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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!

A few years ago, while working at another investment bank, I received a random call from the head our division (I ran global communications for him). He told me that our CEO had just communicated his vision for a new aspirational culture which was to be based upon several core principles – all of which began with the letter ‘I’. These words became known as the ‘Five I’s’. Rigggght.

Anyway, at the time I was tasked with making sure that EVERYONE in our division knew what these Five I’s were. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, we did come up with some creative ways of accomplishing our goal – but that’s not really the point of this post. (If, however, you are curious about some the methods I used, shoot me a note and I’d be happy to share.)

No, the point of my post is actually this…. it just happened again! Today, I am at yet another large investment bank and was just told we’re going to use yet another set of words all beginning with the same letter, to describe our aspirational culture. Sure there are bigger problems in the world – war, hunger, poverty, global warming – but seriously folks, this must stop!

So I say this to all my tens of readers, please don’t lean on schtick or gimmicks when seeking to develop or improve a team or corporate culture. Rather, lean on honesty and transparency, talk about the real problems and how you’re going to address them, talk about how you’re going to engage employees in helping to solve the problems that are of concern to them, talk about the kind of place you want to be, and about what’s genuinely important to you and about what you value…I could go on, but you get the drift. Define your culture using conversational words that you can stand by through your actions and that (very important) your employees truly understand, can relate to and feel they can follow.

Rather than this…

Our core principles are…

Work on developing something like this…

In our company we believe in respecting each other above all else, in working hard for our clients, in collaborating to solve problems and in taking care of our people.

Just put down the dictionary and the thesaurus and TALK to people, in a genuine way, about the kind of place you’d like to become. Then once you’re done, work to ensure you are living and breathing that vision, and make decisions that lead everyone down that aspirational path (i.e. don’t preach ‘communication’ and spend all day in your office with the door closed) What’s the point of that?

If you can start with a statement that people can relate to, I guarantee your folks will feel way more Invigorated and Inspired by that than by all the ‘I’ words you can dig out of the dictionary.

Except maybe ‘Ice Cream’ – which actually works every time.

p.s.  I made it to Freshly Pressed today!  So exciting!  Thank you all for reading and if you like what you read please comment, subscribe or share via the links below.  Thanks again!


A week or so ago I posted an invite for a seminar with Marshall Goldsmith. I just now perused the notes (or as an old friend used to call them – ‘wisdom nuggets’) I captured from that session and thought I would share them here:

First of all, the talk featured a great thought leader – Jim Kouzes – who I frankly had not heard prior to this talk, but now I’m an official fan. Here’s his website.

My favorite quote: “Pity the leader surrounded by unloving critics or uncritical lovers.” Ha! Love that.

(His) Research indicates that despite the ‘generation’ – all people believe that when it comes to leadership, what matters is ‘what you do’.

Leaders should focus on the fundamental, forever truisms, of leadership

Focus less on the challenge which will shift, and more on what to always do.

Leaders are now tougher on themselves in self assessing than even their 360s. This is owed to the fact that there is a greater awareness now of what it means to lead.

Honesty was revealed as the #1 most valued characteristic of leadership. Vision was #2 (ie. what would you, the leader, like the future to look like?) and 3rd (I think) was Trust.

As a leader, its useful to imagine its 2020 and wonder what the leaders you influence today might say they learned from you

As a leader, you should spend 25% of your time focused on the future and less time working as an individual contributor

The best predictor of managerial success is the person’s capacity for, and interest in, learning

To become an ‘expert’ you need to dedicate yourself to something for 10,000 hours – hich equates to 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years (note: I have not checked the Math on this!)

Leaders should do something every day, and then work to measure it

Finally always remember that high Trust = high Performance

Happy Friday!

Thanks to my colleague David Richardson at PIB Worldwide for this useful redirect.    Great stuff!

Margie Blanchard’s Courageous Career Questions

Courageous Career Questions
1. What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? What were you doing?
2. What would you do more of if you could?
3. What might lure you away? What would we need to do to keep you here?
4. Are you being
• Challenged?
• Recognized?
• Trained?
• Given feedback?
5. What would make your life easier here? Your job more satisfying?
6. What do you want to be doing five years from now?
7. What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze alarm/take the day off?

Trying to come up with a creative idea to address a particular talent challenge? Whatever solution you propose – ensure that you can measure your success, and if you can’t – don’t do it. Don’t waste your time on activities that undermine your contributions. And by undermine I mean chip away at your credibility.

Let’s face it, when you work in a business environment, you have to speak the language of business. And the language of business is numbers.     Smiling happy faces are great, and for my money, the real goal.    I mean, just look at them.

BUT if you want to be taken seriously, and have the opportunity to continue to impact larger and larger organizations, and more importantly the people who lead them – you’re going to have to demonstrate real results which leverage real metrics.    So I say, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

Generate performance metrics in any way you can and be sure not to limit your approach to surveys.   I mean, surveys are great, don’t get me wrong, and they provide awesome data -but without solid response rates and follow through they will fall flat (more on that in another entry.)

When crafting talent solutions, be creative, target your efforts and measure in any way you can.  Then be sure you’re communicating out your activities and your results on a frequent basis to the most senior folks you can.   Oh and be sure you’re making a connection to the business strategy!

Do this consistently and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll create a broad based realization that ‘the people stuff’ is the real key to your company’s success.


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July 2018
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