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How to Hire Talent That's Out of Your League

Smart executives know to follow this advice when hiring a senior leader: Hire someone smarter than you are. 

But how do you do that, when you're a small but growing business, with a small but growing budget? 

In this series, developed through the Return on Values research project (an initiative of the Inc. Small Giants Community and the Center for Values-Driven Leadership), four CEOs of mid-size companies share how they manage to "marry up" - hiring and retaining top talent that others might consider out of their league. 

You'll also find short videos featuring tested examples of how companies succeed by finding -and keeping- the right talent. 

Find the series here, Hiring & Retaining Top Talent

The First Task of Management, and Three Steps to Get There

Psychologist Daniel Goleman is a founder in the field of emotional intelligence and a New York Times best-selling author. After a long career spent studying and writing about human nature and our capacity for growth, change, and leadership, Goleman has earned the right to comment about what it means to lead others. For him, as the quote in the graphic above illustrates, leadership of others starts with knowing and managing yourself.

If it's been a while since you've invested time in knowing who you are and how you are leading, then it's time to revisit the topic. Here are three ways, of varying intensity, to rediscover who you are:

1. Read.
Our Return on Values research initiative, a partnership with the Inc. Small Giants Community, takes us into the corner offices of exceptional CEOs. Every executive we've interviewed has mentioned the influence of books in their leadership and understanding of their selves and others. Two CEOs have used the exact same phrase, "Readers are leaders."

Here are two books that may contribute to your own leadership journey:

  • Resonant Leadership, by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. (Daniel Goleman's quote, from above, is taken from the introduction of this book.) The authors use the real stories of senior executives to illustrate the importance of a leadership style that fosters resilience and renewal.The book offers dozens of exercises to prompt your own thought and development.
  • Mindset, by Carol Dweck. Stanford researcher Carol Dweck unwraps decades of study (hers and that of others) to illustrate that our capacity for growth and intelligence is not fixed, but rather is learned and developed through practice. Dweck explores these concepts as applied in business, sports, relationships, and parenting. 
2. Audit.
Once you've refocused your attention on your own leadership and knowledge of yourself, take time to evaluate how you spend your days. Create a "time audit" sheet with columns to mark your priorities, which may include:
  • Strategy development and vision-casting
  • Daily operations
  • Team management
  • Innovation and development
  • Financial operations
  • Family and friends
  • Exercise
  • Personal development
  • Community engagement
Add columns for any other significant category where you believe you should invest your time. For the next two weeks, enter estimates of time spent in each of these categories. Do some categories come up short, while others are bloated with your time? What are the consequences of this? How can you calibrate to allow for more balance?

3. Study.
Finally, for executives interested in a deeper and more intensive examination of your own leadership, we encourage you to consider our Ph.D./D.B.A. program in values-driven leadership. Designed for senior leaders shaping the world of business, the program fits within an executive's scheduled and can be completed in three years. 

The first course in our doctoral program is "Leading Self," a thorough examination of your own hopes, objectives, and leadership styles. 

Learn more at www.cvdl.org/doctorate

Regardless of where you start, the first task of management -as Daniel Goleman reminds us - is to lead yourself. Share your thoughts and stories here. 

Keep, Cut, Change: How to Get Culture Fit with Clients

Walraven (center) with Syncroness employees.
"They know I have their backs," he says. 
Landing a $2 million dollar contract is a big deal in a company the size of Syncroness, a Denver-based engineering consulting firm. CEO Mike Walraven was delighted when a new client signed Syncroness to provide research for a technology feasibility study.

“It was a fairly significant contract for us,” says Walraven. This was exactly why the team was disappointed to find – two weeks into a two year contract – that the existing technology could not do what the client wanted. “The physics was such that it just couldn't be done – it couldn't be scaled to fit the need,” says Walraven.

Now Walraven and his young company faced an ethical decision: let the client know immediately, and loose the $2 million dollar deal, or drag the project out in hopes of keeping some of the contract’s money on the table.

Walraven made the ethical choice. “I had to tell the client, ‘We’d just be burning your money to continue this research.’”

The tough choice paid off: it took a few years, but the client returned to Syncroness the next time they had an engineering research need. More importantly, word of Walraven’s honesty with clients circulated in the industry, leading to new clients and a strong reputation.

What this client found was that Syncroness was a good culture fit for their organization. Finding clients that fit your company’s culture has the long term benefit of creating loyalty and easier, often more profitable, working relationships. Walraven offers these suggestions for keeping, cutting, or changing clients to ensure a culture fit with your organization:

1. Choose clients carefully. It may seem that the choice happens in the other directions – clients choose you – but in reality, most bigger contracts begin with a courting season that allows both companies to get to know one another, including the culture and values at play.

