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Showing posts from 2011

What Southwest Airlines Taught Us This Year

Southwest Airlines celebrated its 40th this year and was kind enough to share in its in-flight magazine 40 lessons it learned since 1971. The lessons provide good tips for business leaders.

If you missed the full list, here are some of the highlights:
Invent your own culture and put a top person in charge of it. A crisis can contain the germ of a big idea. Simplicity has value. For Southwest, simplicity means using 737s for most of its fleet, which makes maintenance more cost-effective and allows more efficient training for flight crews and ground crews. Remember your chief mission. Take your business, not yourself, seriously. Put the worker first. For Southwest, that meant being the first U.S. airline to offer a profit-sharing plan, in 1974. Employees now own 13 percent of the airline. The web ain't cool, it's a tool. Southwest was the first U.S. airline to establish a home page. By 2010, Southwest.com boasted more unique visitors than any other airline, and ranked as the seco…

Be Verbal About Being Thankful

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You and your team may not hit your revenue or profit goals this year. Or, perhaps your organization won't accomplish all its goals during this tough economic year. But, as a leader, you likely still have plenty to be thankful for in 2011.

So, be thankful. And, most important, verbalize your thanks!

Take time during the rest of the year to smile and say "Thank You" to:
Your employees who took pay reductions. Your customers who still did business with you, even though they had tight budgets. Your vendors that worked with you on pricing and terms. Your partner businesses that banded together with you like never before. Your team that helped you think of ways to reduce expenses and repackage your services to drive sales. Your co-workers and peers who encouraged you to hang in there. Your team that put in more hours and tackled additional duties beyond their job descriptions. Your former employees for all they did for you before you had to exit them from your com…

The Roles Of A Coach And A Mentor

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Author Kristi Hedges, in her new book, The Power of Presence, provides these explanations of the roles of a coach and of a mentor and how they differ from each other:



The Coach shows empathy through a mixture of tough love and strong support.  The coach is not afraid to push you because she sees the best in you.  This leader has a good sense of what's going on in the rest of your life and isn't afraid to mention it as it relates to your performance and potential.



The Mentor makes you feel that your success is always top of mind.  Mentors have your back to guide you along in your career.  They will act as a confidante as you hash through ideas and won't hold it against you as your iterate.  Because they have done well, they operate from a point of helping others do the same.

Year-end Advice For Leaders From Lynn Flinn

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Last year, Lynn Flinn of EWF International in Tulsa, OK wrote the following in her business' newsletter. It's so powerful I wanted to bring it back again this year as 2011 comes to a close. 

So, here goes...Lynn's year-end advice for leaders:

Do something that you are afraid to do. Run through the fear rather than running away from it.

Take a personal risk. Tell someone something you've always wished you'd said to them.

Write a note to someone who inspires you but probably doesn't know it.

Pick one characteristic about yourself that you'd like to change and earnestly work on changing it. It is really hard to change a behavior, but it is possible if you are aware, patient and persistent in making a change.

Realize when you are not engaged and re-engage. Turn off the television, turn off the cell phone, and pay attention to the people around you.

Smile and talk to strangers that you meet. It is amazing how much shorter a long line feels wh…

Does Your Nonprofit Produce Results That Are Sufficiently Outstanding?

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If you lead a nonprofit organization, the one hour it will take you to read Peter F. Drucker's book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, will be well worth it.

This book may fundamentally change the way you work and lead your organization.Perhaps one of most challenging questions Drucker asks the reader is:

"Do we produce results that are sufficiently outstanding for us to justify putting our resources in this area?

Because, Drucker argues that need alone does not justify continuing. Nor does tradition, if your results are not sufficiently outstanding.

If you volunteer for a nonprofit or are seeking employment at a nonprofit, this book is also an insightful and inspiring read.

How To Determine What Motivates Your Employee

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When you meet with your employee during her annual performance appraisal take time to determine what motivates her when it comes to her career development.  Motivation changes over time and changes depending on where the individual is in her career.

