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Jim Clemmer

Are You Doing it…To…For…or…With…Your Team?

Many studies have shown the impact that control of our situation has on our health, happiness, and effectiveness. In one experiment a white-footed deer mouse was placed in a brightly lit cage. The mouse could press a bar to alter the light. The mouse reduced the lighting to a dim level. The next morning experimenters […]

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Are You Focused on What’s Wrong to Make Things Right?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A young girl’s elementary teacher hears little Sophia sing at school and recognizes what a beautiful voice she has. The teacher encourages the girl to nurture her gift and has her sing a solo at a school concert. Sophia’s pure, clear voice and passion for music enchants everyone […]

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Do You Agree on What Customer Service or Quality Is?

We complain that “it” is disappearing. We all want more of “it.” When asked to define “it,” we say, “I’ll know `it’ when I see ‘it’.” Organizations want to be known for delivering high levels of “it.” Many understand that “it” will increasingly determine their success. Team members would like to be known for delivering […]

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Has Your Culture Created A Great Place to Work for All?

What’s the impact of being one of the 100 best companies to work for? What does it take to join this elite group? How does your organization or team compare? Since 1998, Fortune magazine has partnered with Great Place to Work to create its annual list of 100 best companies to work for. This year’s […]

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HR Needs to Make Big Changes to Boost Effectiveness

Innovation and agility are critical to thriving — or even surviving — in today’s fast-changing world. Balancing speed and quality is now a vital leadership skill. First used in software development, Agile is an approach now spreading to other functions. Its main principles are focusing on people more than process, using pilots and prototypes for […]

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Are You and Your Team on the Bleeding or Leading Edge?

Is your team/organization overloaded with many priorities and conflicting activities? Does your team/organization load new projects and goals on top of existing workloads without rigorous “stop doing” pruning to make room for them? These are the two biggest problems emerging over the last few months of work with our Strategic Use of Time Assessment. The […]

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From Bah! to Aha! Five Leadership Lessons from Ebenezer Scrooge

One of my cherished holiday traditions is watching various movie versions of Charles Dickens’ much-loved classic, A Christmas Carol. Once our grandkids become old enough (a major highlight of this year was all three of our kids each had a baby), I’ll be able to watch my favorite version, The Muppet Christmas Carol, with them. […]

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It’s That Time of Year: How Strategic is Your Use of Time?

Imagine a large jar filled to the brim with golf balls. Is it full? What if marbles were slowly poured in as the jar was shaken until no more could be added? Now is it full? How about sand being trickled into the jar as it’s vigorously jiggled? When the sand reaches the brim is […]

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Are You a Learning Leader on the Grow?

Greek mathematician, Euclid, was hired to teach geometry to a young, impatient Egyptian heir to the throne. The prince was an unmotivated student. He especially resisted learning basic formulas and theories before getting into practical applications. “Is there no simpler way you can get to the point?” he asked. “As the crown prince I should […]

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Webinar: Change Culture by Upgrading Leadership Development

We did a series of focus groups, interviews, and a feedback survey with a division of a large company to help Eric, the division manager, determine why their culture wasn’t performing at the level he wanted. We found that the shortfalls in the division’s levels of engagement, service, and productivity could be traced to the […]

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Thriving Companies Pursue Both Purposeful Profits and Profitable Purpose

If the reason for a company’s existence is just profit, they won’t be very profitable. Eventually the company probably won’t exist. The dollar sign isn’t a cause. It doesn’t stir the soul. Operating margins and returns on investment don’t excite and inspire. As an ultimate objective on its own, the pursuit of profits is hollow […]

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Say What? Are the Best Leaders Listeners or Talkers?

Does your team or organization need to improve communications? Would you like to get more e-mails every day? I’ll often ask those two questions in workshops when we’re discussing communications. Most hands go up when asked who would like to improve communications. Often no one raises a hand when asked who would like to increase […]

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High Performing Organizations Provide Spirit and Meaning

I once had a speaking engagement with a cleaning and custodial company at their annual management conference. Arriving early and sitting in on the meeting to get a feel for the group and the conference, I was inspired by what a remarkable job those leaders did of bringing “pride of craft” to clean toilets and […]

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Five Steps to a High-Performance Culture

Aesop, the ancient Greek fabulist and storyteller observed, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” Culture change is a perfect example. Many leaders proclaim culture change is a key strategic objective. And for good reason. Culture’s been well proven as a critical “soft” factor that produces hard results. Signs of a […]

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Story Road: Charting Steps in our Journey

In his classic book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, American mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell outlined common steps to the hero’s journey. These cut across cultures, times, and every society’s stories, fairy tales, novels, and movies. We’re all living in our own novel. We write a page each day of our own action adventure. […]

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Are You a Culprit in The Great Training Robbery?

