Month: March 2012

A Dog’s Advice for Leaders

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Guest Blogger - Clarence the German Shepard Mix

Keep chewing until the squeaky toy is dead.

Persistence pays off whether it’s silencing the evil squeaky or staying with a difficult task.

Kick some grass over the crap and move on.

 Crap happens.  Fix it and move on.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

 Biting or growling won’t get you what you really want whether it’s food, the ball or a head pat. Repeat customers, funders for your projects or whatever keeps you in business won’t respond well to being barked at. This really should be a no brainer – like the Shih Tzu down the street.

Learn new tricks.

It’s not that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He simply doesn’t want to learn. Chewing on his toy, napping or being petted are much more enjoyable at his age. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for humans. Unless you want to be in charge of getting the newspaper or fetching some slippers, you need to keep up by learning new skills.

Praise is better than punishment to change behavior.

Punish a dog to change his behavior and you’ll teach him to cower or bite.  Praise and reward him and you’ll get a well trained dog. Dogs may or may not get over being punished and may or may not hold it against you. People, on the other hand, will remember being punished and the chances of it negatively impacting future behavior is more likely than not.

What’s up with the treat on the nose trick?

Making a dog wait to eat the treat you’ve placed on its nose may show that the dog’s well trained, but what purpose does it serve? That and it’s REALLY annoying. Are you making your employees do tasks that serve no real purpose just because it’s “always” been done that way?


Are You A Joe Friday Leader?

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Joe Friday, as portrayed by Jack Webb, was a no nonsense “just the facts” kind of man. In a recent article by Toni Bowers for TechRepublic, the topic is this style of management. Bowers looked at a survey done by DDI which was interested in such things as, “how leaders are promoting innovation (and how they aren’t), what really happened to great ideas, and the perception gaps between employees and leaders in leaders’ behaviors.”

The gaps between employee perception and leader perception on such issues as the leader’s – openness to unique ideas and opinions, guiding employees to pursue ideas autonomously and willingness to challenge current perspectives – ranged from 29% to the mid 30%.

“In general, leaders were confident in their skills across the board, but ’employees felt there wasn’t really room to challenge the status quo,’ according to Rich Wellins, Senior Vice President of DDI.”

The takeaway here is about good communication with employees to help them make better suggestions and help them understand why their ideas don’t get used.  In true transformational leadership, employees are given the opportunity to fail (and learn from it), but this is not always practical when funding is tight and deadlines are looming.  In lieu of actually putting things into practice, make time to talk through the process and help them (and perhaps you also) find the fail points.  Perhaps, with a bit of redesign, they might be able to make it work after all.

Please see TechRepublic for the full article.




Problem Solving Quotes for Leaders

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“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” – Charles F. Kettering

“Never try to solve all the problems at once make them line up for you one-by-one.” – Richard Sloma

“Again and again, the impossible decision is solved when we see that the problem is only a tough decision waiting to be made.” – Dr. Robert Schuller

“Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.” – Edward R. Murrow

“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.” – Brendan Francis

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” – Henry Ford

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Leaders – Is Your Staff Craving Ice Cream & Pickles?

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As far as anyone knows, Bob Farrell has never been pregnant. (I’m sure this will come as a relief to his wife and children, not to mention Bob himself.) However, he knows more about ice cream, pickles and leadership than the vast majority of people of either gender.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bob Farrell, you might know him for his ice cream.  Bob founded Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours and grew the business to over 50 restaurants before he sold to Marriott. (Marriott expanded the number of restaurants, and, at the restaurant peak in 1975, there were almost 130 Farrell’s nationwide.) For those of you who’ve never experienced the joys of a Farrell’s, a close comparison would be the ice cream parlor visited by Napoleon in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989). In the movie, Napoleon attempted to eat the Ziggy Piggy, an enormous ice cream concoction. For those of you who might have missed this cinematic marvel, there’s always our friends at YouTube.

Although the decorations in the movie are more garish than the real Farrell’s, the pin- striped vests and boater hats of the waiters along with the large and creative ice cream offerings are a dead ringer for the real restaurant. Bob Farrell knew ice cream, but, more than that, he knew customer service. It was from his experiences as a purveyor of great ice cream that he developed the idea of giving customers a “pickle”.

According to Bob, “PICKLES are those special or extra things you do to make people happy. It’s a hand written thank you note with every order shipped. It’s walking the customer to the item they’re looking for rather than pointing… or maybe it’s simply calling them by name. The trick is figuring out what your customers want and then making sure they get it. That’s the message behind Give ’em the PICKLE!”

Bob went on to realize the importance of giving employees the pickle as well. “They want and need certain things from you as their leader. If they get them, they’ll follow you and achieve great things. If they don’t get their leadership pickles, their belief and respect for you as a leader may begin to slip.” “Leaders are those who SERVE the people who SERVE the customer.”

Spreading enthusiasm, inspiring confidence and demonstrating integrity are three “Leadership Pickles” that he highly recommends.

Don’t Let The Zombies Get You Down – Motivate Your Workforce

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Picture your favorite zombie movie. Two of my favorites are “Shaun of the Dead” and “Night of the Comet” (I like my zombies heavy on the humor and light on the gore). Any movie with a bunch of shambling, red-meat-eating, undead will do. No matter how it all starts, it always leads to the same thing – packs of roving, hungry heaps of flesh shambling in search of brains. In every zombie movie I’ve ever seen, it’s always the same thing. Disgusting looking corpses milling about aimlessly until something catches the attention of the whole group. It could be a noise or maybe a scent. Whatever the reason, the group turns en masse to shuffle towards it.

