All posts in “People”

Strengths: Connecting all 5 Generations. Side by Side.

As our Employee Engagement Specialist, Jenny Jacobs brings an infectious humor and midwestern sensibility to everything she does. Jenny is a lifelong learner and a natural teacher who guides our clients through a structured employee engagement method that improves bottom lines and results in changes that last. Jenny holds a B.A. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and is a 2017 Masters candidate for Organizational/Industrial Psychology from Azusa Pacific University. And don’t forget to check out the short video below where Jenny introduces herself and our new program.

By: Jenny Jacobs

What does it mean to operate from a place of your strengths? I’m not talking about how strong you are or if you are able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… I am talking about helping your employees recognize the talents that naturally exist within them. Each of your employees serves a special purpose within your organization based on their strengths. When we tap into them as a strengths-based team, we can build a vibrant, healthy work environment.

I recently heard a fascinating radio program about Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist. In a study on collaboration among trees, Simard discovered that trees work together through a network of forest floor communication. Simard states that trees need a complex and diverse community to thrive in.

In her June 2016 TED Talk, Simard explained the symbiotic needs of trees in a forest. Trees are connected to their forest community in a kind of “underground super-highway”, Simard explains. They need other plants that can cycle nutrients more quickly or that can access nutrients in different niches. They need neighbors that are resistant to insects and diseases. So, instead of competition for resources, trees are actually communicating and cooperating with their neighbors. They make sure their neighbors — their diverse community — is vibrant because that feeds back to them and impacts their health.

Simard equates the forest community to the way our communities work. We live in communities of doctors and teachers and people who run coffee shops and bakeries. A thriving community requires a whole range of skills and resources. We need each other. If you take away the baker, we’ve got no bread. If you remove the banker, financial stability is shaken.

Just as the trees in the forest share resources to remain vibrant and healthy, so must managers identify individual strengths of team members for maximum collaboration and engagement. Don’t hire people for their strengths then ask them to work on their weaknesses. Instead, unlock their natural talents, give them the tools and support that best suits their individual style and you’ll build a team that thrives!


Click here to learn more about 5 Generations. Side by Side. and reserve your seat for our June 6 workshop!

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!

Meet 10 Ex-Special Forces Operators Ready for Hire at Your Company

“Please let me know if you would have an interest in dropping into a room of Navy SEALs and coaching them.” That was the message I received on July 21, 2016, from someone named Philip Dana through a LinkedIn request to connect.

“Hi Phil,” I replied, “You certainly know how to get my attention. Let’s meet for coffee.” That was the beginning of my journey this year into the world of The Honor Foundation. THF is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Diego that helps former Navy SEALs and other elite U.S. Special Operations Forces transition out of military service and into the corporate world.

THF is a world-class, 120-hour program started by CEO Joe Musselman out of a combination of desperation and drive to serve others. In 2012, Joe was faced with the most difficult transition of his life. He had enlisted in the Navy with a dream to become a Navy SEAL. While in training one day, Joe sustained a serious injury. By nightfall, he was medically discharged. The next 12 months led Joe through rehabilitation and the discovery of dozens of other members of the SEAL community who were in serious need of help to transition out of military service and into the civilian world.

As he dug further into the issue, Joe found that just 13% of SEALs had job offers when they got out of the service. He compared this to the 98% of Wharton MBA graduates who received 2-3 job offers upon graduation. Even those SEALs who did find employment often moved from job to job in the first five years after transitioning. That was the injustice that Joe set out to correct in 2013.

Last week, THF graduated its 9th group of Special Operations Forces in a ceremony at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. 32 men and 1 woman who have served our country with honor now have the tools they need to confidently enter the workforce with pride and a sure-footing. They are prepared to take the leap of faith that the civilian world will honor their service, embrace their elite training, and place them in positions worthy of their talents.

It is my honor to introduce you to ten members of the Group 9 graduating class, and to invite you to learn more about how you can employ, mentor, coach or donate to this amazing organization.


1. Phil Gilreath, “Seeking new challenges in the San Diego area.”

philgilreathAreas of Interest: Operations Management, Project Management, Leadership, Strategic Planning

Experience: From leading small units to leading an operations department and the strategic long term planning for an organization of over 750 people, I have had the opportunity to work with amazingly talented performers at multiple organizational levels.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, History

Availability: Phil transitions from the Marine Corps in December of 2016


2. Bob Howell, “I want to create a better environment for my kids through environmental overhaul.”

bobAreas of interest: To provide ethical leadership to organizations that have a responsibility to improve the environment.

Experience: Responsible for task management and primary assignments of a 3500-person work force with direct oversight of 8 global subordinate units. Chairman of the “Issue Resolution Board” to establish priority and tracking of operations initiatives. Negotiated or approved contracts with suppliers, distributors, federal and state agencies. Approved all out of budget and discretionary funding.

