7 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid in 2016—a Forbes article review

Just as most of us do at the beginning of the New Year company leaders, take a look back at the year just completed and forward to the happenings of the New Year.  They make resolutions for the positive things they want to change or accomplish in the year ahead.

A forbes.com article from January 7, 2016, by David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom entitled 7 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid in 2016”, has put a refreshing spin on the idea of resolutions. I really like their approach of breaking bad habits instead of making “to do” resolutions.  It is almost like going through the back door to achieve what you want by not doing what is not working well.  Thinking this through, it is like putting the major resolution or goal out there and then asking:

“What barriers have been in my way of achieving this in the past?”

“Where do I need to get out of my own way?”

The article has 7 suggestions to think about that may answer these questions.

  1. Only focusing on the big picture.

Great leaders are charged with seeing and communicating the big picture. However they sometimes fail to outline small goals for their people to achieve along the way.  Most great leaders are in that position because they can see out 10, 15 or even 20 years. It is a gift that comes with being visionary leader.  Most of us are not capable of clear vision anywhere near that far!  Because it is the nature of this leader to see out that far they can have trouble seeing the smaller goals that need to be met.  This is crucial for everyone to understand how to get to the bigger vision.  It all has to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Commit this year to looking at the pieces of the puzzle that make up the whole.

  1. Not Delegating the work

As the article states this one is a common problem for many leaders.  It just seems easier and faster to do it themselves.  However, as Patrick Lencioni teaches us, this can really undermine trust—the employees themselves to not feel trusted and so do not reciprocate that trust.  In addition, for succession planning the up and coming leaders must learn.  Their growth comes from building one success on top of another and prepares them to help grow the company.

I have also found that there are times when a member of the staff has vital information or a great solution yet has never been asked or does not want to go against his or her superiors. Commit this year to growing your staff and the company through appropriate delegation.

  1. Failing to applaud small wins

If every big win is an accumulation of many smaller wins how do we keep on top of all of this?  As suggested in the article, keeping a stack of cards handy to record these in the moment is a big help.  Adding to this a working file for each staff member and project lets you record in real time what will really help you later.  Applaud the small wins in real time and file them in the working files.  When it comes to performance review time you already have your time-stamped documentation!  This working file is not only for the wins but for the less positive things that need to be remembered but are not serious enough individually to make it to the personnel file.  You will love yourself at the performance management review!  By the way, sometimes ask the staff how they would like to celebrate! Commit this year to celebration as a way of life.

  1. Communicating poorly

We all know business communication is one of the most consistent issues in company management.  There are many ways to improve your communication skills–and first you have to recognize there is one.  To see this look at your results.  If there are common threads among the issues look for the root cause—many times you find it has been lack of successful communication.  There are a couple of things to remind you of here:

  1. There are different personalities and styles of communicating to deal with.  The sender has the message and the receiver has to interpret it.  Many a gap occurs here.  If you don’t know the personality temperaments and styles of your staff you might want to investigate this.
  2. The message itself must be clear. There can be no ambiguity.  If there is lack of clarity enough questions need to be asked and answered until there is no room left for lack of understanding.  Then is needs to be communicated for the variety of receiving styles.  I may feel like redundant over-communication but about the time you are totally bored with saying it the staff are just getting it!

Commit this year to consistent and persistent improvements in communication company-wide.


  1. Setting yourself apart

As referenced in the article, those leaders who put themselves on a throne are some of the worst leaders around.  Referring back to Patrick Lencioni, the leader needs to hold a certain level of vulnerability with the staff.  Take the time to get to know them beyond the job they do.  Every person is more than we see and needs to be recognized for it.  If the leader does not, the informal leader will and this can be asking for trouble!  Organize team building and social activities that bring the people together.  Recent theories on empowerment suggest the playing field be dramatically leveled so everyone feels the ownership of being like a partner. I have known one organization in the past for the leadership was right in the middle of the floor, visible to everyone.  It worked for them…

Commit this year to getting to know your company culture from a more personal point.

  1. Discouraging innovation

Innovation is more than just having a voice at a meeting.  The real innovations come from not only hearing the staff but giving them safe space to try on new ideas.  We all come with different histories and experiences, and no one knows which one might have a huge impact with just a small change.  When the space is there these ideas can bubble to the surface.  It must be safe space where mistakes and failures can be looked at as lessons that did not work and the values in them examined without judgment.  If you want the best they have to offer, give them some time and space.

