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jimclemmer

We Don’t See the World As It Is, We See the World As We Are

“Tell me about the people at the organization you just left,” said the senior manager who was screening candidates to fill a key leadership role. “They were uneducated and lazy,” the candidate responded. “You always had to keep an eye on them because they were constantly trying to goof off or rip off the company. […]

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You Can’t Raise Performance with Low Expectations

In his book, The Excellence Dividend, Tom Peters writes, “In an Oscar acceptance speech, the late director Robert Altman said: ‘The role of the director is to create a space where the actors and actresses can become more than they have ever been before, more than they’ve dreamed of being.’” You’ve likely had a limiting […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm on…Humankind

A few favorite excerpts (so many to choose from) of my review of Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History. …to stand up for human goodness is to take a stand against the powers that be. For the powerful, a hopeful view of human nature is downright threatening. Subversive. Seditious. It implies that we’re not selfish […]

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Review of Humanity: A Hopeful History

How many of these assumptions describe the reality of humankind: Corruption and cruelty lie just beneath the surface and can easily be pulled out of people. Civility is a thin veneer covering people’s selfish, sometimes evil tendencies. Laws and punishments are needed to curb dishonesty and violence. We’re all born into a world of sin […]

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Are You Leading by Accountability?

During a leadership development workshop, we were discussing the keys to building accountability and ownership. One participant told us that he and his wife had their four-year-old grandson, Jordan, for a sleepover at their house. In the morning, he came running down the stairs and reported, “Grandma, Grandpa, somebody peed in my bed!” Now, who […]

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Are You Throwing Gasoline on the Performance Appraisal Dumpster Fire?

Do you eagerly look forward to giving or receiving performance appraisals? Does the experience feel like being poked in the eye with a sharp stick? Are you doing the poking? Most people hate performance appraisals. Not only are they ineffective, they often scorch and burn. Research by Marie-Hélène Budworth, assistant professor of Human Resource Management […]

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Scream Team or Dream Team? A 10 Point Team Check Up

An organization’s culture ripples out from the team leading it. The behaviors of the leadership team are THE single biggest influence on what’s expected/rewarded and discouraged or unacceptable for everyone else. Despite what’s proclaimed in vision, mission, or core values, these set the organization’s true cultural norms. Team meetings reflect the team’s effectiveness. Too many […]

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How to Ensure Your Meetings Aren’t Virtually Useless

You likely thought too many meetings were time-wasters before this pandemic. Now your “meeting fun” has likely moved online to a higher time-sucking level! Steven Rogelberg, professor and author of the book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, reports that 8 out of the average 23 hours a […]

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Vital Keys to Leading a Fast, Flexible, and Agile Organization

Fast and flexible is vital — even lifesaving — today. Recently, we had discussions with a senior leader about his goal to build a more agile organization. This leader had been talking urgently about agility for the past six months. When we started our coaching and consulting work with his leadership team, it soon became […]

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An Agile Culture Ripples Out From the Leadership Team

Many leadership teams seem to think that talking about agility will magically transform their organizations. If only change were that simple. Talking isn’t doing. A department, division, or organization’s culture ripples out from its leadership team. Organizational behavior reflects leadership team behavior. A team that wants to change “them” needs to start with a deep […]

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Escaping the Change Management Trap: From Rigidity to Agility

There’s lots of talk about building agile organizations. For good reason. The world’s moving way too fast for traditional approaches. They’re too rigid. Organizations that will survive — even thrive — in these disruptive times are fast and flexible. Agile approaches began a few decades ago with software development. According to the Agile Alliance, “One […]

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Is Your Team Out of Focus?

I’ve been interviewing senior leaders and reviewing documents to tailor a keynote presentation for the company’s executive strategy session this month. They’re a textbook example of effectively using the COVID crisis to renew and refocus their leadership and culture development. Their “strategic framework” succinctly cascades from vision, mission, and values to strategic goals, key initiatives, […]

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Taking Care of Busyness to Improve Your Business

In 1891, the Anglo-Irish playwright and author, Oscar Wilde, wrote, “We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.” Over 100 years later, the tradition of industrious stupidity continues. During these times of crisis and frantic change, we can get […]

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Do You Work for a Bully Boss? Are You One?

