The Best Leaders Tip #11 – There is no direct line between working around the clock and success

This is my 11th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #11        Take care of yourself.  The most effective leaders know that there is no straight line between success and working around the clock.  Not having a social life, never exercising, eating poorly, and letting your body and mind get out of balance, however, IS a direct path to feeling bad and even illness.  Take care of yourself while you work hard.  Be super organized with your time and you’ll find room for all your priorities, which must include your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health.


The Best Leaders Tip #8 – Get Smart: There is no one best leadership style

This is my 8th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #8          Be flexible.  There are situational, transformational, transactional leaders.  There are servant leaders, authoritarians, democratic leaders, laissez-faire, visionary, charismatics, paternalistic, collaborative, consensus-driven, participative, coaching, commanding, pace-setting… We know about most of these, and many of us have identified with one or more of these styles. While scholars differ in how they type leadership practices and behaviors, they agree that the most effective leaders know how to effectively use multiple styles to meet various needs at different times in their organizations. (Read about types of leaders here).

There are many types of leaders, and many tools to help us understand our own styles based on personality and temperament.  I believe these are helpful only to a point, because the best leaders know how they must adapt their leadership styles to be effective in specific situations.  So we have to become proficient in many leadership behaviors, no matter what our natural styles or preferences might be. Read more about leadership theories here.

For example, leading in a crisis requires a more commanding or directive style, and during a strategy or brainstorming session, a collaborative or more hands-off style works better.  Leading through long-term strategy shift, a merger or acquisition, scandal, or economic hardship also require different skills and behaviors.  The best leaders know these differences and when to use them.  Read more here.

Read a New York Times article about leadership styles here.

The Best Leaders Tip #3 – Be Brave: leadership takes courage

This is my 3rd of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #3          More than luck, training, education, or will, leadership takes courage. To be a leader, you need to be braver than you feel, more confident than think you should be.  This includes having the courage to do the right thing and put other people first –  even when it’s unpopular or you think might harm your chances for advancement.  The best leaders speak up and act when they see people (employees, clients, stockholder, customers, the media) being treated unfairly or unethically.  It takes courage to stand up and take a leadership role when others might not volunteer to give it to you.  They don’t hide behind the situation, nor blame others for “having no choice” about their actions.  A leader has strong shoulders on which they are willing to carry the burden of responsibility, accountability, and having the “buck” stop with them.  Read more.

The Blind Side


This is a Part 2 of my Feedback series —

There is no such thing as perfect objectivity when it comes to knowing ourselves. We have to rely on feedback from others, whether solicited, unsolicited, or even unwanted. And actually, this is a pretty natural learning technique. Think about very young children – how do they know that the things they do or say are funny, wonderful, new, interesting… Because the grownups around them laugh, applaud, or scold.

As we get older, the cues we get are much less obvious and unless we are very self-aware, we’ll miss them.   Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham explain this through a model called the The Johari Window. It represents information — feelings, experience, views, attitudes, skills, intentions, and motivations — within or about a person. It looks at the information from four perspectives: open, hidden, blind, and unknown. The degree to which we share ourselves with others (disclosure) is the degree to which we can be known.


The Johari Window, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (1955)


  • In the Open/Shared area, people recognize us for the things we also know about ourselves consciously. We move within this area with freedom and ease, comfortable that our actions and words are in alignment with what people expect from us.
  • The Hidden area contains those things we usually don’t share, and when we do, it is a deliberate choice, which we make only occasionally or with a select few people.
  • When we operate in the Blind area, we imagine things are true of ourselves, but these are not seen by others at all. If someone brings these up to us, we might dismiss them outright. (However, if we are open to growth, we would solicit and accept feedback.)
  • The Unknown area contains those rich and complex elements that make us mysterious and interesting human beings. Neither we nor others are aware of these on a conscious level. Sometimes something from this unconscious area is revealed – we might dream or read or feel something that proves insightful to us or others.

 Why is it important to limit our blind sides, what is unknown to us? Without the protection of awareness, we’re walking around vulnerable, acting in ways that might not serve our goals or best interests. We cannot move with confidence and are forced to react rather than make the plays we really want. We might even get hurt. To know yourself and minimize your blind spot, solicit feedback regularly from people you trust to be honest with you.

Next Post: Giving Feedback

The Feedback Loop -Part I

This is a relationship business. How many times during a business day do we hear that, whether we are in a manufacturing plant or a consulting firm.   With the people aspects of work on every executive’s high priority list, it seems we are well-advised to get better at certain key relationship skills. Giving and receiving feedback is one of these critical skills to master in my view because you learn about yourself while you are bringing awareness to others and if done well, strengthening bonds. Done poorly, however, and relationships can be damaged. I think because so few of us know how to do this well, we avoid it completely. It’s time to get great at this skill. This is a three-part series you can use as a guide with some helpful tips.boss in middle