Education: The Honor Foundation

Availability: Bob transitions from the Navy in January of 2017


3. Anthony Alessi, “Thrives in competitive environments with high stakes.”

anthonyAreas of Interest: Technology as a solution to environmental change. Renewable energy, emerging technologies, automation in vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, wireless charging, and a people-centric corporate culture.

Experience: Collaborated effectively to integrate tactics within a team in order to maximize unit cohesion, standardize operating procedures and expand capabilities.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Economics

Availability: Anthony transitions from the Navy in March 2017


4. Blake Campbell, “I love to win, but love winning with my teammates even more.”

blakecambellAreas of interest: A small business with good values, fun, and down to earth culture.

Experience: Unsurpassed focus and motivation. Ability to lead, mentor, and continuously learn. Proven management of million dollar + assets with zero discrepancies.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Business Strategies (2017)

Availability: Blake transitions from the Navy in March of 2017



5. Louis Godeaux, “Cross-Functional Team Leader, Senior Program Manager”

louisAreas of Interest: Seeking a leadership position in a visionary organization that values cutting-edge designs and solutions.

Experience: Senior technical program leader responsible for integration management across multiple cross-functional teams. Analytical activator with demonstrated ability to solve complex problems in high-stakes environments.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Information Technology-Security

Availability: Louis transitions from the Navy in March of 2017


6. Nate Lampert, “Proven operational leader, who motivates, empowers, and develops teams to achieve in difficult environments.”

natelampertAreas of Interest: To work for a dynamic company where people first, innovation, and environmental stewardship are essential ethos of the organizational culture, preferably in the Pacific Northwest.

Experience: Senior operational advisor to executive leadership in formulation of plans, personnel requirements, and procedural guidance covering a personnel network over 12 Pacific nations from Sri Lanka to Indonesia. Managed security and human resource operations for a 100-man unit; established training plans and directed the operational activities for information gathering and employment of new technologies.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Intelligence Studies

Availability: Nate transitions from the Marines in the summer of 2017


7. Kelsy Holle, “Determined to create positive changes in the educational opportunities of students with autism.”

kelsyAreas of Interest: Non-profit, education and training

Experience: As a strategist I have synthesized data to create tangible, actionable information and increase operational capabilities. As a personnel manager I identified each person’s strengths to allow each member of the team to perform at their highest level.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Psychology

Availability: Kelsy transitions from the Navy in October of 2017


8. Floyd McClendon, Jr., “Experienced, inspirational public speaker with a purpose to positively affect peoples’ lives. Passionate about initiatives that will develop those who are struggling socially, mentally, and/or physically.”

floydjrAreas of Interest: Currently seeking a position in the public service sector with the long-term aspiration of holding a seat in the legislative and/or executive branch.

Experience: Director of Operations responsible to plan, coordinate, command, control, and conduct operations in support of operations, strategic initiatives, and contingencies.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Liberal Arts

Availability: Floyd transitions from the Navy in the fall of 2017


9. Mark Mason, “A proven leader who loves to network and inspire teams toward shared goals. Excited about the opportunity of solving enterprise-wide problems. High-performance organizational experience building a mastery of a diverse range of technical, tactical, and strategic skills, which transfer seamlessly to private sector needs.”

markmasonAreas of Interest: To pursue a career that allows him to continue to build, train, and lead high performance teams, preferably in the San Diego area.

Experience: 26 years of Team Building, Organizational Leadership, Servant Leadership, Public Speaking, Curriculum Design, Conflict Resolution, Leadership Development, Risk Management, Operational Management, and Data Analysis

Education: Master’s Degree, Organizational Leadership

Availability: Mark plans to transition from the Navy in December of 2017


10. Ray Jobi, “I am a passionate learner who adds the extra to ordinary.”

rayjobiAreas of Interest: Project Management, Commercial Real Estate

Experience: Repeated success guiding sizeable, cross-functional teams in the design and development of critical projects in a dynamic environment. The ability to forge solid relationships with strategic partners and build consensus across multiple organizational levels.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Organizational Leadership (2017)

Availability: Ray transitions from the Navy in October of 2018


If you feel inspired to employ, mentor, or coach a member of this elite group, or be a THF sponsor, please fill out this online form directly on their website. Someone will be in touch with you soon. Thank you for your support!


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 Women Who Put the Leadership Question to Bed

I’m taking some time off writing new blogs this month to enjoy Women’s Leadership Month. In honor of the theme, I’m reposting some of my favorite blogs to celebrate women in leadership. Today’s post is to recognize women who have served as strong leadership role models. Their insights can motivate both women and men to set aside their fears and become better versions of themselves. I hope that they will inspire you too.

