Three Things a Great Leader Would Never Say

Things a Great Leader Would Never Say by Les McKeown –
Great leadership is hard. Very occasionally, it’s pretty simple– like just not saying dumb things.

In the spirit of simple leadership, I give you my personal top three dumb things leaders shouldn’t say. No doubt your mileage will vary:

1. “Don’t bring me any surprises.”
I hear it all the time, and so do you (maybe you’re even guilty of it yourself)– a leader is blindsided by some event they couldn’t have predicted, and, out of embarrassment, swears they’ll never be caught unawares again.

At first they work harder, longer, assimilating data like an apocalypse is on the horizon that only they can avert, but then…bam. Another unexpected shoe drops, another unpredictable event occurs, and our leader is left with egg on their face all over again.

Redoubling their efforts, the leader adds another layer of protection against catastrophe – a mantra they begin doling out to all their direct reports: “Don’t bring me any surprises” (or its close cousin “Don’t bring me any bad news“). [Read more…]

The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

Sociopath In The Office Next Door by Davia Temin –
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal–even charming–all those around him or her are suffering. [Read more…]

The Only Thing that Really Matters

The Only Thing that Really Matters by Tony Schwartz –
Think for a moment of the last time you felt triggered — pushed into negative emotions by someone or something. Here, for example, are several of my triggers: feeling taken advantage of, not getting a response to an email I’ve sent to someone, and not being acknowledged for good work I’ve done.

We move into negative emotions — what we call the “Survival Zone” in our work at The Energy Project — when we feel a sense of threat or danger.

But what is the threat exactly? Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have asked thousands of our clients to describe something that consistently triggers them and then explain why.

Remarkably, we’ve found that a trigger can almost always be traced to the same root cause: the feeling of being devalued or diminished by someone else’s words or behavior. Consider my triggers above. [Read more…]

Do the Incompetent Rise to the Top? Peter Principle Revisited

Peter Principle Incompetence Rises to the Top by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. –
How and why do incompetent people rise to the top?

Why are there so many incompetent leaders? Is your boss less than competent? How about that department head in accounting or HR that doesn’t know his/her job? How in the world do incompetent people rise to the top in many organizations? Here are the reasons:

We Don’t Do a Good Job of Selecting Leaders. We simply don’t invest the time or resources needed to select the best people for jobs. Time and time again, we take hiring shortcuts. We interview in a haphazard way, and select the person who appears best in the interview. The problem is that often the best performer in the interview is one of the least competent workers (they’re so good in the interview because they get so much practice, because they are often fired!). [Read more…]

Dealing with Your Incompetent Boss

Dealing with Incompetent Bossby Amy Gallo –

Everyone complains about his or her boss from time to time. In fact, some consider it a national workplace pastime. But there’s a difference between everyday griping and stressful frustration, just as there is a clear distinction between a manager with a few flaws and one who is incompetent. Dealing with the latter can be anguishing and taxing. But with the right mindset and a few practical tools, you can not only survive but flourish.

What the Experts Say
“Most people have had experience with someone who is incompetent, or at least unhelpful,” says Annie McKee, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute and co-author of Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness. Ineptitude in managers is unfortunately common. McKee says that’s because too many companies promote people for the wrong reasons. [Read more…]

8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company

Foster Innovation

Creativity fosters innovation, but how can you ignite creative sparks within your organization? Inc.com compiled lessons on developing a vibrant research and development strategy.

To come up with their best new ideas, most companies turn to an inexpensive and efficient source of innovation: their own employees. How can you unleash the creative spirit lurking in your workforce? Here are eight of the best strategies we’ve uncovered in recent months.

1. Let Every Employee Play Designer.
Three years ago, the five-person research and development team at pet-accessory company West Paw Design had a case of collective writer’s block. A production manager named Seth Partain proposed holding a contest for the company’s three-dozen employees. Everyone from salespeople to seamstresses were encouraged to spend an afternoon designing and producing prototypes for new products. Following an end-of-day vote, a winner was crowned at an award ceremony. By making employees feel a part of the idea-creation process, West Paw Design set up a new pipeline of product development. [Read more…]

The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

Davia Temin
Davia Temin

11/19/2010 – Davia Temin –
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. [Read more…]

How to Make Your Employees Smile

Paul Spiegelman
Paul Spiegelman

11/19/2010 – Paul Spiegelman –
Paul Spiegelman, the founder and CEO of Beryl, a call-center company in Bedford, Texas, has built a unique, people-centric culture, which he chronicled in the book, Why is Everyone Smiling? His next book, co-authored with Beryl employees, is titled Smile Guide: Employee Perspectives on Culture, Loyalty and Profit. Here, Spiegelman shares tips on how to keep your workers happy.

