Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Classiest "I Lost My Job" Email


A former co-worker learned last week that his job will be eliminated next month.  The email he sent to his customers, former customers, colleagues, former colleagues and friends is by far the classiest, most authentic, heartfelt I've ever seen.

Below are excerpts from his email.  Talk about class!

"If you are receiving this  "special email " you have made an impact on my career.  For that, a very heartfelt “thank you."

I was informed this week that my position...will be eliminated.

First, to all of the customers I worked with over the years it was a pleasure to serve you.   tried  to autograph all of my work with excellence....For current customers, please let me know if there is anything I can do before my departure. 

To all my current and former co-workers, it was a real pleasure working side-by-side with each and every one of you.  Keep up the good work.  Many of you have taught me important life lessons (you know who you are).  

To my many industry colleagues...friends and everyone else who crossed my path over the past 11 years (25+ overall years) at meetings, events, in corridors, at the airport, and wherever my travels took me, I want to thank you for making an impression on me.  I hope I also made an impression on you.

Someone once told me that "people's lives take different turns."  Looking back at my career, I've seen my fair share of them.  I hope to see you around the next corner wherever that might take me.  As I open this next chapter in my life, I wish all of you the best.

Finally, I am a firm believer that an honest life is the only life which will bring no regrets."

Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Help Your Employees "Click" To Drive Their Career Success


Research from universities around the country show that employees who "click" with each other at work have more career success.  And, those who "click" well get to the core of the office network within 18 months, while it can take years for those who don't "click" well.

As a leader, there are things you can do and things you can encourage your employees to do to promote better clicking.

Consider these findings from the research:
  • How much you reveal about yourself to a co-worker helps you click.
  • The more you open up and share your feelings, the more trust you build and the more likely you'll build a connection with a co-worker.
  • Having an office or cubicle in the central area of your workplace increases your ability for clicking opportunities.
  • Sitting near the middle of a conference table brings you more clicking opportunities, as well.
  • Keeping your office door open, communicating in person versus e-mail or via the phone, allows you to click more.
  • The more face-to-face interactions with a co-worker, even if you don't have a conversation, will generally increase your chances of liking that person.
  • The more you pick up on subtle social cues and then tailor your responses to situations, the more you'll click.
  • Interacting with a co-worker 10 times versus only five times means you'll likely think that person is more attractive, intelligent, warm and honest.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How To Assess Your Business' Risks Using The 5Cs


Within the first 100 days as a new leader in an organization, you'll want to assess your organization's risk.

Authors George Bradt, Jayme A. Clark and Jorge Pedraza, in their book, The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan (third edition), recommend you do your assessment using the 5Cs:
  1. Customers: First line, customer chain, end users, influencers
  2. Collaborators: Suppliers, allies, government/community leaders
  3. Capabilities: Human, operational, financial, technical, key assets
  4. Competitors: Direct, indirect, potential
  5. Conditions: Social/demographic, political/government/regulatory, economic, market
Use a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) as you examine each category if that helps.

10 Best Quotes From The 5 Levels Of Leadership


Here are some of my favorites quotes from John C. Maxwell's book, The 5 Levels of Leadership -- a book I believe should become a must-read for any workplace/organizational leader:
  1. Good leadership isn't about advancing yourself.  It's about advancing your team.
  2. Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.
  3. Leadership is action, not position.
  4. When people feel liked, cared for, included, valued, and trusted, they begin to work together with their leader and each other.
  5. If you have integrity with people, you develop trust.  The more trust you develop, the stronger the relationship becomes.  In times of difficulty, relationships are a shelter.  In times of opportunity, they are a launching pad.
  6. Good leaders must embrace both care and candor.
  7. People buy into the leader, then the vision.
  8. Bringing out the best in a person is often a catalyst for bringing out the best in the team.
  9. Progress comes only from taking risks and making mistakes.
  10. Leaders are measured by the caliber of leaders they develop, not the caliber of their own leadership.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tell A Story To Share Your Vision


"Most leaders' visions fail, not due to a leader's inadequacies, but due to the leader's lack of communication," said Margaret Reynolds of Reynolds Consulting, LLC in Lee's Summit, MO.  Reynolds shared her expertise with me awhile back during an interview.

She added that it's not that leaders don't communicate, but that they don't beat the drum regularly enough. "Leaders need to communicate often, regularly and consistently," she recommended.

"In terms of how to communicate so people get it, it is pretty widely accepted that story telling is the most effective," explained Reynolds.  Leaders need to paint a vision where people see it often.  She recommends that leaders share their vision at least seven to 10 times with their employees, and to make it clear to everyone what specifically each person can do each day to help achieve the collective mission.

Reynolds' other advice to leaders is to be one whom:
  • listens with respect
  • communicates effectively
  • removes obstacles
  • shoulders the blame
  • shares the glory

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Forget Your Middle-Layer Employees


As a leader, your focus may gravitate toward your lower level employees and your higher level employees on your team.

But, don't forget your middle-layer employees who appreciate your attention and coaching, and your training and opportunities for new challenges.

Often these employees are more eager to learn and to tackle new projects because they have the drive to move up and to learn new skills. And they recognize they have a shorter path to achieve advancement.

