UPDATE:  Follow this link for a playback of the Seminar highlighted below

A free Webinar will be hosted by Linkage on Thursday June 9th at 11 AM Eastern time on “Leading Your Own Life: A New Approach to Employee Engagement” and featuring Executive Coach (and one of my idols) Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.

Click here to register…oh, and here’s some some pre-viewing…and below that, some pre-reading.  See you there!

Stop Chasing the Wrong Priorities
by Marshall Goldsmith

I’ve spent a lot oftime studying what makes people happy, successful leaders. But some of the best suggestions I can think of came out of a study of a bunch of elderlyretirees, who, as far as I know, never had been CEOs. A friend of mine had interviewed this group about what advice they’d give to youngerpeople. What, they were asked, is the key to having a great life?

Their answers were both simple and wise so I’ll summarize here.Then I will explain what applicability I think they have to your careers.

1.  Be happy now. Not next week, not next month, not next year.Now. The great Western disease we are spreading around the world is “I’ll be happy when.” When I get that BMW, when I get that newhouse, when I get that status. Americans are among the luckiest people in the history of the world. Don’t get so wrapped up looking at what youdon’t have that you miss that, what you do have.

2.  Appreciate your friends and family. When you’re 95 years old andyou’re on your death bed, do you think you’ll be surrounded by your clients? It’s your friends and family who matter most.

3.  If you have a dream, go for it. Want to write a book? Visit New Zealand? Learn to speak Mandarin? Your dream doesn’t have to big–itcould be one that people think is silly, or just plain nuts. It’s your dream, and you should go for it now because when you’re 75, you maynot be able to do it.

Now how does this apply to being a better, more fulfilled leader? It turns out the advice hews pretty closely.

1. Having fun at your job is key.

It’s important not only because life is short, but if you don’t enjoy whatyou’re doing, it will be very hard to make your colleagues enthusiastic. Want the young people who work for you to be happy at work? You gofirst.

2. You need to take the time to help your colleagues.

It can’t be all about you. Coach your subordinates; givefeedback to coworkers. The most important reason to do this has nothing to do with money. The most important reason is that 95-year-old retiree wouldbe proud of you if you did and disappointed with you if you don’t. And if you don’t believe this is true, ask any CEO who has retired:“What are you proud of?” I’ve interviewed many, and not one told me how big their office was or how fancy their car was; usuallywhat they talk about is relationships that meant the most to them.

3. “Going for it” is the most important thing you can do foryourself.

In a fast-changing world, where industries are being overturned, the only certainty is doing what you believe in. You may notsucceed–you could even fail miserably– but at least you would be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Oh, what the heck,at least I tried.”

Originally published in bNet

The other day I was thinking, ‘You know what?  People, umm, OK, fine, I, should consume less and create more.’   Behind the thought was the feeling that consumption is in a way a pretty lazy, self-centered and really distracting exercise, and doesn’t do a thing to advance your presence, or your contribution, in the world.  Creating is more work, but brings far more joy than any amount of things ever could.  And so, for me, it was a simple reminder to make an effort to create whenever I possibly can.

I think its a cool mantra.  It’s no aum or anything, but still…  I promptly tacked the phrase up in my office.

About a day later, curious to see if anyone out on the Internets shared the brilliance of my insight (cough) I tapped my new motto into Google and remarkably (OK maybe not THAT remarkably) found that not only had other folks at some point had the same epiphany, but a talented and like-minded soul from Nebraska actually took the phrase to heart and used it to create a pretty neat quotations site that’s well, pretty neat.   I think that’s what you call serendipity.    www.consumelesscreatemore.com

By the way, the pic that adorns this post is Flannery O’Connor, and I included it simply because I love her soooo much and because she had such grit, brilliance and tenacity.  This is my favorite picture of her.  I always imagine she’s watching her peacocks, and that I’m in the rocking chair to her right sipping a tall lemonade and not really speaking in that, we’re-so-like-minded-we-don’t-need-to-ruin-it-with-words, kind of way.   Ya I know.

