What Is Collaboration and Why Is It Needed Today?

True confession….when no less than three different clients this year asked for help on collaboration I experienced a sense of validation and vindication. On no less than three prior occasions, as I was up for a promotion in my earlier careers, I was denied. The reason for not making the cut: “I was TOO collaborative.”

There was no denying I was collaborative. Still am. Always will be. I do my best work side by side with others, dreaming, creating, and then doing. But TOO collaborative? How could that be?

Because of my ability to collaborate, the solutions that emerged to solve business problems were innovative. They stuck. They had deep support from key influencers. Wasn’t that a good thing?

And so, in the past few months I’ve done something else I’m really good at – exploring the concept of collaboration. Reading the current thought leaders (with no less than 6 books consumed). Defining it. Creating content. Facilitating workshops.

Through all this work, I came to a stunning conclusion. It’s an insight that was years in the making, but before I share that, let me share some thoughts on why collaboration such a “hot topic”.

Some Background

At the turn of the 20th century, when new inventions such as telegraphs and telephones and faster forms of transportation enabled the better movement of goods and people, larger and more centralized organizations took shape. It was a time of centralization and with that specialization. It was a time when bigger was better, and it was a time where industry disruption was measured in decades and not days. Where the more efficient you could be, the better the results you realized.

Today we are in the midst of a dramatic and foundational shift. This is due to a myriad of factors: lightning speed communication to anyone just about anywhere, affordable computing power, global connectivity and the emergences of breakthrough ideas faster than they are able to be consumed.

The Implications

Due to that shift, entire industries are disrupted regularly, often from an unforeseen competitor. Who could have imagined that the taxi companies that had big cities locked down would face fierce competition from someone from the suburbs with a Honda Civic, a smart phone and some time on their hands?  Who would have thought that anyone could carry a library full of books on a device that fits in their hand twelve years ago? Do you suspect that the execs at Hilton and Hyatt were planning to be out performed by a scattered network of homeowners and an App? (Interesting note: today AIRBNB exceeds the valuation of Hilton and Hyatt combined in spite of having no “real” properties, only technology and a network of collaborators).

We are in a time when being large may be a liability, when no one leader can know it all, and when fresh ideas and quick time to market is a vital competitive advantage.

We are in a time where collaboration, not competition, is the advantage you need to remain relevant, to be sustainable, to thrive.

The Reality

Yet today many organizations and leaders are stuck in different paradigms: That bigger is better. That the leader is the one that knows all and directs all. That diverse people and ideas are window dressing rather than a true creative and competitive advantage. That leadership resides at the top and that allowing it to surface anywhere else in the organization presents a threat to maintaining order, position and efficiency.

Many are realizing that these “industrial era” beliefs are getting in the way, hindering performance and unsustainable. They realize there needs to be a new way to operate in a world that moves so quickly, that being nimble is more important than being big, and creativity and innovation are crushed in command and control environments. They realize that collaboration is the way forward.

So What Exactly is Collaboration?

That is exactly the question I’ve explored in the last three months. As I often find it helpful to define concepts by what they are not, the chart below both defines and contrasts collaboration to commanding, coordinating, and cooperation. Many are close cousins, but to me, collaboration is defined and differentiated by this:

Collaboration is when a diverse group of people work side by side to co-create a solution to a problem that none of them could have solved on their own. It is marked by a deep sense of trust and respect for all team members and a strong desire by all to achieve a common purpose that matters. It is when purpose is held in higher regard than position. It is messy at times. The exploratory nature of collaboration means it is neither very linear nor very efficient. It is a place of ideas, of experimentation, of possibilities. It is an environment in which individual egos are sublimated and where a sense of camaraderie and team work prevail. It is the fertile ground from which radically new ideas, products and solutions emerge.

My Stunning Conclusion

As I did this deeper dive into collaboration, it suddenly hit me: “they were right – I was too collaborative!” For I realized that, for me, collaboration was an overused strength. Collaboration, by its nature, is inefficient, both in time and resources. It is an amazing leadership style when situations are complex and solutions are unknown. But in many situations, in which decisions need to be made quickly or when the answer is knows – a collaborative approach is inefficient, frustrating for others and wastes precious time and resources. Knowing when to be a leader that fosters collaboration is great, but in my growth areas were to know when to collaborate and when to shift into a different leadership style, more attuned to the situation.

So, in the spirit of helping you become a better leader, here is my summary of “collaboration at a glance”. In subsequent posts, I’ll do deeper dives into collaboration, so a great starting point is understanding where collaboration fits in the range of leadership actions.

Collaboration at a Glance

Five Networks Every Leader Needs

As I speak to leadership groups and mention the value of networking, I invariably get a brave soul or two who raises their hands to make these points:

  • I’m an introvert. HELP!
  • I hate networking events. They seem like a waste of time. You meet a lot of people, none of whom remember you for more than a millisecond.
  • Networking just seems like a way to promote yourself and get others to do things for you.
  • I have lots of work to do. I don’t have time for this stuff.