Zombie motivation is easy – make a noise. They’ll move as a group towards that noise. Of course, if you want them to do something other than move and eat, you’re pretty much out of luck. Contrast this with getting a group of live people to move forward on a project  that quickly and effortlessly. Fortunately, leaders in the fields of business and psychology have come up with a number of factors that motivate live people.

1. Recognition – Whether it’s on the spot, calling them into your office specifically to praise them or in front of a group, the simple recognition of someone’s hard work or special accomplishment is a powerful motivator. Giving a zombie a plaque doesn’t motivate him to find brains any more quickly or skillfully than he would otherwise, but it might give you a head start.

2. Job Growth – Training is a never ending process if you want good employees. It’s also a way of showing your faith in someone’s talents and keeping them interested in their job. Send them to seminars, give them projects that require they learn new skills or find other ways to expand their skill set. Even in the zombie world the more skilled zombies have more success reaching the humans.

3. Job Titles – A way to recognize that an employee has had significant job growth is by giving them a job title that reflects their acquired skill expansion. Remember though, that they need to be backed up with substance. As with recognition, this isn’t really a motivator for zombies. Urich the Undead doesn’t need a business card that reads Senior Vice President of Human Resources. (What else?)

4. Pitching In – Helping an employee who’s under pressure to complete a task or project makes them feel that their situation and hard work is recognized and that their supervisor will be there to help them if and when they need it. Even zombies often feast as a group.

5. Work Environment – An industry study asked employers to rank how important they thought ten job aspects were to their employees. Included in the ten items was “working conditions”. The employees were also asked to rank the ten items. Surprisingly, employers ranked “working conditions” next to last at ninth, and employees ranked it at second. Zombies may not respond to things like Feng Shui, but they are a tad bit put out by daylight.

6. Your Attitude – This last component is clearly the most important because unless you clearly communicate the above while showing sincerity and respect none of these will work. Please remember, if you surround yourself with a horde of zombies, you’re likely to become one.

Are Women Better Leaders?

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Whether it was the intent of the authors, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, to stir up controversy or it was just a byproduct, they certainly achieved it when they wrote “Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?” When I read this Harvard Business Review article, I did something I seldom do. I read the comments. Actually, I read part of the comments because there were so many of them I didn’t have time to read them all. People were certainly motivated to share their reactions. These reactions and the study results might be something that would interest Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. In his latest book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he’s interested in how people use their System 1 brain  (the type of thinking that facilitates quick and/or easy decisions) and the System 2 brain (the thinking that requires more attentive attention to detail and more involved thought processes). Although many conclusions will come instantly to mind from the System 1 brain as you read about the study, it’s important to fully engage your System 2 brain as well. Because, as sensational as the study might be to some, what’s important to take away from the information is what conclusions can be drawn and how these conclusions can be used for leadership training.

Zenger and Folkman surveyed 7,280 leaders and found that women scored clearly higher in twelve of the sixteen competencies that were rated. In only one of the competencies, Develops Strategic Perspective, did men clearly outperform women. However, the authors wonder, “Why are women viewed as less strategic? This is an easier question to answer.Top leaders always score significantly higher in this competency; since more top leaders are men, men still score higher here in the aggregate. But when we measure only men and women in top management on strategic perspective, their relative scores are the same.”

What conclusions can be drawn from these findings? Zenger and Folkman give us two and invite others to join in on the discussion. They suggest:

“As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills. Our research shows these leadership skills are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability.”

“As to the constant state of unease we hear women leaders express — clearly, chauvinism or discrimination is an enigma that organizations (and the business culture) should work hard to prevent. However, that said, think of the benefits every leader in every organization would gain from a mind-set that they simply can’t afford to make a mistake. Paranoia or extreme risk aversion is clearly detrimental to a rising career. But in today’s economic climate, every leader, male or female, would do well to avoid becoming complacent.”

What do you think? Feel free to leave us a comment.

You can see the Zenger and Folkman’s article at:

Emotional Intelligence & Leadership

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Emotional Intelligence & Leadership

Building Leadership with the Glass Hammer

Recently, The Glass Hammer (, an online community for women executives, posted an article on leadership and emotional intelligence. We thought it was helpful and wanted to share a couple of the key points with you.

In “Building Leadership Capacity”, the question is asked “how can … female leaders build their leadership capacity?” Annie McKee, a woman who has taught leadership at Wharton and worked at the University of Pennsylvania to bring about a large scale organizational change, believes it’s helpful to look at some false assumptions about what makes a good leader.

False Assumption #1 – Smart is good enough – “Smart is the price of entry but it doesn’t distinguish you in leadership.”

False Assumption #2 – Emotional intelligence makes the difference – “It is the behavior backed up by the intelligence that makes the difference.”

False Assumption #3 – Mood doesn’t matter – “Too much stress and negative input inhibits our ability to think.”

The article concludes by saying that, “emotional intelligence can be learned – if you want to learn it.” If this is the case with you, there are some great articles at

In addition, we’ll be hosting a workshop in Marietta, Ohio on April 17th on Emotional Intelligence. The title is “Emotional Competence – Understanding & Applying Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace”. This workshop will discuss the evolution of emotional intelligence and the value it can bring to the workplace and provide opportunities to put these ideas into practice. You’ll identify your current strengths and weaknesses and learn techniques for improving your own emotional intelligence and building emotional competence in others. The fee is $95 and includes lunch.  For more information: