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Category: Executive Management Decisions (Page 1 of 31)

How To Avoid Being a Technician In Other Clothes

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Written by:  Naphtali Hoff  (

Without question, one of the hardest things for a person to do in business is to take the next step from being a great worker to becoming a successful leader.

Most people start at the bottom of the employment chain as a “technician,” working hard to produce a consistent, predictable product, service or solution as mandated from above. Whether it be a craftsman developing widgets, a coder producing code, a banker managing transactions, a salesperson making sales or a repairman fixing appliances, these technicians do their jobs day in, day out. Some do it so well that they soon are promoted to the next level, that of manager or leader.

Others might decide that they can do the work as well if not better than their boss and choose to venture out on their own and start their own business. In other words, they jump from being a technician to a self-anointed entrepreneur.

(These progressions borrow from the teachings of Michael Gerber, founder of E-Myth Worldwide.)

Naturally, the problem is that great technicians don’t always become great managers, leaders or owners. They are deeply rooted in their work and understand it well. But that may not translate into having the ability to provide guidance, direction and vision to others around them.

Nor does it mean that they will have developed the leadership skills to communicate and gain the support of, let alone elevate and inspire. those around them. Their technical successes also cannot ensure that they will become great business owners and find ways to grow their enterprises and build equity.

The frequent result is that many revert to doing the technical work, both because they’re still really good at it and also since they don’t know what else to do to make a contribution. But their team and business ultimately are the ones that suffer.

Technicians who become managers/leaders/owners need to begin with a shift in mindset. They can no longer see themselves as the ones tasked with doing the work. That must become the responsibility of others. Moreover, they should start to view their technical knowledge as an encumbrance, to the degree that it focuses them on their own tasks, skills and successes rather than on their team’s. Success will only come when they shift attention to how to guide their people and build their businesses to achieve long-term success.

Here are some other steps that can help the new manager et al succeed in their new role.

Listen well. The first step towards strong relationships is listening. Listen actively and intently to your people to build bridges and gain insights.

Communicate steadily. Keep your people in the loop through regular communication, whether in written or digital formats or via conversations and meetings. Let them know what’s going on and what you need from them for your team or business to win.

Gain small, early wins. Find easy ways to gain a sense of accomplishment and people’s trust. Identify easy, low-stakes improvement opportunities that will build positive momentum.

Learn to think more broadly. Instead of thinking in terms of technical tasks, ask yourself what your people need to succeed. Also become more mindful of big-picture items such as missions and vision, market conditions and trends, competitors, and the like.

Be a motivator. Find ways to get your people going, ideally through intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivators. If you are unsure how to do this, think of others who have motivated you to perform and the techniques that they used to do so.

Delegate. Find ways to empower your people and build their own sense of leadership and efficacy. This will also free you up for other work.

Learn new skills. Be willing to learn new things and get beyond your comfort zone. No great leader starts with a full toolkit. And no great leader ever thinks that he/she has arrived, especially in today’s ever-changing work and technological environment. Commit to ongoing learning about everything that is important to your work — management, leadership, business development and/or technical skills — to best guide and support your people.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Check out his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog.

5 Ways to Lead Change in a Change-Averse Environment

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Written by:  Jon Lokhorst (

Despite the constancy of change in today’s global marketplace, the environment for change in many organizations is unfriendly at best. Few organizations have the appetite for change found at Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other innovative firms. I work extensively with CPAs, CFOs, and other technical professionals; a group not known for its propensity to change.

As a leader, you recognize that when the pace of internal change lags the pace of change in the external environment . . . well, it’s not good news. But what do you do in a context that resists change? How can a leader initiate and navigate change in a change-averse industry or culture? Here are five approaches to overcome barriers to change in these situations.

Launch a “CEO for a Day” forum.
Host town meetings with workers from across all levels of your organization to ask what they would do differently if they were CEO for a day. Offer a structured brainstorming conversation that invites new ideas. Start with questions that generate ways to improve current practices. Then move to explore new opportunities.

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Motivating Employees Isn’t About Making Them Happy

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Written by:  Cy Wakeman (

As a leader, you have probably been told that you’re in charge of motivating employees. You’ve been pitched programs and tools that will allegedly build a happy, motivated workforce, and you’ve attended seminars that teach strategies for improving morale.

These programs and tools are well-intentioned, but deliver few results. Leaders can’t motivate others, because people make their own choices about motivation, accountability, commitment, and happiness. So for leaders, it’s an impossible task to create that feeling in someone else. The expectation that leaders should keep employees engaged and happy sets them up for failure.

Instead of trying to change people, leaders should think about directing their energy in the direction that creates positive results. That means coaching teams to understand that their value at work comes from using skills and expertise to succeed in less-than-perfect realities instead of waiting for perfect circumstances. It means directing energy from “why we can’t” into “how we can.”

Here are three approaches that can help shift energy into positive results:

Seek clarity
Over-communicate what you do know and be honest about what you don’t know. Help your teams edit their stories about what is and is not occurring. Much of what we stress about is part of our story, not reality. Help your employees to put their current reality into perspective by asking helpful questions for self-reflection such as, “What do we know for sure? What’s the next best thing you could do to help?” Great leaders help their teams remove some self-imposed stress and suffering by helping them focus on what we know today and how they can contribute to the next right action.

Work with the willing
Too often during challenging times, leaders begin to lower expectations and accept less from their employees. Insist on buy-in each and every day. According to academic research I conducted, a leader often spends an extra 80 hours per year trying to win over an employee who is in a chronic state of resistance, with only a 3% chance of success. Instead, work with those already on board and start by reaffirming the employee’s commitment and willingness. Some great questions for self-reflection are, “What are you willing to commit to? How can you contribute to our goal?” A leader can call their employees to succeed in spite of challenging circumstances and encourage them to use their natural creativity to reach their goals.

Challenging times themselves aren’t demotivating for ready, willing, and highly accountable employees. They’re often an opportunity for them to get creative and use their skills. And this is where you can transform talent and productivity—by differentiating rewards. Committed, resilient and high performing employees want differentiated rewards, often in the form of challenging and purposeful work alongside other like-minded, high performing colleagues. Let their motivation be built by gaining resiliency in overcoming difficulties under the direction of a great leader who cares about them and recognizes their great achievements.

Think Inside the Box
Many leaders believe that motivation and engagement come from lack of stress or issues at work, when in fact engagement and happiness come from the level of personal accountability one takes for their circumstances. Encouraging employees to “Think Outside of the Box” can actually derail motivation levels because it comes across as “Pie in the Sky” and out of touch with reality. Redirect employee energy from “why we can’t” into to “how we can” by encouraging them to “Think Inside the Box.” The “Box” is made up of the desired goal and the constraints currently in place, such as a freeze on headcount or limited funding. By “Thinking Inside the Box” you will generate real solutions that respect the very real constraints of current challenges.

Instead of trying to take on the impossible task of motivating and inspiring your team members, the best way to bring out the best in your people is to help them develop a healthy relationship with reality. Skills, mindsets and competencies become transferrable, and employees can find success wherever they land, which provides the ultimate foundation for the employee to build upon their own source of motivation.

Cy Wakeman is a Drama Researcher and New York Times Bestselling author. Her latest book is No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Deliver Big Results.

How To Spot The One Employee Who Should Never Work At Your Company

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David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom , CONTRIBUTOR (

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

David C. Novak, Former Chief Executive Officer of Yum! Brands Inc. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

We’ve been honored to pick the brains of numerous leaders throughout our careers. In fact, we often discuss how lucky we both are to get a glimpse into how many of these leaders think. However, during a recent interview, we were more than surprised when David Novak, the former CEO of one of the world’s largest restaurant companies shared some advice that initially caught us off guard. “I’ll tell you the secret to great leadership,” Novak told us. “It’s to never have a certain type of person working for your organization.”

That comment got our attention. At first, it was actually a little unsettling—especially coming from a guy with the credentials of Novak. Yum! Brands, Inc., has more than 43,000 restaurants in more than 130 countries and territories—think Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. As a leader, Novak has been recognized as “2012 CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine, one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs” by Barron’s and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review. He’s world-renowned expert on recognition. And, he’s currently the Founder of oGoLead, a digital platform created to help build stronger leaders, as well as the author of two bestselling books.

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How to Capture an Audience in 7 Simple Steps

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Written by:  Diane Gottsman…Owner, The Protocol School of Texas@dianegottsman


From smartphone screens to their own thoughts, it is difficult to capture and maintain the attention of your audience. Here are some helpful ways to give an engaging presentation.

When giving a presentation, keeping listeners focused on what you are saying is a kind of competition. All kinds of distractions are competing to lure your audience away, from smartphone screens to their neighbors to their own thoughts. It’s important to grab their attention from the start and maintain a connection throughout your speech.