Commit this year to give the staff scheduled safe space to try on some new ideas.

  1. Forgetting to celebrate the milestones

I heartily agree with the authors reminders here not to forget to celebrate the milestones that will occur in 2016.  As they say, there is no excuse with all of today’s technology to miss a beat here.  There is one line I do want to address: “Learn to show your appreciation appropriately,…”.  As you look at the personalities of your people really know what this means, especially for the more introverted staff members.  Those extroverts love the party and attention.  On the other hand there are some people so introverted that they avoid at all costs any celebration and recognition in public.  For these people keep it simple and in private.  You will thank yourself for handling it this way—you may have made a friend for life!

Commit this year to celebrate the milestones!

Take a look at your goals for 2016 and see if you have some other areas where the ‘don’ts’ may be more important than the ‘do’s’ in 2016.  The ‘do’s’ may be a by-product of changes without much work at all!

Here is the article:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2016/01/08/7-habit-creating-tips-to-make-your-new-years-resolution-successful/



Coach Judi Harris

January, 2016

Are You the Lid?

I’ve written many times about the concept of organizations as complex systems in the context of transformation. I’d like to introduce another characteristics of systems that could be keeping your organization from being able to meet the needs of growing demand for your good or service – capacity. All systems have a finite capacity.

Sometimes that capacity is limited by physical constraints such as space or machine production time. There are plenty of business models to deal with those. However, more often capacity is constrained by something called “The Law of Lid.” This “law” states that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. In other words, an organization cannot sustainably grow beyond its leadership.

Here are two things you can start doing immediately to make sure you aren’t the “lid” of your organization.

  1. Be accountable. It’s easy to think you are above the rules because of your position in the organizational chart. You are not. Most people know this intellectually, but fewer actually practice it. You need to be the person you want in your organization. That means delivering on your promises and modeling the behaviors you want all the time.
  2. Value people not just the job they do. There are all sorts of trite sayings I could use here. You know them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. These sayings have stuck around because for the most part they are true. Sincerity is easier for some than others, but it is still critical. It’s important people feel valued beyond just their role in the organization. Be intentional about getting to know your team’s interests and passions. When it’s time to say thank you, use that knowledge to make the expression of gratitude all that more personal.
  3. Develop your direct reports. The most valuable contributors to any organization are those who can develop the potential in others. To do this, start making fewer decisions. As a young manager, I would often get great satisfaction from solving problems brought to me by my direct reports. I thought that was leadership – having the answers. However, that satisfaction quickly turned to frustration when my direct reports seemed to be lacking the ability to solve any problem on their own. Get your team thinking. This will require you to create clarity around expectations, objectives, behaviors, authority, and responsibility.

Does all this sound like work? It is. Does it sound like it takes time? It does.

However, if you don’t want to be the lid in your organization, it’s mandatory.

Rationality Is an Illusion

Illusion of Rationality

As mature adults and business professionals, we like to claim we approach life rationally. However, the evidence is stacked against us. We err either on being too optimistic or too pessimistic. We take too long to cut losses on bad investments or unhealthy relationships. We regularly make statements like, “I know this is bad for me, but…” We have long lists of phobias. You get the picture. Even the most rational among us cannot be 100% rational.

Why is this?

Rationality is an illusionFirst, our perception is not necessary reality. If you have ever seen a magic act, 3D sidewalk artist, or flipped through a book of optical illusions you have experienced this truth. Our brains are wired to try to make sense of the complex world around us. Add to that the ways our eyes work with our brain to process sight, and you have a fun world of parlor tricks.

However, our brains don’t stop filling in gaps and jumping to conclusions just because we aren’t being entertained by an illusion. It’s not something we can turn off. It is neurologically impossible for us to understand and process everything going on around us. We can’t even process everything our eyes see. Our brains are constantly making decisions on what information to keep and what to ignore. Our brains are also adding information to make incomplete information make sense.

Try to read the following paragraph. Even if you struggle with the first few words, keep pressing on. You might be amazed.

Fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. cna you raed tihs? Olny smoe plepoe can. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrdgde Uinervtisy, it dseno”t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.

Think about the implications of what you just experienced. If your brain did that with letters on a page, what other information is it making up?

Most of the time this process is very useful as in the example above. We are unique in this regard. Our brains are simply amazing, but we must always remember that what we see is not necessarily what is. Simply ask any police detective about eyewitness reports. He or she will tell you that only by looking at similarities across multiple eyewitnesses can the actual events begin to be determined.

Second, biases from experiences and education impact our perception. From the moment we are born, we are developing biases. They allow us to apply our experience for survival. Again, in most cases this is a healthy thing. However, it can also cause us to be irrational. For example, a person who had an overbearing teacher might have a bias against all educators. Similarly a traumatic experience that happened to a loved one or us can impact our perception of situations or people who remind of the traumatic experience. This is something we all do. It is the way we are wired.

Here are four implications for leadership.

A diverse, cohesive leadership team is important. Your core management team should be made up of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences connected by a bond of trust. Multiple perspectives and interests help create a more complete picture of reality. The trust is necessary to allow the team to bring those perspectives together in debate without harming the ability of the team to work together. The trust will not be automatic. It has to be built and maintained intentionally.

Challenge your assumptions. Past successes can cause us to make foolish mistakes. For more on this one, read my last post titled The Delusion of Competence.

Consider all perspectives and data. When making decisions, gather enough information from various perspectives until the proper course of action is clear. To avoid group-think or dominant contributors overshadowing others, consider the following technique. Ask your question, but tell responders to write their answers down without discussing them with one another. Then those answers are read aloud, posted, and duplicates eliminated. If needed, participants can ask for clarification of a response. Then the group is asked to write a ranking of the choices from 1 to however many options were available. The group facilitator then tallies those rankings. This process is called Nominal Group Technique (NGT) and is just one way to make sure everyone’s input is considered.

Have a defined, objective decision-making processes. There are many good decision making process, and one process will not work on all types of decisions. Therefore, it is important to have managers trained in the various techniques and when to apply them. Far too often managers make a decision, and then set about gathering evidence to support their position.

While it is impossible for us to be 100% rational, there are things we can do to hedge against our irrational tendencies. Being disciplined enough to have these four areas covered will improve the quality of the decisions made in your organization. By making better decisions, you’ll find you improve the culture and overall financial performance of the organization too, and that’s very rational.

The Delusion of Competence

Delusion of Competence
If you have achieved almost any level of success, it’s very easy to get caught up in all the praise and exaltation. This can create what I call the Delusion of Competence. This is our tendency to Continue reading The Delusion of Competence

Overcoming Decision Paralysis

Overcoming Decision ParalysisThe trusted advisors have been consulted. Much thought and deliberation have been done. The answer and direction are clear. Still there is hesitation.

There are all kinds of excuses offered up.

“I want to be sure I’ve thought this through.” “It’s not that simple.”

Whatever the explanation, it’s nothing more than a justification for inaction.

While this scenario is common in all areas of life, it can be particularly detrimental for those in positions of leadership. Those over whom the leader is responsible often perceive this paralysis as leadership failure.

So how can it be overcome?

It’s important to recognize a very real psychological component that keeps us stuck in the status quo. It’s a concept called prospect theory, and it comes from decades of research by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on decision-making processes involving risk and uncertainty. In Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, he provides this simple definition: we are more inclined to avoid loss than we are to move toward a gain.

Any change from the status quo is psychologically perceived as a loss. This is one of the reasons people stay in bad relationships – it is familiar and there is a substantial emotional investment. Even with significant pain, the severing of that relationship is regarded as a loss.

Now, let’s apply that to business.

Most executives understand sunk cost. This is the concept that what’s done is done, and decisions should not consider sunk cost. Decisions should only be based upon the return on the next dollar or hour spent on the project or line of business. This, however, is not the way most people operate.

Often managers say, “We’ve got too much invested in this to let it go now.”

While understandable, it’s the wrong perspective. The only thing that matters is the return on the time and resources necessary to complete the project or initiative. There is often a huge sense of loss with abandoning a failed initiative into which so much time and money have been invested. The result is an increase in risk tolerance when it comes to trying to limit losses.

Here’s the classic example from Kahneman and Tversky’s research. Subjects were presented with the following questions.

  1. You have $1000 and you must pick one of the following choices:
    A: You have a 50% chance of gaining $1000, and a 50% chance of gaining $0.
    B: You have a 100% chance of gaining $500.
  1. You have $2000 and you must pick one of the following choices:
    A: You have a 50% chance of losing $1,000, and a 50% chance of losing $0.
    B: You have a 100% chance of losing $500.

From a purely logical analysis, options A and B are equivalent in both questions. However, respondents overwhelmingly chose B for question 1 and A for question 2. In other words, they were risk averse when it came to the potential for gains, but risk seeking when it came to limiting losses.

This leads us to the second reason for decision paralysis: fear. Fear of making the wrong decision often overwhelms the pain of the current situation. Fear is also tied to the concept of prospect theory. The status quo is known. The consequences of a choice that may result in an even greater loss have yet to play out.

Many leaders fall prey to the illusion that they must be invulnerable and infallible. Vulnerability is vital for leaders. History is filled with examples of people embracing leaders that display their humanity. The converse is also true. Leaders projecting a persona of invulnerability are often perceived as unapproachable, disconnected, and egotistical.

Because most decision paralysis happens around large financial or human resource decisions, having a logical decision-making process is critical. This is also where the healthy conflict of effective teams is vital. Leaders must have mentors, advisors, and team members that will ask the difficult questions during the decision-making process.

With those components in place, the correct decision will become clear.

At that point, it is time for the leader to lead.


What do I mean by “What Lies Beneath”? It is learning to mine for the real story in certain situations. We have all heard that what we see of an iceberg is only the tip. The rest of it lies hidden beneath the surface. So it can be with people and situations.

Many times in our practice here at Cirrus Business Group we get into conversations with people and their first level of complaining, of hysteria, of whatever it might be that is on their mind is not the whole story. We find that just listening and letting them ramble if they need to, or let them be quiet if that is what they need is the first step toward finding what the real story is.
I have two examples for you.

In the first case a very quiet leader, a very effective leader, was with us and she certainly had something on her mind. We were going through some coaching of each of the leaders in the organization. As we worked with here she did not reveal in her comments that anything was really going on that bothered her yet from the body language and facial expressions we could see that there was something there below the surface. So we just kept talking with her and asking questions, letting her go on with the surface stuff. After about 30 minutes she finally felt comfortable enough to open up and reveal her real thoughts and relate what she felt was really going on. We finally got to the real story behind the looks on her face and the body language. This is not atypical of someone who is of a more reserved, introverted way of being. That is just how they approach life. There was also a cultural difference in this particular situation. In her culture, being from Eastern Europe, revealing these kinds of things was not generally the first things that one did and a lot of what was felt and thought stayed buried for self-protection and it can be the cultural norm. You have to take the time to let those kinds of people feel safe so that they are clear that what you are doing is confidential, it’s not going to go anywhere. This helps in the understanding of that leader and in the long run helps the company in general.

On the other side of the story is the person who just needs to vent. This person is typically very extroverted, very demonstrative, and needs to be heard. They will be speaking—the question is whether anyone is listening! When handling this kind of person you have to just let them vent. We had a particular case not long ago where this leader had to vent and she was really upset about some things, She went on, and on, and on, and kept circling around back to the same thing until we finally said: “We’ve already heard that part before. Please tell us something new.” Once the energy of all of that went away and she could stop and breathe, we were then able to ask her some questions. What she revealed on the surface as to what the issue was, was not the issue at all. There was something much deeper that had been going on for quite some time, and in fact could have also been affecting other team players in that particular organization who also just weren’t saying anything about it. The culture was not, in their opinion, open to hearing what they wanted to say, or hearing their side of the story. At the same time as we worked with this company we learned that what the upper management was wanting was to hear from them—please talk to us! So a big gap existed between the perception of the line leaders and the perception of upper management. Again there can be cultural differences here. If the upper management comes in to lead a company from a different country may have some difference in approach that we in the United States are not used to, so those things have to be sorted out as the company moves along.