So, develop your middle layer employees. It's a win-win situation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Leadership Test


One of my favorite books about leadership is The Leadership Test by Timothy R. Clark.  You can read it in an hour and its message will guide you through your entire career.

Here are some important points from the book that are particularly powerful:
  • Leadership is the process of influencing volunteers to accomplish good things.
  • The spectrum of influence ranges from manipulation to persuasion to coercion.
  • Only persuasion is leadership.  Manipulation exploits.  Coercion controls.  Neither manipulation nor coercion can produce lasting results or consistent good results.
  • Leadership is based on the influence-through-persuasion at the front end, combined with accountability at the back end.
Clark further points out that:
  • Leaders qualify themselves based on the manner of their influence and the nature of their intent.
If you haven't read this gem of a book, pick up at copy today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish


"A goal without a plan is just a wish," is something Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said a long time ago.  But, goals and plans were top of mind this past weekend. 

When 2013 started, I set a goal of running in 30 5K races during the year.  Because of good weather on most weekends, minimal injury setbacks, and a lot of races to select from in the Kansas City area each weekend, I reached my goal in October of that year.

I would not have reached my goal without also having a plan in place of how I would train, schedule runs, and adjust for setbacks and unforeseen challenges.

Also last year, my then 49-year-old sister-in-law set a goal to run her first-ever 10K race.  She embarked on an even more specific plan by following a strict, time-tested, eight-week training plan to take her from couch to fully prepared to run her first 10K.  She reached her goal and then ran a second 10K a few weeks afterward.  I am so proud of her.



The same day I finished my 30th 5K race, a proud fellow racer shared with me that he had just completed his first-ever 5K, having spent the past year losing 40 pounds and setting a goal to complete a 5K by the fall of 2013.  He was on cloud nine, and rightly so.

These three experiences reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's wise statement about the importance of plans to reach goals.

Too often, businesses don't have clearly defined goals and even less often specific plans to reach those goals.

When you set a goal for your business, be sure it is:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-related
Share that goal with your employees, so they understand all of the five attributes of the goal.

And then for your plan (sometimes called "program"), keep these tips in mind:
  • Realistically assess the obstacles and resources involved and then create a strategy for navigating that reality.  For me this year, that meant adjusting my race schedule this summer to accommodate a nagging hamstring injury.
  • Plan for more than just willpower.  Instead, plan by taking into consideration your business environment, your employees' schedules and workload, and everyone's accountability so that all these factors will work together to support you to achieve your goal.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Business Transformation Only Happens When Employees Equate Change With Deep Personal Growth


David Shaner's compelling, The Seven Arts of Change, shows business leaders that transforming a business only happens when each employee equates organizational change with the process of deep personal growth.

"The bottom line is that, despite how technological and automated organizations have become, at their core they remain a collection of human energies that are merely being applied in an organized environment," explains Shaner.  "Resurrecting and guiding that human core of your organization is the secret to leading and sustaining change," he adds.

Shaner pulls from his vast professional and personal experiences, including having been a member of the Olympic Valley USA Ski Team and a former Harvard University teacher, to lay out a seven-part "spiritual guide" for change:
  1. The Art of Preparation (Assessment)
  2. The Art of Compassion (Participation)
  3. The Art of Responsibility (Accountability)
  4. The Art of Relaxation (Clarity, Focus, Visibility)
  5. The Art of Conscious Action (Execution)
  6. The Art of Working Naturally (Sustainability)
  7. The Art of Service (Generosity)
Even if you don't fully appreciate his blending of Western business savvy with Eastern philosophy, the 184-page book, readable in an afternoon, is pertinent and timely.  Most important, he teaches business leaders and nonprofit executive directors why they need to change the way they lead change.

Some of my favorite parts of the book are:
  • Most leaders miss the fact that every employee possesses a latent willingness to change. Leaders often ignore the fact that personal progress is one of our strongest human desires.  Your job as the leader is to connect the new business need with an opportunity for personal progress.
  • Organizations that evidence compassion listen to each other in order to understand and connect to more effective outcomes, not in order to place blame or assert their own way of doing things.  Listening is the root of collaboration, root-cause analysis, and effective teamwork. It is also the single greatest source of establishing unity from top to bottom and bottom to top.
  • Regardless of the conditions surrounding your change, your employees will perform to the peak of their ability if they are driven from a collective inner strength brought on by clarity of purpose, focus of requirements, and visibility of progress.
  • Your employees' daily actions must be consciously meaningful to both the business initiative as well as to them personally.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

4 Ways To Run A Better Meeting


Research shows that unfortunately, many workplace meetings are not nearly as productive as they could be.

To help ensure the meetings you host are productive, lead them by:

  1. Observing nonverbal feedback and encouraging everyone to participate.
  2. Summarizing group consensus after each point.
  3. Reminding the group who is responsible for taking care of each follow-up action.
  4. Encouraging team-building, networking and problem-solving among your meeting participants.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Try These "Best Companies" Programs To Attract And Retain Employees


Here are some of the things the companies often ranked as "best companies" by leading industry magazines do to attract and retain employees.  Many of these programs and activities take little to no investment.  But, they all can only happen when there's strong leadership at the company's helm.

