Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restore Trust at Work with These 3 Words

By Ben Casnocha,

We are allies. Three simple words. Yet when spoken by a manager to an employee, these may be three of the most powerful words possible.

Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, on our way to and from work, or thinking about work. When we meet someone new, the first question Americans ask and are asked is typically, “So, what do you do?” When we describe someone else, we usually lead with their profession: “She’s a doctor.”

Given how important work seems in our lives, it is tragic that most employment relationships are built on a lie.

Managers pretend that employees have a job for life. Employees pretend that they intend to work for their company for the rest of their careers. But deep down, both parties don’t believe their own words.

You can’t build a trusting relationship on a foundation of dishonesty and self-deception.

Yet the “honest” approach of considering every job temporary, and every employee a “free agent” leads to a bleak, cynical world without trust or loyalty.

The answer is for managers and employees to treat each other as allies: Independent and autonomous players who voluntarily come together to work towards mutually agreed upon goals.

Treating employees like allies allows managers and companies to build loyalty without lying. Successful alliances can be renewed and updated, allowing employees to construct a successful career filled with professional growth without ever changing employers. And employees who choose to leave can do so on amicable terms and with fond memories of what the members of the alliance achieved together.

This open, accepting approach allows managers and employees to be honest with each other, providing a solid foundation for mutual trust, mutual investment, and mutual benefit. It creates a bigger pie for everyone rather than treating our work relationships as a zero-sum game.

We’ve thought a great deal about this approach and how to put it into effect, including concepts likeTours of Duty, Network Intelligence, and Corporate Alumni Networks. We’ve tried to build a rich framework that lets managers change their employee relationships, whether you’re a Fortune 500 CEO or a newly minted team leader.

But, really, your journey as a manager will begin the next time you meet one-on-one with an employee and speak the three simple words that show that you’re committed to an open, honest approach: We are allies.

Ben Casnocha is an award-winning entrepreneur and author from Silicon Valley. He is co-author with LinkedIn founder/chairman Reid Hoffman of the #1 New York Times bestselling book The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. He is also co-author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age based on his article in Harvard Business Review entitled Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee Compact. Ben has separately written for Newsweek, the American Enterprise Institute, NPR's Marketplace and the U.S. State Department. To learn more about Ben Casnocha or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Ben's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rest Your Way to Success: The Value of Productive Relaxation

By Laura Stack

When I first read that the average American worker left 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012—three more than the year before!—I was shocked, but not surprised. Even in the waning days of the Great Recession, workers were still overstretched. They worried about taking all the time they were owed, lest they be replaced with hungrier workers while gone. Even today, half of us expect to work during vacations, and a third of us eat at our desks.

It might be nice to return to the old days, when office life seemed easier, but I doubt that will happen. The business world is normalizing at a new level, one based on agility, speed, flexibility, and on-the-spot execution. This means that things will never be the same, and we have to adjust to that.

However, that doesn’t mean the change will kill us. In fact, most indicators suggest we have the opportunity to become more creative and productive than ever, just by taking it easier on ourselves. That assumes, of course, you can figure out how to dial it down again, especially if you’ve become an adrenaline/caffeine junkie who feels nervous and useless when not furiously busy.


The phrase that pays is strategic renewal. This includes taking more restful days off, taking full advantage of breaks to eat, play, and interact socially, and keeping evenings and weekends for yourself. Some experts, like Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, even advocate afternoon naps, meditation, lunchtime workouts, telecommuting, and other practices that won’t fly in most organizations. His employees get no less than four paid weeks of vacation from their first year, along with the above energy perks and workdays ending at 6 P.M. sharp. In February 2013, he claimed that in a decade, no one had ever chosen to leave his company.

The question here is: what will your superiors allow you to do in terms of strategic renewal? We already know that beyond 40 hours a week, productivity drops and engagement sours. More than 11 hours a day increases risks of coronary events by two-thirds. Depression skyrockets, and so does insomnia. If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, how can you do your best work?

You can’t. Being in tip-top productivity shape requires regular recharging. Studies have proven that well-rested people do more and better work. Point this out to your manager if she’s grouchy about you taking all your PTO and your weekends.

Here’s another interesting point. You may know your body runs on a 90-minute sleep cycle at night, and that you feel best when awakened at the end of a cycle than in the middle. Newer research demonstrates that the same is true of daytime activity: you function best in 90-minute time-chunks, which is why our attention often wonders after an intense spate of work or during long meetings. As it turns out, we humans are like quarter horses: we’re made for short, intense sprints followed by substantial rest periods. Your brain and body want to you take a break—and they especially want you to sleep regularly.