What we observed here is one huge reason to hire a group like the Cirrus Business Group to help you find out what is really going on beneath the surface. We also teach the leaders how to have those conversations, how to approach them, so that the bottom line story really comes out. The root cause is what we are trying to get to here, and most of what we see on the surface is symptoms. Treating just the symptom will not work. You have to get to the root cause through this deeper conversation. It takes time, it takes patience and it takes courage. This has to be in a safe zone and a safe place where it is clear that the conversation is highly confidential. If anything ever gets out about that conversation that you accidentally leaked you will never be able to get anyone’s trust again. This is a very big trust issue when working with these situations.

Coach Judi Harris
Visionary Catalyst
Cirrus Business Group

The Other Side of the Counter…

In this day and age of people knowing people personally, through networking, social events and even social media you don’t know who knows who, so our customer service had better be top notch: no excuses, no pointing fingers, everything above board because you don’t know who that person knows or who knows that person. We tend to judge the person by their dress, body language, language or accents, and often the look on their face in a one to one situation. Believe me, we can be very wrong. We hear about these types of interactions in some of the Christmas songs but how long does the message last? Does it go beyond the holiday season?
Let’s start with basic customer service in retail businesses. Most interactions are one on one between the associate and the customer. On the whole the interactions are good to great however we have to keep in mind how to handle those that are not. Let’s create a few examples.

Our customer comes in to buy a new pair of shoes. While most of your customers are happily hunting for something new to wear this person is very short and even snappy. “Just bring me some that are what I asked for.” He does not seem to be at all happy about shopping for shoes. You go to your co-workers and whisper about how grouchy he is and does another associate want to take care of him. You get some of the styles he is looking for and go back to find tears in his eyes. Asking whether there is anything you can do to help he says: “No. My mother just passed and I am buying shoes for her funeral.” How does that make you feel about your first reaction to him? You did not know his story.

My son works for an establishment popular in the area. He brings home stories of some of his more difficult customer interactions. I advised him of this concept that he does not know what their day has been like and to be the one to make it better if he can. He took a fresh look at how he was approaching the customers keeping in mind that at the moment with that person he WAS the store. He has become very good with his customer service even in the busiest of times making him associate of the month recently.

This can also be a two way street. We as customers do not know what kind of day it has been for the associate on the other side of the counter. I did a short time once between jobs in a grocery store deli. It was a physical job and took its toll on my back being on my feet all shift. There were times it was hard to put a smile on my face. Then a customer would come up and greet me by name with a bright smile and a sense of humor. That much interaction made my day a lot better. Learn to look at name tags and use the associates name whenever you can when doing your shopping. They may not remember you yet they will remember the kind interaction.

This also applies to co-workers and people you may supervise. I was in a leadership position once when an employee with a great quality record suddenly started making mistakes. After a few weeks I was advised to let her go. Instead I asked her if something was going on that was distracting her. Her story was she was being worked up for possible heart disease and was really worried about what the outcome would be. Knowing that I cared her quality went back up and it turned out her issue was not heart disease at all.

It is almost habitual that when we have a bad day we have all the proper reasons for it yet when someone else is having a bad day we blame them for everything under the sun! We have to keep in mind with our interactions, be they social or customer service, that everyone has a story. Things can be going on in their lives that have an effect on their daily lives. You have a story and may have some bad days because of it. How do you want to be treated? I hope with kindness and patience and the honor that is due you just for being alive today. Treat everyone with respect and kindness and you will get a lot more of it back. When you are treated poorly send out compassion—you don’t know what their story is.

Coach Judi Harris
Visionary Catalyst
Cirrus Business Group


Is your company really ready for change?  Let’s think about this for a minute.  Change is everywhere; you can’t get away from it.  I don’t care if you’re a big business or a small business.  The size of your business might have something to do with your rate of change, yet change is inevitable. Really, I think it always has been, it just seems to be happening faster here in the 21st century.

But are you REALLY ready?  Have you even thought about that?  I came across this question at a seminar in 2007 with Vision Force Academy.  Now this was about personal change, and I believe everything in your personal life applies in your business and the question came up the night before the seminar started:  “Are you ready?”.  And of course we’re all excited, there are 30 of us from around the world, and the question came up—are you ready?  We were all excited and we said: “yeah, we’re ready!  Bring it on!”, and Michael Skye looked at us and said “How do you know you’re ready?”.  Of course we came up with our instant answers, “yeah, we’re ready”, “I want to know about this”,  blah, blah, blah.  We gave him all of the answers we could come up with.  And he kept saying the same questions—how do you know you are ready?

