Tuesday, 30 August 2011


From the time we are little children we are taught to cooperate with those around us. As we grow we learn through our own trial and error how best to cooperate with our schoolmates, our teachers and especially our parents. 

When we get to the workplace cooperation is expected from everyone. Those who fail to cooperate on a regular basis soon become ostracized by the team and sometimes even lose their job. 

There are times, however, when cooperation may not be the best road.  When you are sure that you are heading down the wrong path it is time to stop and speak up.  If are ever put into a situation where cooperation means unethical behavior, stop right away. 

Cooperation in business is important to success but blindly cooperating can lead down a dangerous path. 

Posted on 08/30/2011 9:34 AM by Joe Scarlett
Saturday, 27 August 2011
Benefits of networking


It’s as important as it ever has been to network with people in business.   All of us have attended events where they have the standard 30-45 minutes of networking time built in up front.   I would wager a bet that says most of us have chosen to show up at those events late at least sometimes, just to skip that networking time and get right to the keynote speaker or meal.  Recognize that it’s truly a missed opportunity to skip that networking time.

Networking improves ones knowledge about virtually everything.  When you meet someone new that does something completely different than you, this is a huge opportunity learn an infinite number of things that you didn’t already know.   You can learn about another business, another type of job, something about their kids school, something about a hobby or sport that person participates in that you might be interested in, or about someone that they know that you’ve been dying to meet.   In some instances, you meet people who either help you or who know people who will help you find that next opportunity or job.  Meeting new people, regardless of whom that person is or what they do is a huge resource in the ongoing growth of any business executive.

Networking can be viewed as an intimidating endeavor.  It’s difficult for some people to come out of their shell and introduce themselves to people they don’t know.   Two things you must have to break a wall flower mentality are courage and honesty.   You need courage just to say to yourself that nobody in this room is any better than anyone else so I’m going to talk to as many people as I can.   You need honesty so that when you talk to those people, you put as much of your normal personality forward as possible.   Don’t try to be someone your not – just be you.   The questions will come easier, the conversation will flow easier and you give the person on the other side of the handshake a chance to meet the real you.   Btw – this is not a skill you do better or worse than anyone else.   It’s simply a skill that you can get more comfortable with over time.   

This is definitely an area where you can only learn on the job – so jump in, show up at that next event 45 minutes early and give as many people there as possible the opportunity to meet the real you.

Posted on 08/27/2011 2:36 PM by Scott Carlton
Wednesday, 24 August 2011


When to compromise and when to stick to your guns often puts us into perplexing situations – so what is the right path?  First determine the importance of the issue.  If the issue is not a big deal compromise and save your energy for the larger conflicts.

When the issues are significant it becomes time for debate and negotiation.  Start by getting all the facts clearly defined and if some facts are not clear stop the process until the facts are not in debate. Arguing over facts that can be established is simply a waste of energy.  

In most negotiations neither side gets what it wants – both sides wind up with a compromise that works best in the situation. Be professional, thoughtful, restrained, passionate and most of all patient. Arriving at the best compromise shows the wisdom of your leadership.


Posted on 08/24/2011 4:22 PM by Joe Scarlett
Monday, 22 August 2011
Leadership in Action


I recently spent some time with a group of leaders and managers who are working for a start-up company.  Every time I am with them I am amazed at the level of activity in every area—construction, setting up systems, learning and preparing for operations to begin in the fall.  This is truly a leadership opportunity for everyone involved and everyone is stepping up to the challenge.


What I observe when I am there is that everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that the company starts its operation on time and that accuracy, productivity and efficiency are built into everything they do.


One example of this leadership in action is that the company has worked hard from the day the first employee was hired to create the kind of culture that is positive, people-focused, safe and ethical.  As a result they have identified eight characteristics that they want every employee to be trained on.  They asked for volunteers to do this training and eight people from all levels of the organization stepped up and agreed to be trained to be trainers, to learn the material for their session in great detail and to take the time from an already hectic schedule to make this training happen.  Several of these trainers were in my session this week and their enthusiasm, anticipation and passion for this project are obvious—the project is contributing to their confidence as well as their commitment to the new organization’s success.


When people step up and lead, everyone benefits.

Posted on 08/22/2011 1:27 PM by Mary Fink
Friday, 19 August 2011
Be a good mentor


When is the last time you sat down with someone who needed advice and you really listened to them and provided your thoughts?  Think about the state of your mind during that conversation.   Were you truly engaged in the moment?   Did you give that person in need your absolute best?

