GA Taylor Fernley

If I were to identify one book pivotal to my company’s success, it would be “Execution” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Simply put, it shows how to get the job done and deliver results … whether you are running a company or in your first management job — plus, it is chock full of real-life examples that reinforce each salient point.

In my infinite wisdom, I thought I knew the true meaning of execution. You just set a goal and eliminate all obstacles. Right? Wrong! What I learned from the book was how little I knew about execution in its truest sense. The book brought clarity to my definition and drove home the fact that to fully understand execution, companies large and small need to keep three key points in mind:

  • Execution is a discipline.
  • Execution must be job No. 1 for business leaders today.
  • Execution must be at the centerpiece of any organization’s culture.

With these three points as a backdrop to our execution strategy, what specific action steps are we taking to support our strategy?

Step No. 1. Engage in regular and sound strategic thinking at all levels of the organization.
Embrace the Rockefeller habits and hold daily meetings with all teams and departments to see what successes and challenges are ahead for them. Post core values prominently around the office and liberally reference them during conversations each day.

Step No. 2. Establish the organization’s top priorities.
Meet with top management in the fourth quarter to develop priorities for the following year. Limit those priorities to a maximum of three to five. Commit to writing and prominently display those priorities around the office. Review them quarterly with the entire staff.

Step No. 3. Create organizational clarity and alignment for all associates.
Devote a portion of each staff meeting to reviewing values and what they mean to both internal and external customers. Go to great lengths to explain not so much the “what” but rather the “why” of their hard work and its meaning within the organization.

Step No. 4. Use every opportunity to reinforce organizational alignment.
How do they say it … tell them, tell them again … tell them again. From time to time, show examples of what misalignment can mean to the organization. And celebrate how true alignment benefits everyone.

Our company has enthusiastically embraced these four action steps, and its success surpassed my wildest expectations. The results were a more engaged workforce, a better understanding and appreciation of our own talent pool and an elevated respect of everyone’s role within the organization.

How many of us feel, in the football vernacular, that we get to the 5-yard line and fumble? By embracing some of these techniques, you will be well on your way to the Super Bowl. By adopting these strategies, it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be our “secret sauce” to success by way of embracing strategic execution.

G.A. Taylor Fernley is President and CEO at Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to nonprofit organizations since 1886.

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Believe it or not, many people within your organization possess creative genes. Unfortunately as leaders, we often don’t allow them to surface by overloading them with ongoing day-to-day tasks. Sound familiar? You should know they are a critical component to any business’s success.

OK, they may be a tad moody or eccentric … but they are an integral part of the fabric of your organization. Although every organization claims to care about creativity and innovation, very few are willing to do what it takes to keep their creative people happy. So, what are the keys to engaging and retaining creative employees?

Like them or not, here are my top five:

Spoil them and let them fail

Like parents who celebrate their children’s successes, show your creative associates unconditional support and encourage them to do the absurd ... and perhaps even fail. Promote risk-taking at every turn. Of course there are costs associated with these “experiments,” but these are lower than the cost of not innovating.

Surround them with people unlike them

The worst thing you can do to a creative employee is to force them to work with someone like them. They will compete for ideas, brainstorm eternally or simply ignore each other.

The solution is to support your creative associates with colleagues who are too conventional to challenge their ideas, but unconventional enough to collaborate with them. That’s the formula. And, yes, it’s easier said than done.

Don’t pressure them

Giving people more freedom and flexibility at work dramatically enhances creativity. If you like structure, order and predictability, you’re probably not creative.

However, we are all more likely to perform more creatively in spontaneous, unpredictable circumstances. Don’t constrain your creative employees.

Be spontaneous

Few things are as aggravating to creative individuals as boredom. Indeed, creative people are prewired to seek constant change, even when it’s counterproductive. They take a different route to work every day, even if it gets them lost, and they never repeat an order at a restaurant, even if they really liked it.

Creativity is linked to a higher tolerance of ambiguity. It is therefore essential that you keep surprising your creative employees at every turn.

Make them feel important

Why do creative people fail? Answer: Others fail to recognize them. Fairness is not treating everyone the same, but like they deserve. If you fail to recognize your employees’ creative potential, they will go somewhere where they feel more valued. Natural innovators are rarely gifted with leadership skills. Steve Jobs had better relationships with gadgets than people. We could all learn from Mark Zuckerberg, who brought in Sheryl Sandberg as COO to make up for his leadership deficits.