Try some of these in your workplace this year:
  • Mentoring programs, especially for new employees
  • Volunteer opportunities/days
  • Lunches with the CEO or president
  • On-site wellness fairs
  • Pep rallies
  • Telecommuting programs
  • Summer picnics for employees and their families
  • Retention bonuses
  • Lending libraries
  • Unlimited sick days
  • Employee team sports after hours, such as bowling and baseball
  • On-site child care services
  • Awarding vacation time in exchange for community volunteering time
  • Employee pot-luck breakfasts
  • Monthly birthday parties
  • On-site fitness equipment
  • Frequent town hall meetings with upper management
  • Subsidized gym memberships
  • Leadership development programs
  • Time given to employees to spend on work related items outside their job description
  • Employee Blogging programs
  • Suggestion boxes
  • Milk and cookie socials
  • Computer classes to prepare employees for higher-paying positions
  • Sabbatical programs

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Ways To Achieve Business Success


When you start reading Mark Thompson’s and Brian Tracy’s latest book called, Now…Build a Great Business!, you may feel like you are reading 200 pages of Blog posts, but the bite-sized approach to providing tools, practical steps and ideas, rather than theory, is precisely the authors’ intended approach.

The book thoroughly explains the seven keys for how to achieve business success:
1.  Become a great leader
2.  Develop a great business plan
3.  Surround yourself with great people
4.  Offer a great product or service
5.  Design a great marketing plan
6.  Perfect a great sales process
7.  Create a great customer experience

You’ll find a checklist at the end of each step (each chapter) where you can write down your action plan for applying what you’ve learned.

Particularly interesting is the chapter on strategic planning, where the authors recommend you should ask yourself these important questions before you act to create or reinvent the direction of your organization:

•  Where are you now? What is your current situation?
•  How did you get to where you are today?
•  Where do you want to go from here?
•  How do you get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future?
•  What obstacles will you have to overcome? What problems will you have to solve?
•  What additional knowledge, skills, or resources will you require to achieve your strategic objectives?

When it comes time to surround yourself with great people, Thompson and Tracy remind us that great people are:

•  Good team players.
•  More concerned with what’s right rather than who’s right.
•  Intensely results oriented.

And, great people accept high levels of responsibility for the outcomes required of them, and consider their company a great place to work.

Mark Thompson is an entrepreneur who sold his last company for $100 million and today coaches executives on how to lead growth companies. Brian Tracy speaks throughout the country about the development of human potential and personal effectiveness. I thank them for sending me a copy of their book. It’s a worthwhile read.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How To Make Your Email Communication More Effective


Author Joseph McCormack offers these six tips for ways of making your written communication shorter and more appealing:
  1. Deliver a strong title or subject line that's your invitation.
  2. Limit your email to the original window.
  3. Make sure there is white space and balance throughout the text.
  4. Call out key ideas by calling them out in bold type.
  5. Start each bullet point with a strong word or catchy phrase.
  6. Trim the fluff -- anything that's unnecessary, leaving a consumable and concise size communication
You can learn more helpful tips in his new book, Brief:  Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Make It A Habit To Ask Your Employees These 6 Questions


As explained in John Baldoni's, book, Lead With Purpose, Marshall Goldsmith suggests all leaders make it a habit to regularly ask their employees these six questions:


  1. Where do you think we should be going?
  2. Where do you think you and your part of the business should be going?
  3. What do you think you're doing well?
  4. If you were the leader, what ideas would you have for you?
  5. How can I help?
  6. What suggestions or ideas do you have for me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Three Pillars Of Executive Presence


After two years of research, forty focus groups and a national survey, author Sylvia Ann Hewlett contends the three pillars of Executive Presence are:

  • How you act (gravitas)
  • How you speak (communication)
  • How you look (appearance)
All three work together to help you telegraph (signal) to others that you have what it takes and that you're star material.  

"One thing to note at the start is that these pillars are not equally important--not by a long shot," explains Hewlett.  "Gravitas is the core characteristic."

And according to the senior leaders that Hewlett researched the top aspects of  gravitas are:
  1. Confidence and "grace under fire"
  2. Decisiveness and "showing teeth"
  3. Integrity and "speaking truth to power"
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Reputation and standing/"pedigree"
  6. Vision/charisma
In her new book, Executive Presence, she teaches how to act, communicate and look your best while avoiding the most common blunders in each of these three categories.

Hewlett is also a big believer in the power and value of having a sponsor, and explains that sponsors are not mentors.

"Sponsors are powerful leaders who see potential in you and, provided you give them 110 percent, will go out on a limb to make things happen for you.  Because sponsors have a vested interest in how you turn out (your reputation now being linked with their own), they will give you the kind of feedback that mentors can't or won't," says Hewlett.

Hewlett is the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation.  Her book, Forget a Mentor: Find a Sponsor, was named one of the ten best business books of 2013 and won the Axiom Book Award.

Thanks HapperCollinsPublishers for sending me a copy of Executive Presence.