Is your organization using a “spray and pray” approach to training and development? What kind of return are you getting on your investment? Michael Beer is Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at Harvard Business School. He and his colleagues are working on a paper focused on “The Great Training Robbery.” They’re finding that some […]

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Discovering and Developing Hidden Reservoirs of Talent

How important are these six skills to leadership effectiveness? Which ones are most effective and should be developed? Innovation: encouraging new ideas and solutions through creative approaches Relationships: developing strong relationships built on trust, respect, and consideration Acumen: acquiring knowledge and skills to be at the cutting edge of business practices Inspiration: motivating others to […]

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Cross Training to Leverage Leadership Strengths

I was coaching a university vice president who was responsible for student and community relations. In reviewing his 360 assessment we aligned his strengths, passion, and organizational need to identify his “leadership sweet spot.” Strengthening his communication skills from the 75th to the 90th percentile is what he felt would help him elevate his leadership […]

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Clear Leadership Team Retreat Objectives and Outcomes Are Vital to Success

My last blog, “7 Reasons Change and Development Programs Fail“, concluded that a senior leadership team retreat lays the foundation for successful change and development initiatives. This is often the intact senior leadership team heading up a department, division, or the entire organization. Depending on the retreat objectives and length, one or sometimes two, levels […]

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Ten Critical Questions to Assess HR’s Effectiveness

Over the years we’ve worked with many Human Resource executives. We’ve also facilitated a few hundred offsite executive retreats as part of Culture and Organization Development. Step #2 in that process, setting up and following through on the executive retreat, is where we see the starkest differences in HR leaders. The biggest differences often show […]

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Spotlight on Feedback

Plato once observed “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when people are afraid of the light.” Ignoring or failing to understand how others see our behaviors keeps us in the dark and diminishes everyone’s perceptions of our leadership effectiveness. Those perceptions then shape […]

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Re-Fired with Building Strengths

It’s been three years since Jack Zenger and I had one of our periodic update conversations after we headed off in different directions over 20 years ago. Our previous companies, The Achieve Group and Zenger Miller, had worked together for more than a decade. When this conversation took place with Jack, my wife, Heather, and […]

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Upward Leadership: 7 Tactics to Influence Your Boss

One of the most read articles on our web site is “Bad Boss: Learn How to Manage Your Manager“. Upward leadership is a crucial and often underdeveloped skill. Many people give far too much power and control to their boss. If they’ve won the “boss lottery” and report to a great leader, work life is […]

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A Snapshot of Leadership Development Practices in Canada

The Conference Board of Canada recently published a report summarizing their research on leadership development from a cross section of public and private sector organizations. Participants identified their top leadership development drivers as: addressing declining levels of leadership capacity planning for succession and growing the talent pool engaging and mobilizing employees managing changing demographics and […]

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Put Employees First to Delight Customers

How can apathetic or disengaged frontline servers produce happy customers? Some exceptional employee will delight customers despite how they’re treated by their boss or the organization. Most don’t. The vast majority of employees directly reflect the care and service they experience every day in their team or workplace. “The Secret to Delighting Customers? Put Employees […]

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Feedback is Critical to Leadership and Organization Effectiveness

We are working with a large industrial company having big problems with a multi-billion dollar project that will make or break the company’s future. To understand the roots of this potential disaster we interviewed and surveyed key project leaders, managers, and executives. This was followed by offsite retreats with key leaders that included “moose hunting” […]

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Feedback is Critical to Leadership and Organization Effectiveness

We are working with a large industrial company having big problems with a multi-billion dollar project that will make or break the company’s future. To understand the roots of this potential disaster we interviewed and surveyed key project leaders, managers, and executives. This was followed by offsite retreats with key leaders that included “moose hunting” […]

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Feedback is Critical to Leadership and Organization Effectiveness

We are working with a large industrial company having big problems with a multi-billion dollar project that will make or break the company’s future. To understand the roots of this potential disaster we interviewed and surveyed key project leaders, managers, and executives. This was followed by offsite retreats with key leaders that included “moose hunting” […]

