How peer groups help CEOs make meaningful change in their companies

“Former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch once said, ‘When the rate of change on the outside of a company exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is near,’” says Jim Jelinek, a chair at Vistage.

Today, companies are facing major forces of change that are generational, economic and technological. CEOs must position their companies, and just as importantly, themselves, to embrace those changes. They must effectively answer the question: What must we do differently?

“It takes unbiased thinking, and open and honest discussions with peers, to dig in and find solutions that keep a company on top,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Jelinek about how peer groups can help CEOs break out of long-held ideas and institute meaningful change in their companies.

What are some examples of challenges facing companies today?

The way to go about hiring has changed completely, yet some companies believe they can successfully recruit today’s talent with ads. They risk missing out on bringing the best people into their organizations.

How companies bring a product to market has also changed, and yet there are still companies that use dated methods for this critical function.

CEOs can be insulated, often without knowing it. They lack the perspective that would otherwise help them realize they’re not keeping pace with changes in the market. Sometimes it’s the case that CEOs don’t believe their company is getting left behind until they start to feel the pain. Then they think they can just work harder and fix it, but that’s not the case. Pretty soon their company is in crisis.

What challenges come with instituting organizational change?

Denial is a powerful force and it commonly manifests in thoughts such as, ‘My industry is different. We don’t change as fast.’ CEOs need a push to get through that denial. And that, as is the case with most change and challenges to closely held beliefs, is painful. But CEOs have to face that pain and work their way through it.

Another issue is that CEOs often think change can happen fast. They’re good with the initial push, but tend to give up too easily when momentum stalls. Depending on the type of change, it can often take a while for the initiative to be realized at the bottom of the organization. CEOs often don’t take the time to ensure everyone in the organization understands why change is necessary and why they should embrace it.

Every change is behavior change, and it’s tough. If the leader isn’t progressing and growing and thinking differently about what an organization can do, it stunts a company’s growth.

How can CEOs become less insular?

It’s helpful to meet with other CEOs in a peer group. It allows a person to share his or her plans and get honest feedback. This interaction can help those who may not realize a problem exists come to understand that they need to change.

A peer group can ask CEOs tough questions. Finding the answer leads the CEO to dig deeper, challenge his or her initial thoughts, and that typically leads to greater awareness and understanding.

Having their ideas challenged is just one aspect of a peer group. The other is discovering new options and perspectives that come from the group that may not have been considered. Really tough issues need tough questions and tough evaluations. In a peer environment, CEOs can test drive ideas. They may hear others say they’ve tried an approach and learn the outcome — it worked, it didn’t work — and offer support or an alternative.

There’s also the benefit of working with CEOs in different industries, which helps to avoid industry-think. It’s a chance to see how others do it.

Behind every business problem is a personal challenge. And every change means a loss of something, even if it’s just familiarity. CEOs who don’t deal with the emotional side of change and understand the difficulty of dealing with the associated fear of loss often fail to change. A high-performing group can identify and unpack that and help a CEO confront his or her issues to get past them and bring about change in his or her company.

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage

How the company you keep drives leadership, growth and success

While thousands of CEOs will say that being part of a CEO peer advisory group has transformed their lives and their companies, too few of them ever join one. Most CEOs don’t experience what’s called “peer advantage.” By giving language to this powerful resource, the hope is that more CEOs and business leaders will discover how much they can benefit from it.

Smart Business spoke with Leo Bottary, vice president of peer influence for Vistage, about how participating in a peer group can benefit executives.

What is peer advantage and how can it help CEOs and other leaders who struggle with isolation?

As CEOs, presidents and business owners, we all at times face ‘make or break’ decisions that will have great impact on our business and personal lives. The peer advantages are being able to make these decisions with the benefit of having the wisdom, experience and expertise of peers who have been in similar situations and been successful.

Feedback from staff is most often tempered by agenda, biases and fears. Even advisers such as accountants and lawyers may be afraid to offer their honest opinions for fear of being fired. Without a peer group, an executive can wind up with groupthink, reinforcing what the CEO thinks and not challenging his or her ideas. But pulling a punch in the idea phase can get a company beat up in the market.

What are some other key reasons a CEO might consider joining a peer group?

CEOs join peer groups because they want better results and better lives. Executives can benefit from an empathetic, impartial sounding board. They offer CEOs both the insights to make the best decisions and the increased confidence to act on them.

Another benefit is diversity of perspective. By engaging with CEOs from a broad range of industries, executives discover best practices that can be applied to their businesses that they would not likely have discovered by working with leaders within their own industry sector.