Research confirms that corporate innovators exhibit many of the characteristics that prevent them from being effective leaders: They are rebellious and anti-social with record low levels of empathy. Put another way, they will be a challenge to manage and will take you, as management, out of your comfort zone. Some days, they will simply drive you crazy.

Properly managed, however, their innovation and ability to look at things through a different lens will be central to your company’s ongoing success.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to nonprofit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at tfernley@fernley.comFor more information, visit

How many of you make New Year’s resolutions? How many of you actually keep them? That, of course, is a rhetorical question. On a personal front,
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I simply set S.M.A.R.T. goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Move over David Letterman, here are my Top 10 S.M.A.R.T. goals to drive professional development:

10. Identify your “end game.”

Borrowing from author Stephen Covey, always “begin with the end in mind”… and commit your goals in writing, complete with timelines and measurements of success.

9. Read … and then read some more.

Knowledge is power. I, for one, am an information junkie. I also “follow” the best business minds in the country with the hope I’ll learn a thing or two along the way.

8. Find a mentor.

One of my favorite mottos is, “I am smart enough to know that I am not smart enough.” So I surround myself with individuals who challenge my thinking, give honest feedback and serve as a sounding board and source for inspiration. Put another way, I look for colleagues who “question my answers.”

7. Eliminate barriers.

An interesting exercise for all of us in business is to identify what, in fact, is standing in the way of reaching our goals ­— then developing an action plan to eliminate them.

6. Become a saver and sharer.

Create an effective electronic filing system to keep track of those interesting articles, blog posts and Web pages that resonate with you. Encourage those around you to also share documents and/or communications with you that would bolster your arsenal of information.

5. Schedule some “me time.”

Life is just too crazy to devote adequate quality time to yourself; but it is imperative that you do so. Find time and a space to think on a daily basis. I, for one, arrive early to work, get my coffee, shut my door, lean back in my chair, look out on the skyline and think. It’s amazing what can become clear in moments of quiet reflection.

4. Find a leadership coach.

Leaders often overvalue themselves by believing they have all the right answers. Right? Wrong! Leaders are just too engrained in their organization. Find a coach or trusted adviser. It will be one of the best investments of your professional career.

3. Have a vision.

Failing to have a vision in today’s competitive economic climate will quite frankly put you out of business. If you carefully define where you want to go and how you want to get there, you are already starting to out-distance yourself from the competition.

2. Post your goals.

At the end of the day, it is all about accountability. Post your professional goals on your desk for everyone to see. Share them with your management team and verbally reference them at company-wide meetings to keep them front and center for all to see.

1. Take time to smell the roses.

We Americans are spending more time in the office and less time with our family and ourselves. Your body and mind need the time off from work. Just remember, at the end of the day, you are No. 1. 

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at tfernley@fernley.comFor more information, visit



Twitter: @Fernley_Fernley




It is all well and good to have organizational values. That’s the easy part. How do you keep them alive? How do you position them to be a living, breathing part of your company’s DNA? That’s the hard part.

Organizational values can provide a moral foundation for taking the high ground in tough times or when temptation comes knocking. They reflect and reinforce organizational culture. Put another way, they are the anchors of your business.

Many organizational leaders spend countless hours coming up with an explicit set of values that reflect the beliefs and aspirations of their company. Often, they are inspirational, professing integrity, leadership, teamwork and collaboration. When asked about organizational values, it is often determined that the executives are enthusiastic and supportive of them. Why? Because they were instrumental in their creation.

Although there may be a lot of energy put into selecting the perfect set of values for your organization, don’t get trapped into thinking that once they are communicated everyone will remember and abide by them. Simply put, they won’t. Mistakes and misinterpretations will be made, but as an organizational leader, you can increase your chances of having your values front and center by adopting four basic principles:

Principle No. 1: Keep them memorable

Long drawn-out lists containing complex descriptions are a thing of the past.

In today’s world, people don’t read and are even less likely to remember. Make the list brief, two to four values max, and make the descriptions simple so they are memorable, aim for six to 10 words max. Print them on business cards and post them around the office in strategic locations. Keep them front and center in the eyes of your associates.

Principle No. 2: Lead by example

Make sure that you personally keep your organizational values in the forefront of the decisions and actions you take. Refer to them liberally at company meetings and acknowledge your associates who have “lived” them.