I have a writer friend who has boosted his productivity by learning to relax and pace himself. He’s self-employed, so he sets his own hours; though as he says, his boss is a real jerk who makes him work 14 hours a day, six days a week! But the fact is, his 14-hour days are punctuated with two breaks at lunch and dinner, each two hours long, when he eats, reads, and runs errands. Saturday is his dedicated day off. His to-do lists typically consist of 12-16 items daily, which is stretching it—but he always gives himself plenty of time to complete every project, rarely procrastinates, and includes items that can drop off the list if time runs out.

Today, he’s accomplishing more than before, with far less stress and better sleep habits than ever before. There was a time he refused to take unscheduled client calls because they interfered with his productivity; now he takes them anytime, and if necessary, cuts a low-priority item from his list to make time. He’s still more productive than ever.

So relax. You’ll do fine if you take time for yourself, and occasionally add a little change of pace to your work schedule. The old saying “a change of work can be as refreshing as a period of relaxation” definitely has validity.

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity. She helps leaders create high-performance cultures in their teams and organizations and achieve maximum results in minimum time. She is the president of a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in highess organizations. To learn more about Laura or to book her for your next event, follow this link to Laura's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ideas are your most valuable assets!

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg,

People are not your most valuable assets. Today, ideas are your most valuable assets. Innovation in its most simplistic form is the result of people bringing ideas to life. Yet, research shows 52% of employees are frustrated at work because managers do not support their ideas or empower their creativity.

People who present ideas often get no response at all from a supervisor (the idea goes into a black hole). Or they get some version of this:

“No, that won’t work.” “No, we’ve already tried that.” “No we do it this way.” “No, our customers won’t like that.””No, that’s not realistic.””No, they will never buy into that.”“No, we can’t afford that.”

We don’t buy the assumption that managers aren’t interested. Instead, we suggest you think through why they are not responding or why they are so quick to say “NO.”

Could it be any version of the following? Your manager doesn’t understand; Doesn’t see the ROI; Is insecure and unsure of the future; Is overwhelmed in his/her own role; Is distracted by other issues.

Regardless of the scenario, it is up to every employee to take personal responsibility for his or her ideas and build a business case for the ROI of an idea. Here are 6 strategies to bring your idea to life:

1. Make it practical. Ideas can be vague. Show examples, create a prototype, get customer input on the viability of your idea. Make your idea visual, to see is to believe. Need inspiration? Order “DO SOMETHING NOW!” from amazon here.

2. Show customer benefit. Capture customer concerns, frustrations, and suggestions, show how your idea/innovation will provide a solution. Get customers to buy into a trial or a focus group dedicated to your idea and document their experiences.

3. Find co-partners or collaborators. Innovations are challenging, look for possible partners to co-develop your idea. If it’s too complex for your own organization, or your team to tackle on your own do your research and get to know the subject matter experts in other functional areas. Reach across functional boundaries, tap into the talents of others, grow your knowledge, network, and reputation during the process.

4. Invite your manager to co-own the initiative. Innovations are typically team efforts that are best led by passionate innovation co-champions, co-sponsors, co-owners. You do the work but give your manager co-credit. Supporting and accelerating an idea through a deeply rooted corporate culture requires lots of champions.

5. Build a business case for your idea. As an innovator your idea must always offer ROI. Show how your idea reduces costs, improves a process, increases efficiency, lowers costs, adds more value than costs, builds your brand, decreases turnover, increases retention, helps your team achieve goals/objectives.

6. Timing is everything. Prepare don’t just share! Just because the idea is top of mind for you doesn’t mean it is timely for your manager. Once you’ve created a business case for the ROI, have identified go to resources, possible collaborators, gained customer input, and linked your idea to the goals of the organization then you can carefully think though timing. Make the idea timely and timeless. Schedule a time to share your business case when your manager is focused and distractions are minimized.

For over 20 years, Jackie Freiberg has been on a mission to expose the unconventional, business-best practices of globally admired leaders. Dr. Kevin Freiberg is the president of a San Diego professional speaking and consulting firm dedicated to equipping leaders for a world of change. To learn more about Jackie and Kevin Freiberg or to book his for your next event, follow this link to Jackie and Kevin's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Things Leaders Must Do To Build Meaningful Communities

By Douglas R. Conant

This piece originally appeared as a guest post on Tanveer Naseer’s blog as part of a month-long series celebrating the release of Naseer’s first leadership book,Leadership Vertigo (available in stores September 25th, and available for pre-order here). Tanveer Naseer is an award winning leadership writer and keynote speaker – learn more about his work here or connect with him on twitter at @TanveerNaseer.