Why is vulnerability a necessary element for a successful peer group experience?

Executives’ peers can’t give solid advice if executives are unwilling or afraid to share everything about what they’re facing. That includes being open about thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to share. The outcome will only be as good as the input.

CEOs can be hesitant to say what they don’t know. They may be guarded out of the fear of being exploited or perceived as weak for not knowing. Being among a group of people that can be trusted in a setting that is safe, confidential and free of judgment, not only helps in meeting a particular challenge, but also serves to build an enduring trust among group members.

How can peer advantage benefit and accelerate business growth?

An unbiased peer group operates with the best interest of the members involved. It challenges them, supports them and holds them accountable to what’s most important to their role as an executive.

A peer group gives members an opportunity to talk openly about strategies they’re considering and get honest, direct feedback that will help determine if those strategies will make a positive impact in the market. It affords CEOs the opportunity to work on their business rather than in their business. Given the myriad activities executives must deal with that can be a distraction, talking with a peer group helps CEOs recalibrate and focus their attention on strategically positioning their company for the future.

A peer group environment is free of agenda and bias. It’s safe and confidential, and a place where each member can question the most important parts of a leader’s life and decisions. The feedback from such groups can provide options to the CEO that will help them become better leaders, which can only improve their company’s results.

The results are ultimately what matter. Dun & Bradstreet surveys have shown that companies that are members of peer advisory boards significantly outperform companies that are not in terms of compound annual growth rates.

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage International Inc.

Multigenerational workforces require attentive leadership

Today’s workforce comprises workers from multiple generations, each of which is characterized by unique skills, traits and motivators.

That can be troublesome for business leaders who try to manage each employee the same. To achieve a high level of productivity, company leaders must learn how to harness each individual’s talents without displacing workers from any of the other three generations.

Dennis Sabol, Vistage Chair at Vistage International, says with the larger baby boomer population receding from the workplace, millenials will be the dominant generation in the workforce by 2020.

“Unless employers address this unique generation, they will not be able to attract and retain a workforce,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Sabol about leading a multigenerational workforce and understanding the tendencies of millenials.

Why should leaders be aware of the tendencies of each generation?

One reason business leaders should be mindful of generational differences is because each generation has unique motivators. For example, those within Generation X are concerned with work/life balance; millennials want schedule flexibility because technology allows work to happen anytime, which makes the typical 9-5 shift too rigid; and boomers will work more than 40 hours to show their superiors that they’re willing to put in the time.

Millennials believe that their performance should be measured on results, not time.

They’re typically not motivated by money and they may have 12 jobs before they’re 35.

Boomers, on the other hand, tend to gauge performance based on hours worked. This generation is motivated by money and often work at the expense of time with their families to get money and status.

Workers from Generation X have a tendency to work hard during their scheduled hours but are put off if they’re asked to work overtime because they need a work/life balance.
Given these motivational differences, employers must create a work environment that’s productive while accommodating the tendencies of multiple generations.

What can be done to ensure generational differences are respected?

To appreciate the difference between the workers from each generation, have an open dialogue with employees to understand their unique needs. That can go a long way toward getting everyone to appreciate everyone else’s value.

There may, for example, be a perception by boomers that millennials are slackers. It may instead be the case that these workers have found better ways to get their jobs done and they don’t care to sit at their desk until after the boss leaves to show how hard they work.

Business leaders may need to rethink the perks and benefits they offer employees. For example, companies traditionally don’t offer a lot of vacation time for someone in their first year of employment. To appeal to the generations that are more interested in personal time than money, consider offering them one week of vacation with pay and one week without pay to start if two weeks paid vacation is not part of your policy.

What are some management techniques that generate a high level of productivity while respecting generational differences?

Most people stay at a job because they like their manager. Managers, then, need to relate to their employees better, get to know more about them and not treat them like a number.

Employees who feel they have a great boss that respects and values them are more likely to stick around.

Have flexibility in your management techniques so you can cater your style to the personalities that exist in your company. But that flexibility must be coupled with accountability. Employees need to know what’s expected of them and what their responsibilities are regardless of their generation.

As generational diversity increases in the workplace it’s important to understand that each person working at your company has their own motivators and tendencies. You can’t change their personalities, but you can shape their behaviors by steering their talents into opportunities for growth for them and the company.

Align the strengths of your company and your management with those of your employees for mutually beneficial outcomes. ●

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage International Inc.