Don’t be reluctant to ask for regular feedback on whether your firm is in proper alignment.

Principle No. 3: Build your values into every message

At the expense of being redundant, when you are speaking with others in your organization, refer to those values to make your case. Give examples of how you’ve observed employees embodying those values. Tell stories about how they are being followed in other areas of your company.

Connect the dots for employees about how following the values make your workplace and your company better.

Principle No. 4: Observe when values aren’t being followed

Provide timely feedback to those who have strayed and remind them of the specific value(s) they’ve strayed from. Let them know what impact this has on you, others and the organization.

Keep your organizational values alive and in the forefront of each and every one of your actions. Make sure you are modeling them and expect the same from your associates by infusing them into your communication, recognition and feedback process. And then, sit back and relax. Watch them bring energy and commitment to your organization’s culture and future success.

G.A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

Critical thinking: It sounds like it should be limited to academia; right? Wrong.

While critical-thinking skills are, in fact, central to academic research, they are equally important in the business environment.

As we explore effective techniques to increase visibility and influence in the workplace, we need to become the “professor” of critical thinking for our vital team members. We need to serve as a model for them to follow. Critical thinking, in its simplest of terms, is a questioning process. Consider these three questions to encourage your employees to start thinking critically about their own individual actions.

•           I hear your question. What’s your answer?

•           What would you do if I weren’t here?

•           Are you using your brain or your gut?

“I hear your question. What’s your answer?”

In their haste to keep projects moving, most management teams instinctively want to provide quick solutions when employees have problems or questions. This approach is archaic in today’s business world and does not foster critical thinking. It teaches employees to only rely on your strengths rather than developing their own.

Consider this as an alternative: Make it a policy that whenever an employee comes to you with a problem, he or she must also offer at least one solution. Force them to do some advanced thinking. This gives you, then, an opportunity to have a more constructive and fruitful discussion.

“What would you do if I weren’t here?”

Being a good manager does involve some parenting. Sorry about that. Your job is to use your leadership skills to coach employees to become self-sufficient. Continue to strengthen their critical-thinking muscles by turning the questions back to them, answering a question with a question.

•           “What are the downside risks if we take this action?”

•           “What if we did A instead of B?”

•           “What if the opposite were true?”

In most cases, that employee already knows the answer. Don’t do their work for them; but rather use it as a development opportunity.

“Are you using your brain or your gut?”

Many managers pride themselves on the soundness of their “gut instinct.” They often make quick decisions based solely on sudden flashes of intuition.

Bad idea! That’s not to say that intuition is invalid. But to be effective, it needs to be backed up with logic. If you’re modeling decision-making behavior based solely on gut instinct, you might be doing your associates a disservice.

Remember the old bumper sticker “Question Authority”? When an employee comes to you with a gut-based decision, you need to start questioning.

Consider the following questions in your dialogue.

•           “Why do you think this will work?”

•           “What assumptions have you made?”

•           “What alternatives might we consider?”

When an employee’s decision is successful, acknowledge it. Remember: praise in public (and criticize in private). If he or she makes a mistake, use it as a learning opportunity. Our job as leaders is, again, to be the catalyst for positive change. Serve as that role model for others to follow and use your “PhD in critical thinking” to move your company forward.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

R-E-S-P-E-C-T? Find out what it means to you

Move over, Aretha Franklin. While she did popularize the word “respect” in her chart-topping single in 1967, respect has been a fundamental building block for successful companies for decades, well before Aretha arrived on the scene.

Respect does not come with age; it is earned. In my humble opinion, there is no management tool more important or powerful than respect itself.

Businesses fundamentally exist to make money, but the currency that is traded inside every organization is respect.

Walk through any office today and listen to the conversations, from the boardroom to the watercooler. What will you find? Probably elements of both respect and disrespect. If you command respect, people listen attentively when you talk and follow your direction. It can be seen in both body language and facial expressions. On the other hand, if you don’t command respect, you will quickly become the focus of ill-timed conversation.

Having said that, here are eight irrefutable and effective building blocks for you to earn (and keep) respect.

1. Be real. People will not respect you if you are not natural. Our workforce is smart — they have the ability to detect those who are “faking it.” There’s no stronger foundation for earning respect than being, well, you.