“It’s sometimes surprising to discover the cumulative progress women have made in recent times. Just think. What field has not been enriched by females – in art, theatre, finance, politics, law, entrepreneurship, science? The list is as impressive as it is enlightening. To realize that we are no longer pioneers. The startling exception. The first to fly, or swim, or sail prodigious distances in bad weather. No longer the first to be elected, the first to discover cures in medicine, or the first to untangle problems in science, math or physics. No. We are multitudes, and society is clearly the better for our peaceful invasion. There is no modernity and no justice without the talent, passion, and the steely intelligence of women.” – Toni Morrison

No matter what your political views are, the question of women in power was brought to the international stage during last year’s election season in the U.S. Below are insights from six women driven by their inner strength, passion, and drive to make a difference. Their examples can serve to motivate both women and men to set aside their fears and become better versions of themselves.


alicia_keys1. Alicia Keyes, 15-time Grammy award winner

Her experience: Strong women like my mother showed me that you can claim what you want out of your life. I loved the concept of rebel – of challenging the mainstay.

Her advice: When you erase fear from your vocabulary, you can’t fail.





aimeemullins2. Aimee Mullins, Record-breaker at the Paralympic Games in 1996 and fashion model

Her experience: I am a double amputee, but whether or not I am disabled is a subjective opinion. I determine what I am capable of doing.

Her advice: Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It’s part of our life.




LOS ANGELES - JULY 3: Attorney Gloria Allred during a portrait session for attorney Gloria Allred and daughter television anchor Lisa Bloom on July 3, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

3. Gloria Allred, Discrimination attorney and feminist lawyer

Her experience: In civil rights, we are not politicians, but attorneys. What we seek is often not popular at the moment, but later it is. I have a duty to help victims win change.

Her advice:  If people call you names, see that as a victory, because you know they don’t have a good argument on the merits.




"I've always been an introverted person," Shonda Rhimes says, and she found the fame that came with her television successes to be "daunting."

4. Shonda Rhimes, Producer of 3 Emmy-nominated shows and author of The Year of Yes

Her experience: I was dictating stories into a tape recorder when I was 3 years old. After college, I moved into my sister’s basement and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. There was no plan. It was both breathtaking and terrifying.

Her advice: Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.




sarablakely5. Sarah Blakely, American businesswoman and founder of Spanx.

Her experience: I had $5,000 in savings, an idea, and some cellulite. The moment you have an idea, that is when it’s very vulnerable. It’s also the moment that we want to turn to a friend, a co-worker, a husband or wife, and share it. And out of love and concern, million dollar ideas get squashed.

Her advice: Be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is that you become memorable.




madeleine-albright6. Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State

Her experience: When I became Secretary of State, the challenge was not so much how foreign leaders would regard me. They knew that I represented the United States (and I arrived in a big plane). In some ways, I had more problems with the men in our own government.

Her advice: It’s a wonderful time of opportunity, but don’t forget how hard it’s been for women. We need to respect each other, and we need to help each other.


Question: What women have inspired you to become a better version of yourself?



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!

3 Biggest Myths About Strengths

One of the most dramatic changes in employee and leadership development programs in the last decade has been the shift from correcting weaknesses to enhancing strengths.

A Google search for “strengths coaching” yields over 27 million hits. Amazon sells over 35,000 books on the subject, including StrengthsFinder 2.0 which instantly became a Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, and USA Today bestseller, and was named Amazon’s bestselling book of 2013.  Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is used by 1.6 million employees and 467 Fortune 500 companies every year.

Strengths has developed a cult-like following among HR and talent management professionals.  Like all cults, this one too has developed myths that deserve to be debunked.

Myth #1 – Focusing on strengths means you can ignore your weaknesses.
  Sorry.  Not true.  Ignoring a problem is never sane management theory.  Instead, get clear about what your weaknesses are, and develop ways to minimize them.

Strengths coaches are fond of saying that there is no such thing as a well-rounded person. Instead, focus on being a well-lopsided person and develop a well-rounded team.  Spend your time where you can excel, then delegate to, or partner with, others who are naturally more adept in areas where you are weak.


Myth #2 – Strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.
  Wrong again.  Strengths are not the flip side of weaknesses. You can make strengths stronger. You can make weaknesses not so weak. But you cannot transform weaknesses into strengths.

What is true, is that a person can operate either in the balcony or basement of a strength, and the basement can be unpleasant for everyone.  Consider Achiever.  When things are going well, an Achiever can be a tireless go-getter with a strong work ethic. Conversely, she can be overcommitted and in danger of burning out.  Being in the basement isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength overapplied.