One of my favorite historical fiction authors is Colleen McCullough. She masterfully weaves extensive research with real and imagined characters to bring an historical period alive. Her five book, Masters of Rome, series is outstanding. In Book 3, Fortune’s Favorites, she describes a scene in the Roman senate when the dictator Sulla asked for any […]

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Zoom Out to See Where You’re Going

A really helpful feature of Google Maps is the ability to zoom in and out. Often pulling back to see the bigger picture gives a better sense of where we are now and where we’re going. In these crazy times, it’s so easy to get stuck at street view. We rush from one task to […]

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Are You Going Deep in Leading Change?

In his book, Going Deep, psychologist, Ian Percy outlines a useful change framework. The PIES model helps to chart the depth of commitment to personal, team, or organizational change. The deeper the commitment, the more lasting the change. The first and most superficial level is Political. Appearances are everything. We make a “politically correct” change […]

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Smothering Silence: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Is this happening in your team? People are texting each other what they really think during a video or conference call The real conversation happens after the meeting or call Your team doesn’t debate all sides of important issues and avoids touchy topics People agree to a plan of action but then do something else […]

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Every Little Thing: Step Small for the Long Haul

This month is the fortieth anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope run through our community — Waterloo Region. Having lost a leg to cancer, Terry Fox embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research. Terry’s shuffle-and-hop running style took him about 42 kilometers or 26 miles per day! I think jogging […]

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4 Ways Learning and Development Ignites or Impedes Culture Shift

Recently I delivered a virtual keynote presentation to a national forum of senior executives on leading change and culture development. During these crazy times, strong leadership is more critical than ever. A central focus of the forum was the pivotal role of learning and development in change efforts. I presented four points that generated a […]

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Balancing Management and Leadership: What’s Your Power Source?

Should leaders push or pull? Light a fire under people or stoke the fire within? Use position or persuasion power? Control with rules and policies or foster commitment with values and trust? Finding the right balance of management and leadership is a continuous challenge. Less effective managers use position power and get people doing things […]

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Changing Our World: 5 Steps for Coming Out of Our Crisis

In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet says, “there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” This has become a widely quoted bit of wisdom. It’s both an ancient truth as a cornerstone of mindfulness and on the leading edge of cognitive psychology. Research on the nature of reality, consciousness, and quantum physics is putting […]

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Powerful Leaders Go Beyond Empowerment to Empartnerment

To fix organizational problems or make major changes, managers often hire consultants to analyze what’s happening and provide improvement recommendations. The consulting firm usually interviews people, runs focus groups, and gathers input from a variety of sources. Lots of good ideas are gathered and the best ones presented to leaders along with a recommended action […]

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Humor at Work: Take my Boss…Please!

If you’re a father, I hope you enjoyed Father’s Day and were treated like a king. Over the years I’ve tried to get our three kids to give me the gift of laughing at all my Dad Jokes for just that one day. Still no luck. I think they’re afraid of pulling a groan muscle. […]

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6 Key Takeaways from LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report

LinkedIn Learning’s 4th Annual 2020 Workplace Learning Report reinforces key trends in boosting leadership and organization effectiveness. This report compiles survey responses from 1,675 Learning and Development professionals, 2,000 learners, and 2,932 managers in North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. The survey data looks like it was compiled before the pandemic turned our world upside down, […]

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Is What’s Missing Throwing You Off Your Game?

One of my favorite podcasts is Terry O’Reilly’s “Under the Influence,” focused on the advertising and marketing business. Terry’s a master story-teller. He continually finds unusual and interesting stories to start each podcast. His recent podcast, “Setting the Table: Best Opening Stories,” looked back at his stories from over 300 episodes that generated the most […]

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Are They Resisting Change or Being Changed?

Justin heard that large doses of cod-liver oil were good for his Rottweiler. Each morning he’d put the dog in a headlock, force his jaw open, and pour the oil down his throat. It was always a big fight. One day the dog broke loose, and the oil spilled on the floor. Justin went to […]

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Lip Service or Leadership: Are We Really in This Together?

