Working from Strengths: Leveraging Natural Talents to Succeed

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- Shannon Brown is a Ph.D. student at Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL) and has served in leadership positions with Thomson Reuters, Tata Consultancy Services and BoomTime.  In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member at Dominican University where she teaches courses in leadership studies.

Which message from your boss would you find more inspiring?

a)     Your communication style is often jumbled and indirect: find a way to organize your thoughts more clearly.


b)     When you talk about your work, you communicate enthusiasm in a way that’s inspiring to others. By giving your colleagues clear ways to support your work, you’ll better be able to turn that inspiration into action.

Option B would work better for me. If you agree, then your prefrences align with that of Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. and The Gallup organization, who discovered, through 50 years of research with millions of individual subjects across all types of organizations and job roles, that individuals have significantly higher potential for growth when they focus on enhancing their strengths rather than “fixing” their weaknesses. Macus Buckingham and Tom Rath have expended the initial body of work through a series of popular books, assessments and other training materials to help people identify and implement their strengths throughout their lives.

Activating Your Corporate Values: Four Quick Steps for Getting Started

Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist. 


Most corporate websites have them: a list of corporate values, usually five to seven of them, identified by top leadership as reflecting the organization when it’s at its best. Unfortunately, what’s often missing is the next step: clear expectations —along with practical guidance – for leaders and managers to live out these values.

Companies that have managed to do this see benefits immediately, including higher employee retention and satisfaction; improved customer and client relations; and increased shareholder value.

There is no quick solution for integrating values into your corporate practices. But executives looking for a place to start can begin with these simple ideas:

Emilia DiMenco on The Value of Others in Decision Making

Emilia DiMenco is an executive vice president at Harris Bank. She also serves as a strategic advisor to the Women’s Business Development Center, through Harris Bank’s “Loaned Executive” program. The following is excerpted with permission from a conversation between Emilia and the CVDL.

As I first earned my way into leadership, I began to notice something: people expected me to have all the answers. And I tried to, at first. But I’ve learned that leaders contribute to the answer. They ask the right questions. They make the final decision. But they cannot be expected to have the answer immediately.

Decision making requires others. You’re not going to make the decision on your own. You have to hear your team share the pros and cons, and you have to remember that you’re hearing through someone else’s lens. You have to surround yourself with people who push back. I might have one view, but I usually don’t have all the information.

Kim Cameron, Univ. of Michigan, Receives Distinguished Speaker Award from CVDL Founder

Kim Cameron (center) is presented the award by Ron Fry of Case Western University (left) and Jim Ludema, director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine  University. 

Jim Ludema, director and co-founder of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL) presented Kim Cameron, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan with the Distinguished Speaker Award at the recent Academy of Management meetings in San Antonio, Texas. 

Presented by the Academy's Organization Development and Change Division, which is chaired by Dr. Ludema, the award is presented to a person who has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the field of organizational development and change. 

Is it Time to Take the "Green Leap?"

Stuart L Hart is a leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. He is the founder of Enterprise for a Sustainable World, This blog is shared with permission from Voice of the Planet
While the current economic crisis has been devastating to many in the US and beyond, it could actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In a very real sense, the world--and global capitalism--now stand at a crossroads. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently observed that we had perhaps reached the global "inflection point"-- that the growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and 2008 is when it finally imploded.

Australian sustainability commentator Paul Gilding even had a name for this: "The Great Disruption"--when both Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at the same time.  I believe that the significance of the transformation we are experiencing cannot be overstated; companies and other institutions ill-prepared for this new world will simply not survive. The time has come for innovation on a scale that we have never seen before.

Saying 'I'm Sorry': How These Two Magic Words Show Your Character and Redeem Situations

Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist. 


Leaders make mistakes. It’s almost impossible to lead without them, as mistakes are a natural part of the risk-taking that visionary leadership demands. But when your mistake, or your company’s, hurts clients or other stakeholders, how do you respond?

A sincere apology is the first step.

Doing an apology well can go a long way to restoring reputations. This is true for significant corporate mistakes, but also true for individual leaders who, for example, failed to give well-earned credit to a subordinate.