2. Be interested. People like to be listened to. When people realize they are being heard, they’ll open up and tell you what is important to them about their jobs, their concerns and goals within the organization. It pays to listen.

3. Be a safe harbor. Workplaces are hotbeds for gossip. Create an environment of openness and confidentiality. When people realize you can safely be told anything within the confines of your relationship, you’ll become the one person everyone seeks out when they really need some perspective, advice and direction.

4. Be helpful. People respect those who contribute. Being a contributor means making it your primary goal to help others achieve their goals. Remember, it is important to pay it forward and work with others within your organization to help their dreams be realized.

5. Be creative. People respect innovation. The “same old, same old” mentality left us years ago. By being creative and coming up with new, fresh ideas will motivate the workforce and results will speak for themselves.

6. Be a risk-taker. Associates gravitate to those who take chances — and are willing to look at life through a different set of lenses. They do not accept traditional thinking. Be willing to take chances. Remember: Failure is a way we all learn.

7. Be spontaneous. Use your position to create an environment of fun within your organization. Introduce special events and do so without warning. Consider, for example, an Aloha Day after several weeks of dreary weather or hire a massage therapist after a busy business season. Let your mind wander here.

8. Be respectful of other people’s time. There is nothing more valuable in today’s business world than time. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. One of my favorite mottos that I follow is, “Be brief, be blunt, be gone.” And I live by it.

Remember again, respect does not come with a job title or age; it is earned. Make it a central part of your personal business strategy. The results will speak for themselves.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

No one said it was going to be easy. Managing others is, in fact, a very difficult process, especially when stress levels are high and you have 37 other urgent tasks to complete that day. No matter the scenario, being a great leader means being a great manager and that takes considerable time, forethought and dedication. Let’s also remind ourselves again that our associates are “the most valuable unlisted asset on our balance sheet.”

Here are a few little known factoids:

? 71 percent of all workers feel stressed.

? 40 percent of adults get less than seven hours of sleep during the weekdays.

? 34 percent of lunches are eaten on the run.

? The average person receives 156 emails per day.

Despite these statistics, the bottom line is that you can get more than these 37 tasks completed and still lead your team to success if you know how to manage them effectively.

The key is finding the time — and the discipline. Time is something we can never get back and is more important than money itself. Here are 10 steps to becoming the leader your associates want to follow:

1. Make the time.

Don’t use time as an excuse or a crutch. Prioritize your calendar to be in alignment with your goals and those of your company. Set two hours each week for strategically “managing” your schedule.

2. Provide direction.

Clearly articulate, in writing, tangible deliverables to your team, complete with timelines. Review those tangibles on a regular basis to hold your associates (and yourself) more accountable.

3. Run effective staff meetings.

Meetings are the bane of our existence — you can’t live with them; you can’t live without them. Keep them focused (one hour or less), keep them interactive and keep them content-rich.

4. Set stretch objectives.

Set high (yet reasonable) goals. Limit the number of homework assignments you assume during a meeting. Again, delegate to allow you, as the leader, to focus on high-level initiatives. By doing so, you will empower those around you.

5. Evaluate your style.

Is it effective? Leaders must create an environment of trust and transparency. And, most importantly, spend more time listening.

6. Inspect what you expect.

Never delegate without management control. Challenge your team with tasks, but circle back to ensure they are getting done.

7. Promote risk taking.

Nothing stifles creativity and growth more than “the traditional leader.” Give your associates permission to push the envelope and to do things differently than you do.

8. Get out of your comfort zone.

Surround yourself with people unlike you. And, with people who have the self-confidence to challenge traditional thinking.

9. Step away from your desk.

Limit the number of meetings in your office; make “house calls” and go to your associate’s office or even the conference room. It will foster open and positive communication.

10. Do what you say you will do.

“Walk the talk” is vital to obtain and retain the trust and respect of your colleagues. You have enormous influence, and it is pivotal to understand this enormous influence you have on people. It all starts with trust and respect.

Managing a team is challenging, but it’s profoundly rewarding if done right. When you find the time to focus on your associates, remember:

? Engaged employees are 3½ times more likely to stay with your company.

? Empowered employees are more productive, creative and resourceful.

? The more you trust your team to do great work, the less stress for everyone.

? The higher the morale, the more fun for everyone.