Over the years, many managers turned, “people are our most important resource” into an empty cliché. Their behavior treated people as “assets with skin” or “human capital.” As one executive put it, “I’d really enjoy my job if I didn’t have to deal with people.” “We’re in this together” is the latest phrase ringing hollow […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm on…Partnering not Patronizing

Sam Walton built Bentonville, Arkansas based Wal-Mart into the world’s largest retailer through treating staff as respected partners. One of his legacies was to “treat them as partners and they will treat you as a partner and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.” A scout leader was trying to lift a fallen […]

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Layoffs Rarely Pay Off: Here are 15 Alternatives

Your values are showing. Tough times are when the tide goes out to sea and exposes the jewels or junk that’s been under the surface. Words like, “our people are our most important resource” now prove to be empty rhetoric or compassionate reality. Leaders who care about people and building long-term trust, treat layoffs as […]

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How the Pandemic Could Positively Reboot and Re-energize Our Organizations

We’re in the midst of one of the biggest disruptions of our lives. I’ve been a lifelong collector of failed (often hilarious) predictions and prophesies showing how uncertain life can be. As the old Yiddish adage reminds us, “Man plans, God laughs.” It’s also been said that anyone peering into a crystal ball soon learns […]

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Trust Matters: It’s Critical in These Disruptive Times

Is your organization suffering from truth decay? Honesty, integrity, and trust are critical in chaotic times. We need everyone actively engaged in looking for innovative new ways to deal with unprecedented disruptions. In their study, Innovation by All, Great Place to Work concluded organizations with high-trust cultures involve and engage many more employees than most […]

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Tips and Techniques for Leading in Turbulent Times

Shift happens. These days lots of shift is hitting our plans. We don’t choose what changes may hit us, but we choose how to respond. When I catch myself whining or taking a trip to Pity City, I often think of W Mitchell. In his highly inspiring book, It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s […]

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Bounce Back: 9 Ways to Strengthen Resilience

In Japan, the Daruma Doll is a good luck charm with a rounded bottom. When knocked down, it bounces back upright. This ability to bounce back is a symbol of perseverance and good luck. We’re getting knocked down pretty hard. Bouncing back is vital to getting through these tough times. Here are a few ways […]

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We Can’t Let the Pessimism Plague Infect Us As Well

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all woke up this morning and the Coronavirus pandemic was a big April Fool’s joke? Unfortunately, it’s not and won’t go away soon. But it will go away. In 1848 William Blackwood wrote in Blackwood Edinburgh Magazine, “When an Eastern sage was desired by his sultan to inscribe on […]

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Coronavirus Crisis: Reasons for Hope During These Dark Times

As Heather and I work from, and stay home, to be part of the solution, I found myself gorging on way too much negative news. As my sleep and mood deteriorated, I went looking for an antidote to the pessimism plague. I began a search for reasons to be optimistic. One of the first articles […]

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Thoughts That Make Your Go Hmmm on… Ego

In his recent Globe & Mail column, “The Benefit of Silencing Our Own Egos,” Harvey Schachter writes, “Columbia University psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman observes on the Scientific American blog that media debates he watches these days want to make his head explode: ‘All our egos are just too damn loud.’ And those out-of-control egos we […]

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Constructive or Destructive: Is Feedback Stoking or Stifling Performance?

At our youngest daughter’s sixth birthday party, a five year- old boy hit Vanessa on the head. Asked to apologize, he politely refused: “Mr. Clemmer, I don’t apologize unless I see teeth marks or blood.” Many managers don’t realize the problems they’re creating unless they see teeth marks or blood. The most insensitive managers are […]

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Dunking Trainees in the Training Tank Often Makes Things Worse

Recently a training director asked for a customer service training workshop. As we discussed what she was looking for, it became clear she wanted “customer courtesy” or “smile 101” training. I asked about senior leaders’ active involvement in building a customer-centered culture. Nope. They wanted her to fix the frontline to make happier customers. Been […]

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Culture Compass: A Six-Point Navigational Framework

When we’re mapping a trip to an unfamiliar destination, it’s extremely helpful to be able to zoom out to see the big picture. We can then zoom in for turn by turn details. A big reason up to 70% of change efforts fail is lack of zoomed out planning. Leadership training, succession planning, service/quality improvement, […]

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Let’s be Frank: The Heart Part

Frank is a manager for a technology company who I first wrote about his personal transformation in Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. The hugely successful career everyone envied him for on the outside was merely a facade for the equally overwhelming unhappiness he felt on the inside. He was […]

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Delegation Dilemma: Are You Trapped and Overrun by Monkeys?