Have you ever set a concrete goal and worked tirelessly towards reaching it, only to realize you haven’t quite hit your target? If so, you’re not alone. In their new book, Leadership Vertigo, Tanveer Naseer and S. Max Brown explore the elusive space between leaders’ best intentions and their actual actions. Many leaders have an aspirational mission that drives their work but fall short when it comes to actually reaching their goals in a sustainable way. Or worse, they may delude themselves that things are on track only to be faced with the sobering reality that they are missing the mark. In their book, Naseer and Brown endeavor to help leaders entrenched in this counterproductive “leadership vertigo.” By identifying 4 key “pillars” of success, the book helps leaders mired in adversity to recalibrate and achieve enduring success. When they approached me to talk about their first “pillar”, Community, I was happy to share my experiences as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and to help answer this trenchant leadership question: What steps can we take to foster a community of people working zealously and thoughtfully towards common goals?

In my experience, to activate and engage the passions of an entire group of people – you must transform the group into a highly-functioning community of individuals who want to be their best, who feel exceptionally valued, and who celebrate one another’s successes. To build this kind of community, the change must begin with you modeling the necessary behaviors. Gandhi was right — you have to be the change you want to see in the world. Here I share three “musts” for leaders who hope to build exceptional communities of people. As you read through these three tips I’ve gleaned from my leadership journey, it’s important to remember this essential leadership truth:

It is unrealistic to expect extraordinary effort and performance without creating an environment in which people feel extraordinarily valued.

1. Give Thanks. My practice of writing over 30,000 thank you notes during my tenure as CEO of Campbell Soup Company is somewhat well known. But this important ritual of giving thanks began way back when I was working to find a new job in the Spring of 1984 – after being suddenly fired from my job as the Director of Marketing for the Parker Brothers Toy & Game Company. I was devastated — I had two small children and one very large mortgage and I felt every bit the victim. I’ve written a lot about the many lessons I learned from this experience but one of the most crucial was the community-building power of honoring others. I learned this from one of the most influential people in my leadership journey – an inspiring outplacement person assigned to me after I was fired, named Neil MacKenna. Neil was a spirited, crusty New Englander who wouldn’t let me inhabit the role of the victim for a second. With Neil’s guidance, I learned that in business, as in life, we can’t make it alone.

You see, early in my career, I was shy and reserved. Diligent, hard-working, driven to succeed, yes – but I kept my head down and did my work quietly. I isolated myself. As a result, I was sadly disconnected to the business world when I lost my job, and lacked the skills to build a network. Neil honed in on this and began equipping me with the tools to build a community.

Applying Neil’s advice, I got the name of every single person with whom I interacted, from the head of the company to the receptionist. Even after I secured my next job, I kept in touch with all the people I’d met along the way, maintaining thoughtful relationships, and vigilantly trying to be helpful in return. Through this practice of connecting with people, honoring them, and thanking them for their contributions, I found myself with an ever-growing group of people who genuinely wanted to help me, and who knew I would do the same for them. Over the years, I’m happy to say I’ve had the opportunity to repay their kindness many times. And, I’ve developed a life-long habit of giving thanks which has helped me immensely in building productive communities of people as a leader in the corporate world. The harder you work to make people feel valued, the harder they will work for the enterprise. And, when you thank people for meeting or exceeding agreed upon goals, you are also reinforcing the high standards of your organization in a thoughtful way. Meaningful gratitude is at the heart of any effectively thriving community!

2. Treat “Interruptions” as Community Building Opportunities. The modern workplace is demanding. Between relentless meetings, emails, text messages, questions to answer, problems to solve, fires to put out – it can begin to feel like you are drowning in an immeasurably vast sea of responsibilities. Sometimes it seems this exasperating litany of interruptions is preventing you from getting any “real work” done.

But one of the most powerful and enduring lessons I have learned in my over thirty five years of leadership is that these thousands of little interruptions aren’t keeping you from the work, they are the work. You can build a lasting community, one moment at a time, by showing up for your stakeholders in an authentic way when they need you. To reframe these moments in an empowering way, I call them “TouchPoints.” By adopting this approach to “interruptions” you can dramatically increase your ability to lead effectively, clarify strategy, build trust, and forge meaningful relationships. All you have to do is remember that each interaction, or TouchPoint, is rife with the potential to become the high point or the low point in someone’s day. If you choose with purpose to see these moments not as distractions from your work, but as the work, then you can begin to lead more thoughtfully in each and every moment. So, the next time someone “interrupts” you, remember that this is your chance to infuse your burgeoning community with renewed energy. And, it’s your chance to genuinely offer your help. This sends the message that you have their backs, that you value their time as much as you value your own, and that you are ready and willing to roll up your sleeves and help them fight the good fight for your community.