Once you’ve developed an empowered team you can trust, you will be well on your way to being that leader they will follow.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

A strategic plan outlines the steps to achieve a desired future, and the process of creating that plan can provide an invaluable opportunity for the exchange of ideas and consensus among your management team and your staff. Defining your shared vision and then planning based on that desired outcome is the essence of strategic planning. With that in mind, allow me to share with you eight gaffes that should be avoided while outlining your strategic plan.

The time frame of the plan is too long.

First, strategic plans need to remain laser-focused on accomplishing strategic priorities in a timely manner. The plans also need to be frequently refreshed to keep them from becoming stale and to keep the organization energized on plan execution.

Long-term planning certainly has its place in a corporate world, but shorter operational plan horizons, going only 12 months out, allow organizations to utilize valuable current information and remain engaged in delivering the plan milestones.

Too many strategic goals.

We all fall victim to this mistake. Organizations often have a laundry list of goals. Dreaming up goals is never an issue. Instead, the issue is having the discipline to narrow down prioritized goals to a manageable and achievable level.

Five goals is a good number to consider as a maximum. When you factor in each goal that will lead to a sequence of programs, initiatives, activities and deliverables to be managed and implemented throughout the organization, it’s easy to see how a long list of goals can inhibit implementation success.

Goals are not tied to measurable outcomes.

Organizational goals should be constructed in terms of outcomes. They should be defined in such a way that they can be measured and managed throughout the layers of the organization to propel action and achievement from those involved.

Employees are unaware of the goals.

Believe it or not, this can be a huge problem in many organizations. When the corporate planning process fails to consider the individuals who will actually implement the plan, breakdowns happen and desired outcomes are rarely attained.

Key vendors and partners not considered.

By communicating organizational goals to key vendors and partners, much needed buy-in and assistance can be gained from these external parties to achieve desired outcomes. Think about it. Are they not critical to your long-term success?

Organizational culture is overlooked.

The corporate planning process must consider the organizational culture. Without this, it is impossible to fulfill the organization’s potential to dominate within their marketplace. Culture determines how the organization functions and how work will be completed.

Operational planning is overlooked.

An effective corporate planning process allows the organization to plan strategically at the enterprise level and then operationally at the business unit level with each part supporting the other.

Failing to reach all the way down through the organizational layers is a common problem with corporate planning processes. Strategic planning, to be effective, must address the entire business ecosystem — from top to bottom.

Customer value is overlooked.

At the end of the day, it is all about the customer. Customer-centric planning puts your No. 1 stakeholder — the end customer — at the forefront of the organization’s activities and goals.

By creating goals that reflect the type of value the organization can create for the customer, you’ll put a face to the name and more effectively connect members of the organization with the desired outcomes.

We have entered into a forever changed business climate. Put another way, the new normal is here and here to stay. Despite all the distractions we encounter every day, we must never lose sight of the fact that we must spend more time on the business rather than in the business, and it all starts with a strategic plan.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to non-profit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

To become a PPO (no, not that one — rather, a “peak performance organization”), it is a precondition to hire and retain A players. It is just that simple.

No matter the state of the economy, it is never easy to find A players who possess an insatiable appetite for curiosity and a “lifelong learning” mentality. You need to know, first and foremost, what to look for and how to attract them and then, how to inspire and motivate them as professionals. Here are a few steps your organization can take.

Step 1: Identify stretch goals.

PPO associates need to be inspired by their managers to continuously perform at the highest level. They want to be kept on their toes and be challenged. They must want to develop themselves, to achieve the best they can and, because of this, contribute to the success of the organization — again, lifelong learners.

PPO managers, therefore, should consciously inspire their associates by giving them interesting work, challenging tasks and increased responsibilities and stressing that they should be proud of their own achievements and those of the organization. They stimulate self-confidence, an entrepreneurial attitude, firmness, a can-do attitude and a winning mindset in associates.

PPO managers raise the performance of their people and themselves by simply setting high standards and stretch goals. It’s easier said than done, but it works.

Step 2: Start inspiring associates.

There are two main ways to inspire your associates: by changing your own behavior to be more inspirational, and by creating conditions for your associates that increase their motivation. Below are some ideas for both techniques.

Five proven tips on how to begin the process:

1. Be passionate about the goals of the organization, show emotion and generate enthusiasm for these traits in your associates.

2. Be connected with your associates by showing real interest in them and finding out what motivates and inspires them and actively looking for their ideas and opinions.