Cleared for takeoff

When leaving the runway for a
first-ever solo flight, nervous and
excited flying students can only trust that their instructor provided all of
the skills and knowledge required to fly
the pattern. But even if you hired the best
candidates, if you’re not willing to be “in
the plane” with them, teaching them
everything they need to be successful,
there’s a good chance they’re going to be
in for a bumpy landing.

“When you hire peak performers, the
tendency is to share with them what they
need to do, and then leave them alone to
go do it,” says Dr. Victoria Halsey, vice
president, Applied Learning, The Ken
Blanchard Companies®. “This has an
incredibly negative impact on new hires.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Halsey to learn more about how to accelerate the productivity of new hires
through coaching, creating effective relationships, and understanding how they
best learn.

What early steps can help set up new hires
to succeed more quickly?

What people don’t realize is that new
hires may be very excited to be there, but
they are actually brand new at the bulk of
what they’re working on. In Situational
Leadership® II language, we call them
‘enthusiastic beginners.’ To ramp people
up more quickly, you need to rapidly
focus them on the most important things
they need to do and when, and then help
them get with others who are also going
to teach them how. They need a comprehensive on-boarding and action plan with
examples of what a good job looks like,
clear timelines and priorities. It’s also
important to help them develop the relationships that will accelerate their
growth and share ‘how we get things
done around here.’

How do supportive and directive behaviors
propel learners past the disillusioned learner phase?

New hires encounter a second wave a
few weeks after the initial ‘Bring it on,
I’m so excited’ phase. They hit the wall
thinking, ‘Wow, this is trickier than I
thought.’ Now they need someone there
to coach them through their flagging

When they are feeling discouraged, they
need to know ‘why’ what they are doing is
so important. They need praise for their
progress and either reteaching or redirection to build competence.

What are the benefits of teaching the
Situational Leadership
® II model’?

One of the benefits of teaching the
Situational Leadership® II model to new
hires is to have them see the stages of
development they’re going to go through
as they learn to be proficient in their
tasks and goals. They need to know that
when they first take on a task, they’re
going to be excited, though may not
know what to do — but then someone is
going to give them very meticulous direction. They also need to know that they’re
going to become a ‘disillusioned learner’
and receive coaching. They need to know
they’re going to reach a time when they
can do what it is they’re striving to do but
not feel fully confident about it, so someone is going to help them with a supporting leadership style to help them step
into their power.

Why should new hires learn to say, ‘I need’?

You should be teaching new hires to
come to you and ask for what they need.
The Ken Blanchard Companies’ research
shows that 54 percent of managers tend
to use just one style naturally before
training, while 34 percent use two styles,
11 percent use three styles, and only 1
percent of the population use all four
leadership styles. One reason new hires
aren’t brought up to speed as fast as people would like them to be is that leaders
aren’t giving them the specific direction
they may need because it isn’t the natural
style of the leader. New hires can help
managers to flex their leadership style to
both directive and supportive by learning
to say, ‘I need.’

How can leaders diagnose others to best
accelerate the development of new hires?

Developing optimal performance means
knowing your people. Great leaders
switch their attention from what they feel
like doing when their people say, ‘I need
help,’ to thinking about the person and
the specific task or goal. Great leaders
discover what people really need in terms
of direction and support to move to the
next stage, and then follow through by
giving it to them. Finally, great leaders
notice the good things people are doing,
find what’s unique in their people and call
it out with specific, descriptive praise.
What is their goal? To make people feel
brilliant and have early wins.

VICTORIA HALSEY, Ph.D., is vice president, Applied Learning, The Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido. Reach her through The
Ken Blanchard Companies Web site at

Core skills for new managers

Senior leaders struggle to provide new
managers with the operating framework they need to make sense of the
world they face when stepping up from subject matter expert and individual contributor
to the realm of management and leadership.

“The challenge for new managers is to be
able to work effectively in differing contexts
that sometimes occur in the same day, for different lengths of time, with different priorities or risks attached,” says Richard Egan,
senior consulting partner, The Ken
Blanchard Companies®. “The result is that
new managers, with good intentions at heart,
do what comes naturally or imitate the leadership style observed in other leaders.”

Smart Business learned more from Egan
about three key contexts faced by new managers and described in the book, “Achieve
Leadership Genius,” by Drea Zigarmi, Susan
Fowler and Dick Lyles. Egan explained why
new managers must understand that who,
what, where and when you manage and lead
should determine how you manage and lead.