So, to determine what motives her, author Paul Falcone recommends you ask her to rank-order her priorities in terms of the following six guidelines:
If you had to chose two categories from the following six, which would you say hold the most significance to you career-wise? 1.  Career progression through the ranks and opportunities for promotion and advancement.
2.  Lateral assumption of increased job responsibilities and skill building (e.g. rotational assignments).
3.  Acquisition of new technical skills (typically requiring outside training and certification).
4.  Development of stronger leadership, managerial, or administrative skills.
5.  Work-life balance.
6.  Money and other forms of compensation.

Then, do your best to match her nex…

Leadership Skills: Be Decisive; Find The Truth; Send A Thank You Note

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Be decisive
A manager who can't make a decision or who can't make a timely decision will frustrate his/her employees. Equally bad, a lack of decision will impede the progress of the manager's team.

Some managers make endless requests for data as a way to postpone their having to make a decision. Employees end up spinning in circles, slicing and dicing the information far beyond what is truly needed for the manager to make a decision.

Some managers are simply afraid to make a decision in fear of making a "wrong" decision. These managers don't necessarily request needless data, but simply just never made a decision.

Successful managers (true leaders) gather the data from their employees, make any necessary follow-up requests (probing beyond what their employee may have researched/gathered on their own), and then make their decision...knowing that in virtually all cases most decisions are not black and white "right or "wrong," but are the best dec…

Why Giving Praise Doesn't Work

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There is an important difference between giving your employees positive feedback and giving them praise.

Positive feedback focuses on the specifics of job performance. Praise, often one-or two-sentence statements, such as “Keep up the good work,” without positive feedback leaves employees with empty feelings.

Worse yet, without positive feedback, employees feel no sense that they are appreciated as individual talents with specific desires to learn and grow on the job and in their careers, reports Nicholas Nigro, author of, The Everything Coaching and Mentoring Book.

So, skip the praise and give positive feedback that is more uplifting to your employees because it goes to the heart of their job performance and what they actually do.

An example of positive feedback is:

“Bob, your communications skills have dramatically improved over the past couple of months. The report that you just prepared for me was thorough and concise. I appreciate all the work you’ve put into it, a…

The Top 20 Leadership Books: What To Give First To A New Manager

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Eighteen months ago, I posted the question “What’s The First Leadership Book You Would Give To a New Manager?” within the discussion forum for the LinkedIn group Linked 2 Leadership.

That question generated 603 comments and 690 recommendations.Some people suggested more than one book.Some during the course of the 18 months made the same book recommendations a couple times.And, the group discussion continues to be one of the most active still today. In early November 2011, group member Len White graciously culled through the comments using his company’s Symphony Content Analysis Software that assists with the organization, analysis, and reporting of themes contained in text data. And here are the results: ·412 different/unique books were recommended
·The Top 20 recommended books, collectively, received 250 of the total recommendations
·Two authors – Stephen R. Covey and John C. Maxwell each have two books in the Top 20
·Group members recommended other things instead of giving a book about le…

New Book For Work-From-Home Employees

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About 42 million people -- roughly one-third of the U.S. workforce -- work from home at least one or two days a week.

If you are a leader of work-from-home employees, share the new book, There's No Place Like Working From Home, with them.  Share it particularly with an employee new to working from his or her home.

Author Elaine Quinn wrote the book after working as a consultant for 10 years with small business owners who struggled with organization, time management, workflow processes, productivity and related challenges.

The techniques Quinn teaches small home-based business owners also apply to work-from-home employees of large organizations.

"Poor organizational and time management skills are among the top ten reasons small businesses and work-from-home employees fail," said Quinn. "And being disorganized can cost business owners and corporations lost revenue, wasted time, professional embarrassment, damaged relationships, and missed opportunities."

There’s…

Time To Select Your New Year's Resolutions

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Lose weight.  Exercise more.  Stop smoking.  Read more.  Shop less.  Volunteer.

Okay, so you're likely already working on selecting your New Year's resolution for your personal life. But, have you identified your New Year's resolution for your workplace life?