Thinking about this from the company point of view, change is going to happen.  There have been many authors writing about it, you can read all about it on the internet, the options seem endless.  My question goes deeper than all of that.  Are you REALLY ready?  Have you thought through everything that could come up when you are going through change, whether the choice is yours or the change is mandated?  It’s going to happen.  There is a merger, there is an acquisition, or it may be your choice.  Whatever the cause, change will happen.  So again I ask—are  you ready?

Have you thought through all of the possible consequences of this change?  Do you know the styles of your people and how they might react to change?  Have you figured out which ones are going to give you the most resistance?  Have you prepared them to handle the change in ways that they can accept it?  Or are they going to go bury their heads in the sand and say:  “I don’t want to play.”

What about the ones who are really eager for it?  These people tend to go so fast that they don’t see upcoming consequences, they don’t see what they have missed, and they ride right over certain facts that may be vitally important.  There are several different styles.   The play of change is fun for some of them.  They make it a game and then their opposites show up and say :  “What are all  having so much fun about?  Don’t you know this is serious business?” There all many different ways people react to change.  Are you ready to understand and guide them? Are they ready?

Have you thought through how long it is going to take and how long some of these people are going to take to change?  How long is it going to take for them to accept it? How many people won’t weather the storm? Which ones are you likely to lose? Have you done anything with them to save them or keep them, or do you even want to?  Sometimes with these kinds of changes attrition is going to happen.  This can be good or this can be bad.  A poorly handled change causes “A” players to go find a place to work that they feel is better for them.  You need to include these players and leaders in the cause for change. Have you?  Have you really brought all of them in and said: “How are we going to implement this? Who do you thing in your department is at the biggest risk for leaving?  Who do you think is going to have the most trouble accepting change?  Who is going to stand behind us as we are moving and when we get there?  Who is going to be left at the end?”  Have you thought these questions through?  If not you may be in for some rude surprises and holes to fill.  Are you ready for all of that?  How do you know?

Most of the time we can easily see all of the benefits of the change, and, yes, there will be some hardship  But look at all of the gain we are going to make.  Along the way it can turn into a totally different path.  You will come up with things you had not expected nor intended.  Are you ready for that?  How do you know?  Are you ready to dig down deep into the hearts and souls of the people and say: “Let’s do this!  Can we do this? Can you help us?  Are you ready to do that? “

When we were at the seminar it came to this.  “Are you (am I) ready to dig down deep in your soul and really look at who you have been, who you are, who you are for other people and who they are for you?  Are you willing to take a stand for yourself and everything you believe in?”

Are you willing to stand up and weather the storms for your company’s values and traditions and what it is becoming?  Are you ready to get beat up, because you will at times feel beat up, if not by somebody else you will beat yourself up.   You will question everything.  Are you ready for that?  Are you really ready?  If you choose change, it is really important that you think about those things.  If change is thrown at you, you had better think about them really fast as you won’t have much time.  Put out some signals, some watch towers, something watching for the people for those who need assistance and support with it and lose who are at risk for leaving.  Maybe they need some coaching or some one on one time.  What is the water cooler (or smoke break) gossip?  Are your people ready for change, and are you?

If you are in the midst of it and you are a leader, how are how going to handle it?  How are you handling it?  What does it mean for you?  What does it mean for your family?  What about the families of the employees?  Do they have to readjust around longer hours, more stress, or harder work;  do you have to move?  Are you ready?  Are they ready?  These are questions that should not be slighted when looking at any kind of change, business or personal, big or small, because everybody is affected that is part of the change.  Not just them, their friends, their employees, social community and the like.  Change can change everything.

So ask your question many times, deeply—ARE YOU READY?

Do You Have the Courage to Be Great?

Do you have the courage to be great?It’s easy to look at Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” or the “100 Best Companies to Work for” list and think, “That’s what I want to build.”

Why wouldn’t you? Can you imagine the talent trying to work for those organizations anytime there is a vacancy? I’m sure it is a who’s who list of the best and the brightest.