What challenges are faced by SMEs moving
into management?

An individual worker or team member
focuses primarily on his or her job at hand.
That job is usually one in which he or she has
received extensive training and is a proven
subject matter expert. These workers also
are passionate about their chosen field. On
becoming a new manager, they often find
themselves in fast-paced, changing circumstances — or changing contexts — in which
they are required not only to continue to
manage themselves effectively but to also
manage others and lead.

What happens to new managers in the leading self context?

Self leadership is about having the skill and
the mindset to accept responsibility and take
the initiative for succeeding in your work-related role. The self context is the one in
which new managers are most familiar as
they have been excelling as individual contributors before their promotion. However,
the challenge now is to use and apply the
skills of being a self leader to the new role of
manager and leader. These skills include
aligning their personal mission, creating a
personal performance plan that includes
clarity of ‘key responsibility areas’ and goals,
identification of needs for direction and support, and effective management of time and
energy so performance and satisfaction are
maximized. Self leaders also seek out a mentor relationship to help navigate the path forward. One common challenge for the new
manager in the self context is to juggle new
management and leadership responsibilities
while continuing to make individual contributions as a subject matter expert.

When must new managers first handle more
complex interactions?

This occurs in the one-to-one context. It’s
more complex as it involves interacting with
others who may be similar to or different
from the new manager in terms of personality, skills, needs and motivations. A new manager may be required to perform various
roles depending upon the needs of others
and the immediate situation. The roles could
include supervisor, teacher, coach, mentor or
friend. Key skills in this context include: the
ability to clarify roles, priorities and performance standards of others; impart knowledge
and develop skills of others; manage the performance of and give feedback to others; and
have challenging conversations with others
when performance or behavior is not on
track. A typical challenge the new manager
faces in this context is to work effectively
with others who were former peers, colleagues and friends. Moving from being one
of the ‘gang’ to being the leader is sometimes
a tricky transition that requires thought,
intent and skill.

What is the most difficult context for new

The team context is exponentially more
complex. Here, the new manager is asked to
galvanize a number of individuals all potentially with different personalities, skills,
needs and motivations to achieve a common
purpose. The focus is collective and the new
manager has to work on maximizing two
group constructs — team productivity and
morale. A variety of roles may need to be performed including those of trainer, facilitator,
mediator and cheerleader. Key skills include
the ability to provide a team with structure
such as purpose, tactics, norms, methods of
communication, and the ability to manage
group dynamics and manage effective meetings — both face-to-face and virtual. A common challenge new managers face in the
team context is to lead cross-functional
teams. This requires the manager to negotiate resource allocation from different departments, manage the performance of individuals on the team who report to a different
function manager and develop the team as a
whole when members’ allegiances may lie
with their individual functions.

How can new managers increase their
chances for success?

For new managers, developing effectiveness in the self, one-to-one and team contexts
is the priority. If they can first diagnose the
current context in which they are operating
and then have a number of relevant skills to
deploy, they will increase their chances of
managing and leading effectively.

RICHARD EGAN is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido. Reach him through The Ken
Blanchard Companies Web site at

Data dilution

John F. Kennedy once remarked,
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And people have taken this philosophy to heart.

They attend lectures, seminars and night
classes on a host of topics. They subscribe
to cable television services that provide a
nearly limitless smorgasbord of choices.
They proudly report to their friends that
they’re “on their third book this month.”
And they surf the Web. But how much of
this information really sticks? How much
of it has an impact on people’s lives, either
professional or personal?

“Very little,” says Dr. Dick Ruhe, a senior
consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “And if there is a trend right
now, it’s in the wrong direction. Now, we
can get our hands almost immediately on
anything that’s out there. The problem is
there’s too much of it.”

Smart Business spoke with Ruhe about
this tidal wave of information and what to
do about it. He recently coauthored “Know
Can Do!” with Ken Blanchard and Paul J.
Meyer. The book deals head-on with the
challenge of getting things to stick.

What are the three reasons people don’t

The first is ‘information overload.’ There
is simply too much coming in. People
either don’t focus, or can’t. The mass of
data dilutes any one piece of it. We don’t
need more breadth, we need more depth.
The second is ‘negative filtering.’ People
close their own minds through negative
thinking. They critically question all new
ideas. Such evaluation is helpful, but too
much of it is crippling. The third is ‘lack of
follow-up.’ The research is clear that even
when people successfully incorporate
fresh information into their thinking, it rapidly goes away unless used very soon.