3. Lead With Integrity. This third most crucial tool for building thriving work communities cannot be overstated. As the leader, you must do what you say you are going to do. And do it well. How can people trust a leader who says one thing but does another? They can’t. And they won’t. More importantly, how can you expect your stakeholders to work tenaciously towards meeting their commitments if you don’t do the same? Remember, communities are built on relationships. Relationships are built on trust. If they can’t trust you, they won’t work alongside you to build a better world in the workplace and beyond. So, on your leadership journey, remember that you’re either going to become known as someone who does what they say they’re going to do or someone who does not. When you commit to “walking the talk” in an integrity laden way, you grow your credibility and create a profound reservoir of trust and belief in your ability.

My experience leading people has taught me that employees want to do meaningful work in a place where they can have an extraordinary and palpable sense of community, a place that has high standards, a place that cares deeply about them on an individual level, and a place where they can learn and grow. It is absolutely in our power as leaders to create communities that accomplish these mandates. By valuing people with our sincere thanks, embracing interruptions as opportunities, and leading with integrity we can begin to build thriving groups of people who will work their hardest to help solve the world’s problems and grow the success of organizations. Indeed, committing to fostering these types of communities is the only way forward in a very dynamic and challenging world.

Douglas R. Conant, New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker is dedicated to improving the quality of leadership in the 21st century. He serves as Chairman of Avon Products as well as Chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern University. The newly formed KELI initiative is designed to help leaders of today enhance their ability to lead in the "here and now." This program combines the best insights of the Kellogg academic curriculum with the best practices of world class leaders across the landscape at the highest levels of the organization. To learn more about Douglas or to book his for your next event, follow this link to Douglas Conant's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau

Thursday, October 16, 2014

7 Clues You’ve Got the Wrong Person on Your Team

By Mark Sanborn,

How do you know you’ve got the wrong person on your team? Any team member can sometimes feel like a bad fit, but there are more tangible clues you need to know to determine if a team member is the wrong person than simply your emotions. Here are seven clues

1. You wouldn’t rehire him or her if you had the choice. Let’s start here. If the person in question quit today and then applied to be rehired tomorrow (ignore the feasibility of the timeframe), would you hire him or her back?

2. You get negative feedback from others about him or her. Is there a consistent stream of negative feedback from others—team members, customers and/or vendors—about this person’s behavior?

3. The person’s “cost” (salary, benefits, training and time needed) exceeds the value they create. Quantify the individual’s contribution to the team and organization. Then compare that against their true cost (wages/salary, benefits, training and attention).

4. Team morale is lower because of them. Does overall team morale suffer because of this person? Is her or she more aptly considered a team slayer rather than a team player?

5. Customers or clients complain or don’t like doing business with this person. This is costly: do you receive phone calls, emails or other forms of complaint from customers?

6. The individual hasn’t improved with feedback, coaching and/or training. Have you attempted to appropriately address any deficiencies by providing feedback and needed training and development? Has this person accepted and has performance improved? If not, there is a real problem.

7. Your gut is telling you this person isn’t right for the team. It is time to add together all the information and do what your gut is telling you.

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author, noted authority and speaker on leadership, team building, customer service and change. To learn more about Mark or to book his for your next event, follow this link to Mark Sanborn's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are You Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution? Putting "Lead" Back into Leadership

By Laura Stack,

Many people split the world into dualities: You’re either this or that. Positive or negative. On or off. Black or white. But in reality, human behavior occurs mostly in the shades of gray between any two extremes. So when it comes to leadership, I hate to say, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” But it’s easy to see how it could be true.

“Lead” means “go first.” So followers look to a leader for examples of how to behave and what to do. According to research by anthropologist Lionel Tiger, most baboons look at their leader every 20 seconds to see what they’re doing. My Australian Shepard Lily follows me around the house and even while seemingly dozing, keeps an eye on me for cues of what to do. When we go for a walk, she continually looks at me for signals. Humans aren’t much different. Your team members look to you to model their behavior…and like it or not, they’ll follow your lead, whatever you do.