Myth #3 – You can become too specialized if you focus on your strengths.  Good reasoning, but not the case if your manager takes the time to understand how to put strengths to work. First, strengths are not labels. If your manager locks all “Strategics” in a room and expects they will come out with the perfect strategic plan, it’s not likely to happen.  That’s simplistic and a little reductive.


Managers who understand the power of strengths know that the best way for people to grow and develop is to identify how they most naturally think, feel and behave, then build on those talents to create strengths. People with Strategic as a strength are naturally good at anticipating alternatives and finding different paths. They may be good a mediating debates or contract negotiation.  The best managers will not only have a good working knowledge of strengths, but will also take the time to get to know what situations enable their employees to succeed.

We all have weaknesses. But putting your time, energy and focus on fixing your weaknesses will only yield mediocre results. If you want to unlock your greatest potential and bring out the best in your team, let go of the myths and put strengths to work.

Question: Have you taken the StrengthsFinder assessment? What are you Top Five?

Got What It Takes To Become a Great Place To Work®?

(Join me live on April 27 in San Diego where I will be co-hosting The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit with Dr. Tony Baron.)    

For 25 years, Great Place to Work®  has studied the link between organizational culture and business performance.  Last week, throngs of people from around the world poured into San Diego to attend the 2016 Great Place To Work® annual conference. Keynotes and breakouts were given by leaders who shared the secret to how they achieved a spot on coveted lists like Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for

Companies that make the list have nearly half the voluntary turnover of their peers, and perform nearly 2x better than the market average.  So what’s their secret?  In a word, trust.

Here are three distinct examples shared about how to create a high-trust organizational culture:



1. Define Your Company’s Purpose and Connect People To It.  Keynote speaker Robb Webb, EVP of CHRO at Hyatt Hotels, confided that employees used to have to memorize scripts when dealing with guests.  Instead of getting a human conversation, guests were put through a rigid set of questions and answers at check-in.  That Q&A was designed to collect data and generate a higher profit:guest ratio, rather than improve the guest experience.


In a Hyatt World“Today,” Webb said, “we tell employees to throw away the maps (or the scripts) and use a compass to find true north (our purpose).” Hyatt’s purpose is simple – We care for people so they can be their best.  To achieve that purpose, Webb asks colleagues to follow 3 simple rules:

1) Be in the moment
2) Be yourself
3) Meet the guest where the guest is in the moment.

Simple. Human. Effective.  That’s the secret to how Hyatt has achieved several GPTW list rankings, including #47 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.


2. Get Your Values Off the Walls.  In 2002, Atlassian co-founders launched an enterprise software company with no sales force.  From Australia.  Their strategy was to make great software, price it right, and make it available to download from the internet.  Their hope was that people would build great things with their software and tell their friends, and so on.  Along with Atlassian’s unconventional business model, is an unconventional set of core values that shape its culture and its products.

Atlassian Temporary TattoosBreakout leader Jeff Diana, Atlassian’s Chief People Officer, shared the company’s core values (including ones like “Open Company, No Bullshit,” “Build with heart and balance,” and “Play, as a Team”).  Diana described how the values serve as the foundation that directly impacts employee performance from Day 1.  “48 hours before each new employee begins the job,” Diana said, “they get a welcome box delivered to their home.”  Among the items in the box are temporary tattoos for each of the company’s core values.  “We encourage new employees to show up to work wearing their favorite value tattoo,” said Diana, “It’s a great conversation starter about what our values mean and how we use them every day to make business decisions.”

Among its many GPTW listings, Atlassian most recently ranked #6 in Best Workplaces in Technology 2016.


3. Give Employees a Voice.  In 1999, San Diego-based Scripps Health was losing $15 million a year, and employee and physician confidence had hit bottom. That was the scene when Scripps tapped new President & CEO Chris Van Gorder to restore Scripps’ fiscal and cultural health. Van Gorder responded with a transparent, co-management style, configured an award-winning executive team, streamlined business operations and focused on workplace culture to lead a landmark turnaround.

Scripps Health Site Visit“An integral part of the turnaround strategy,” Van Gorder told guests at a Scripps Health site visit, “was to enlist the staff directly in the planning of the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute – the largest provider of cardiovascular medicine, research and training on the West Coast.”  “We had a voice in designing every detail from the size of the elevators to the configuration of the patient rooms,” said Chief Nurse and Operations Executive Cindy Steckel.  The staff tested their designs in rooms marked “Day In the Life” to assess patient safety, staff circulation, and infection control.

Listening to the voice of the employees is just one of many ways that Van Gorder helped Scripps achieve multi-year GPTW spots, including #42 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.

If you look over these three examples carefully, you’ll notice that these organizations have found ways to treat employees like adults.  They give them inspiration, motivation, and the tools necessary to get the job done – then get out of their way and trust them to deliver results.