Oh, and here’s my favorite quote by Ms. O’Connor, which I’ve pretty much come to know by heart.  It reminds me to conquer the monsters, of consumption or otherwise, and to just go create something.

“When I sit down to write, a monstrous reader looms up who sits down beside me and continually mutters, ‘I don’t get it, I don’t see it, I don’t want it.’ Some writers can ignore this presence, but I have never learned how.” 

When trying to bring a message across, its important to speak the ‘language’ of your employee population.   To that point, I’m definitely using this for my next Information Technology town hall.   I see theme tie-ins around the principles of agility, cooperation, efficiency, adaptability, cohesion etc etc.   What other great thoughts or epiphanies might this inspire?

The title of this post captures a genuine (albeit vague) request for help from a manager I met with the other day.  The next day I sent over something of a generic brain dump of ideas/perspectives/tips etc. to get him started.    Although it would have been great to know more about the specific challenges he’s facing so I could have customized my advice, I have to say, it was fun to challenge myself to quickly come up with a relatively short list of things that I think are non-negotiables – especially #1!

Here’s my list…send me yours!

  1. Immediately buy this poster for your office – if you remember this simple wisdom, the rest of this list will sort itself out in the end
  2. Thoroughly assess your current state – leverage interviews, surveys, skip meetings, roundtables
  3. Learn from any internal success stories, locate your evangelists, identify toxicity
    • Who has found a way to succeed right now.  What are they doing?
    • Who has enthusiastic energy that is dying to be tapped?  How can they be leveraged?
    • Who are the key influencers?  Are they on board?
    • Who is poisoning the well water?  How are they being sorted?
  4. Articulate a team vision and brand – start with ‘Why’ – keep it simple and measurable
  5. Establish a process by which senior managers can participate in both talking through the vision and determining how the organization will get there.
  6. Establish expectations – what behaviors do managers need to demonstrate to walk the talk, what won’t be tolerated in the culture/environment, what will be celebrated, how will the team see the vision and brand come to life in the environment?
  7. Communicate
    • With consistent messages and multiple platforms (pay particular attention to how leadership is positioned)
    • Leverage your ‘Why’ statement generously, reinforce the brand
    • Be radical – put the people slides up front!
    • Make it conversational and create a leadership brand within the brand – assure all managers are leveraged
    • Ensure managers have the tools they need to stay on the same page – good intranet site for resources, talking points as required etc.
    • Make sure your evangelists and influencers have the right messages to propagate
    • Encourage two-way communication and follow through on it
    • Create platforms that demonstrate what teams/individuals can teach one another
    • Don’t create a platform or process that can’t be sustained for the long-term.
    • Constantly assess what’s working and what’s not

There’s an old quote, variously attributed, that goes something like “Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”   Sadly that’s how many managers seem to feel about employee engagement, as in ‘Employee engagement is mind over matter. If you don’t mind…”

To that point, a friend of mine was recently volunteered for a project that began with the team lead stating that although they had to get busy on pulling together a pretty big piece of work, and it had to be a ‘quality’ piece of work at that, in reality it wasn’t going to mean anything at the end of the day.  You see, explained her manager, no one receiving the work really cared.  They were just going through the motions.   In other words, it was yet another futile corporate exercise that they, the manager included, had no control over.  But hey, they were in it together!  

I tell ya, this kind of stuff makes my head hurt.

Needless to say this manager’s honest (albeit negative) kickoff made it pretty tough for the team to deliver this project with any sense of urgency or dedication to quality.   The team thought – “Well, if they don’t care, why should we?”    Good point.   

I’m told in the end they did an alright job, but I can’t help but imagine how much better it could have been if the conversation had kicked off with a discussion on the value this work would add to the organization?    I’m going to guess much better.   And who knows how that ‘much better’ work could have been leveraged beyond its original remit?   So sad.