If not, and you want to be a more effective leader for your team at work in 2012, select one or more of these 70 New Year's resolutions for leaders:
Don't micromanageDon't be a bottleneckFocus on outcomes, not minutiaeBuild trust with your colleagues before a crisis comesAssess your company's strengths and weaknesses at all timesConduct annual risk reviewsBe courageous, quick and fairTalk more about values more than rulesReward how a performance is achieved and not only the performanceConstantly challenge your team to do betterCelebrate your employees' successes, not your ownErr on the side of taking actionCommunicate clearly and oftenBe visibleEliminate the cause of a mistakeView every problem as …

9 Tips For Delivering Excellent Customer Service This Holiday Season

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Leading a customer service team? Have the team members use these 9 tips for delivering excellent customer service this holiday shopping season:
Rely on winning words and soothing phrases. A simple but sincere “Thanks for your patience” or “I’m listening” can go a long way toward defusing a holiday shopper’s frustration, anxiety, or panic. Develop a repertoire of short, easy to remember phrases around issues that are important to customers. Practice until the words come naturally.Communicate with silence. Remaining silent while your customers are talking is a basic courtesy, and nodding tells them you’re listening and understanding what you hear. An occasional “uh huh” or “I see” tells them you’re still listening without interrupting.Make customers feel seen. Making eye contact acknowledges that you see your customers as individuals. But there’s a balance to be struck here: staring can make your customers uncomfortable, too. Also keep in mind that eye contact is governed by specific …

9 Times When You Should Thank Customers

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In your leadership role, it's vital that your team members know how to deliver excellent customer service.  "Knock Your Socks Off" type service as book editor Ann Thomas and Jill Applegate would say.

Part of delivering excellent customer service is saying Thank You to your customers and knowing when to say Thank You.

Thomas and Applegate recommend telling your customers Thank You during at least these nine situations:
When they do business with you...every time.When they compliment you (or your company)When they offer you comments or suggestionsWhen they try one of your new products or servicesWhen they recommend you to a friendWhen they are patient...and even when they are not so patientWhen they help you to serve them betterWhen they complain to youWhen they make you smile You and your team members can say thank you:
VerballyIn writing (and don't underestimate the power of personal notes via snail mail)With a small, tasteful, appropriate gift

How To Make An Effective Team Even Stronger

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High-functioning and effective teams can disagree and still produce excellent products and results. Team members can also disagree and still care about each other. And, they can challenge each other to think differently.

Best-selling leadership book authors Scott J. Allen and Mitchell Kusy recommend that leaders ask seven tough questions of their teams to help maximize their results. Here are those questions to ask each team member:
What are some obstacles affecting this team?What are opportunities we could take advantage of that we have been largely ignoring?Where can you take greater ownership on this team?Where have you let this team down?Compared to other teams with which you are familiar, how are we doing?When was the last time you complimented the team or one of its members?How open are you to giving direct feedback to team members?

Book Review: Lead With Purpose

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“Purpose is the why behind everything within an organization,” says author John Baldoni, of the new book, Lead With Purpose. It hits the brick and mortar and online book stores this week.

Baldoni also believes that it is up to leaders to make certain that organizational purpose is understood and acted upon. And, to harness the talents of their employees, leaders must recognize their responsibility to instill purpose in the workplace.

Other recommendations include:
Make purpose a central focusInstill purpose in othersMake employees comfortable with ambiguityTurn good intentions into great resultsMake it safe to fail (as well as prevail)Develop the next generation According to Baldoni, purpose forms the backbone of what an organization exists to do; upon which you can build vision and mission.

To define an organization’s purpose, you must ask three questions:

1. What is our vision — that is, what do we want to become? 2. What is our mission — that is, what do we do now? 3. What are…

Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

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Did Abraham Lincoln really say, "Get out of the office and circulate among the troops," back in 1861?