Walraven recommends watching for these red flags:
  • The prospective client treats you like a commodity rather than a partner.
  • The prospective client has tried outsourcing before and hasn't found a consistent partner. 
  • Their goal is only financial and they just want to get it done cheaply. 
  • They can’t articulate what they need, and they lack a clear vision the project’s future.
Being selective about clients is a privilege, Walraven says. But it also prevents future headaches.

2. Do everything you can to keep commitments to your clients. Once you have a strong client relationship, or have an agreed upon set of expectations, Walraven’s team goes out of their way to keep the relationship thriving.

One recent Syncroness client project began to go over budget. “We hadn’t set clear expectations up front,” Walraven says. Along with that, a change in leadership for the client, along with a slow scope creep had taken the project off path and over budget.

“My team was saying, ‘Let’s just cut this project now. It’s hurting the company,’” says Walraven. But he knew Syncroness’s long term reputation was more valuable than this short term problem, so he made the decision to finish the project.

“To quit now wouldn't speak too well to our values,” Walraven told his team. “We want a lasting relationship with the customer, and killing the project would kill the relationship. Word of mouth would come back to bite us.”

3. Respectfully confront clients. Syncroness’s clients are often under a lot of pressure to find new technologies, meet tight deadlines, and operate on lean budgets. As a result, clients can sometimes get over-bearing with Walraven’s staff. He won’t tolerate it.

“We have the tough conversation. We remind the client that they can’t talk to our staff that way. And often,” he says, “the reminder is all it takes.”

4. End relationships gracefully. Not every relationship can be salvaged. Recently a long term client began failing to pay bills. With 10 staff members dedicated to the client’s project, resolving the situation was important. But the client’s new ownership – they’d been purchased by an off-shore firm after facing financial problems due to a law suit – seemed to be stripping the company of resources while also making decisions that were ethically questionable.

"We've tried communicating with them,” says Walraven. “If times are tough, we’re willing to work through it with people. But it requires a significant amount of communication. We put our cards on the table and say this is what’s okay and not okay – from our standpoint of integrity and good business sense.”

Seeing no changes in the client’s behavior, Walraven made the tough decision to end the relationship before it became costly to Syncroness. “You have to exit gracefully – do what you've committed to do, communicate clearly, and then move away,” he says.

Finding (and keeping clients) that are a good culture fit is part of the long game of business, Walraven says. “There’s plenty of work out there. You should be able to find the people you want to work with and not work with others.” Making that choice inevitably works better for your company in the long term – even if it’s a tough call in the short run.


Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about marriage and other topics on her personal blog.

What's Your Metric for Success?

Would your strategy change if you changed
your definition of success? Photo credit: Flickr via CompFight. 
Definition of success?  I could lose everything and truly be okay with it.  ~Tony Hsieh, billionaire and CEO of Zappos

This idea of a metric for success was suggested by someone this past week on Facebook regarding our current political dilemma. I have to admit, I do wonder what our various senators and congressmen are using as their metric for success given the decision making we've observed. Is their metric for success re-election? Pleasing a very specific and small group of constituents? To be on the winning side?  Self-promotion? Doing what's best for the most people? Who knows? But it certainly did cause me to ponder the question: What's my highest metric for success? And, how much is my ego driving my metric?

I'll openly admit that I have been a casualty of our culture when it comes to measuring my success. I let external expectations of success influence many of my decisions. For years, in my little company of Greystone Global, I had numerous staff, multiple locations, etc. These are all symbols or metrics of success in the consulting world.  The real truth is, when I first started in the consulting business more than 17 years ago, I wanted to be an independent consultant. That never changed. However, I allowed my ego to get the best of me and I did all of the things that others told me I was supposed to do to be a "success." I had multiple staff, multiple locations, traveled across the country to clients from coast to coast. But those metrics of success weren't bringing me fulfillment.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, I was busy, but busy (along with the staff, locations, etc.) wasn't the metric for success that really mattered to me. I wanted to be able to look back on a year of consulting and coaching and point to specific scenarios where organizations were healthier, dollars were being spent more effectively, people were achieving personal goals, and teams were thriving. In order for that to happen it could mean (or even require) that I wasn't overly busy and it really didn't demand the locations, staff, travel, etc. So, as staff either retired or wanted to make other changes I chose not to replace them. I pursued client relationships that didn't require extensive travel, and I function from one small but efficient office space. 

My highest metric for success? Did I develop a relationship and do work with each of my clients that could in some way push the world a little closer to wholeness? I honestly believe that I have a better shot at achieving this metric for success by ignoring what culture dictates as my metrics of success. But, that requires a lot of fortitude to put my ego aside; because while I may have changed my metric for success, our culture has not. So I still get asked the same "success" questions like: Are you busy? How many staff do you have? Are you traveling a lot?  It's not unheard of, but on a rare occasion I get asked something like: What have you been able to help some of your clients achieve in the past year?

My intent was not to ramble on about my own metric for success, but to challenge each of us to be really honest with ourselves. How do we measure our own success? If you're not sure, then look at the decisions you are making – not your aspirations – what you are actually doing. What we actually do or decide, is the real indicator of our metric for success, not what we'd like to do. 

Is your metric of success honestly bringing you fulfillment? If not, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate. But please, don't take 15 years to make it right, like I did.
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Last week I had the privilege of attending two outstanding conferences, first the COMMIT Forum, a conference hosted by the Corporate Responsibility Association; followed by the Inc. 500/5000 conference, hosted by Inc. magazine.

Though divergent in areas of focus, the two conferences had one unintentional theme: the incredible value of culture in guiding the direction of a company.
We heard this time and time again from the well-known speakers that took the stage.

  • Jim Collins, celebrated author of Good to Great, spoke of developing a culture of discipline as a way to combat "chronic mediocrity." 
  • Social media experts spoke about the value of reputation and engagement as measures of culture, and how that reputation is shaped by leadership decisions. 
  • Responsibility executives spoke about the struggle companies face when they form partnerships with organizations who aren't aligned with their corporate cultures and values: the result is often a failed project.
  • Serial entrepreneur Les McKeown spoke about the burnout that results from "over-cooked systems," and mis-alignment of internal leaders to an overriding vision. 
  • Hubspot "evangelist" Laura Filton reminded us that generosity should be a stronghold of contemporary business culture. "Generous is the new cautious and controlled," she said. 

Do you notice what these speakers ARE NOT talking about? They aren't talking about strategy. In fact, several spoke derisively about business plans that get written, shoved in a drawer, and never revisited. Day to day decision making - the decisions that truly guide what our companies become - is almost always shaped more by culture than strategy.

Two leaders, at two separate conferences, offered the same observation: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Attributed to leadership guru Peter Drucker, the statement's meaning is simple: strategy is important, but who you are, and who your company is at a core-value level, will guide your future more than any single plan.

So how are you shaping culture? At the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, we're working to understand the factors of culture that best lead to success, as defined by profit and revenue, employee engagement and retention, pace of innovation, and customer loyalty. Our Return on Values research initiative, a partnership with the Inc. Small Giants Community, asks the question, In small and mid-size businesses, what is the relationship between culture and profit? 

To see some of our answers, we invite you to visit our Return on Values website at www.returnonvaluesproject.com.
Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist.

Taking Busy Off Its Pedestal

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen.  ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thoreau's Cabin on Walden Pond
Are you busy?  

That’s a question I get asked frequently. It's part of the culture of owning a small business and/or being self-employed. And I do the same; I ask my business friends "Are you busy?" For some reason when I was asked that question recently, it struck me differently somehow. I suddenly thought to myself, is that really how we've come to judge our success  Is being busy good and not being busy bad?

With just a couple of minutes of research I discovered that I'm certainly not the first person to ask that question. Below are a few quotes I pulled from an article in the NY Times entitled, "Too Busy to Notice that You're too Busy."
While those who are overworked and overwhelmed complain ceaselessly, it is often with an undertone of boastfulness; the hidden message is that I'm so busy because I'm so important. 
It's a status symbol. 
We avoid dealing with life's really big issues — death, global warming, AIDS, terrorism — by running from task to task. 
It is a kind of high. 
Paradoxically, Dr. Hallowell writes in "CrazyBusy," it is in part the desire for control that has led people to lose it.  "You can feel like a tin can surrounded by a circle of a hundred powerful magnets," he writes. "Many people are excessively busy because they allow themselves to respond to every magnet: tracking too much data, processing too much information, answering to too many people, taking on too many tasks — all in the sense that this is the way they must live in order to keep up and stay in control. But it's the magnets that have the control."
So when and where did I succumb to the idea that "busy" is something to be idolized? To be put on a pedestal?  To define success? Like many things in life, I think it happened slowly and gradually over time and it wasn't until I had been asked the question for maybe the 100th time that I finally started to wonder if I too was associating busy with success or importance.

As leaders, should we be identifying ourselves with "busy?" Are we imposing that same expectation onto others without even realizing it?  And, is busy really good anyway?

When I look back on my life I don’t think I want to look back and see that I was "busy" and somehow equate that with a legacy I want to leave behind. To change that, I could start by taking "busy" off of the pedestal of importance and no longer ask people "Are you busy?" Maybe I could change that obligatory business networking question to something like, "What have you learned lately?" or "What's the greatest difference you've made or impact you've been able to have this year?" or "What have you been working on that's brought you personal fulfillment?" The list could go on, but beginning to associate my conversation openers with something I value more than busyness seems like a good start.
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Two Terrifying Exercises that Might Foist Your Team toward Greater Candor and Innovation

Asking for direct, critical feedback is
terrifying. Of course, not knowing
what you're missing is even more
Photo used with
permission via Flickr
Here’s a fun little exercise for you.

I’m just kidding. The idea is terrifying.

Maybe you should do it anyway.