Here are 7 ways to keep your audience engaged:

Plan to Succeed
Great speakers have an outline and know their material backward and forwards, but when it comes to standing up in front of an audience, you must be able to speak from the heart. Presenting information in a natural, conversational manner is the result of thorough drafting, editing and multiple rounds of rehearsing. Although public speaking can be a nerve-wracking pursuit, your comfort level will increase as you prepare. Plan on putting in the prep time necessary to deliver an “effortless” speech. Mark Twain once stated, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

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Leaders Don’t Cry, and Other Lies

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Written by:  Steve McKee (

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

SmartBrief offers more than 200 newsletters, including SmartBrief on Leadership and newsletters for small businesses and marketers and advertisers.

Strong. Stalwart. Stoic. Unflappable. The defining characteristics of a leader. Or are they?

I used to think they were. In fact, in my younger days, I thought showing emotion was weak. Grow up watching movies like “Patton, “First Blood,” “Die Hard,” “Gladiator” and (a classic) “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” and you get conditioned into thinking that real leaders don’t cry and, perhaps, don’t even feel.

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10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter

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Written by:  Chris Hallberg (

MOST LEADERS (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

1. What is your overall satisfaction with your team?
This question is pretty straightforward, but perhaps the most powerful. As a manager, it allows you to gain access to the big picture—providing key understanding on what’s working and what isn’t, directly from your staff. It’s no secret that dissatisfaction with overall team performance is a primary reason for top talent to exit. Taking the initiative to ask your employees for feedback, and frequently, will not only provide you with valuable insight, but put you in a position to rectify concerns before the damage is done.

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Leaders Who Listen

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“By Jennifer V. Miller, of  SmartBrief”

For many years, I worked with a highly effective (and very respected) leader named Jack, who at the time was a senior executive at a large insurance company.

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Increasing Your Leadership Potential

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Written by:  Dennis C. Miller (

Leadership is a behavior, not a position or a title. While some executives exhibit remarkable leadership behaviors, others simply become good managers, never fully realizing their capacity for leadership. The latter will likely have the skill and determination to operate a program and possibly even oversee an organization. It is the former, however, who will successfully guide an organization toward unlocking its true potential.

A key leadership behavior revolves around building strong relationships with others. To some, relationship-building is viewed as soft, emotional or irrelevant to an organization’s success. In my experience, however, it is the leader who brings out the best in others who guides organizations to a higher level of success. This is the leader who makes people feel important, and who is attentive to the voices, concerns and actions of others. This is the leader who knows that strong relationships rest on trust and respect.

The good news is that behaviors can be learned. Learn to be a leader-like relationship builder by doing the following:

Establish your credibility. Whenever you consistently make decisions that benefit others you work with or that benefit your organization, you earn people’s trust and respect.

Lead through informal authority. Formal titles and positions are shallow sources of authority. Respect, trust and admiration are stronger, more durable currency. Win hearts through sincerity, passion and vision.

Talk with people at all levels. Tell them about your plans and hopes for the organization and how they can participate in its success. People will watch how you treat others and how you communicate with them.

Live by the Golden Rule. As an old saying goes, “People may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Treat people the way you would want to be treated by them.

Listen to people and hear what they say. How do you feel when you know that a person you’re taking to is listening to you? You feel great, so return the favor. Ask people what they think of an issue and then really consider what they have to say.

Deliver on your promises. It is crucial that you keep the promises you make to people. On the other hand, if you can no longer keep a commitment that you made, own up to it and let them know why. They may not like your decision, but explaining your reasons lets them know you have integrity.

Be seen. Don’t hide behind a desk and communicate by emails or tweets. Effective leaders take time out from their desk-bound responsibilities and connect to people. If your colleagues see you, they will feel connected to you and you will get the best from them.

Make the tough decisions. People need to know that there is a leader steering the ship. They need to know that when a tough decision must be made, someone will make it. It is not the leader’s job to make everyone comfortable or popular, but your actions must reflect your core values.

Be a decision-maker, not a procrastinator. Have you ever worked with someone who just couldn’t make a decision? Do you remember how frustrating it was? It is a blessing to others when a leader can make decisions in an appropriate and timely manner.

Be fair and flexible. People are going to make mistakes, particularly if you empower them and encourage them to take risks. Before you reprimand someone who has made a mistake, ask yourself if it would be better to give the person a second chance. Sometimes, people will achieve more if they know you are there for them. Like a child playing on the monkey bars, they will trust that you are there to catch them if they fall.

It may take some practice, but by learning to build trust and respect among your colleagues, you will dramatically increase your leadership potential. Your influence and positive impact will increase, leading your colleagues and organization to greater levels of success and achievement.