The more experienced in business you become, the more apt you will be asked to play this important role for someone.   Perhaps you might be asked for your advice one time or perhaps you will be asked for a more ongoing relationship.   Do yourself and the person asking a favor in this scenario – don’t commit to helping unless you can set aside everything that’s going on in your own life to focus, for whatever short time period, completely on that person.  To be a great mentor, you need to be able to enter a “selfless” mode during the discussions.

Think about the people who have provided that mentorship to you throughout your career.   Did that person give you their best when you had time to chat?   Where they completely focused on you?   This is your opportunity to “pay it forward” and make a difference for someone else – don’t botch it up by being self-focused.   10 years down the road, how do you want this person to remember their relationship with you?   Set the example for how they should react when they are placed in the role of mentor down the line in their career.  

If you’re now asking what’s in it for me to be a mentor – you probably shouldn’t bother.

Posted on 08/19/2011 9:10 PM by Scott Carlton
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Learn from conflict


Conflict is one of the sometimes not so pleasant realities of life.  Conflict is stressful but essential to the learning process.  Just think how dull life would be if we lived in a world where everyone agrees with everyone else.  When you have an idea and I have a conflicting idea, we then have the opportunity to discuss and potentially agree on a solution. Learning for one or both of us is a common by product of differing thoughts.


Effectively dealing with conflict is difficult for all in the process. Heated discussions can lead to hurt feelings and bruised egos. The challenge is to get all the facts presented in a constructive way and then to move to solution focused discussion. The leader’s challenge is to manage these conflicts so that logical solutions are achieved, learning takes place and teamwork can continue.


Managing conflict can often be a leader’s most difficult challenge requiring patience and insightful thinking


Posted on 08/17/2011 4:53 PM by Joe Scarlett
Monday, 15 August 2011
Image Matters


I have had several conversations this week where the concept of professional image has come up.  One of the sessions in the Signature Executive Program is called Professional Image and it consists of several hours of learning from a former protocol officer of a major organization.  This session is one of my very favorites, because many of the students are skeptical before it begins, thinking that they know all that and that they don’t really need a class on this.  They would be wrong!  In almost every case, students tell me that they learned so many things in that session that they had no idea about before.  The session covers everything from how to make an entrance into the room to having or starting a conversation with someone they don’t know, to the proper way to handle a business card, to shaking hands while holding a plate AND a wine glass, all at the same time.  


I think of leaders that I have met for the first time and almost without fail if they aren’t polite, don’t have a good handshake, or use poor grammar I am less likely to think highly of them.  In a hiring situation if all other things are equal, the person who demonstrates the most professional image will win every time, and sometimes the other candidate won’t even get a second interview.


So image matters.  Make sure that yours is without question.

Posted on 08/15/2011 2:02 PM by Mary Fink
Friday, 12 August 2011
Keep it simple!


Ever wonder why, as organizations grow, they gradually lose their ability to be agile and move quickly?   The obvious answer is that when you have more people in an organization, you clearly have more complex communication needs in order to get everyone moving in the same direction.   To facilitate easier communications, companies put in place “systems” that measure key metrics that executives feel best drives the company consistently in the right direction.   

All of this is well and good, but sometimes you see companies who feel that if you have 2-3 metrics that are helping drive the company in the right direction, why not have 8-10?  Surely having more will just reduce the possibility of employees working on things that don’t matter, right?   Unfortunately, adding more metrics will typically reduce empowerment, make it more complex employees to understand and ultimately increase bureaucracy.   Many once high growth companies have fallen prey to the complexity disease.  

As organizations grow, great leaders work even harder to focus their teams on the 1-2 things (no more than 4) that are truly important.   They don’t put in place reward systems that require some to fail for others to do well.   They don’t put in place performance review systems that have quotas requiring some to be rated low to balance out those rated high.   They focus on the key metrics that are without ambiguity in their definition or in how they are measured.    They communicate positively to all those doing well and likewise send negative messages to those not doing well.  Keep it simple so your people spend more time on activities designed to meet the goals than on trying to understand what they are.  

Keeping a large and growing company on the path toward better and better performance is possible when leadership is in sync and making key goals easy to understand for their people.  Reduce complexity, reduce the bureaucracy needed to measure the complexity and the result will be a happier, more focused – and higher performing - work force.

Posted on 08/12/2011 7:42 PM by Scott Carlton
Thursday, 11 August 2011
Leadership is Everywhere


We hear leadership gurus say that we should encourage and support leadership at every level…is this really a good idea?  Won’t we create a culture of chaos and confusion?  I think not.  I believe that the more people who step up in an organization and take a leadership role, the better.