The senior and middle managers frustrated the General Manager of a large organization. She felt managers weren’t using their time effectively. “Many of them are managing a level or two below their position. They’re trapped in micromanaging daily details. They need to be more strategic with their time and learn to delegate.” She wanted delegation […]

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Charisma Confusion: It’s Often a Weakness and Humility a Strength

Is humility a key trait of highly effective leaders? Are charismatic leaders who can stir strong emotions more effective leaders? Questions about these intertwined leadership characteristics recently came up in workshops and online discussions. Charismatic leadership seems to especially confuse many people. It’s a popular media stereotype of strong leadership. As much as I enjoy […]

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Answering Questions About Powerful New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development

Last week, I delivered a 45-minute webinar on Powerful New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development. This webinar condensed the key research and approaches from The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach workshops. An 11-minute Q & A session followed the webinar presentation. I was able to answer just seven questions and couldn’t get to […]

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Engaging and Energizing: Are You Leading in the Key of E?

Are people in your organization leaping out of bed eager to get to work? Or is work a four-letter curse word? What’s the Laughter Index in your workplace? In the most effective organizations, leaders are often “leading in the key of E” by engaging and energizing people. It’s so vital. And too rare. Leadership researcher […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm on…Hacking Our Pessimistic Neuro Programing

These comments and excerpts come from my last two blogs on Lose Those News Blues and Leave the Dark Side: The World’s Never Been Better and Don’t Start the New Year Losing Touch With Reality “In Christian tradition, the four horsemen of Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death usher in the apocalypse. Compared to 100 years […]

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Don’t Start the New Year Losing Touch With Reality

What if you invited me into your house and I sprayed a noxious gas that made you and your family sick? What if I also dumped a big barrel of stinking sewage on your kitchen floor? You’d likely have me arrested. You’d get out of the house until the mess is cleaned up and the […]

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Webinar: Powerful New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development

Would you like to: Increase employee engagement by up to 8 times? Double/triple motivation to implement a personal development plan? Build coaching and leadership skills around natural/authentic strengths? Make performance appraisals an inspiring event people look forward to? Double rates of improvement from 360 feedback? What leader or development professional doesn’t want those results? But […]

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On The Leading Edge to Cut Wasteful Employee Engagement Efforts

There’s a direct line between levels of employee engagement and service/quality, productivity, innovation, safety, revenue, profitability, and other key results. That’s well documented, and most leaders strongly agree. Where agreement falls apart is how to boost engagement levels. Some leaders feel that running organizational surveys and giving that aggregated data to managers will somehow get […]

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Are You Flushing Leadership Development Dollars Down the Drain?

During a break in a recent leadership development workshop, I talked with the HR Director (let’s call him Rich) about all the work they were putting into revamping the organization’s promotion and performance management system. Rich said they were basing their promotion process on their performance appraisal and rating system. Their big problem is getting […]

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Review of “The New Extraordinary Leader”

Almost 20 years ago, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman began a two-year research project to review 360 assessments on over 20,000 leaders. They sought to pinpoint the leadership competencies differentiating the top 10 percent of leaders from the bottom 10 percent of leaders. Jack and Joe correlated assessments of the best and worst leaders against […]

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9 Ways to Increase Communication at Work

Bob was clearly frustrated. “I keep telling them, but nobody listens,” he fumed. As we looked at his 360 feedback on his communication practices, it was clear why nobody was listening to him. Bob’s communication skills were awful. Bob scored quite high on technical expertise and analytical skills. A big part of his communications problem […]

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Bee a Purposeful Leader: Build the Spirit of Your Hive

When our daughter Vanessa was a teenager, we hired her to do some after school general administrative support work at The CLEMMER Group offices. She was happy to earn an hourly wage for a variety of tasks. One of her jobs was typing selected passages from articles and book summaries for entry in my research […]

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5 Ways to Hone Your Leadership Edge

Would you like to sharpen your personal, team, and organization’s leading edge? Would you like to learn how good managers can become great leaders? Step right up and buy Clemmer’s Magical Leadership Tonic!! The Ultimate Elixir that turns management weaklings into leadership giants!! Sorry. We just ran out. We don’t have a miraculous cure-all to […]

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To Reason Why: Are You Leading on Purpose?