And I remember the time I thought the same thoughts and had the same questions. And how, over time, I’ve done a complete shift in how I view networking and my own network. For I now know:

  • That my network is one of my most valuable assets
  • That your network either pulls you up or keeps you down
  • That networks are about reciprocity, about giving as much as receiving

The Impact of Networks

Proof positive: When I began consulting in 2004, my network was weak. Perhaps even pathetic. 50 names. Mostly from the employer I has spent the last 13 years with. Some of whom I was not certain they would remember me. Not a great way to start.

Yet over time, I have an amazing network. It is wide and deep and filled with the most amazing people. To get to that point, I had to learn the art of networking and creating professional relationships that are not prescribed and defined by an organization chart. I had to figure out how to connect with people who would meet with me, help me, work with me and refer me because they wanted to, not because their boss said they had to.

In today’s hyper-connected and fast changing world leaders need deep and rich networks. Inside and outside of their organization. To stay abreast of new trends. To meet the people who can help them with a problem or a project. To find top talent. To stay current. To work cross-functionally. To work creatively. And ultimately to do better work, to access resources, to learn, to grow and to be a better person.

Making the Right Connections

But you need to know that networking is a two way street. You give before you receive. You share and others will share in return. You teach and others will teach you what they can. You support and others will support you.

It is true that what you give, you also receive. Not one for one. But in a bigger, more wondrous way.

And I’ve found that the more successful the person, the more likely they are to ask what they can do for me. And believe me, it’s not an aberration – it happens time and time and time again.

I’ve also learned that powerful networks don’t just happen. They take time. They take effort. And they take some strategic focus. In this post, I’d like help you build a network as rich as the one I have.

Yet your network should not be measured by how many contacts you have, how many business cards are stacked on your desk or how many LinkedIn connections you’ve amassed.

It is measured by how many of the RIGHT connections you make and your skill at making those connections valuable, for the other person and then for you. Now you might think that the RIGHT connections are those with potential clients or customers or the “right” people who will promote you in your organization. In reality, the most vibrant networks have different people in them.

The Five Networks that Leaders Need

Let me share the five categories of people you want in your network:

  1. Connectors – There are people in this world who love nothing better than connecting the right people together. They have a wide network. They have an intuition that tells them that you need to meet person “X”. They love to make introductions. Pay attention when they connect you with someone – they most likely are right! And know who they are so that when you are wondering “Who can help me with this?” – your connectors know exactly who you should reach out
  2. Advocates – Everyone needs people in their network that sing their praises. Who know what you do (or your team or company) and are witness to how well you do it. Who can be called on to be a reference for you, but who also spontaneously let’s others know they really need to talk to you because you are fabulous at what you do. Treasure these folks! And be an advocate for others.
  3. Allies – You’ll want to have a network that includes people who support the work you do and at times even want to work with you. They may have similar or complementary skills. They often share your world view and can help you advance the work you are undertaking. These are people you love to do work with.
  4. Supporters – These are the folks who raise you up; your rainy day friends and colleagues. They affirm you and support you emotionally. They provide unconditional positive regard. They cheer you on. And since leadership can be a lonely endeavor, you’ll want a few supporters on your side.
  5. Challengers – As opposed to your supporters, challengers cause you to think differently and deeper and better. They call you out. They provide unvarnished, but helpful feedback. They often are ahead of you in some way – and they encourage you to come up to the place they are. They can challenge your professionally or personally. But they raise the bar for you and cause discomfort – the kind that comes with growth. It’s easy to dismiss or avoid them. Instead treasure them – as they do what so few others have the courage to do.

A rich network that works for you will have a mix of all five categories. And not in equal measure, as advocates are most likely rarer (yet often more valuable).  And there are not neat little boxes. At times someone might challenge you mightily and then be your best working partner as an ally.

What is the Strength of Your Network?

In evaluating the strength of your network ask:

  • In what ways am I showing up for those in my network? Am I willing to advocate? Connect? Support? Challenge?
  • What is the mix of individuals I have in my active network? Am I missing some categories?
  • Am I spending too much time in my comfort zone (most likely supporters or allies)?
  • What can I do to build my network? To reach out? To help someone else?

Thinking about your network with this lens answers ALL the objections I listed at the beginning of this post:

  • One does not have to be an introvert to cultivate these relationships, for they are neither superficial nor totally social.
  • These networks are not developed at networking events; they are nurtured one action at a time.
  • The strength of your network is more about what you do for others, rather than what they do for you. It is about giving and knowing that others will give, when needed or asked, in return.
  • We all need advocates and connectors. You may do great work – but it won’t go farther than that if no one knows.