Question: Would your employees say that they are treated like trusted adults?  

Leadership Summit in San Diego

Join me and Dr. Tony Baron on April 27th in San Diego for The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit
Discover how to create a culture that can respond swiftly, communicate freely, encourage experimentation, and organize as a network of people motivated by a shared purpose to meet the demands of the 21st century business environment. To learn more or register, go to:

Got Presence?

Last week, I attended the Inspiration Conference at Harrah’s Resort in Southern California.  The day was packed with inspiring and motivational speakers in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Sheri&AmyCuddyOne such speaker was Amy Cuddy, the social psychologist and sensational TED Talk speaker. You may remember her from “that YouTube video about posing like Wonder Woman.”  Cuddy’s premise sounds simple:  assuming a posture of confidence, even for a couple of minutes, can increase your testosterone and cortisone levels, and help you feel more powerful before an important meeting or presentation. Power posing inspires you to be more authentic, more passionate and more present.



Presence by Amy Cuddy
Her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, is packed with research and anecdotes about how to help you to demonstrate your worth with ease and conviction.  Here’s a snapshot:





Take a Stand Against Imposter Syndrome

You know the feeling. You take on a new challenge – prepare for a keynote, negotiate a major deal, interview for an advanced position.  At first, you’re filled with enthusiasm about the possibilities. But soon, you find yourself bumping up against the limits of your ability.  Then, a voice inside your head asks, “Who do you think you are?”  Suddenly, your courage is overtaken by self-doubt and paralyzing fear that the world will find out that you’re a fraud.

Studies show that this modern neuroticism is common, especially among high-achieving women.  The antidote to this paralyzing self-consciousness, Cuddy argues, is the quality of presence — the ability to project poised confidence, passion, and enthusiasm in high-pressure situations.


Cuddy suggests that the first step to overcoming Imposter Syndrome is to “fake it till you become it.”  By assuming the power pose, you can improve your mood and turn self-doubt into self-confidence.  The power pose also affects the way others perceive you.  When people acknowledge the presence you exhibit, a positive feedback loop is created.  You settle yourself, engage in the moment, and the physical manifestation overpowers the mental neurosis.

“The ideal effect of presence [is that] you execute with comfortable confidence and synchrony, and you leave with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, regardless of the measurable outcome,” Cuddy writes.

Presence isn’t just about how to become a relaxed public speaker, a more persuasive negotiator, or a more compelling interviewee — although it certainly can affect those outcomes.  It’s about something much deeper than that.  It gives us permission to become a witness to, but not a victim of, our vulnerability.

Presence and impostorism are opposite faces of the same coin—and we have the power to determine which face we present to the world.

Question: When was the last time you battled the fear of your limitations?  Did you win?

Leadership Summit in San Diego

Join me and Dr. Tony Baron on April 27th in San Diego for The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit
Discover how to create a culture that can respond swiftly, communicate freely, encourage experimentation, and organize as a network of people motivated by a shared purpose to meet the demands of the 21st century business environment. To learn more or register, go to: 

The 4 Must Have Pieces of the Engagement Puzzle

In the past, business success was all about size. Today, it’s all about speed.   But with speed, comes change, and change, as we know, creates fear.  People don’t like change because it’s disruptive.  Employees begin to disengage as they struggle to define where they fit in or fear that they may become obsolete.

Disengagement doesn’t come cheap.  Each year, companies spend nearly $75 billion in an effort to improve an estimated $350 billion annual impact to the U.S. economy in lost productivity. The latest research by Gallup shows that nearly 70% of American workers are disengaged.  Clearly, the dollars being thrown at this issue are making a paltry impact at best.

From productivity to profitability, from safety to shrinkage, clearly employee engagement is not a philosophical exercise.  It has bottom line implications.

Employee engagement is both potential and kinetic in nature. You likely recall potential and kinetic energy demonstrated by Wile E. Coyote in his thwarted attempts to capture the elusive roadrunner.  Potential energy is stored by an object – perhaps a giant spring or over-sized mousetrap. The object is loaded and ready for action.  Kinetic energy is related to the object’s motion – like a coyote arrow launched by a bow.