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Video Clip: Focusing on Gaps 2 – 3 Times Less Effective

Last week I had two separate one-on-one coaching sessions with the Provost and a key Dean at a major university. We were reviewing the 360 assessment report they’d just received from students, faculty, peers, their manager, and others. Both assessments were quite strong with many leadership competencies rated at the 90th percentile and most above […]

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9 Habits That Lead to Terrible Decisions

Zenger Folkman continues to mine their growing database (over 500,000 raters of more than 50,000 leaders) for new leadership insights. Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s recent Harvard Business Review blog reports on their latest research study comparing the behaviors of the very best and the very worst decision makers. These nine behaviors — listed from […]

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Is Your Organization Facing a Talent Gap?

As summer fades like the flowers in our garden and we move into a busy fall season we’re planning a series of webinars, executive briefings, and workshops focused on Talent Management. Here’s why: • 70% of executives think their organization lacks adequate bench strength • 97% of organizations report serious leadership gaps, 40% say these […]

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Different Leadership Competencies for Each Organizational Level?

Leadership competency models are now used widely by many organizations to define the skills and behaviors of effective leaders. They’re often used for “talent management” such as coaching and development, performance management, succession planning, identifying and developing high potentials/emerging leaders, and the like. Many competency models are multi-layered with differing competencies for supervisors, managers, and […]

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Workers Force Reinstatement of Highly Likable CEO

Labor Day was celebrated yesterday in Canada and the U.S. “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers.” Last week’s story of how fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was reinstated in his role by force of his employees’ fierce loyalty to him contains a powerful leadership lesson. Demoulas was fired as head of New […]

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Effective Leaders are Proactive not Reactive With their Time

Time is the great equalizer. We all get exactly the same amount of it every day. What a leader does with his or her daily time allotment distinguishes good, bad, and extraordinary leaders. Many less effective leaders are sucked into the busyness trap trying to keep up with their daily deluge of e-mails and stream […]

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Recognition Pitfalls and Traps

A friend with a past drinking problem has been a devoted member of Alcoholics Anonymous and not touched a drop of alcohol for many years. Recently he gave up most of his weekend to deal with a Client emergency. The next week his manager “thanked him” with an expensive bottle of wine. This breaks one […]

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Tips for Taming the E-Mail Beast

E-mail continues to be a huge challenge for many leaders. In our workshops, leaders often assess how much time they spend dealing with technical, management, and leadership issues and where they’d prefer to invest their time (“Check Your Balance with the Performance Triangle“). Every poll we’ve ever taken with participants shows that 80 – 90% […]

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Thoughts on Leadership Reflecting the Legacy of Warren Bennis

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Warren Bennis. Over the past 30 years my views and practices on leadership have been profoundly influenced by his research and writing. After reading his personally revealing and deeply thoughtful memoirs a few years ago (“Review of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership“) […]

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Webinar: Secrets to Discovering Your Company’s Hidden Talent Pools

One of the highlights of the Leadership Summit was a keynote presentation by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman on a critical topic that’s vital to the future of many organizations. In much of the Western World we’re on the edge of a dangerous talent precipice. For many it’s becoming a crisis. In America 60% of […]

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Leadership Lessons from The Summit

Our Business Development Director Brad Smith, and I just returned from an intensive week in Park City, Utah. This idyllic setting in the mountains above Salt Lake City is famous for their natural beauty, numerous ski hills and resorts, and the Sundance Film Festival. We didn’t have much time to enjoy this beautiful location with […]

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Why Do You Want to Lead?

Research shows that extraordinary leaders are made, not born. Ultimately it boils down to motivation. How much does a leader want to move their skills from good to great? Perhaps an even more important question is why. Why do you want to lead? I recently came across Harvard Business School professor Bill George’s article on […]

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What’s Your Coaching Style?