Can less actually be more when it comes to
reading and learning?

One of the problems that people have
with knowledge is they keep wanting to
know new things. Who wouldn’t want to be
in the group that wants to know new
things? Besides, they actually don’t have a
choice. We already know that most people
spend the majority of their communications time reading and listening, rather
than writing and speaking. So there is a
nonstop flood of information coming in.
People complain about being buried in it.

The problem is that people can only
emphasize a few things. Those who try to
emphasize everything emphasize nothing.
In order to take advantage of new information, we have to reduce this flood down to
the ‘critical few.’

The book mentions Green Light Thinking.
What is that?

Not only are people themselves hyper-critical, but they are surrounded by wet
blankets. When approached by others with
ideas, there is a natural human tendency to
look for what is wrong or at least the major
obstacles to adopting a new order of
things. A limited amount of this is OK, but
too much reduces any chance of running
with a new approach or solution.

We suggest holding people accountable
for Green Light Thinking. Before they can
say anything negative about something,
they must identify reasons and solutions
that support it. There will be plenty of time
later to coarse- or fine-tune the recommendation. During meetings it can make
sense to literally assign someone to be the
Green Light Thinker. The person becomes
the advocate and contributes the optimism and positive mindset that often are

How can you change the energy level people
have to do things differently?

An essential ingredient in making change
happen, any kind of change, is ensuring
that there are positive consequences in
place. Whether it’s for others or for ourselves, there must be a conscious or subconscious association of good things with
the initiative. Energy includes drive, motivation, attitude, inspiration, enthusiasm,
etc. All of these have a strong positive correlation with positive consequences. If you
go on a diet, recognize progress — any
progress. If you are trying to adopt a new
problem-solving system, celebrate success
in moving forward.

How does the concept of unconditional love
come into play?

This is quite related to positive consequences. People get so accustomed to trying to do better, they actually don’t even
see the improvement; they only see where
they could have done better. So they pre-dispose themselves to a critical, negativistic attitude. In ‘Know Can Do!’ we suggest
‘catching people doing something right.’
Many people go through their whole lives
trying to finally get approval from important others who may not even be with them
any longer — parents, teachers, coaches
and so on. There isn’t enough unconditional love. If there were, there would be less
dissatisfaction and depression and more
good in the world.

DICK RUHE is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Driving results through culture

Corporate culture — an organization’s
personality — is the sum total of the
company’s values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and practices of its members. But
many managers may have just a vague view
of their organization’s culture and little background around how it came to be.

So how is corporate culture established in
most organizations?

“By default,” says Chris Edmonds, senior
consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard
Companies.® “And if organizational cultures
are created by default rather than intention,
you’ll likely have people who aren’t consistently behaving in ways that deliver high-quality solutions.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Edmonds about how to assess your company’s culture and how you can transform culture if you’re willing to move away from seeing it as a soft and fuzzy, irrelevant concept.

Why is culture so important?

Our research and research by Jim Collins,
the Gallup Organization and others provides
abundant evidence that work forces with
engaged and accountable people deliver
strong customer loyalty, increased productivity and higher profitability and return for
shareholders. One of our culture change
clients, Banta Catalog, generated a 20 percent increase in employee passion, turnover
was cut by 50 percent and profitability
improved 36 percent in the first year of the
values alignment process. The creation of a
purposeful culture — one that holds employees accountable for exceeding performance
expectations while modeling the organization’s declared values — is critical for business leaders in today’s marketplace.

What are the ideal foundations and the realities of culture?

We talk about four foundations of culture,
including vision, purpose, values and strategies. Vision is what you are striving to
become and purpose is about what you are in
the business of doing. Values are what you
stand for and use as a guide for actions and
decisions, while strategies are your plan for
making your vision a reality while living your
purpose and your values.

Unfortunately, most organizational cultures
happen by default rather than by intention,
and the existing culture of an organization
can hold staff back from consistent high performance and strong engagement. Existing
practices can actually ensure delivery of mediocre performance and poor customer service, which cost companies money every day.

Where will leaders find soft spots in their
corporate culture?

Many organizations publish a mission statement and desired values, but values are not
measured or monitored with the same discipline and diligence as goal accomplishment
and performance. And culture often is
viewed by senior leaders as soft, not relevant
to performance and hard to put one’s hands
on. If you can’t measure culture, it is seen as
peripheral to core business operations. The
trick is, if you’re not getting what you want,
then it’s time to change those expectations.

How can culture be transformed?