Soliciting and Receiving Feedback

  1. Ask often – You can arrange for feedback sessions at regular intervals. More informally, ask for feedback during or soon after specific situations.  You could include feedback as part of regular meetings with your boss and subordinates.
  2. Ask for comments on your behavior – “What can I do more of?” and “What can I do less of?” and “What should I keep doing?” Ask these three simple questions of your peers, bosses, and team members.
  3. Ask a varied audience – If you only ask one person for feedback, it might be worth hearing, but wait until you have more opinions before dramatically changing anything. Ask your fans and your enemies, your superiors, and your direct reports. Listen for repeated themes. That’s where your best growth opportunities will be.
  4. Be specific – The more you direct the feedback, the richer it will be. Maybe you have a goal in mind. You might say, “What do you think I need to do to be ready for a promotion in six months?” Ask for the feedback that will help you most.
  5. Try this as a script to gather broad, developmental feedback:
  • “I’m trying to be more effective in my role. What do you think I should start doing that I’m not doing now?
  • What do you think I should stop doing that I am doing?
  • What should I be sure to continue doing that you think is going well?


  1. Respond with “Thank you” or “Help me understand that” — the only responses if you want to keep the channels open. It’s not a two-way discussion – you’re just taking in information. If you get defensive, or start explaining yourself, stop. There will be time for that as you process the information later, on your own. In the feedback session, it’s time for taking it all in.

Next Post:  Your Blind Side

Designing Leadership: Thought of the Week

Be Humble.

You don’t know everything – no one does. Maybe you don’t even know what you don’t know how scary is that? You need others. Actively seek their opinions and insights in a systematic, respectful way, and really use that information. Rather than making you seem weak or incapable, this actually makes you seem stronger, and can add to your self-confidence as a leader.

Designing Leadership: Thought of the Week

Be Diverse, Not Safe.

Surround yourself with people who don’t think like you. Don’t confuse their differences with lack of skill. Don’t pretend you are acting in the best interest of your organization by hiring only people whose resumes and looks are the same as everyone else’s. Learn how to understand people with differences, and learn how to lead them.

Diversity & Inclusion: Key to Engagement

d&i and engagement slideMany studies show that organizations that link diversity and engagement to their business strategy and core values increase performance, productivity and customer satisfaction.

D&I is important to an organization’s…
-Employment Brand – to attract employees who want to work in a diverse, inclusive workplace where they can find affinity with others like themselves and therefore feel more included, more empowered and more productive.
-Good citizen/human rights brand – doing the right thing for people not just profits
-Brand as a savvy business – we are on trend, on target with what’s important in our marketplace, keeping up with the times…

Further, research supports that companies lacking diversity have a higher percentage of disengaged workers.  Employee engagement levels are measured by the degree to which workers feel job satisfaction and an emotional connection to the success of their businesses, resulting in improved productivity, innovation and retention.  Consider the following:

– As with diversity, highly engaged employees use their passion and discretionary efforts to “go the extra mile” and to do whatever it takes to ensure the organization meets its business goals.

– Companies that are successful in creating an environment of acceptance and inclusion have open lines of communication and create diverse teams for corporate problem solving and collaboration. They stop thinking in terms of individual self-interest or even departmental self-interest, and begin working together. Unified human potential translates into powerful financial results.

– Employees with the highest level of engagement perform 20 percent better and are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization, according to a survey by TowersPerrin.

– A study by the Hay Group found engaged employees were as much as 43 percent more productive.
employee engagement improvement tactics such as structured manager-to-associate or peer-to-peer recognition programs, team collaboration and problem solving, and customized incentive initiatives to reward performance.


It’s not what she said, it’s how she said it: more about Marissa Mayer

Yahoo HQ, photo from Reuters

Yahoo HQ, photo from Reuters

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s now-famous internal memo announcing the end of telecommuting for her workforce continues to stir outrage, emotion and controversy.  She has garnered thumbs downs from The Talk, and a hearty pat on the back from Donald Trump, who, in a less popular opinion, said basically that she has the right to do whatever she thinks is necessary to meet her goals.  Others have hailed the decision as no less than pushing back women and families in the workplace two decades.  I don’t think all the hype is because of the decision as much as it is about the memo.

All we know (what was reported) about the leaked memo is the decision Mayer made to eliminate telecommuting, which had become, apparently, a staple of the culture and business environment at Yahoo.  We don’t know what else the memo said, or if the memo was in addition to internal meetings, discussions with staff, emails, or many other types of internal communication that could have occurred about this same topic.  It’s trite because it’s true: how you say something is almost more important than what you say.  Your ability to get support or have it ripped from you depends on your ability to finesse, explain, contextualize and engage your audience.  Make it their issue, not just yours.  Emphasize the all-important what’s in it for them.  In my experience, decisions like this are best communicated when they are handled as follows:

1. Show them the money. Explain how profits have slipped and if you can, qnantify the link between your decision and the bottom line. Definitely explain what it means for them (and their paychecks, bonuses, etc) if things don’t improve.  Tell them they have the power to make it better.  Mayer could have explained that she had done studies of the link between Yahoo’s stock price and profit margins, and workforce productivity.  She also could have said she had done studies of productivity levels among staff who telecommute, and in her analysis, productivity could be improved with a reducion in telecommuting.  No such studies? I would have recommended that she hold off cutting a deeply held culturally significant program until more data was in.