Imagine assembling your leadership team in the room, and then taking turns answering this question:
The one thing I absolutely do not want you to know about me is ___(fill in the blank)___.
Then, once you’ve spat that out, ask your team to answer this question about you:
The most powerful negative feedback I have for you is ___(fill in the blank)___.
Is your heart racing yet, just at the thought? What would they think of me if they knew ….? Could I really handle hearing the worst my team has to say about me? My most ugly character trait?

These exercises came from Shawn Riegsecker, the CEO and founder of Centro, a software firm recognized by Crain’s Chicago as the #1 best place to work. He offered the exercises to a room full of executives, with the suggestion that they try this with their senior teams. (For that last question, he always has a psychologist in the room to facilitate the conversation - and everyone takes a turn in the hot seat.)

The idea, he says, is to experience these extremes in a safe environment so that you know the worst. It’s out there. They were able to say it. You were able to hear it. And you survived.

In this case, survival means you have created a team where trust, safety, and candor are possible. And in that context, you can expect some creativity, some innovation, and some strong employee engagement to result. Certainly it makes candor more possible - and more valued - in future team meetings.

"We're basically lying to each other all the time," Riegsecker told the leaders gathered at the Executive Breakfast Club of Oak Brook's monthly meeting. And when that happens, when we're always holding back part of the truth, we are also unintentionally putting ourselves and our companies at risk in ways we might not realize. Creating an environment of trust and candor makes it possible for leaders to speak up, to be a voice of opposition. While it sometimes seems criticism creates conflict, it can actually lead toward greater stability.

Maybe you’re thinking this exercise should come with one of those television captions that read, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Riegsecker admits the exercises don't always go well: he's had to host long listening sessions in his office, to deal with the fallout of hearing the truth. But if the end result is greater candor, and an environment where risk is minimized and innovation can grow, it's worth it, he says.

I am not advocating testing these exercises at your workplace. It wouldn't make sense in all company cultures or with all teams. And even where the exercises might make sense, they should not be approached without some solid advance groundwork to establish a safe environment. But if the thought of these exercises terrifies you, then there are a few more questions for you to consider privately:

  • What are you afraid your team would say about you?
  • Is there a reason you haven’t respectfully discussed your negative feedback with individual teammates before? 
  • What will be the end result of keeping “the thing you don’t want them to know” from your team? 

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

How to Create Fresh Starts for Your Team: Lessons from Back to School Season

Back to Work photos aren't as popular on Facebook 
as the Back to School counterparts. But should they
be? Read on to consider how you can have a fresh
start this post-summer season.  
If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, then today you're witnessing a deluge of Back to School photos: back-pack wearing kids, scrubbed clean and in their best new t-shirts, alternately grinning or scowling for the camera.

Having now been in the workforce for twice (maybe three times) as long as those kids have been alive, I'm envious of the annual fresh start they get each new school year. Starting a new grade of school gives you a reminder of what you've accomplished in the past, a chance at a clean slate, and an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Work rarely offers these milestones - certainly not in any annual, smile-for-the-camera sort of celebration.

Since there's no annual reason for celebration, values-driven leaders have to create them. The day after Labor Day (when summer has officially come to a close and vacations are over) offers a chance to push the reset button, giving your team a mini fresh start.

Put these ideas into practice today, or at any point throughout the year. You may not want to post a photo on Facebook, but your team will appreciate the acknowledgement just the same.

1. Celebrate milestones and accomplishments. 
Celebrating wins is foundational to good leadership. It gives you an opportunity to publicly (or privately) recognize hard work and success. Praise the effort of your team members as much as you praise the results. Mark the completion of projects and initiatives, and the anniversary of start dates or promotions as well.

Everyone has their own method of feeling accomplishment. For me, I keep a hand written to-do list of priority projects. When one is completed, I use a thick black Sharpie marker to cross through the item. Doing so gives me a modest sense of joy: I've accomplished something that day. As a leader, help your team joyfully "cross off" that item from your shared to-do lists.

2. Offer a clean slate. 
Part of what makes "Back to School" so meaningful is the chance to start over with fresh notebooks, empty folders, and no negative marks in the grade book.

This concept can transfer to the workplace in a variety of ways: posting new goals on the walls of your shared office space; through private conversations, offering a struggling employee a chance at a fresh start; removing clutter in common areas; or using a staff meeting to set new objectives or work practices. Clean slates don't have to be dramatic, but they do have to be acknowledged.

3. Reinvent yourself, and make it possible for others to do the same.
New teachers and new classmates makes reinventing yourself possible for students. It's harder in the workforce where your colleagues, leaders, and employees have not changed. But it's still possible.

One CEO I work with determined he wanted to be less angry and more approachable. He could have set this goal privately and made quiet, personal efforts to reach it. But he knew accountability would be important, so he declared the goal publicly and asked his staff to (respectfully) call him on violations.