He did.  But, not in those exact words.  What he said, according to author Donald T. Phillips, is this:

"His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with." Lincoln made this statement when describing his reason for relieving Gen. John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri (September 9, 1861).

Phillips writes that for Lincoln, casual contact with his subordinates was as important as formal gatherings, if not more so.

Phillips, includes many more leadership lessons from Lincoln in his fascinating book, Lincoln on Leadership, where Phillips presents 15 of Lincoln's leadership statements in today's vernacular.

Another leadership lesson from Lincoln is to:
Influence people through conversation and storytelling Phillips explains that Lincoln had a …

Improve And Grow Your Leaders

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"If you want to improve an organization, improve its leaders.  If you want to grow an organization, grow its leaders.  When you increase the number of leaders you have and you make the leaders you have better, the potential of the organization increases greatly."
These are great recommendations from Maxwell's newest book, and more specifically from the sections of his book on the importance of developing your employees: People Development Empowers Others to Fulfill Their Leadership ResponsibilitiesPeople Development Empowers the Leader to Lead Larger

70 Ways To Be A Better Leader

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The list below is a good list for learning how to be a better leader when you don't have a lot of time to read books about leadership.

And, if you've been a leader for a long time, how about taking a few minutes to run through the list and scoring yourself on how well you carry out each leadership skill?

1. Don't micromanage
2. Don't be a bottleneck
3. Focus on outcomes, not minutiae
4. Build trust with your colleagues before a crisis comes
5. Assess your company's strengths and weaknesses at all times
6. Conduct annual risk reviews
7. Be courageous, quick and fair
8. Talk more about values more than rules
9. Reward how a performance is achieved and not only the performance
10. Constantly challenge your team to do better
11. Celebrate your employees' successes, not your own
12. Err on the side of taking action
13. Communicate clearly and often
14. Be visible
15. Eliminate the cause of a mistake
16. View every problem as an opportunity to grow
1…

5 Ways To Get More Ideas From Your Employees

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Your employees have lots of ideas. So, be sure you provide the forums and mechanisms for your employees to share their ideas with you.

Hold at least a few brainstorming sessions each year, as well.
And, when you are brainstorming with your employees, try these five tips:
Encourage ALL ideas. Don't evaluate or criticize ideas when they are first suggested.Ask for wild ideas. Often, the craziest ideas end up being the most useful.Shoot for quantity not quality during brainstorming.Encourage everyone to offer new combinations and improvements of old ideas.

Lead By Setting A Good Example

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There is nothing more powerful for a leader to do than to lead by setting a good example.

So, here are 15 things you can do to be an effective and successful leader:

1. Praise when compliments are earned.
2. Be decisive.
3. Say “Thank You” and sincerely mean it.
4. Communicate clearly.
5. Listen carefully.
6. Teach something new to your team members.
7. Word hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.
8. Show respect for everyone on your team.
9. Follow through when you promise to do something.
10. Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.
11. Allow prudent autonomy.
12. Respond to questions quickly and fully.
13. Return e-mail and phone calls promptly.
14. Take an interest in your employees and their important personal milestone events.
15. Give credit where credit is due.

And, last but not least, be humble!

Steve Jobs: Simplifying, Perfecting, Timing

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Interesting observation about Steve Jobs from Bloomberg's Business Week magazine:
"People credit him as an inventor akin to Edison, but his real genius was seizing upon existing concepts, simplifying and perfecting them, and then putting them forward at exactly at the right moment."

10 Quotes From The 5 Levels Of Leadership -- John C. Maxwell

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Soon I'll post my full review of John C. Maxwell's latest book, The 5 Levels of Leadership

In the meantime, here are some of my favorites quotes from the book that I believe should become a must-read book by any workplace/organizational leader:
Good leadership isn't about advancing yourself.  It's about advancing your team.Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.Leadership is action, not position.When people feel liked, cared for, included, valued, and trusted, they begin to work together with their leader and each other.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.Good leaders must embrace both care and candor.People buy into the leader, then the vision.Bringing out the best in a person is often a catalyst for bringing out the bes…

Southwest Airline's Core

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I always look forward to my flights on Southwest Airlines.  That's because I get to read Gary Kelly's (Chairman, President and CEO) monthly column in the airline's in-flight magazine.