The same is true of employees.  Engaged employees have both stored and activated energy.  Stored energy comes from having both meaningful work and aligned goals.  Activated energy is an employee’s ability to tap into his or her strengths and the learning and growth afforded on the job.  Together, they make up four pieces of the engagement puzzle.  Here’s a breakdown of each piece:


icons clear-021. Meaningful work. Do your employees know the value your organization brings?  Regardless of whether you are a non-profit or for profit enterprise, everyone in your organization should be passionate about your why. As Simon Sinek argues in his popular TED Talk, people want more than a paycheck.  They want to be a part of something greater than themselves.


icons clear-012. Aligned goals
. Next, employees need to move from the why to the what.  The sooner you can connect your strategic objectives with employee goals and rewards, the better chance you have of turning your strategic plan from theory into reality.  Help employees see how their daily jobs impact goals such as profit margins or market share.


icons clear-043. Strengths-focused
. At this point, your employees are spring loaded and ready to move onto the how. Depending on whether you focus on improving employees’ weaknesses or leveraging their strengths, you can either thwart their enthusiasm or thrust them into action.  Gallup research shows that the best way for employees to grow and develop is to leverage their natural talents to perform at their highest potential.


icons clear-034. Learning and Growth
. Employees under the age of 25 rate professional development as their number one driver of engagement, and workers up to age 35 rate it as the number two priority. As employees get older, their focus on development shifts away from mobility in favor of aligning a job with long-term career goals. Create an environment that gets people engaged and keeps them engaged by providing opportunities to grow and advance.


While 90% of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50% understand how to address this issue.  Design an organization that thrives on turning potential energy into kinetic energy by focusing on the four pieces of the engagement puzzle.


Question: In which of the four pieces of the engagement puzzle does your organization excel?  Where could you use improvement?


Download our infographic:
From Buzz Phrase to Business Case: Why Employee Engagement Really Matters

Take a Culture Field Trip

When was the last time you took a field trip?  A time when you stepped out of your office, drove yourself to another company, and just observed.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily drama of leading our organizations.  It’s tempting to tell ourselves that our methods are the best.  Yet, a 90-minute field trip inside the office of another organization can be a major accelerator for your leadership journey.

That’s just what happened last week when we arranged for Stone Brewing Company President, Steve Wagner, to take a team of five employees to visitWD40 President and CEO, Garry Ridge, at the company’s San Diego headquarters.  The mission: to learn what role culture plays in creating the WD40brand and performance.  The outcome: the ability for Stone Brewing to springboard its own initiative to align its culture and brand integrity.

With a total international employee base of just over 400, Ridge shared insights he’s gained to help WD40 achieve annual sales of over $400 million in 2015 – that’s nearly $1 million per employee.  Here are some of the Stone team’s top takeaways:


1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization.  “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said.  He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments.  Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not.  At today’s WD40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.


2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. InHelping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system.  Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets.  They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager.  The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As.  Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”


3. Get your values off the wall. WD40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens.  Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall.  Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance.  He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.”  Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.


In 1 ½ hours, the Stone team saw a company that was candid about sharing knowledge, committed to achieving results, and clear about what it stands for.  They gained actionable insights to help them crystallize their values, and cultivate the very best of Stone.


Question: If you were asked to share how your culture is aligned with your performance, what would you share in 90 minutes?

The Culture Equation: 3 Critical Factors You Can’t Ignore

Culture.  What does that word actually mean?  Though many have tried, no one has ever landed on a fixed, universal definition for organizational culture.  The subject has been vigorously debated from the pages of the Harvard Business Review to the halls of MIT Sloan.  What is not debated is that culture is part of the DNA of every organization.  Whether your organizational culture is empowering or toxic depends greatly on two factors:  shared experience and modeled leadership.

Consider this.  When new employees join your organization, they step in on Day 1 with a set of preconceived beliefs based on past experience.  They may believe that markets are finite and there is only so much business to go around.  They may believe that success happens only when we beat our competitors.  That in order to for us to win business, others must lose.  Some have been taught that ethics and morals can be bent.  Others have relied on the strict dictates of policies and procedures.  That makes up the experience half of the equation.

The other half comes directly from modeled leadership.  If the leaders of the organization are fixated on business development, channel expansion, and market domination, they are not likely spending any time intentionally trying to shape the culture.  Unintentionally, however, they are sending very clear signals about what is important to them.  They are the cultural architects of your organization and contribute these three very important things to the culture equation:


1. What is measured. Let’s face it.  Culture can be hard to measure. Senior executives tend to shy away from anything with a fuzzy ROI. Yet, whether you measure it or not, your culture is showing up in your bottom line.  Skilfully managed cultures can be a performance multiplier.  Recent research by the Great Place to Work© Institute found that companies that actively invest in workplace culture yield nearly 2x the return over their competitors.  They also typically report 65% less voluntary turnover, saving an average of $3,500 per employee in recruiting and training costs. If culture isn’t part of your KPI mix, you’re sending the signal that it’s unimportant.


2. What is rewarded. A recent study by O.C. Tanner found that employees report being recognized for their work as their most important motivator, over 20 times more than salary. Employees study what behaviors and achievements get rewarded, and naturally modify their work accordingly.  Leaders who understand this connection create recognition programs that go beyond passing out paychecks.  WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge proudly hosts the company’s annual People Choice Awards.  Each year, heartfelt speeches are given by winners of coveted awards like “Best Mentor Coach” and “Best Team Player.” Leaders like Ridge know that coin-operated employees have no passion.