Could you do the same? Maybe you want to be more responsive to messages from your staff, learn a new technical skill, or be better at listening. Whatever your intention is, publicly state it to your team, your executives, or a small circle of trusted colleagues. Then ask for their support. Ask those you lead to set intentions, and offer your support for their growth.

How do you create fresh starts for your team? Share your ideas here, or on Twitter (tag us, @ValuesDriven).
Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist.

Winning Hearts & Minds: The Battle for Diversity & Inclusion Needs Authentic Leadership (Here’s Where to Start)

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, KPMG’s national managing partner for corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion

As a diversity and inclusion executive, I’ve watched many initiatives waver, stall, or at worse, completely fail. What brings about these downfalls isn’t strategy – the ideas are usually sound. The missing ingredient is visible, Authentic Leadership.

Today, we operate in a truly global world. Fortunately, the various value propositions for advancing diversity and inclusion are becoming increasingly clear. Corporate C-Suites, NGOs, Governments, Boards, and Educational Institutions desire more innovation, appreciate the need to drive talent sustainability, or simply see the value of diverse perspectives in problem solving. Additionally, we see the linkage between good governance and diversity, and between risk management and inclusion. Lastly, there is increasing research that demonstrates the positive correlation between diversity and inclusion and performance.

So why aren’t more strong initiatives moving forward? It’s because we’ve not yet won the hearts and minds of many stakeholders. To accelerate change, we need to move beyond grasping the value propositions, articulating the strategy, creating goals and metrics, defining specific accountabilities, or developing corporate slogans or vision statements.. Though dialogue and efforts have increased and we are beginning to see progress, we will only be able to move faster through Authentic Leadership.

Authentic Leadership can be defined in many ways, but essentially it is a genuine approach to leadership that connects actions to core values and personal convictions. Leaders who do not truly and deeply believe in the mission of the initiative they are driving will never guide the organization to full success. Leaders at all levels must genuinely demonstrate, on a very personal level why as an individual, they personally believe diversity to be important.

One Leader’s Story
Fortunately, I have seen the impact that this type of leadership can have on an organization. One example that comes to mind is that of a specific white male CEO who spoke of his commitment to diversity, his expectations of inclusion and even his establishment of bold goals for the organization. But to the organization it appeared to be rhetoric, another goal amongst many.

To fully win the hearts and minds of individuals within the organization, the CEO shared a personal story that illustrated his own commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The story was simple. He shared how he was the youngest child and the only boy in a large family. He spoke of being aware of the differences in treatment between himself and his sisters. He shared specific facts of the inequities he witnessed when his extremely capable older sisters entered the workforce.

The CEO’s story became the catalyst for accelerating change within the organization, particularly with respect to the advancement of women.

Individually we are all different, but collectively our impact can be dynamic. You can apply the principles of Authentic Leadership storytelling to your own diversity and inclusion work through the following quick tips:

  1. Tell a genuine story about how you have personally been impacted by diversity in your own voice. Do not read from a script.
  2. Be sure you are deeply involved in the story and not recalling observations from a distance.
  3. Reveal some of the personal challenges encountered during your diversity journey.
  4. Ask for reactions or questions.
  5. Share your story often and with various levels and audiences including external constituents.
  6. Be engaged beyond the moment. 

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan is KPMG’s national managing partner for corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion. She is also a doctoralstudent in values-driven leadership at Benedictine University. 

Are You an Inverted Leader? The Case for Making Sure the Leader is Not the Expert

A leader isn't good because they're right; they're good because they're willing to learn and to trust.  ~Brigadier General Stanley McChrystal

Last week I began facilitating two new cohorts in a 12-month leadership development program.  As one of several ways to introduce the concept of leadership to these emerging leaders I used a TED Talk by Stanley McChrystal, a former 4-star Army General.  In his less than 20-minute presentation, he hits a number of key leadership behaviors.  But he also introduces an idea that I think will only become more common—inversion of expertise.

In the not so distant past it was typical for individuals in an organization to be promoted up through the ranks because of their increased level of expertise, and it was usually technical expertise of some form. It was assumed that the more technical expertise someone could offer the organization that they could also lead.  Maybe that assumption held true more frequently in the industrial age, but in today's organizations that could be a recipe for failure.

John Kotter (Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at Harvard Business School) defines leadership as "taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities.  Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about providing useful change.  Leadership is about behavior."  Using Kotter's definition of leadership, there is very little technical expertise required.

Getting back to McChrystal's TED Talk, he said, "So how does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven't done what the people you're leading are doing?  It's a brand new leadership challenge.  It forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, a lot more willing to be reverse-mentored from below." 
I can think of several individuals who served on an organization's board of directors and became the CEO.  Even though they had been on the organization's board, they weren't on the board for their content expertise but for their leadership within the community and/or constituency base.  One example that particularly intrigued me was Mark Murray, who went from university president to leading a big box retailer with nearly 200 store locations.  Murray had served on the retailer's board of directors for a couple of years and Murray's leadership capabilities were evident to the corporate leaders.  Without one bit of retail experience, he took on the challenge and for more than seven years led the organization well. 