However, I’m not sure most leaders have the courage to do what it takes to build and maintain the organizational health necessary to make these lists. Our organization has worked with hundreds of business leaders around the world. One thing is consistent across different continents and cultures: true courage is rare.

In some ways, this seems obvious. It is, of course why we admire the companies on that list so much. Those organizations are not common. Where we often fail to make the connection is in the implications about the leadership of those organizations. The leadership being practiced in those organizations is uncommon too – by definition. If they were common, we would not celebrate them.

So what is the secret? In my 20 years of experience, I’ve determined it comes down to one thing: courage. The organizations’ leaders must have the courage to stand by the values and behaviors they claim to want in the organization, the courage to be held accountable and to hold others accountable, and the courage to remove those from the organization not willing to model and support those values and behaviors – NO EXCEPTIONS. There can be no individual so important to the organization he or she is above the organizations’ values

If it sounds strong, it is. If it sounds difficult, it is. If it sounds uncommon, it is.

That’s why we celebrate the best places to work.

How have you seen this play out in organizations you’ve been a part of?

Recruiting – It’s Not Rocket Science, But It’s Close

Whether you have been a hiring manager or job candidate, everyone has a recruiting war story.  As a hiring manager, you are searching for the elusive dream candidate.  As a candidate, you feel like you are being strung along by one company after another.  It can often feel like the recruiter, whether internal or external, is simply throwing mud against the wall so they can get the job requisition closed and move on.

Why is it that most organizations seem to struggle to attract the kind of talent they want?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are 4 things to start doing now to improve your ability to make the right match.

First, know your brand.  Brand is not only client facing, but you also have a brand as an employer.  Begin by trying to determine your existing employer brand.  Then define what you would like it be in a way that reinforces the values and culture of the organization.  When going through this exercise, it is important that you look honestly at the values and culture of the organization in practice.  If there is a gap between what really goes on and what the organization claims to hold as its values and culture, then the organization’s leadership must own it and begin to fix it.  If they refuse to confront reality, odds are you’re employer brand has become toxic in the marketplace.  You might get applicants, but they will either leave once they realize they were sold a lie or even worse, they will stay because no one else will hire them. People want to feel good about their employer and its brand.  If there is a disconnect here, you’ll only attract the people everyone else rejected.

Once the brand is established, the next component is taking your mind off the job and defining the ideal candidate based upon people who have succeeded in the role.  I know this sounds very simple, but I can’t tell you how much time people spend on defining the job rather than the person they want to fill it.  If the position is important enough to fill, it’s worth spending time with a team of 2-3 key stakeholders to think about the most successful people you’ve had in that role and list out the qualities that you believe made those folks successful.  Again, it seems like a simple exercise, but most folks fail to do it.

Finally, be sure you have a defined screening and interviewing process.  Most managers dread the interview process.  It can be time consuming, and they have a department to keep running.  However, this is another situation where some time invested on the front end will save many hours on the back end.  Work with the internal HR group or an HR consultant to make sure you have a defined success plan for recruiting.  This is no different than the planning done for the sales team, product development, or operations.  The plan should have a process for pre-screening applicants, the stages of your interview process, interview questions, and assessments that look deeply at the candidates core values, ability to solve problems, coachability, and personality to help you make sure you are getting the right match.  I cannot undersell the value of good assessment tools.  It is really the things good assessments will show you that will reveal whether or not a candidate will be a good fit.

Sounds great, right? Who has time to do all that?  Besides, it is usually outside the hiring manager’s realm of expertise.  That’s OK.  That’s what your HR team should be doing for you.  This is where a good recruiter can save you time and ultimately money.  If you think recruiters are expensive, what is the cost of the loss of productivity while the manager is playing the role of recruiter?  Worse yet, what is the cost of a hiring the wrong person?  If you are having rapid growth or have a seasonal business, you may want to look at putting a recruiting specialist on staff.  Otherwise, outsource it.  If you’ve “tried recruiters” before and had a bad experience, you didn’t have the right one.

While recruiting is not easy, it’s not rocket science either.  By managing your brand, defining the ideal candidate, define the recruiting process, and leveraging either internal or external HR resources, you can greatly improve your mission success rate.  After all, each new hire is like a mini-merger, and as with all relationships, they are much easier to get into than out of.