Obviously in this instance, the manager allowed their own sense of frustration to trickle down to the team and, well, that’s just not OK.   After all, not only did the work suffer, but it was a real missed opportunity to create greater employee engagement within that team.   Good leaders don’t do that.  Good leaders make their employees feel that they, and the work they do, always matter.

My point is, lesser leaders who ignore opportunities to raise employee engagement at every turn are making a big mistake.  They don’t see that by acting as though employee engagement doesn’t matter, they’re basically saying their employees don’t matter.   And at the end of the day, all human beings want to feel they matter to those they are in relationship with.  If we don’t feel that, where is the motivation, or the inspiration, to be better?    And as an employee, where would you rather work?   

SO if you’re a team member and you get caught in a spot like this, push your manager to help you understand how your work will contribute to the bigger picture – in other words, engage yourself.  Believe me, you’ll be happier.   And if you’re a manager, remember… don’t ever (ever) miss an opportunity to engage your team.   If you do, you may not get many more chances to get it right! 

This past week we welcomed the first day of spring here in NYC.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at the weather which is still hovering somewhere in the 40 degree range, but it’s true, its spring. 

While some may follow Tennyson and believe that spring is meant to turn one’s thoughts to love, I of course think of spring and ruminate on similarities between this time of year and establishment of successful employee programs.  I know, it’s so sad, I must have some sort of sickness – but then again, hear me out…

One of the predominant activities of springtime is gardening, and as every gardener knows the absolutely most essential element of a successful garden is healthy soil.  And so it goes with people programs, if the ground you’re planting your people program seeds in is essentially ‘bad soil’, you can’t possibly expect anything to grow.  Makes sense, right?  Of course right.  Now let’s dig deeper (sorry, couldn’t help it).

As I said, soil is arguably the most important component in a successful garden.  Soil is generally evaluated on fertility and texture. Fertility is a combination of essential nutrients and a pH that makes these nutrients available to the plants.  Texture refers to the size of the soil particles and their cohesiveness.   So too an organizational culture can serve as the ‘soil’ for your people programs.  It, like soil, also needs to be evaluated to see if anything can grow.  While soil focuses on fertility and texture, you might want to evaluate your culture for engagement issues such as team cohesion and trust in management. 

So how do you know if you have bad soil?  The only way to know for sure is to have it tested.  As in a garden, a quick guestimate of your soil’s health can be made by looking at your plants (i.e. employees).  If they are thriving, don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If they are languishing, it would be worth testing your soil.   Then focus on preparing the ground – aerate and provide nutrients to your cultural soil through ongoing communication, weed out issues that can poison the well water, and nurture and tend your culture on an ongoing basis…etc.   I could find a dozen more analogies but you get the point.   

The bottom line is plants won’t grow in bad soil and neither will your people programs, and in truth, ultimately, neither will your employees.  Take the time to create healthy soil and you’ll be reaping the rewards of your garden before you know it. 

Oh and remember, “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~ Lou Erickson
Happy spring!

You may or may not have heard that Vlogs (or video blogs) are ‘the new black’ of internal communications. If you haven’t, then you heard it here first!  Hooray for me.   Anyway, I know first hand that Vlogs or video blogs can be a very powerful tool to engage and inform your employees.

I have actually produced a few internal Vlog initiatives with great success as part of my communications plans. Based on that experience, here’s list of things I think need to be considered before picking up a camera and popping some powder on your boss’ nose:

  1. First, ask the obvious question – what’s the goal? For example if your goal is to heighten transparency, get your time-strapped leadership out in front of the troops more often, keep the team informed and engaged during a complex time or simply want to demystify an initiative – a Vlog might be the perfect tool.
  2. Is this the right platform for your particular leadership? I can’t emphasize this enough. Focusing on the ‘right’ platform and content for your leader(s) is absolutely critical. Honestly assess your leadership and maybe do a test run or two to ensure they’re fully comfortable in front of the camera. Remember that successfully positioning your leadership will result in greater trust in your judgment, and ultimately in stronger support for your communications initiatives. Don’t let them fail or God forbid be embarrassed, or I can guarantee they’ll never trust you again.
  3. If that panicked warning caused you to take pause, don’t lose heart. Vlogs can be very effective in other ways – think of community building initiatives like employee vlogs, a regional series, philanthropic event reporting and on and on. A casual home movie style of a vlog could be just what you need to create a sense of team in your organization.
  4. Ensure a clear purpose and commitment to transparency. Make sure employees know why you’re doing a Vlog (vs. email etc). And differentiate this platform as representing the height of transparency and ‘unfiltered’ communication.
  5. If measuring viewership is key – send to web link vs. access via email. Natch.
  6. Openness to two way dialogue. As with most platforms, ensure folks know how they can get in on crafting the content, and basically ‘being heard.
  7. Maintain an archive – and share the link periodically. Folks that are late to the party might want to see what they’ve missed. I’ve also found this useful when I’ve received requests from other internal organizations that were seeking to mimic this platform.
  8. Be creative, have fun. Fairly obvious, I know, but still worth mentioning. See Pt. 3 above – find unique locations to film – rotate featured speakers – choose a large topic and break it down into a chapter series etc. etc. Remember, this can be a very fun, inexpensive and powerful tool if used correctly…AND you’ll be the creative genius who made it all happen.

If you have any questions, are still unsure if a Vlog is the right tool for your needs, or have some practical questions on the actual filming process, feel free to ping me. I love talking about this stuff!

Wow, has it really been over a week since I posted last!? Unbelievable how quickly time flies. Too much stuff going on I guess. Not the least of which – I was asked to manage publicity for an Off- Broadway show entitled ‘Friction’ which is opening here in NYC on November 5th. I’ve never done work like this before, and I love learning new stuff, so its been an interesting few weeks. So far I’ve supplied the play’s tagline, the synopsis, press release and am organizating the opening night. Here’s the website if you’re curious or even better, in town, on any of the performance dates! www.frictiontheplay.com

Now to the topic of my post – developing a talent management program. I’ve found that this can, in general, be a daunting task for most organizations. First of all – if you’re embedded in a group, or division etc – you are in reality a team within a team. You need to manage your talent within a larger talent construct. If its the opposite and you’re at the top of the house, you need to corral the cats and ensure the folks down below fully understand and leverage what’s being provided to them in the larger structure. It’s tough any way you look at it, and more often than not the reality falls just a tick short of glory.

To help, I’ve included this one pager/graphic I’ve cobbled together over the last few years that for me continues to provide a blueprint and guidepost for the kind of program I always seek to create when positioned in a ‘talent’ role.

Generic Talent Model by ThePeopleStuff.com

I think its robust, cohesive, and flexible and, when I’ve been able to fully execute on it, it has worked for me a like a charm. Here’s why:

Other than quickly organizaning my thinking and allowing me to accurately assess a current state, this model helps to ensure a few key things:

1. I am addressing all phases of the employee lifecycle – Attract, Develop, Retain and Retire
2. I am ensuring close alignment to the overall business strategy and keeping management in the loop through creation of a Workforce Planning Committee – which consists of the senior management team
3. I am clearly indicating that ‘I can’t do it all’, nor should I, by outlining where responsibility sits with HR, and where it sits with my function

This can all, of course, be modified to suit each unique group and situation, but by leveraging a model of this kind – I assure that I don’t miss the important stuff AND it allows me to communicate clearly to all my key stakeholders in a simple and straight forward way.

In upcoming posts I’ll expand upon each component of this model – so please subscribe for the latest updates. Oh! And if you think you can make this better, or have a model of your own you’d like to share – please do!   I love feedback and believe as Emerson did that “Our best thoughts come from others.”

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