First, you have to assess the issues with a
purposeful culture assessment. The assessment differentiates between current reality
and best practices, provides a snapshot of
current organizational systems and practices,
and it can be used as a gap reduction or
action planning tool.

After the assessment, you have to take
proactive steps and intentionally create a culture that allows the organization to differentiate itself from competitors, to really live its
values, and to really deliver on the promises
it makes for products and services. Most senior leaders have never experienced successful culture change. Far fewer have led successful culture change. Senior executives
and senior leadership teams must learn to
follow proven practices that fit their unique
environment and effectively manage obstacles and gain traction on the desired high-performance, values-aligned culture. The focus
is not to simply identify culture issues but to
map out strategies to address those gaps,
execute that strategy, and see demonstrable
improvement in performance.

What are the best culture transformation
practices and their outcomes?

First, senior management must embrace
and actively lead the change effort, and a
steering committee should be in place to
guide the change. You must ensure there is
involvement at all levels. It’s critical that all
staff members are held accountable for
demonstrating the new behaviors and rules,
and finally, continued communication about
the change and stories that reinforce the
effort must be in place.

The outcomes to these best practices are
numerous. Following the best practices creates involvement and buy-in for change
throughout the organization and creates
accountability for creating and sustaining the
culture. Next, it provides a vision that people
can relate to and increases organizational
alignment and focus. It also aligns performance expectations, values and rewards systems, and creates a sense of community and
pride. Finally, following best practices
demonstrates measurable gains in performance and passion and creates an environment in which even small changes can have
dramatic impact.

CHRIS EDMONDS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido. Reach him at The Ken Blanchard
Companies Web site at

Managing up

As business leaders compete to boost
their return on human capital while
perfectly executing their company’s latest business strategies, it’s no wonder
that employee passion remains a top priority. So how are today’s leaders creating a passionate work force, energized and prepared
to meet the challenges of today’s agile

“We have companies that are trying to do
more with less, with a shrinking employee
population,” says Phil Reynolds, senior consulting partner, The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “So companies must create
self leaders who will give the extra energy
toward the key performance indicators critical for overall organizational vitality.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Reynolds about certain key concepts discussed in Ken Blanchard’s book “Self
Leadership and the One Minute Manager,”
(coauthored with Susan Fowler and
Laurence Hawkins) including how managing up helps self leaders get the job done,
builds trust and creates passion in the people who are willing to give extra effort.

What is the definition of a self leader?

The book ‘Self Leadership and the One
Minute Manager’ defines a self leader as
someone who has both the skill sets and the
mindset to lead themselves to reach their
critical tasks and goals.

How is self leadership a benefit to organizations?

Companies want to create a work force
that is both able and willing to meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced, flatter organizations. There’s been a lot of focus on retention
as the grand prize, but sticking around might
actually mean that people are stuck in a rut,
and retention doesn’t automatically deliver
stellar performance or extraordinary effort.

Self leaders are employees who will be
both productive and also go the extra mile
toward achieving those key performance
indicators and key work areas. So it’s not just
people sticking around or hanging around —
it’s retaining people who are actually giving
their best to the customers and to their job.

How does an employee ‘manage up’?

As a self manager, you must first honestly
ask yourself a set of questions including,
what is the task or goal I’m being asked to
do? Am I competent? Do I have the skills to
do this task and goal? What’s my commitment level? Am I motivated? Am I confident
I can do this task without help? Once you
determine these needs, then you can begin
to ask yourself if you need additional direction or support. Managing up means not just
going to your leader but also taking the
responsibility of going wherever you need to
go to get what you need. It could be your
boss, it could be your colleague, or it could
be a team member.

What is a major roadblock to managing up?

Mindset can be the most difficult aspect of
managing up. You can have the skills in place,
but if your mindset is that you believe you
can’t manage up, you won’t. Let’s say you feel
your boss won’t listen to any of your ideas —
that is a constraint you have around your
working conditions. So that assumed constraint — a belief based on past experience
that limits current experience — actually limits you from managing up. One of the things
that research has shown is that the truth will
not set you free. Someone can come in and
tell you the truth about something, but unless
you have a mindset and framework that reinforces that, you’re not going to act on it.

Where do you see companies struggling with
building self leaders?

We’ve taught leaders how to let go, but we
haven’t taught people how to hang on. Companies teach leaders how to delegate, communicate and lead through change, but we
don’t teach the employees how to manage
themselves through that process. When you
empower leaders but they don’t know what
you’re empowering them for, they become
frustrated because they feel that the organization is dumping work on them. With no
sense of enthusiasm around what they’re
doing, they’ll do the very minimum required.