3. What is ignored. Leaders are bombarded with data, hold back-to-back meetings, and field urgent requests on a daily basis.  When we need to respond to fast-moving competitive situations, it is tempting to tap only our direct reports for feedback.  In his Harvard Business Review article “The Focused Leader,” New York Times bestselling author Daniel Goleman warns that this temptation is dangerous.  He recommends that leaders practice expanding their focus of awareness.  “A failure to focus on others leaves you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided,” Goleman writes.  What’s worse, leaders who ignore input from those outside their immediate circle are signaling to the rest of the organization that their input is irrelevant.


Leaders are the cultural architects of your organization.  The key metrics they pay attention to, the contributions they reward, and range of their awareness directly impact both your organizational culture and your bottom line.


Question:  What do you measure, reward and ignore? How is that impacting your organizational culture?

The Power To Act & Seize The Day

A few weeks ago, I introduced the PULSE© coaching model that I use to help clients get their lives back in balance. The following is a recap: the first letter in the acronym – “P” for paradigm, “U” for unearth, and “L” for Linger. Last week was “S” for Surpass.

Now it is time to Experience…

The word Experience is a noun and a verb. It can be both a thing and an action. Are you ready to fully experience every experience of your life? This means experiencing emotions, events, and the everyday-ness of your life.

Have you become weary of going through the motions of your life? Have you ever driven home from work and you pull into the driveway and you don’t even remember driving? That’s going through life on autopilot. You’ve become detached and unplugged. When you stop experiencing your life you feel defeated, powerless, and overwhelmed which leads to a life filled with stress and frustration.

As I coach clients, I constantly reiterate the fact that you are in charge of how you ACT. When you constantly REACT to everything and everyone around you, you are giving away your power. When you live every day this way the years pass by and you are left feeling empty and that nothing is within your control. Soon bitterness and envy fill your heart and mind and you become jaded and judgmental.

Experience your life. Engage in your experiences. Stop being afraid to feel happy or sad or that anything good can happen in your life.

According to author Adrienne Jurado living (experiencing) your life fully is about discovering simple ways to lead an extraordinary life — one that is truly meaningful to you. One full of joy, laughter, magical moments, and fond memories. One that stirs your soul, brings tears to your eyes, drops you to your knees, and gives you a deep sense of satisfaction. One that makes a positive impact and enriches the lives of others.


It’s both a state of mind and a way of life.

It’s about…

Igniting passion

Evoking curiosity

Living consciously

Seizing opportunities

Uncovering potential

Thank you for taking the time to read about my exciting coaching model PULSE. If you’re ready to do the work, I’m ready to guide you and teach you innovative tools to help you shift your ParadigmUnearth your strengths and gifts, Linger in the present, Surpass the thoughts that have held you back, and Experience your experiences.

Are you ready for the next step?

Message me directly or use the contact form on my page and let’s chat about what this exciting coaching journey looks like!

For over a decade Jenny Jacobs has studied the principles of healthy living, life balance, stress management, positive psychology, and self-development. Jenny is a dynamic speaker, coach, and blogger and is passionate about helping people integrate their personal and professional selves.

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.

4 Ways to Surpass That Auto-Pilot Lifestyle & Wow Yourself

A few weeks ago, I introduced the PULSE© coaching model that I use to help clients get their lives back in balance. The following is a recap: the first letter in the acronym – “P” for paradigm and “U” for unearth. Last week was “L” for Linger.

We have learned over the past few weeks how to shift our Paradigm, Unearth our talents and strengths, and how to Linger in the present.

Now it’s time to Surpass and take our lives to the next level. Are you ready to move above and beyond the life that you’ve been living? Are you sick and tired of simply existing each day and living your life on auto-pilot?

Surpass toxic thoughts that have held you back. Surpass self-limiting behaviors you exhibit day after day that have kept you stuck and feeling powerless and stressed out.

Surpass:  to become better, greater, or stronger than :  exceed <surpassed her rivals> <surpassed all expectations>

:  to go beyond :  overstep

:  to transcend the reach, capacity, or powers of <a beauty that surpasses description>

When you make the choice to implement new behaviors and new ways of thinking into your life you do better because you know better. According to author Angel Chernoff,  in order to move forward we must give up the following:

1. First and foremost, give up the excuses you keep reciting to yourself.

Because all the excuses and explanations in the world won’t do you any good.  They won’t add any value to your life or improve the quality of it by even the slightest margin.  To fulfill your calling and get where you wish to go in life requires more than just thinking and talking.  These feats require focused and sustained action. You just have to choose to actually do it.