Leadership today is about connection – and collaboration – and networks. There are no great “stand alone” leaders. If you are going to reach your goals, you need a network – and with most things of value, that takes time.

If you want to enhance strong and deep relationships within your leadership team, talk to us about our leadership circles which do this by design (in addition to developing relevant leadership skills). We also custom design and facilitate leadership retreats where deep connections can be formed.


How to Tend Your Team’s Fire and Not Get Burned

I’m part of a leadership body for a volunteer organization which has been in a turmoil over a variety of issues, some big, some small. I’ve witnessed the typical human tendencies when conflict erupts:

  • Some are ready for the good fight, armed with their verbal barbs
  • Others are fleeing, scurrying as quickly as they can to resign, to check out, to lay low
  • And sides are forming everywhere as those that feel strongly about the issues seek out and recruit others who share their views

It’s been a rich learning for me, both in seeing how conflict moves through a body of people who have so much in common and in determining how to best show leadership when a group is fracturing over issues that are complex and divisive.

Leaders as Fire Tenders

The image that has emerged for me is “fire tender”. Leaders are always responsible for generating energy (or heat) as they engage the hearts and efforts of others in moving toward a common, shared and worthwhile goal.

In thinking about that energy and momentum as “heat” generated by a “fire”, I recalled that fire takes three elements: Fuel, Oxygen and a source of Heat.

As a leader, your Fuel includes the resources within your reach. It can be your own energy or the energy of others. Seed money is fuel as is the common vision of the purpose of the group you are leading.

The second element needed is Oxygen. This is the environment you create and your ability to allow others to “air” their thoughts. Some leaders are too stifling and don’t allow enough air into the situation. These restrictive leaders dampen (or totally extinguish) the energy others bring. On the other extreme are the leaders that either fan the fire or allow others to do so without restraint, creating increasingly uncontrollable situation in which the fire burns out of control.

The third element needed is a source of Heat. Your leadership and direction can spark energy and the fire. And in times of conflict, the friction between various points of view creates the heat that starts the fire.

As a leader, you want the energy of the fire, the passion that moves people toward a goal, and the friction between what is and what could be. Yet the energy you are firing up does require tending. For too hot a fire and your people and organization burn out of control. Burn too fast and resources are consumed too quickly. And when the fire is too hot, people either get burned or burn out.

On the other hand, too little fire and teams burn too cool. Leaders that are too cool are overly controlled and fearful to tap into the heat. They smother or drown the fire, apprehensive about unleashing the energy, emotion and fervor it brings. Groups with a too cool leader are lethargic and uninspired. People here don’t burn out, they check out.

Harnessing the Power of Fire

As a leader, the key is to manage the energy so that your organizational fires burns neither too hot nor too cool. The image is a controlled fire. One with light and heat, but with mechanisms in place to control the burn. That requires you to create sparks – to ignite the possibility before you. You need to provide enough fuel to feed the fire, and your fuel can be people or vision or higher purpose or clear direction. As a leader tending a controlled fire, you’ll need to enable air to circulate, to create openness and a free flow of the right amount of air (or input from others) to start the fire and keep it burning. And you also need to create some fire walls, norms that contain the energy so that it is helpful and not hurtful.

Equally as a leader fire tender, you instinctively know when you need to step in to cool things down because the fire is burning too hot. At those times you might need to slow things down a bit, stop adding more fuel, manage the energy of the group to get things to a more manageable level.

The converse is knowing when you need to stoke the fire. When things are running too cool, you might need to create a spark, to add more fuel or to blow gently so as to find those embers that can reignite with just a bit of attention from you.

I’ve seen leaders panic when their team catches fire. They step in and immediately pour cold water on what has emerged, drowning it rather than tending it carefully. At times this is because it was “not their idea”. Other times it is because the light and energy threatens the status quo. And at other times they are afraid of brilliance of the light they might create.

Man’s early discovery of how to control fire was one of the biggest breakthroughs in the advancement of human civilization. As noted in Wikipedia:

The control of fire by early humans was a turning point in the cultural aspect of human evolutionFire provided a source of warmth, protection, improvement on hunting and a method for cooking food. These cultural advancements allowed for human geographic dispersal, cultural innovations, and changes to diet and behavior. Additionally, creating fire allowed the expansion of human activity to proceed into the dark and colder hours of the evening.

So too, can your ability as a leader to tend to and control the fire in your organization can be a turning point. Harnessing the power of that fire, rather than being afraid of it, can provide energy, engagement and innovation. Being willing to stoke the fire and create a spark can enliven and refocus your team. Managing the fire so that its warmth, light and energy are helpful and not raging out of control is important. Perhaps your most important role as a leader!