2. Phase in the changes and layer the communication.

First, clearly state the problem faced by the company and weighing heavily on the CEO (a need to improve profits fast). Tell employees about the studies being done to identify the scope and cause of the problem and when they will hear about the results, and when those are ready, clearly state the results.  No need to sugarcoat, but do be respectful and clear. Tell employees the options they have to improve the situation, and always give them options.  Involve employees at the appropriate levels and if possible, from all levels of the organization.

Second, once it’s clear that the program is needed, make it less drastic and therefore less shocking to the system, by phasing it in – for example, disallowing telecommuting on certain days of the week, or reducing it by a certain number of hours a week per employee, or let various operating divisions or managers decide how to allot a given number of hours for their teams.  Collaboration and empowerment are key to the success of a large scale change initiative.

Third, communicate clearly about results and improvements as you continue to study the effects of the new program (in Mayer’s case, eliminating telecommuting). Be persistent with your gratitude to the employees for participating, for turning around their company. Continue to appeal to their sense of contribution.  Everyone loves to be needed; everyone wants to feel like they’re doing a good job.

3. Hold managers accountable, and share the wealth.  Announce and follow through that the resulting increase in profits would, in part, be shared companywide.  Offer incentives to teams who do the best at creatively embracing the problem, to managers who manage the change best… inspire a spirit of being a team focused on a common goal, from which everyone wins and benefits.  Certainly, this will help ease the sting of what they perceive to be a sanction.

4. Embody the change.  Ah, and this is why Mayer was criticized most of all.  Easy for her to come to the office each and every day and stay long hours … her child was right next to her the whole time in that infamous new nursery she built when she took her new job.  So, she could build a daycare center on Yahoo’s campus that opens early and closes late, free of charge to employees.  That’s putting your money where your money is… and again, softens the blow for employees.

Again, we (or at least I) don’t know the whole situation – maybe all of the above happened and Mayer is simply the unfortunate CEO of a workforce that just can’t be pleased. More likely, this is a common situation where the C-suite, in a rush and under pressure, forgot the power of communication, especially during times of duress and change.  I am all for a CEO’s right to lead the way they think best for their company, and if telecommuting is a “luxury” she feels her company can’t afford right now, that’s up to her (again, we don’t have all the facts she used for her decision).  However, CEOs would be well advised to linger a little before hitting “send” on any communication announcing such a huge change.

Eight Tips for Diversity Excellence in the Workplace

1. Have a diverse leadership team.  Gandhi’s oft-quoted “Be the change you seek in the world” means that, to have a diverse workforce, you start at the top, you start with yourself.  If younger professionals can’t picture themselves at the top of your organization, they probably won’t stay for long.  Show them there is a future for them, don’t just tell them.multicultural marketing isn’t diversity and inclusion

2. Define “diversity” accurately, and make it personal. Every company has to define what it means to be a diverse and inclusive culture – for themselves, taking into account operations, industry, size and type of their workforce, their type of business, and other considerations. In addition, start with knowing what diversity is – it is surprising how many companies don’t know.  Generally, diversity and inclusion are business strategies, ideally led from the C-suite and embedded at every level of an organization, that values and practices hiring and retaining people from many types of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, ages, lifestyle preferences, and other attributes. It is an internal, employee set of programs, that can expand to supply chain, partners and other stakeholders in the organization’s sphere (if a company purposefully seeks out diversity in those groups). Having multicultural marketing programs, doing business across the globe – these do not automatically mean you are effectively practising D&I.

3.  Hiring is only the beginning. Once you have your diverse workforce, you need a plan to keep them, train them and move them up.  This is where inclusion matters, and it is the key, even more than diversity.

4.  D&I must be driven from the top.  It’s not a recruiting thing, not an HR thing, not a positioning thing…  diversity and inclusion need to be a culturally embedded mindset embodied by the C-suite and those just below them, who must drive the concepts and behaviors deeply into all levels of the organization. Measure results, repeat.

5.  It’s not about the money nor the recognition.  Some D&I programs depend too heavily on money spent on sponsored workshops,, conferences, dinners, and awards, and they appear on “best” lists galore.  Some of this can be important to show your commitment and for learning opportunities. Don’t rest there, though. Remember, D&I is iglobal diversity imagenternally driven programs to help your organization work better. Be sure the glamour supports that.

6.  Be ultra patient.  Cultural changes, mindset shifts, behavioral outcomes… these take time.  Maybe a lot of time, depending on the size of your company and your starting point.  Take some deep breaths and steadily, persistently, consistently, keep moving toward your goals, gaining support along the way.  Mark and celebrate your milestones. You will have them!

7.  Have a strategy, a roadmap, a plan of action.  This is a MUST!  If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you arrive… it’s trite, and true!  The most successful D&I programs have a near and medium term plan (1-5 years), reviewed by leadership teams and measured against results 1-2 times a year.  This is important to measure the ROI on your D&I budget, too.

8.  Learn as you go.  D&I, like every other business area, is growing and changing along with the population, the economy, the age of the workforce and all those other lovely factors we can’t control.  Talk to people in other companies similiar AND DIFFERENT from yours. Make D&I part of a learning environment. It’s a journey – make it a joyful one.

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