1. Give People a Voice
“Listen to what your employees say,” says Spiegelman. “And don’t just listen – implement the ideas that they have, and give them credit for those ideas. As entrepreneurs, we might in our gut know the right answers to certain questions, but it is often better to let workers tell you what the answers are and give them credit.” [Read more…]

Sometimes Micromanaging Is Good–And Necessary

7/29/2010 – Christine M. Riordan –

Micromanage. A dreaded word. The dictionary defines it as “to direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.” Most popular management books call it something to avoid at all costs and give decisive tips on how not to do it.

As a professor of management, I often talk about empowering employees and avoiding micromanaging them. Sometimes very bad things happen when you micromanage your employees with too much attention to detail. [Read more…]

Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace

7/9/2010 – Liz Ryan –
Reigns of modest but palpable terror are making an unwelcome return at offices all over the country

The U.S. financial crisis has caused fear in the boardroom, and that unease trickles down to every worker. The principal signs of a fear-soaked senior leadership are a preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes. We’ve seen the fear epidemic hit dozens of major firms over the past few years, and it isn’t pretty. When a leadership team’s attention turns from “How can we do the right thing for our customers and employees?” to “How can we keep our stature, our jobs, and the status quo intact, at any cost?” then fear officially rules the roost. [Read more…]

Lessons From a Blue-Collar Millionaire

Inc.com | by Bo Burlingham | 2/1/2010
When Nick Sarillo launched his pizza business, he had one goal in mind: to create a corporate culture unlike any he had seen.

It’s Takeout Tuesday at Nick’s Pizza & Pub, and the air is thick with the smells of hot pizza crust, peppers, onions, and cheese. Eighteen young men and women — most of them high school age — form an assembly line between a row of worktables and a long bank of pizza ovens. The kids laugh and shout, even as they focus intently on their tasks.

Nick Sarillo, 47, stands halfway down the assembly line, holding a giant wooden pizza board. As the company’s founder and CEO, he doesn’t usually work the pizza line anymore. [Read more…]

A Little Less Conversation

A Little Less Conversation
Inc.com | by Joel Spolsky | 2/1/2010
Have you ever invited employees to a meeting just so they wouldn’t feel left out? If so, you may be an overcommunicator.

When was the last time you scheduled a meeting and invited eight people instead of the three people who really needed to be there simply because you didn’t want anyone to feel left out?

When was the last time you sent a companywide e-mail that said something like, “Hey, attention coffee drinkers: If you finish the pot, make another!” even though there is actually only one person who violates this rule (and she’s your co-founder)? [Read more…]

John Mackey of Whole Foods on Hiring Leaders

John Mackey of Whole Foods on Hiring LeadersInc.com | John Mackey Interview | July 2009

Q: What traits should I look for when hiring for a leadership position?

A: My philosophy about this has definitely evolved over the years. I understand people a lot better today than I did 30 years ago. Back then, I was more impressed with people who were very articulate. In many companies, the person who talks the best usually gets the job. I got snowed by a few of those people over the years. I still think communication is important, but I don’t think there’s always a correlation between being a great communicator and other virtues that make for a great leader. [Read more…]

How to Work More Like a Start-Up

Inc.com | by Darren Dahl | May 2009

The first thing you notice when you walk into the Chicago offices of Total Attorneys, which provides software and services to small law firms, is the number of people on their feet. Every morning, the company’s 180 employees gather around the office in groups of five to 10. Close your eyes, take in the often raucous banter and laughter, and it’s easy to mistake Total Attorneys’s headquarters for a college cafeteria. But these meetings, which last for about 15 minutes, are more than mere employee chitchat. They are intended to create what CEO Ed Scanlan calls controlled chaos.

The inspiration for the gatherings comes from a process for designing software called agile development, which aims to promote flexibility, speed, and teamwork. But rather than limit participation to software engineers, Scanlan has deployed agile development concepts companywide, in a drive to make the seven-year-old business act more like the start-up it once was. [Read more…]

Google Searches for Staffing Answers

The Wall Street Journal | by Scott Morrison | May 19, 2009

Concerned a brain drain could hurt its long-term ability to compete, Google Inc. is tackling the problem with its typical tool: an algorithm.

The Internet search giant recently began crunching data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula Google says can identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit.

Google officials are reluctant to share details of the formula, which is still being tested. The inputs include information from surveys and peer reviews, and Google says the algorithm already has identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving.[Read more…]

Making the Most Out of a Bad Economy

Inc.com | by Michael Alter | Mar. 31, 2009

With all this economic gloom and doom, business owners are no doubt finding it a challenge to stay positive. What some might not realize, though, is that along with the challenges of a downturn comes huge opportunity.

When times are good, it’s easy to overlook problems and inefficiencies in your business. After all, a small crack in the windshield isn’t much of a problem, and it’s easier to ignore than to pay for a costly replacement. That’s the wrong attitude, especially during leaner times that call for closer scrutiny of business operations. Eventually the crack becomes larger and more inconvenient, and you might have to shell out for a much more expensive ticket than if you would have just fixed it in the first place. [Read more…]

Street Smarts: Surviving the Recession

Inc.com | by Norm Brodsky | March 2009

It requires conquering your fears and making the right choices. Many business owners won’t do either

Fear can be a motivator, but it can also lead you into bad decisions, particularly in times like these. I have no doubt that a lot of business owners have spent the past couple of months implementing cost-saving plans and survival strategies that will weaken their companies and damage their long-term prospects. They’ve done it because they’ve been afraid, and fear makes us shortsighted. With the economy falling apart around us, we forget that recessions always end. Yes, some businesses will go under, but some companies will emerge stronger. If you want yours to be among the latter, you need to be careful about which costs you cut and which deals you offer your customers. [Read more…]

The Employee Whisperer

Fast Company | by Kate Rockwood | November 2008

How Kenexa is blending psychology and technology to create passionate workers.

At the suburban Philadelphia offices of Kenexa, people grin at one another all day long. Sometimes they hug. Bright posters of the company’s guiding principles dot the walls: YOU’RE ALLOWED TO LAUGH YOUR WAY THROUGH A PROBLEM AND MAKING FRIENDS REPLACES OUR ORGANIZATIONAL HIERARCHY. The CEO, Rudy Karsan, spouts odd koanlike talk: “The world is like a roomful of jars. Every time you open a jar, there’s untold treasure in there.” [Read more…]

Should Your People Come Before Your Customers?

InformationWeek | by Rob Preston | Sept. 29, 2008

One school of thought is that if you treat your people right, they’ll be far more motivated and equipped to engage with (and maximize returns from) your customers.

The customer comes first. It’s considered a business management truism. The way to boost profits and market caps is to focus on the people who buy your products. “Delight” them, as former GE chief Jack Welch would say. Create relationships that foster brand loyalty and return business. Management experts C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan go a step further, exhorting companies to “co-create value” with their customers, one customer at a time. [Read more…]

Beyond Flextime

Inc.com | by Scott Westcott | August 2008

For Linda Skoglund, getting a pedicure on a busy Tuesday afternoon was a career turning point. It ran against her Midwestern work ethic. And certainly, there was plenty of work piled up at J.A. Counter & Associates, the $2.5 million insurance and investment advisory firm she owns in New Richmond, Wisconsin. On the other hand, canceling her visit to the salon that day could have sent a bad message. It risked signaling to her 15 employees that they weren’t allowed to do whatever they wanted at any given time during work hours. And that would tank her plans to overhaul the work environment at J.A. Counter. [Read more…]

Mistreating Employees A Clear Sign of Management Troubles

During the glory days of the Dot Com Bubble I worked as Director of Web Development at Homestore.com (now Move.com). Homestore ran Realtor.com, the largest real estate site on the web. Homestore’s management team was unable to capitalize on the unique position and strategic advantages the company had in the marketplace and squandered the resources and talent they were entrusted with.

Homestore com Logo old

The way executives reacted to the looming financial crisis of their own making is an illustrative case study in how not to conduct layoffs and how not to manage a company’s most important assets – its employees.
[Read more…]

Some Employees Are More Equal Than Others

Dig Your Tunnel Employee MistreatmentWhen I was younger I used to believe that getting a good education and working hard would offer me a stable life. I learned real quick that many companies don’t reward hard work anymore – at least not like I thought they did.

I believe in hard work. I think people should be rewarded on what they produce. But all too often the wrong people get promoted. Employees get preferential treatment and enjoy more benefits and opportunities as long as they don’t make any waves, toe the organizational line, and always support their boss.

When we first come across such a dysfunctional work environment (especially early in our career), we are not sure what to make of it. We recognize that such preferential treatment of less qualified employees is neither ethical nor fair, but we don’t know how to handle it. [Read more…]