What are the managers’ responsibilities for
self leadership?

The managers’ responsibilities are communicating to employees a clear picture of what
a good job looks like, a clear outcome or target, and then providing the communication
mechanism or venue for the employees to be
able to share with them what they need. The
main responsibility of the manager is to provide the followers what they cannot provide
for themselves by building trust with fair
practices and helping them reach their goals.

What are the responsibilities of self leaders?

As a self leader, your job is to diagnose and
determine what you need from your leader.
Most of the research that has been done on
the subject of leadership has been written
from the perspective of the leader — the top-down approach. The leader ‘empowers’ you
or tries to ‘engage’ you in the workplace. The
self leader takes ownership for the power
and responsibility that is given to him or her
in the workplace.

PHIL REYNOLDS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Motivational momentum

The euphoria and promise of a new
employee’s first few weeks can be difficult to maintain. Recent studies have shown that, over time, nearly 70 percent of
employees become disengaged with their

These numbers suggest a gap in leadership’s ability to build on the initial energy of
a new hire. Workers always hit the ground
running, but without a mix of motivation,
inspiration and a clear vision of the big picture, they soon run out of steam. So how do
the best leaders maintain motivational

“Every day, our employees leave us clues or
triggers about what motivates them,” says
Mark Paskowitz, senior consulting partner,
The Ken Blanchard Companies® in Escon-dido. “We need to be aware of what they are.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Paskowitz about the perils of a one-size-fits-all motivational strategy and why the best
leaders know how their followers are feeling when they come to work on Monday

How can a motivational strategy backfire?

I remember early in my career as a new
supervisor wanting to acknowledge one of
my peak performers for a job well done.
Since I was extroverted in my personality
and communication style, I assumed that my
employee would like to be acknowledged in
front of 50 of her peers. Immediately after
the public celebration, she pulled me aside
and said, ‘Never do that again.’ She was an
introvert and didn’t like public celebrations.
As a new supervisor, it was an early wake-up
call, which taught me one size doesn’t fit all.
What motivates one person may not motivate another.

What practical tools and insights can managers apply immediately?

It starts when employees first join your
organization. How do you maintain their initial excitement about joining the company?
Their immediate manager can make all the
difference in the world. I remember, before
payroll automation, a manager who would
leave positive comments regarding my performance attached to my paychecks. It was a small and simple thing, and yet, it was very
powerful. People want four to five positive
strokes to one redirect/reprimand. Redirection should be focused around keeping the
energy positive and delivered while not punishing someone who is still learning. You
learn a lot about organizational culture and
leadership when people make mistakes. It is
human nature to largely focus on people
making mistakes instead of when they do a
great job. Praise is one of the most underutilized skills that managers can always do
more of.

What are some different forms of motivation?

Intrinsic motivation focuses on activities
an employee enjoys doing that bring them
meaning, fulfillment and enjoyment. The key
is being able to tie the intrinsic needs of the
person with critical performance indicators.
Can this worker find fulfillment with what he
or she is doing while providing value and
high performance for the organization? The
critical question to ask as leaders is how do
our employees feel when they come to work
on Monday morning?

Extrinsic motivation focuses on external
rewards or outcomes an employee receives for doing a job well. Whether it’s a promotion or earning a well-deserved raise, the
key is to build the person’s confidence and
competence so he or she performs well on a
day-to-day basis. The focus should remain
on what we can do to help our employees
achieve success.

What motivational methods are best from an
organizational perspective?

One of the big motivational factors for
organizations is having individuals understand how what they do is tied to something
bigger or how what they do ties to the business strategy and organizational purpose.
You must ask yourself, ‘Do people rally
around the vision of our organization?’

Another best practice is to tie great performance into the performance management process. A lot of people fear the end of
the year review because they aren’t sure
what is coming. By having frequent and
quality conversations, we ensure that
employees are aware of what is going on.
That way we celebrate having employees at
the end of the year earning an A. The key is
to develop a systematic process instead of
an annual event.

How can leaders define a process for motivational strategies moving forward?

In partnering and coaching our employees,
we must take the time to intimately get to
know them — letting them know we care
and continuously inquiring about their interests and well-being. The old saying, ‘People
want to know you care before they care how
much you know’ is so true. You should develop a series of courageous and compelling
questions to help discern your workers’
motivations. Some questions to ask include:
What brings them energy and fulfillment?
What do they strive for in a great working
relationship? How do they learn successfully on the job? Where do they see themselves
going in the future? How can we best support them? These are a sampling of the questions we need to ask over time to maintain
motivational momentum.