This month, Kelly speaks to Southwest's Core, a core of values and company culture principles that leaders should emulate.  Kelly explains:

Southwest is a company of people.We hire great people who have a passion for serving others.We give them the freedom to be themselves and to take care of our customers.We treat our employees like family.We treat our customers like guests in our home.Our guiding principle is, above all else, The Golden Rule

Quotes And Wisdom From Steve Jobs

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Be sure to check out the October 10, 2011 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, where you'll find an entire 66-page issue that takes you through the entire life of Jobs in what they describe as a biography of a boundary-breaking thinker and endlessly astute businessman.

What got me hooked on the issue are the following quotes of wisdom and leadership from Jobs that the magazine features as its intro into its impressive retrospective issue:

There is no reason not to follow your heart.Simple can be harder than complex.  You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.The only way to be satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.Don't be trapped by dogma.Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.It's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.Don't settle.Things don't have to change the world to be important.Stay hungry.

Today's Thought For Leaders

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"There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience and that is not learning from experience" -- Archibald MacLeish

Book Review: The Enemy Of Engagement

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"Frustration in the workplace is a silent killer," claim authors Mark Royal and Tom Agnew in their terrific new book, The Enemy of Engagement, coming out this month from Amacom.

Further, "in an organizational context, frustration is not as simple as failing to get something you want.  Rather, it involves the inability to succeed in your role due to organizational barriers or the inability to bring the bulk of your individual talents, skills, and abilities to your job."

Royal and Agnew further explain that a staggering number of highly motivated, engaged, and loyal employees quit trying--or quit, period---because they feel frustrated.

And what's causing all that frustration?  It's lack of enablement

According to Royal and Agnew, as employees grow in experience in their roles, they begin to focus less on learning the ropes and more on achieving desired results.  In the process, they are increasingly confronted with enablement constraints that limit their …

How To Talk About Poor Performance With An Employee

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As a leader, the time will come when you will have to speak with an employee about his or her poor performance. Here are six steps that will guide you through that process:
Tell him what performance is in need of change and be specific.Tell him how his actions negatively affect the team.Let the discussion sink in.Set expectations of performance improvement and timeframe, and get his agreement on the desired outcome.Remind him that he is a valuable part of the team and that you have confidence his performance will improve.Don't rehash the discussion later. You made your point. Give him to make his improvement.

Have Your Customers Help You Write Your Strategic Plan

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Mike Brown, the founder of the Kansas City, MO company called, The Brainzooming Group, encourages business leaders to solicit feedback from their customers when creating a strategic plan.
Brown once wrote in Smart Companies Thinking Bigger magazine, that you should “ask a group of current, former and potential customers the following questions:"
If you’re a current or former customer, why did you start using us?What have we done in the past to make your biggest challenges more difficult?If you still use us, why do you continue to do so?If you don’t use us currently, what are some of the reasons why you don’t? “These questions are designed to allow your customers to share their perspectives and opinions openly, not rate performance on a numerical scale,” explained Brown.
He explained that the answers to the questions will provide you valuable insight into:
Your current strengths and weaknessesOpportunities to more successfully help your customersPotential challenges from not fully …

How To Help Your Team Provide Excellent Customer Service

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My favorite takeaways from Renee Evenson's newest book, Customer Service Management Training 101, are her tips for how to teach employees to effectively interact with customers:
Make a good first impression by smiling, making eye contact, maintaining an open and relaxed demeanor and keeping facial expressions friendly.Project a positive attitude by being helpful, interested, trustworthy, reassuring, respectful and reliable.Communicate effectively by listening completely, using correct grammar, asking the right questions and making each customer feel valued.Build relationships by finding the best solution to any problems, and making sure each customer is satisfied. Then, as the leader, ensure your team knows when they should escalate situations to your attention.