full attention to the Advocate’s words and body language. They stay curious, make an emotional connection, and forget their own agenda. Their guiding statement is, “What are you experiencing?”

Listening with empathy takes practice. It requires being fully present to the thoughts and feelings of others, setting aside our ego, and being open to information that may change our paradigm about an issue. As you go through your workday, take note of how many of the five levels of listening take place among your team members, and how your team would benefit by practicing listening with empathy.

Question: Which of the five levels of listening do you hear in your team meetings?

Download our 5 Levels of Listening free resource. Ask yourself which of these 5 levels of Listening are you participating in. If you find yourself regularly falling into the Ignoring, Volleying, Judging, or Applying levels of listening, take some time to remember the prescription for that level, so that you can become a more Empathetic listener.

 

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CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

4 Easy Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now!

Every week, we talk to leaders who are responsible for making sweeping organizational changes. Some are going through mergers. Some are opening new international markets. Others are leading major rebranding initiatives.

Change is pervasive in our society and a fact of life in organizations. It’s easy to get caught up in the sexy complexities of organizational change. So easy, in fact, that we can forget to connect with what our employees are doing each day to keep the engines running. If that disconnect is too great, we run the risk of creating lasting damage.

Gallup reports that 7 out of every 10 employees are disengaged at work. If your calendar is loaded with meetings about your latest strategic initiative, consider making room for small changes to engage with your employees. Take some time to show them that they are valued members of your team.

Here are 4 small changes that can produce big results:



1. Greet every employee you encounter, making eye contact and smiling, no matter how rushed you feel. 
Does this sound too simple to be effective? Remember that every employee wants to be recognized. At its most basic, that means seeing and acknowledging each person. This takes very little time, but can significantly improve the spirits of the entire organization. Be genuine though. Employees can spot a smile-o-matic from miles away.

 


2. Spend at least 15 minutes each day simply listening to what your employees have to say. 
Leaders spend so much time telling, that it is easy to forget the value of listening. Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart. With daily practice, you’ll begin to find out what matters most to your employees. Great leaders are great listeners.

 

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3. Connect employees’ daily contributions to the organization’s strategic objectives. 
Granted, there may be some strategic initiatives in the pipeline that you are not ready to share with your employees. But employees can and should connect what they do each day to the published organizational goals. As a leader, it is vital that help employees connect the dots between what they do and what the organization is trying to achieve. Read more about proven ways to connect your employees with your strategic plan here.


4. Offer more praise than corrective feedback. Being negative comes naturally. But, according to this Galllup Business Journal article, “Recognition is a short-term need that has to be satisfied on an ongoing basis – weekly, maybe daily.” Every time we praise, it creates a burst of dopamine or internal reward system that makes employees want to repeat the behavior that was positively recognized.

 

Each of these four simple steps takes very little time out of your day. Find the time and take the time to make these small changes to keep your employees engaged.

Question: Which of these actions could you take today?

 

Download our infographic: From Buzz Phrase to Business Case: Why Employee Engagement Really Matters or email us at info@executiveexcellence.com to learn more about our workshops and corporate training opportunities for employee engagement. We’d love to hear from you!

3 Steps to Leveraging Team Conflict

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Like many of the quotes attributed to Henry Ford nearly 100 years ago, this one continues to ring true today. Ford was known for his innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness that revolutionized transportation in America.

Today, the world is poised for another revolution that will not only transportation, but every other conceivable industry. In order to meet the overwhelming demand and associated stresses that these changes will bring, teams will need to effectively deal with conflict. When some of your team members have strong, conflicting opinions about what strategy to take, here are three steps you can take to put everyone back on track:

1.    Separate the business issues from the personal issues. If personal styles vary greatly among your team members, administer an assessment like the Gallup© StrengthsFinder. Collect the top five strengths of every team member and put them on a matrix. Review the matrix with the team to help them see what personal styles they have in common, and where there are differences. Doing so will enable the team to build a common frame of references for dealing with individual differences.

2.    Identify where the team is in violent agreement. If you haven’t taken the time to create a team charter, now may be a good time to stop and do so. The process of creating a charter will allow the team to establish a common set of values, purpose, goals, and expectations. Have the team sign the charter, give each member a copy, and post a copy in a common area. When conflicts arise, use the charter as a North Star to guide the team back to the what they mutually agreed to. Here’s a template published by Redbooth to get you started.

3.    Pop the power bubbles. Sometimes, conflict involves power issues or strong personal agendas that require your direct attention. If you allow these to go unchecked for too long, it will erode confidence in your ability to lead the team. Sit down with any members of your team who may be testing your authority. Help them identify the sources of their conflict. Let them know that you will provide every resource you have available to help them, but that team cohesion is your first priority. Read this article from the Harvard Business Review to learn more about toxic team members.

Conflict can be healthy for a team when it’s channeled properly. Knowing how and when to intervene is a leadership skill that will pay off for you and your team.

Question: What approaches have you found helpful to create a culture of healthy conflict with your team?

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CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!