Whether you’re offering a mea culpa for a misspoken word, or a major recall of a global product, the framework of a good apology is the same:

What's up with Bob? A Framework for Diagnosing Performance Problems Before They Undermine Your Team

Dave Smith is a Ph.D. student at Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL) and has broad leadership experience including for-profit, non-profit, and military command.

Bob, one of your consistently solid performers, has missed three deadlines. His last two presentations have been underwhelming – and one of them cost you a client. What is Bob’s deal? You find yourself thinking, “One more foul-up and that Bob is toast!”

Whoa…. Slow down. Take a deep breath. OK, so something is definitely up with Bob. But Bob, and all our folks, deserve values-driven leadership. Leaders are responsible to actually live out the values of the company. Most likely, all our companies’ values include statements about how important our people are. So let’s try to figure out what is going on with Bob before doing anything rash.

What follows is a framework, not a checklist – designed to help us think about the issue, and keep us objective.

Reaching the Summit of Mt. Sustainability: Reflections on the Life of Ray Anderson

The author (center), with Ray Anderson (second from right) and staff members of InterfaceRAISE and MagicWig 
(producers of the "So Right, So Smart" documentary).
Mona Amodeo, Ph.D., is the founder and owner of idGroup USA, a branding firm with offices in Pensacola and Cleveland. A leader in corporate sustainability, she is featured - along with Ray Anderson - in the documentary So Right, So Smart

I received the e-mail yesterday afternoon at 4:42 that I had been expecting, but hoped would not come. Subject line: Ray C Anderson 1934-2011. The e-mail from Dan Hendrix, CEO Interface began…”It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to let you know that our beloved founder and chairman passed away today.  He was at his home, surrounded by family and friends.  
Ray waged an epic battle against cancer that reflected his strong spirit and his tenacity….” 

Ray Anderson will be remembered by the world as a sustainability pioneer.  A man who “got it” before most, a passionate crusader for what he believed.  Through his gift of storytelling, he informed us, charmed us and inspired us to join his cause. He leaves his mark on the world as an entrepreneurial thinker and as a major force in redefining outdated industrial business models. Certainly important parts of the Ray Anderson legacy.

The End of Corporate Responsibility

Stuart L Hart is a leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. He is the founder of Enterprise for a Sustainable World, This blog is shared with permission from Voice of the Planet

There is a long-standing narrative in the field of management that goes something like this:  Executives are hired to maximize profits, not social welfare: Spending shareholders' money on socially responsible but unprofitable endeavors is irresponsible.

Indeed, as stated in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial: "In cases where private profits and public interests are aligned, the idea of corporate social responsibility is irrelevant: companies that simply do everything they can to boost profits will end up increasing social welfare." But, the author argues, "in most cases, doing what's best for society means sacrificing profits...If it weren't, {society's pervasive and persistent} problems would have been solved long ago by companies seeking to maximize their profits."  The ultimate solution, the author argues, "is government regulation."

There is a familiar ring to this argument. Indeed, The Economist dedicated a special section to the topic in 2005. However, most realize this perspective can be traced to Milton Friedman's famous dictum: "The social responsibility of business is to increase profit."  

Contriving Culture: How Responsible Leaders Can and Should Shape Organizational Culture

Laura Zumdahl, Ph.D., is the Vice President of Nonprofit Services at Donors Forum and a nonprofit leadership advocate.

I was sitting in a room full of leaders of nonprofit organizations last week, patiently listening to a colleague give a presentation on how to build a dynamic organizational culture when it happened.

The question was asked by a seemingly incident, but clearly skeptical, audience member.  “Isn’t this whole organizational culture thing…well…a bit contrived?”

I held my breath for a minute as the presenter paused before responding. I was poised to give the following presentation building on the organizational culture content and if he didn’t convince the audience it was important, I was sunk.  I started to glance around for the closest exit.

The presenter took a deep breath and responded. “Yes, actually it is absolutely contrived.”


The idea that a positive organizational culture happens without intent is a myth. Good things take work. And they take intention.