This type of leadership, that now includes inversion of expertise, requires behaviors that haven't always been thought of as leader-like.  Behaviors like being transparent, really listening, and a willingness to be reverse-mentored from below are somewhat new to the list for great leadership.  The leader is not the expert.  The leader is the one channeling the expertise to address opportunities that are coming at the organization faster and faster. -----------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Do You Have the Emotional Intelligence for the Job? How EQ Gets You Hired, and Gets the Job Done

Ignoring the EQ factor of leadership is like settling
for shadows instead of reality. Photo credit
As an operations professional, Charlie (name changed) began his job search with a single organization in mind: a Fortune Best Places to Work company with a sterling reputation for hiring exceptional leaders. He polished his resume to make sure his vast experience was evident; in interviews he stressed his background working in similar roles.

When he got the job offer he was waiting for, Charlie was ecstatic. His future boss, a senior vice president for the organization, explained how they made their decision. They had considered inside candidates, she said, but decided to hire Charlie not just because of his competence, but also because of his emotional intelligence (EQ, for short).

Maybe the Answer is for Men to Lean Out

Lean In: Are Intelligent Working Women Leaning Back?
See the full version
of this graphic below. 
As a working mom, I rarely pick up my ringing phone without a sense of trepidation. Will it be my son's school, calling once again to say he is sick and in need of a midday pick up before he infects the rest of his kindergarten class?

My husband and I have grown adept at making emergency plans via text message while both in meetings. And while we share the childcare needs equally, the call from the school always comes to my phone.

A new infographic from MBAprograms.org asks, Why are Intelligent Women Leaning Back? The question is a clear reference to the uber-popular book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. The graphic, see below for the full version, contains statistics that show women with MBAs are more likely to work part-time. This holds especially true for women holding MBAs from elite programs. Married MBA moms with bachelor degrees from top tier universities are 30 percent less likely to work full-time than their "non-elite" counterparts.

Why are intelligent women leaning back? Maybe because their equally intelligent male partners are leaning in. As we rally around Sandberg's call for more female leadership, for a final push to achieve equality so "in the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders," maybe we need to establish more opportunities for men to lean out.

According to the Census Bureau, 3.5 percent of stay at home parents are fathers. In an interview with NPR, Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families, said this number vastly under-reports the many part-time at-home fathers who do some work yet are their children's primary caregivers. In an unscientific review of my own childhood, I can think of no friends who would have said their father was their primary caregiver. But thinking through my children's friends, there a handful of fathers who work part-time, or not at all, in order to provide at-home care for their children.

In my own case, my husband's willingness to lean out a little - to rearrange his schedule to cover a sick day, or to take time away from work to call prospective day care programs - makes it more possible for me to lean in. And this year, when I fill out the school's emergency contact information, I may list his name and number first. These systems don't change without our effort. I'm leaning into that.

Lean In: Are Intelligent Working Women Leaning Back?
Courtesy of: MBAPrograms.org

Amber Johnson is a wife and mother of two, and the CVDL's corporate relations advisor. She writes about work-life alignment, and other non-business topics, on her blog, www.weddedness.com

How Not to Sabotage Your Training Program: Learning Experiences that Work Across Generations

Every time we visit my grandmother, who is an octogenarian, she hands me a newsletter she gets from a women's club in which she's been an active member since 1950-something. The newsletter is two sided, copied on canary yellow paper with dense text interrupted by clip art and the occasional hand-written edit to a typo.

Grandma shares this with us because the newsletter usually contains knock-knock jokes, which are much loved by my six year-old, or a casserole recipe that Granny thinks I ought to try. And while we sometimes remember to share the jokes with our son, the newsletter usually hits the recycling bin without ever being read. Why? Because the medium is too dated to be worth my time. 

Maybe you've felt this way about a website: the design and content seem very 1999, and you make the assumption that the product or service it represents is too.

In communication, modernity matters. This is especially true when what you're communicating is important: material you really need your workforce to be able to understand and apply. Fail to pay attention to the way your information is presented, and you can easily undermine the content.

Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) and the Millennials (1981-2000) have been raised in the era of personal computing. Credibility is established in part through strong visual design, customized content (think about the way Amazon knows what products to recommend), and logical and interactive structures. The following charts spell out what the younger workforce wants and needs in training programs:

Note that Generation X (who are in their early-30s to mid-40s) are tech driven but still using their laptops. Now look at Gen Y:

For Gen Y, you can skip the laptop: they're using their phone. And for a generation raised on texting, keep it short.

How do you design training and learning experiences that suit the fast-paced, customized preferences of these young leaders? Training Magazine offered interesting insights in an interview with learning experts from Aetna Insurance. They argued that learning styles are downardly compatible by one generation, but not upwardly compatible. In other words, design for Gen Y, and Gen X will follow along. But design for Gen X, and expect Gen Y to discredit it, much as I discredit my grandmother's newsletter.