Dennis C. Miller is the managing director of The Nonprofit Search Group and a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. Dennis is a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator and successful author. His new book is “A Guide to Recruiting Your Next CEO: The Executive Search Handbook for Nonprofit Boards.”

How to Build a Passionate Company

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“By Jim Whitehurst, of Harvard Business Review”

Executives have begun to understand that to build a great business, companies need a larger goal, one that transcends the traditional bottom line. The best and brightest talent are attracted to organizations that offer a broader purpose. But simply defining a purpose is not enough. It’s just a first step, your organization’s ante to get into the game. What sets companies apart, the companies where people love to work, is passion. People want to be passionate about what they do, and they want to be surrounded by people who are also passionate about what they do.

Unfortunately, the challenge for leaders is that there is no formal management theory for how to build, leverage, and measure the level of passion in your employees. It essentially falls into that ambiguous category of “you’ll know it when you see it.”

For me, a passionate employee is someone who pays attention to the whats and the hows of the company’s strategies and tactics, someone who is involved and curious and who constantly questions what the company is doing and their own role in making it successful. And they do that not because someone ordered them to, but because they want to. That’s the kind of intrinsic reward today’s workers seek out, not the lavish perks or financial bonuses that we mistakenly assumed motivated workers of the past.

For example, at Red Hat, where I serve as president and CEO, we have at least three associates who are so passionate about our company’s role in changing the world through open source technology that they have gotten a tattoo of “Shadowman,” the icon wearing a red fedora in our company logo. How many companies can say the same? That’s a level of permanence and sense of mission that no economist could ever have predicted with a chart.

Besides having no management theory for how to foster a “Shadowman tattoo” kind of passion, the other problem that surfaces is that the many executives I speak with still confuse engagement with morale, job satisfaction, and even happiness. Engagement isn’t about being happy. Happy people may or may not be engaged in the business.

When I was the chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines, I remember once being asked, “What are you going to do about our morale?” My answer? “Nothing.” Morale is an output of many things. If a workforce believes in and is passionate about their purpose, has the tools they need to do their work well, and is engaged in what they are trying to accomplish, then they’ll most likely have high morale. But if morale is low, then you should focus on your organization’s purpose, on tools, and on building engagement. Directly trying to make people happy is treating the symptoms, not the cause.

At Red Hat, we realize that people invest their valuable time by choosing to work with us because they want to feel like they are changing the world for the better. Here are five ways we foster the kind of passion that fuels great performance:

Let people show their emotions. We often use the term “emotional” like it’s a bad word, especially when it comes to the workplace. But inspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, and excitement are emotions too. If you ask your people to check their emotions (both the good and the bad) at the door, you can’t tap into their passion.

Hire passionate people. One way to get passionate people into your organization is to rely on the people who already work there to refer people they want to work with. Create a flexible incentive program that rewards people for bringing in candidates who are a perfect fit for your culture.

Fan the flames. Find ways to share and celebrate the passion of your team. Augment your company newsletter by shooting videos of your people in action or find opportunities to throw culture-inspired parties to celebrate your joint accomplishments.

Don’t sedate your rock stars. Give your people the autonomy to do the work that interests them. Then watch what happens when they put their energy and talent into whatever role they operate in.

Share context. Most companies have a stated corporate purpose or mission statement. Unfortunately, these are rarely-used words that do little to drive purpose or passion within the company. Our leaders’ job is to create context by connecting our associates’ job functions to the organization’s broader mission, why we do what we do. When you can make the connection between passion and mission, you can truly propel your organization to a new level of performance.

These tactics work. I recall attending a conference for our European partners where we invited the CIO of a large industrial giant to give a keynote speech. At a dinner during the conference, this CIO leaned over to me and said, almost in amazement, “I have never seen a company of this size where the people are so passionate. Look at how much energy they have and how much they care, and this is just an internal event. You need to figure out how to bottle this!” That was not just gratifying to hear, but also eye-opening because it helped frame for me how much passion can be contagious and how it infects others around you so that they want to work and collaborate with you.

It’s my belief that every organization has the potential for world-changing impact. The role of a leader is to foster passion around that impact and to keep that passion alive by reinforcing it every day. In Red Hat’s case, that means advocating for the power of open source and championing our role in bringing positive change to the world. But not everyone can be passionate and engaged about pursuing our purpose, and that’s OK. While it might sound counterintuitive, building the kind of company culture that people love means you can’t be all things to all people.

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