This summer, 181 American CEOs of the Business Roundtable signed a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” For over twenty years, the Roundtable’s Principles of Governance have declared that “corporations exist principally to serve shareholders.” The revised statement replaces the single-minded shareholder focus with “CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm from…”You Are Awesome” by Neil Pasricha

Read my review of You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha “Resilience is a skill we now have in very short supply. Not many of us have been through famines or wars or, let’s be honest, any form of true scarcity. We have it all! And the side effect is that we no longer have the […]

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Review of “You Are Awesome” by Neil Pasricha

Resilience is a vital skill. It’s crucial to our health, happiness, and leadership. Resilience is a muscle that we can strengthen – ideally before we really need it. Positive psychology research and best practices show that we can build resilience strengths or habits for Post-Traumatic Growth. Since I enjoyed and reviewed Neil’s previous book, The […]

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Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm on…Courageous Leadership

“The courage to look hard realities in the face is essential to effective leadership.” Winston Churchill “Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” Alan Alda, American actor, […]

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I’d Love Your Input on my New Book

Which development topics are your top priorities today; communication, coaching, culture change, or leading change? Perhaps your answer is yes; all of them? As I posted recently, I’ve been working on a book development project for the past 18 months. It started with eight development topic areas. After readers ranked ordered those, we ended up […]

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This One Culture Factor Leads to 5.5 Times Higher Growth

Are your own people your biggest barrier to higher innovation and agility? That’s what recent research from Great Place to Work found in a study of 792 companies totaling about 500,000 employees. In this new study, Innovation by All, Great Place to Work concluded organizations with high-trust cultures involve and engage many more employees than […]

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Leaders Don’t Wait, They Initiate

Last month’s issue featured an exchange I had with a reader on Dealing with Stupid Busy Leadership Teams Overloading Their Organization. I wrote that strong leaders like George who refuse to be victimized by undisciplined senior leaders have three choices. Paul, “a first level manager,” e-mailed to tell me about a “fourth option I’ve used […]

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Losing Heart…and People: Confusing Efficiency and Effectiveness

Recently I worked with the senior leadership team of a large warehouse and logistics company. They’re growing so rapidly they’re having big problems finding people to staff their distribution centers. A major part of that problem is turnover. They’re losing warehouse workers almost as quickly as they’re hired. Costs are soaring and projected to get […]

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Communications Conundrum: Eight Interconnected Causes of Breakdowns

Is “we really need to improve communications around here” a common refrain in your workplace? It’s a very common frustration and complaint. ‘Increasing Communications’ was the highest voted topic by nearly 500 readers who completed our “reader sourcing” survey on key topic areas for the new book I am working on. Given the importance readers […]

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Stupid Busy: Is Your Leadership Team Overloading Your Organization?

For decades, Harvard professor Michael Porter has studied, written about, and consulted top companies and countries on competitive strategy. He’s found that “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” A recent issue of Harvard Business Review features an article on “Too Many Projects.” Authors Rose Hollister and Michael Watkins write, “Leaders keep […]

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Poor Leaders Are Me-Deep in Fooling Themselves

André Gide, French writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature said, “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” Sincere hypocrisy came to mind when a workshop participant complained about how badly his manager and their bosses needed that very leadership development session. He said […]

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For Better or Worse: The Object of my Perception

What do you see in this drawing? Tilt your head slightly to the left and look at this drawing. Do you see the rabbit? It’s facing to the right with its ears tilted horizontally behind its head on the left. Now tilt your head slightly to the right, and focus on the duck. It’s gazing […]

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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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