I recently visited a manufacturing plant and was expecting to find lots of people looking bored as they worked the line—how wrong could I be?  First of all we experienced many people at multiple levels demonstrating leadership right where they were.  Two were making a presentation to my group and their pride and ownership of not only their jobs but their entire organization was very evident.


We then toured the plant, where everyone was pleasant and purposeful while making sure that things got done quickly, accurately and safely.  Everyone was smiling, greeting us as visitors, and answering questions.  Further, every person in the plant knows that they have the authority to stop production if something is wrong.  For this concept to be successful, every person has to own his or her own job and feel responsible for the success of the organization.


It’s not rocket science—wherever you are in your organization, you can lead—take the challenge and make it happen.

Posted on 08/11/2011 8:02 AM by Mary Fink
Monday, 8 August 2011
You are judged by your character


Everything you do and say is reflective of your character.  You continually send messages about yourself to others so try to make them all positive.  When you give your word to someone it is essential to follow through with your commitment.  You say that you can’t now honor that commitment for some unforeseen reason -- well it is time to quickly communicate the issue.

One of my favorite books titled “You are the Message” says it all about character. Give your word, stick to your word.  Show compassion for those less fortunate. Teach, coach, train and help develop those around you. Respect others no matter their position in life.

Remember, you are always “on stage.”

Posted on 08/08/2011 9:43 PM by Joe Scarlett
Friday, 5 August 2011
Create a culture of debate and challenge


Have you ever been on a team where every time the leader said something, the rest of the team just agreed with him or her?   Was that team ultimately successful in achieving its goals?  In situations where teams have predominately “yes people” on them, it’s usually because the leader did not build a culture where it’s ok to disagree and challenge ideas.

The highest performing teams usually have a culture where it’s recognized that debate over ideas won’t hamper the success of the person making the challenge.   Leaders of these teams have discovered that it’s far better to have the best ideas surfaced and vetted rather than just constantly implementing their own ideas.   The culture they create takes into account this “debate time” in any new ideas and strategies prior to having to make final decisions on actions.

Leaders that have swallowed their pride and created this type of culture can often attract the best people because they will have heard from others about the “opportunities” presented in that culture.   High potential people will recognize that these are the teams where they’re most apt to be heard and have their ideas considered.

The challenge for the leader in implementing this type of culture is ensuring you don’t debate decisions long past the time they should’ve been made.   Leaders have to be direct in communicating when ideas/strategies are up for debate and when the time for a final decision is made.   They also have to ensure the debate is based on fact and research rather than opinion and emotion.   There is no room for ambiguity in this type of culture.   Ambiguity will lead to doubt and indecision and eventually the loss of the high potential members of your team.

Leaders that implement cultures of debate and challenge on their team will attract the highest performing employees and increase substantially the potential of their team to succeed.

Posted on 08/05/2011 11:06 AM by Scott Carlton
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Under-promise over-deliver


You win when you exceed your commitments.  That sounds simple but so many people get carried away and promise more than they can deliver which can only lead down a bad path. 

Want to please the boss? Commit to getting five things done and actually complete six or seven. When you exceed the boss’s expectations you move to the “winner’s circle.”

Problems arise when over promising is done either out of a lack of knowledge or simply on the emotion of the moment. Self discipline is the key – know what you can realistically accomplish and then commit to what you are absolutely sure you can achieve.

Winners deliver more than they promise.

Posted on 08/03/2011 8:57 PM by Joe Scarlett
Monday, 1 August 2011
Recognition and Leadership


Another one of the sayings hung around our classroom is “Recognition is the #1 motivator of people” and this saying probably gets more attention than any of the others.  Offering recognition to others is really a state of mind—always looking for something to recognize in someone.  It doesn’t have to be huge, or expensive, or even tangible, but there are some elements of recognition that are really important.  First, don’t fake it!  This seems so obvious, but recognition done poorly or insincerely is worse than not doing it at all.  Second, it must be timely—the closer to the time you observe the behavior, the better.  While it’s always nice to receive a pat on the back, it is less meaningful if it’s days or even weeks after the event.  Third, and perhaps most important, it must be meaningful to the person receiving it, and the only way to get this right is to know your staff.  We talk a lot in our leadership programs about the need to know your team members (see Joe’s comment in our most recent newsletter), and it is true for so many reasons.  If you don’t know how someone likes to be recognized, you may miss the mark.  For example, someone who doesn’t like to have the light shined on them would not appreciate being thanked or recognized publicly, while others find great pleasure in being recognized in front of a group.

As we’ve always heard, anything worth doing is worth doing right, so make sure you’re recognizing people in the best possible way for them.

Posted on 08/01/2011 9:36 AM by Mary Fink
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