If you wander in at 9:00 every morning, don’t expect they’re going to rush out the door to arrive by 8:00. If you thrive on regular 60-hour workweeks, your team members may wear themselves out trying to keep up with you, even if you don’t expect it. You don’t want them to slack off, and you don’t want them to drive themselves into burnout, but your behavior will serve as their role model one way or the other. Your attitude is contagious, too. If you’re grumpy, you’ll transmit that. If you’re enthusiastic, they’ll notice that too. So choose the one you want others to exhibit. Promote a solutions-only atmosphere to end useless complaining. Encourage new ideas. Make optimism your default state.

You’ve heard the saying “monkey see, monkey do.” What can you do differently, and how can you act differently to yield greater team productivity? How do your team members react to your work habits and moods? What purposeful changes have you made in the past that have directly influenced your team for the better?

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity. She helps leaders create high-performance cultures in their teams and organizations and achieve maximum results in minimum time. She is the president of a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in highess organizations. To learn more about Laura or to book her for your next event, follow this link to Laura Stack's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beyond the Keynote: How to Maximize Your Organization's ROI with Keynote Speakers After the Conference

By Jonathan Wygant

To implement lasting organizational change, many leaders opt to bring in keynote speakers who speak on topics ranging from productivity to leadership to innovation. Senior executives may walk away from the event feeling confident they know exactly what to do to implement positive change. Unfortunately, those changes hardly ever happen, because the 'knowing' of how to do something rarely translates into actually 'doing.' This 'knowing-doing' gap results in little to no change at all. How do you 'lock-in-the-learning' to bridge the 'knowing-doing' gap and get the best ROI from your keynote speaker and training dollars?

According to Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, co-author of The Knowing-Doing Gap, the key is to build a culture of action. In the U.S. alone, $60 billion a year is spent on management training. Additionally, over 80,000 MBA graduates enter the workplace every year, students who presumably have been taught the skills they need to improve the way companies do business. Yet, we still can't get things done. For corporate culture to improve, we need to take action and make the shift—not just talk about it. In successful companies, there is less of the 'knowing-doing' gap. There is much less disparity in these companies between how their teams think, who they are and what they do.

People have a great deal of knowledge, so why aren't they effective? Because there is no inertia behind the training and because of all the other behavioral inertias already existing within the executive and organization as a whole. People have their own way of working, and they are back to doing what they already know because that's their comfort zone. Therefore, change does not occur. To be effective, we need to extinguish one behavioral inertia in order to implement a new and better one in its place. To make change permanent, repetition, accountability and tracking are essential best-practices. Consistent training and ongoing coaching are good examples that support the process to ‘lock-in-the-learning.’

While listening to a keynote typically increases productivity by three to five percent over the following six months, productivity has been shown to increase twenty-two percent when further training is provided. According to Olivero, Bane & Kopelman, adding coaching after training pushes productivity even further to eighty-eight percent. David Rock, co-author of Driving Organizational Change, concludes that coaching is the key component to improving performance. Rock explains that with a Fortune 50 company, adding coaching to training resulted in executives learning six times as much—with a ROI of 17x. With effective coaching, executives are held accountable to behavioral improvement that results in positive change. Therefore, in addition to bringing in an expert keynote speaker, it's important to learn how to 'lock-in-the-learning’ by reinforcing the original message through follow-up workshops, coaching and Internet based learning platforms.

Bridging the 'knowing-doing' gap requires deeper immersion in the subject matter and follow-up after the conference is critical. Therefore, be sure to:
  • Connect back to the keynote expert to provide additional training via seminar or webinar. A tip to save on fees is to bring in a staff associate as a facilitator of further learning.
  • Follow-up keynotes with a same day on-site executive breakout session where participants can roll up their sleeves and work with the subject matter expert on current issues they are facing.
  • Using the knowledge gained from the speaker/facilitator, executives should then meet with their team(s) to further implement new best-practices via webinars, weekly check-ins, and slicing the keynote or workshop wisdom gained into five-minute videos that may be viewed on the Internet any time later.
Coaching is an investment in developing your key people for the organization’s long-term benefit. Coupling keynote speakers with follow-up training and coaching leads to knowledge implementation and results in productivity and profitability improvements. Reinforcing the keynote speech with a senior executive team breakout session and following up weekly or quarterly with teleseminars or on-site visits, will go a long way in changing individual and team behavior toward improving the overall corporate culture, performance and profitability.

Jonathan Wygant is CEO and founder of BigSpeak, Inc. one of the largest business-oriented speakers bureaus in North America focused on serving the Fortune 1000 and multinational companies worldwide. BigSpeak addresses the needs of corporations, associations, non-profits and government agencies by providing motivational speakers, thought leaders and subject matter experts as well as facilitating strategic change initiatives and executive development programs through BigSpeak Consulting.