Sooner or later you will come to realize that it’s not what you lose along the way that counts; it’s what you do with what you still have.  When you let go of the past, forgive what needs forgiving, and move forward, you in no way change the past, you change the future.

2. Once you’re over the excuses, give up the idea that you don’t have what it takes.

You do have exactly what it takes.  Will it be easy?  Absolutely not!  Nobody is going to blindside you and hit you as hard as life will. But it’s not about how hard life can hit you; it’s about how hard you can be hit and continue to move forward.  That’s what true strength is.  And that’s what winning the game of life is all about.  So keep going.

In the end, all the small things make a big difference.  Every step is crucial.  Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment.  It’s about the trials and errors that slowly get you there – the blood, the sweat, the tears, and the small, inconsequential things you do on a day-to-day basis.  It all matters in the end – every step, every regret, every decision, and every affliction.

3. Give up focusing on what’s wrong, and start noticing what’s right.

What you see often depends entirely on what you are looking for.  Do your best and surrender the rest.  The happiest and most successful people do not live with a certain set of circumstances, but rather with a certain set of attitudes.  Choosing to be positive and grateful for what you have now is going to determine how you’re going to live the rest of your life.  So look for something positive about today.  Even if you have to look a little harder than usual, it still exists.

So don’t wait until everything is just right; it will never be perfect.  There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions.  So what!  Get started now!  With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger.  And no matter what happens, just do your best and appreciate what you’re learning.  You won’t enjoy your life if you don’t enjoy your challenges.

4. Give up the tendency to get too caught up in other people’s judgments and opinions.

Honestly, the biggest prison you will likely ever live in is your fear of what other people think.  You cannot let other people tell you who you are or what you want.  You have to decide that for yourself.  When you’re making big decisions, remember, what you think of yourself and your life is more important than what people think of you.  Don’t let others make you feel guilty for living YOUR life.  As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, live it YOUR way.

The bottom line is that when you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you truly are.  So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you.

A Process & a Journey

Surpassing old thoughts and behaviors is a process and a journey. It takes patience. We often want everything to happen overnight. We want results NOW. The exciting part of this coaching model is that you can implement these tools into your life right now. But it still takes practice. It takes perseverance. No one is perfect. No one will ever be perfect. Perfection is not the goal here. Being your BEST self is the goal. Plugging back into your life is the goal.

Once you fully immerse yourself in this process you will begin to surpass – become better, greater, or stronger than you’ve ever been before.

Are you ready for the next step? Message me directly or use the contact form on my page and let’s chat about this exciting coaching journey together!

For over a decade Jenny Jacobs has studied the principles of healthy living, life balance, stress management, positive psychology, and self-development. Jenny is a dynamic speaker, coach, and blogger and is passionate about helping people integrate their personal and professional selves.

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.

Das a Culture Problem: Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Scandal

Over the last few weeks, news about Volkswagen’s deceptive emissions practices has sent shock waves around the world. Since the scandal broke last month, CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned, its stock price has plummeted, and the company is facing a tsunami of legal trouble. Das a culture problem?

It will take years to sort out the blame and economics of the case. Long before the dust settles though, we can be certain about three important lessons from this developing case study:

VW icons-021. Culture rolls downhill. Volkswagen’s mistakes stem from toxicity in the culture, and culture always starts at the top. CEO’s cannot be expected to know everything, but they are ultimately responsible for the behaviors and practices of everyone on their watch. As leaders, we send loud and clear signals to the culture by what we measure, what we reward, and what we ignore.


VW icons-032. Short-term focus skews judgment. VW’s focus was clearly on short-term profits. A maniacal, short-term focus is not a sustainable model. Sustainability requires resilience. Deceiving regulators and consumers may have served the company’s immediate needs, but it compromised the world’s trust in the company’s products. Trust that will take years to re-build.

vw icons-053. A 1-degree error can put you miles off course
. Leadership advisor and avid pilot Dieter F. Uchtdorf warns, “Suppose you were to take off from an airport at the equator, intending to circumnavigate the globe, but your course was off by just one degree. By the time you returned to the same longitude, how far off course would you be? The answer might surprise you. An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles off course.” Massive ethics violations can start with a one degree slip in judgment.

Just three months ago, Volkswagen made front page news by surpassing Toyota as the world’s largest auto maker. Today, the headlines warn of massive financial retrenchment and raids by prosecutors. Like Volkswagen, leaders in similar organizations were highly competent individuals who achieved unprecedented success. But a drive for growth at all costs is a certain path to a case study in leadership failure.

Question: What signals do you send to your culture by what you measure, what you reward, and what you ignore?