MARK PASKOWITZ is a senior consulting partner at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at

Don’t be the last to know

When a poor leadership style is
revealed by climate surveys or 360
feedback, ugly symptoms like frequent turnover and low morale may
already have a foothold in the company.

There are many ineffective leadership
styles — from being too collaborative, too
analytical, too controlling or too slow —
that can send employees running to the

“One of the most difficult styles for teams
is when the leader is perceived as arrogant
and self-serving,” says Linda Miller, global
liaison for coaching, The Ken Blanchard
Companies. “This style often results in a
team that is demoralized or stalled in its
development toward self-reliance because
the leader wants to be overly involved.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Miller about how executive coaching, if
properly sold and embraced, can help
struggling leaders recognize behaviors like
arrogance that, when changed, create
opportunities for exponential personal and
team growth.

How is an executive best sold on a coaching

Especially with high-level leaders, it’s
important to position executive coaching
as an investment, based on wanting them to
progress upward in the company. Even
when behaviors need to be addressed, positioning coaching as an investment rather
than as a punishment creates higher buy-in
from the leader.

One of the first areas to address with arrogant and self-serving leaders is their level of
self-awareness. Often with arrogance, the
level of self-awareness is low, even though
the leader may not agree that it’s low. Denial
might be another way to put it. Getting this
leader’s attention is a first step, and this can
occur through multirater (360) feedback
tools. Part of the purpose and goal of coaching is to get agreement that the leader is
behaving in a way that is having an unintended impact. If the leader doesn’t agree
that behaviors need to change, it limits the
success of the coaching. The success of the
coaching improves when the leader is fully
engaged with the process and recognizes
that behaviors must change.

What happens in the early phases of the
coach/leader relationship?

In the interview and early phases of
coaching, rapport and credibility must be
established within the first few minutes.
Whether the initial coaching contacts are
by telephone or face to face, there has to be
a sense that there is a good connection and
partnership for a working relationship. Part
of this is establishing a clear agreement
about what coaching is and is not, what to
expect, logistics, etc. It’s also important to
establish the leader’s level of buy-in. For
example, is the leader complying with the
coaching because he or she was required to
be coached, or does the leader want to be
coached, knowing that he or she is engaging in the process as a choice for his or her
own development? Once this is determined, it’s time to identify and clarify the
focus for the coaching. Identifying at least
two to three clear objectives for coaching,
based on feedback, is best. Many leaders
decide to invite their leader or HR professional into this conversation to ensure the
correct objectives are being addressed —
for the leader as well as the organization.

How do accomplished leaders first react to
the coaching experience?

There are a variety of responses. Many
have no idea what to expect. Some don’t
want the truth and are reluctant or defensive. Others embrace the coaching eagerly.
I’ve been asked, ‘What makes you credible
to coach me, and why should I talk with
you?’ Another commented, ‘I have no idea
what coaching is or why I’m here. Am I in
trouble?’ Another said, ‘I know where I
want to go in this company, but I’m not getting there. I’m committed to moving forward.’ In a best-case scenario, the leader
will be open with the coach and express
concerns, skepticism or hope so that the
responses can be addressed early.

What benefits await leaders who make the
commitment to coaching?

Leaders who embrace coaching can find
themselves growing exponentially. Remember, we are talking about high-functioning
people. When they embrace coaching, they
often recognize behaviors or results they
hadn’t seen before, and they can use this to
make substantial changes in their team.

A great example is the senior leader who
knew he was going to be tapped for an
executive position, and coaching was
offered to him for his development. Many
years before, this person had seriously
offended an executive leader in the organization and now this executive was blocking his promotion. As part of the coaching,
the leader decided that he needed to clean
up this old mess, and he spent several
coaching sessions planning his approach.
When he called the executive and took
responsibility for the situation that had
occurred, he was amazed at the executive’s
response. Several months later, the leader
was tapped for the executive position and
ultimately found out that his former adversary had become one of his biggest advocates. This is just one of the prizes that can
await those who embrace coaching.

LINDA MILLER is global liaison for coaching at The Ken Blanchard Companies and co-author of a new book entitled, “Coaching in
Organizations: Best Coaching Practices from The Ken Blanchard Companies.” Reach her through The Ken Blanchard Companies Web
site at