“Do You Have What It Takes to be a Good Coach?” showing our research on the connection between coaching effectiveness and employee commitment. This blog also provides a link to take a coaching evaluation to see how you compare to outstanding coaches. This follows from Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s recent webinar on becoming a […]

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An Overview of Key Insights from “The Extraordinary Leader”

This week I am attending my third Extraordinary Leadership Summit in Park City, Utah. This Zenger Folkman annual conference is a wonderful time to reconnect with ZF’s great people and international partners. These conferences provide updates of ZF’s new and revised programs and services. They also feature Clients outlining their successful approaches, plans for further […]

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Video Clip: Towering Strengths Overshadow Weaknesses

As I outlined in “Exceptional Leaders Aren’t Well Rounded” and “Outstanding Major League Baseball Players Aren’t Well Rounded” extraordinary leaders aren’t defined by the absence of weaknesses but the presence of a few profound strengths. In The Extraordinary Leader workshop we help participants uncover the power of leadership perception from their own experiences with a […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm from … “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

“… everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” “… the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences […]

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Book Review: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

I often find biographies of accomplished leaders or thought pioneers inspiring and instructive. Having read the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl’s, classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning years ago I recently came across his autobiography Viktor Frankl Recollections. I enjoyed reading about his story and it drew me back to reread Man’s Search for […]

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Is your Leadership Audio in Sync with Your Video?

It’s really annoying to watch a video with the audio slightly out of sync. Too often this is what people see from their leaders in matching their behaviors to their bold proclaimed core values. Here are a few examples of how leaders in extraordinary organizations ensure they’re role models of the organization’s values: The CEO […]

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An Hilarious Illustration of How Perceptions of Fairness and Equality Are Relative

As part of a larger culture development effort, we’ve worked with dozens of executive teams over the years to articulate or revise their core values. An almost universal core value is some variation of respect, integrity, or equality, or fairness. Whether our espoused or aspirational values become the real or lived values to everyone inside […]

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Talent Management and Global Leadership Development

Talent Management including succession planning, developing high potentials, and attracting and retaining top people is now a critical issue. During the financial crisis and economic downturn of the last few years organizations slowed or stopped leadership development. As executives now face a wave of retiring Baby Boomers and take a longer term view, “leadership bench […]

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Coaching and Feedback are Vital to Continuous Improvement

There’s an old story about a man walking into a drugstore to use the pay phone: “Hello, ABC Company, sometime ago you had an opening for an operations manager.  Is the position still available?”  After a slight pause, he continued: “Oh, you have.  Six months ago, huh?  How’s he working out?” A somewhat longer pause. […]

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Canadian and American Independence: Busting Barriers

This week we celebrate Canada Day (July 1) and American Independence Day (July 4). Both are national examples of breaking free from restrictive and colonial powers. In some ways our countries overcame learned helplessness and broke through The Pike Syndrome. Since the mid-sixties, there have been a large number of experiments with animals and people […]

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Are You Using Your Customer’s Yardstick?

It’s all about perception. Eons ago the ancient Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, mused “What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.” We so easily mouth the words “perception is reality.” But do we seek out and work from our customers’ reality? Or do we tend to dismiss […]

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How Am I Doing? Asking for Coaching Feedback

Surveys show that when we’re asked to rate our own driving skills, over 75% of us score ourselves as above average. Similar self-assessment distortions show up when managers are asked to rate their own coaching effectiveness. In researching and developing The Extraordinary Coach development system, Zenger Folkman identified four powerful reasons for asking coachees for […]

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Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Good Coach?

Free Coaching Assessment and Webinar Ask 100 people if they have good common sense and more than 95% will tell you they do. Similarly, if you ask 100 managers if they are good coaches the number may be lower than 95%, but not by much. The managers we talk to assume that if they are […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm on… “What You Can Change… And What You Can’t”

“The knowledge of the difference between what we can change and what we must accept in ourselves is the beginning of real change. With this knowledge, we can use our precious time to make the many rewarding changes that are possible. We can live with less self-reproach and less remorse. We can live with greater […]

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Book Review: “What We Can Change and What We Can’t” By Martin Seligman

From its beginning in the 1960s, cognitive psychology has developed science/evidence-based approaches that have proven more effective then drugs and other methods in treating people with depression, phobias, obsessions, addictions, eating disorders, and other life-disrupting problems. University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology, Martin Seligman, established a successful track record researching, developing, and documenting treatment techniques. […]

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Outstanding Major League Baseball Players Aren’t Well Rounded

I enjoy playing baseball and I am a big fan of the sport — especially the Toronto Blue Jays. So far this year, the Jays are tantalizing their fans with their winning ways. We can only hope it continues right into September! Recently I was facilitating an Extraordinary Leader workshop. This process is based on […]

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Cash Disincentive: How Money Can Kill Motivation