We'd love to hear about your Gen X/Gen Y training strategies. Share them here, or tweet your thoughts to @ValuesDriven.

Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist who confesses to being firmly in the Gen X camp. She writes about forgiveness, and other non-business topics, on her blog, www.weddedness.com

Kick Complexity to the Curb: How Leaders Can Play Host to Creative, Complexity-Free Processes

Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.  ~Winston Churchill

"Complexity is a leader's enemy not their friend. Great leaders live to eliminate or simplify the complex, while average leaders allow themselves and those they lead to be consumed by it. Complexity stifles innovation, slows development, gates progress, and adversely impacts culture. Complexity is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. …great leaders understand opportunity and profits are extracted from complexity through simplification, not by adding to the complexity."

I read that paragraph last week in an article in Forbes.com entitled, Five Transitions Great Leaders make that Average Leaders Don't.  I thought back on my own week—having had several Skype calls with individuals in Argentina and Peru, helping someone with a leadership survey in Malawi, researching topics that seemed to have an endless amount of information available on the Internet—and I realized that even in my own little world just how complex things have become.  We don't have to search far for complexity because we live in it!

This then led me to an article by Margaret Wheatley with Debbie Frieze entitled,Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host.  What an interesting analogy to describe the leadership transition necessary to lead in complexity—from hero to host!

These authors say that "leaders-as-hosts know that people willingly support those things they've played a part in creating—that you can't expect people to 'buy-in' to plans and projects developed elsewhere."  They say that hosting leaders must:
  • provide conditions and good group processes for people to work together
  • provide resources of time, the scarcest commodity of all
  • insist that people and the system learn from experience, frequently
  • offer unequivocal support—people know the leader is there for them
  • keep the bureaucracy at bay, creating oases (or bunkers) where people are less encumbered by senseless demands for reports and administrivia [I love that word!]
  • reflect back to people on a regular basis how they’re doing, what they’re accomplishing, how far they’ve journeyed
  • work with people to develop relevant measures of progress to make their achievement visible

I have to admit, as I read that list (and I didn't include the entire list here) that I felt a bit exhausted.  Hosting leadership is hard work; it's much more involved than simply playing the role of "hero."  A hero can swoop in, make all the decisions, assume everyone will follow without question (because you're the hero after all) and you're on to the next challenge. 

Will you make the critical transition to shun complexity and live to eliminate and simplify the complex, or will you (and those you lead) be consumed by it?
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Make Your Boss Work for You: How One Company Commits to their Employees' Personal Goals

By sharing their personal (including financial) goals, Service
Express' employees make their bosses work for them.
See the video to learn how.
A basic tenant of good leadership is to let go of your dictatorial side, and let the leadership qualities of your followers emerge and be nurtured instead. That makes sense, because the end-goal is to advance the company's strategic plan: to grow and be profitable.

But what if your company had a radically different end-goal? Through the Return on Values research project, our research team recently met one company that has turned the end-goal upside down. Service Express is a data center maintenance company that motivates their employees by making personal goals  (including employee financial goals) a primary company objective. It’s a growth industry, to be sure, but SEI’s growth is tremendous. Since instituting the culture 10 years ago, they have cut employee turnover in half, seen double digit bottom line growth in every consecutive year, and enjoyed a 98% customer retention rate.

Want to learn how they've done it? Click here to watch a short 4-minute video.

How to Come Back to Work from Vacation: 5 Quick Tips

Returning from vacation can be tough. Here's how to leave
the baggage behind. (Photo credit nhanusek via Compfight cc
Some people love work so much they never mind returning from vacation. Good for them.

For the rest of us, the return to work after a long weekend or a vacation can be daunting. Even if you love what you do, not many of us look forward to the rush of questions, unanswered emails, back to back meetings, and catch up work that waking up post-vacation requires.

Returning rested will take some advance planning. Here are five tips on how to return to your company ready to face the workday:

Wow - You're Different! Recognizing Differences as a Way to Launch Insight

It is not our differences that divide us.  It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.  ~Audre Lorde

Lately I've been thinking that it's not the obvious differences that make getting along difficult; it's the subtle differences that get under our skin, just simply annoy us, and probably make us a little judgmental. I've heard a lot of people say they are accepting of people who are different, but then I see behavior that tells another story. I'd suggest first that their definition of acceptance may really be tolerance. And second, I’d suggest that the understated differences in perspective and approach are what make us most irritated at the end of the day.

I was reminded of this recently in a conversation with my financial advisor.  I was describing some of the work I've been doing in consulting and coaching and he said the most critical lesson he'd ever learned was that people really are different. While that sounds simplistic, it's really quite insightful. In his case, for example, he recognizes that everyone has their own unique comfort level when it comes to their money. As he described me, some people like to keep a sizeable amount of money in their money market account so they have quick and easy access to cash, if necessary. While others, are okay to leave a rather small amount in their money market so they can immediately funnel any excess into their investments (which are not as readily accessible). He doesn't tell people what is the right way. Instead, he spends time learning their comfort level and then does his best to work with them within that framework. In other words, he recognizes, accepts and then celebrates his clients' differences.