3. Be (somewhat) unconventional and take personal risks by doing things differently and operating outside “normal” organizational boundaries and outside your comfort zone and letting your associates do the same.

4. Be a good listener with your associates. They have more insight than you give them credit for.

5. Be a great storyteller who is able to package messages in a more appealing format that captivates associates.

Now that you have “inspired,” how do you move on to “motivating” your associates?

That is step three. Below are five proven tips to motivate your people — who are your most valuable unlisted assets.

Step 3: Motivate your associates.

1. Paint your associates an attractive picture of the future of the organization and their place in it. Put another way, explain the “whats” and the “whys” of how their hard work is benefitting the company.

2. Create an environment of trust and openness with management. Be willing to share with them the good, the bad and the ugly of your organization.

3. Give your associates work that challenges and recharges them. Allow them to take risks and learn from the experiences.

4. Provide your associates with the opportunity to get into contact with the beneficiaries of their work (such as the customers). The dividends will be immense.

5. Recognition, recognition, recognition. We never say thank you enough. Recognize your associates’ many achievements in public. Let everyone know of his or her achievements and advancements. Do it, and it will motivate that individual but also others around him or her to do better.

Put these 10 tips to work in your organization and watch your performance and profitability skyrocket.

G. A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company providing professional management services to nonprofit organizations since 1886. He can be reached at, or for more information, visit

The big challenge for so many executives is that they have been reared in “boss mode” rather than in the culture of leadership.

Bosses too often believe that they have to come up with all the innovative answers. Consequently, their people will sit and wait for the boss’s next epiphany. It’s old-school thinking!

Most entrepreneurial ventures are born because someone on a lower level within a company had a good idea, but the boss didn’t listen. When companies instead have leaders of the ilk defined by Thomas L. Friedman in his June 2011 The New York Times column, they continue to flourish and evolve toward the next level as opposed to becoming stifled and destined to “expire.”

Friedman says, “The role of leaders today is to inspire, empower, enable and then edit and meld all that innovation coming from the bottom up.”

Why? Because even bosses eventually run out of creative ideas. With that in mind, you have to ask yourself if you are an extreme or a reluctant boss.

With some bosses, in extreme cases, there’s not much that can be done. They build a cadre of yes-men around them and everyone waits for their command or their next crazy idea to execute. But at least the yes-men have jobs — although sometimes at pay beyond their true value because of blind obedience and loyalty.

In these challenging economic times, there are also many enterprises stagnating because their people wait for their boss to paint the picture of what the company will look like going forward. These reluctant bosses don’t know any better. They have just grown up in different organizational cultures.

On the other hand, good leaders build up the confidence and talents of people around them and nurture their creative ideas. That’s call new-school thinking.

Here are three behaviors that will transform reluctant bosses to effective leaders:

  • Education and learning: Good leaders have a great appetite for learning, especially in regard to cultivating more effective ways of motivating people and building positive and innovative environments. Good leaders focus on thought leadership and create a learning environment for all. Bosses, on the other hand, participate in little of the education and learning aspects because they believe they know it all already. Sound familiar to anyone?

When executives stop learning, their leadership prowess begins to wane.

  • Focus on your people, not yourself: Traditional bosses are generally described as people with big egos. In other words, they’re more focused on themselves and their own prowess and generally have scant regard for the capabilities of their people.

On the other hand, smart leaders focus on building and encouraging their people. They invariably have associates around them that they respect and appreciate. Humility trumps ego every time.

  • Let people take risks and make mistakes: Once you take a leadership posture toward people, you will be open to letting them learn from their mistakes. Remember, creating an atmosphere of risk-taking is very healthy. By doing so, they will discover and innovate. Who knows — one out of every five interesting ideas may bear real potential.

As their leader, your job is to assemble resources and talents, as well as create a vision for the company, focused on innovation. Whenever setbacks occur, and they will, you must encourage the innovator to hang in there — your support and patience will be required.

Again, remember that innovation comes from all those talented people operating within your organization. Your people probably have many unrecognized talents, which, when harnessed properly, could put your enterprise on an exciting new track.

So give up on being an atypical boss and try leadership instead — the results will speak for themselves.

G.A. Taylor Fernley is president and CEO of Fernley & Fernley, an association management company founded in 1886. Reach him at, or for more information, visit

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