A few months ago I had a lengthy and very engaging conversation with freelance writer, Diane Peters, on using money as a motivator. She’s just published an excellent article in CPA Magazine with further research and practical tips on this critical management issue. Here are a few of Diane’s key points from “Cash Disincentive” that […]

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Using Data to Deal with Vocal Squeaky-Wheels

Is your meeting or team too often dominated by one vocal person who forcefully pushes his or her point of view as if they’re speaking on behalf of everyone else? Do you often suspect their position is not shared by most others but find he or she has hijacked the discussion? Do you have people […]

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Thriving in Turbulent Times

Turbulence means disorder, chaos, and instability. Turbulent times are unpredictable, disruptive, and confusing. Sound familiar? Yes. It sounds like life. While it’s tempting to want stability, predictability and orderliness, be very careful what you wish for. Writer, academic, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature Germaine Greer warns, “Security is when everything is settled. […]

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Find and Build on Your “20 Seconds of Brilliance”

In one of my recent LinkedIn updates (connect with me at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jimclemmer) I featured Peter Aceto’s inspiring Globe & Mail article on the gold medal power of positive thinking. I especially loved his example of how Debbie Muir coached the Canadian synchronized swimming team to a gold medal. The team was struggling with their three-minute […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmmm on … “The Happiness Hypothesis”

….when it comes to goal pursuit, it really is the journey that counts, not the destination. Set for yourself any goal you want. Most of the pleasure will be had along the way, with every step that takes you closer… we can call this ‘the progress principle’: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals […]

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Review of “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom” by Jonathon Haidt

I was drawn to this book because Jonathon set out to identify the origins of the burgeoning field of positive psychology in ancient wisdom. Drawing on classical thought from India such as the Upanishads and Buddhism, Chinese philosophers, Mediterranean like the Old and New Testaments, Greek and Roman philosophy, and the Koran he structured the […]

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Managing Time Like Money

I am facilitating a series of leadership development and organization effectiveness sessions for 200 middle managers and senior executives of a public sector organization. One of the key issues we’ve focused on is the growing “expectations gap”– customers/clients are expecting more services while paying the same or less taxes. Of course, this doing-more-with-less pressure is […]

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Strengths-Based Performance Appraisals a Very Popular Topic

Many people find giving or getting performance appraisals stressful and negative. That’s likely why one of the most popular white papers we’ve featured in some time was “Making Performance Appraisals an Inspiring Event“. Strengths-based performance discussions can dramatically change the energy, focus, and effectiveness of these discussions. Focusing on strengths creates higher energy and much […]

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Beware the Self-Assessment Trap

As a senior citizen was driving down a divided highway his car phone rang. When he answered the phone his wife’s urgent voice came through the speaker system warning him, “Herman, Herman! It’s all over the news that a car’s been driving for miles on the expressway going the wrong way. Please be on the […]

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8 Keys to a Motivating Vision

For years our culture development work has centered around three key questions: • Where are we going (the vision or picture of our preferred future)? • What do we believe in (our guiding values or principles)? • Why do we exist (our reason for being, mission, or purpose)? In the early years of our culture […]

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Building on Strengths Key to Improving Organizational Health

In our culture development keynotes, workshops, and retreats we’ve been citing research from the largest study of organizational effectiveness ever undertaken. A few years ago McKinsey & Company published their extensive research in Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage (click here for my book summary and review). The research study identified nine […]

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Employee Engagement Reflects Leadership Effectiveness

When our three kids were growing up I was — sometimes painfully — reminded of the old parenting adage; “children act like their parents despite all attempts to teach them good manners!” When Chris, Jenn, or Vanessa behaved poorly in public — if I took a deep look in the mirror — I could recognize […]

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Make Performance Appraisals an Inspiring Event

Last week I was working with a diverse group of senior operating executives at their professional association’s leadership forum. The new research we reviewed and discussions we had on building leadership strengths resonated strongly with the group — especially our Best Leader/Worst Leader exercise (see “Exceptional Leaders Aren’t Well Rounded“). What especially rang true for […]

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Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman Named Thought Leaders of the Year

It’s been two years since Jack Zenger and I explored partnering once again (our previous companies, Zenger Miller and The Achieve Group worked together in the 80s). Since forming The CLEMMER Group in 1994 we’ve been approached by many consulting and training organizations to work together. We’ve always chosen to do our own thing and […]

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