In organizations I see leaders who get frustrated when others aren't sharing their perspective. For example, some leaders want to keep as many options open as possible and not be too confined by a narrow focus. However, their executive team may have a differing perspective and crave a specific focus so they can attack it. In other cases I've seen the overall pace, or at least perceived pace, cause angst among leadership teams. And I've had leaders say to me, “it would be a lot easier if everyone just thought the same way I do.”

Hillary Clinton said, "What we have to do…is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities." While she was speaking on a more global level, I think the sentiment of that statement can certainly apply to organizations, both large and small.

Do we celebrate our differences or do we tolerate our differences and let them fracture our organizations over time? Synonyms for tolerate are stand, bear, put up with, endure, and stomach. Not exactly a culture most of us would want to be part of on a daily basis. Whereas synonyms for celebrate are rejoice, party, have fun, and enjoy yourself. That certainly creates an image that would make nearly everyone excited about showing up at work on Monday morning.

As leaders, are we celebrating differences or tolerating differences, even the subtle ones?

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

New Website Shares Findings, Status of Three-Year Return on Values Research Project

CHICAGO:  Early results from the Return on Values research project display how CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses describe the relationship between their corporate cultures and their companies’ sustained growth and profit. These findings will be made available on a new website, www.returnonvaluesproject.com, established by the project’s founding partners.
The Return on Values project (ROV) is a three-year, $1 million research initiative of the Inc. Small Giants Community (ISGC, www.smallgiants.org) and the Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL, www.cvdl.org). The study asks the question, “In small and mid-size businesses, what is the relationship between culture and profit?” >>Read the full press release and find links to videos, discussion guides, and articles. 

Hire, Fire, Develop and Reward: How Values-Driven Companies Leverage Culture for Growth

How do leaders in exceptional companies leverage culture to drive growth? Early results from the Return on Values research project highlight remarkable practices of leaders in companies that have exceptional growth trajectories combined with positive, people-focused cultures.
Researchers from the Return on Values project presented these early findings at the Inc. Small Giants International Summit in San Diego, June 8-10. The researchers noted four specific activities related to culture seen in exemplar companies.  Read a quick overview of the findings at our partner website for the Return on Values Project. >> Click here. 

The Problem of Leadership: Behaving All Day Long

Leadership requires a profound understanding of self.  The problem with leadership is you have to behave all day long.  ~S. Blanchard

A friend posted this quote on Facebook last week and I've been mulling it over ever since.  I struggle with the idea of leadership skills because I really don’t think leadership is a "skill." I've always put a skill into the category of something you can watch or observe and then copy or mimic. I believe that leadership is a way to behave and it's our behaviors that allow us to lead. 

This past week I facilitated a planning retreat for a client. The leaders in the room were divided into groups and given the task to come up with an implementation plan for the behaviors that they believe reflect the culture they are trying to create. I walked up to one of the groups who had been talking for some time but had not yet begun to write anything.  When I encouraged them to pick up their pace and begin to outline their plan they said they were stuck. They said, "You're really talking about changing someone's behavior and that's really hard." That was one of those moments as a consultant where inside I was jumping up and down and cheering because they got it. 

Changing behavior is really hard and that's why leadership is hard. It's not a skill. Many years ago, actually decades, when I was in high school I learned to type on a Selectric typewriter. One of those antiques with the metal ball that spins around and hits the ribbon as you type. We were told how to position our hands on the keyboard, which fingers were to hit which keys. Then the teacher would demonstrate so we could copy her actions. That's how I learned the skill of typing. 

Behavior, on the other hand, involves changing something that's ingrained into our routine or even into our being.  A physician friend often says that people don’t change their behavior until the pain of not changing outweighs the pain of change.    

William James, philosopher and psychologist, said that humans are biologically prone to habit or we are "mere bundles of habit." It is because of these bundles of habits that we are able to perform many of our daily tasks without thinking about it, like brushing our teeth. However, one could also conclude that trying to unbundle those habits, and change them, may not be an easy task.

Typing was a skill that I first learned in high school. Currently, I'm working to change my behavior to become more mindful, completely present for other people, and really listen. Even though this is a self-imposed goal and I can envision great benefits of reaching this goal, it's still really hard. Unbundling my current habits and replacing them with new ones is not easy. Synonyms for habit are routine, custom, tradition, and pattern. All words that imply something that's been around for awhile and sounds as if it might take an act of God to change it.

Continuously developing our leadership behavior is a challenge, no doubt. If it was easy, there'd probably be a lot more leaders. Blanchard said it well, "the problem with leadership is you have to behave all day long."
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.