Ten Gifts Great Leaders Give

I’ve worked with great leaders, mediocre leaders and one or two really poor leaders. I’ve done my work, to the best of my ability, with all of them. I’ve learned from all of them. Yet in reflecting back, the really great leaders gave me many great gifts.

These are gifts that last over time. They are not very tangible, but are always present. They’re gifts that altered the way I saw myself, or my situation, or the world around me – gifts that stuck, that keep on giving.

I am eternally blessed by and grateful for these gifts:

  1. Confidence in my abilities, my potential, my judgement and my integrity
  2. Wisdom by sharing freely their truths, experiences and knowledge
  3. Mentoring & coaching to guide me to a better place, always challenging, at times seeing more in me than I could see myself
  4. Opportunities to test my skills and to learn new ones, ones that pushed me further than I was comfortable with at the time
  5. Support for when I failed myself or others
  6. Unconditional Respect even at my worst times
  7. Perspective & Vision, especially when I wallowed in my narrow view of the situation
  8. Courage to do the things that are right, but not necessarily easy
  9. Focus on Results insisting that I follow through, do what I was charged to do and to find ways to overcome the inevitable obstacles
  10. Navigation through the organization, helping me learn how these people in this place get work done

My challenge to each reader is this: rather than giving “things” this year, which of these ten gifts might you give at work? At home?  In your community?

Can Doing Nothing be an Act of Leadership?

Leading seems to us to be an action verb. Visionary. Problem solver. Manager. Fire fighter.

As leaders we can feel compelled to build, to fix, to organize.

Very seldom do we give ourselves the latitude to do nothing. We are busy. We are needed. Others rely on us.

There is a shadow side of having our hands in everything. Our actions communicate and when we are in perpetual doing and fixing and solving, the message we may be sending can be:

  • I don’t believe you are capable of handling this situation.
  • You need my wisdom, judgement, action for everything.
  • I can resolve this better.
  • I am indispensable.

And at times, when we spend some much time in the day to day, we can fail to do the more important but less urgent work.

The idea of intentionally doing nothing is counterintuitive. It may strike you as lazy. As failing in your duty. As not leading.

When To Do Nothing

Yet I would propose there are times when, as leaders, we might do nothing.

Here are a few examples:

  • The situation is highly like to resolve itself without our intervention.
  • Others are perfectly capable of doing the right thing without our guidance.
  • Others may grow in skill or confidence if they navigate the solution to the situation.
  • We don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about how to proceed.
  • There are other, more important issues that demand our attention.

Don’t be mistaken. I am not suggesting totally hands off, do nothing leadership. I am merely suggesting the totally hands on all the time and in all situations may not be the right choice. For when we set up our leadership so that EVERYTHING revolves around our actions, our decisions, our guidance – we choke off creativity, we impede others growth and development, we burn out, we grow weary of this very heavy burden we have ourselves created.


Remarkable women leaders, join us for a 24-hour multigenerational retreat experience on May 4-5, 2017 at Wooded Glen Retreat Center.

During our time together, you will work, play, and honor your mind, body, and spirit with a transformative program. Experience influential relationship building, mastermind, small group, and full leadership sessions, delicious food and restful accommodations.

Learn more at http://remarkablewomenleaders.com/.

The Basic Principles of Leadership

Long ago, in a factory in a mid-west town, a young woman was chosen to lead. This factory was filled with large and heavy equipment, hummed with activity both day and night and was filled with craftsmen skilled at their trade.

And among those that ran the plant were some wise ones. Ones that knew that those who were moving into supervisor roles needed education, support and guidance.

And so it was, that for week after week, this new leader went off to class where she learned how to have performance discussions, how to resolve problems and how to find ways to improve situations.

Yet the biggest lesson, by far, was that there were some guiding principles to leading that she could apply, no matter the situation. In fact, they were called the basic principles, and each and every lesson was grounded in approaching all situations with them.

The basic principles were not many, but they framed how to lead well.


And so the young woman leaned and absorbed and applied; just as did the many others who were by her side. And she took these basic principles with her, wherever she went, well beyond that specific job, that factory, that setting. And they served her well.

As you’ve guessed, I was that young woman. And I was the long term beneficiary of learning these basic principles, thanks to the Zenger Miller Front Line Leadership program we used. I realize now, many years later, how ingrained they are in how I approach work, leadership and the world.

I also realize that they bear repeating, sharing and refreshing. So today, I take a moment to reflect on my personal leadership and ask myself how well I am living up to the basic principles. I ask myself what more can I do. And I challenge myself to stay true to them, no matter how trying the situations I find myself in.

I’m curious – what basic principles guide your leadership? Please share – we’ll all be the better for them.


Remarkable women leaders, join us for a 24-hour multigenerational retreat experience on May 4-5, 2017 at Wooded Glen Retreat Center.

During our time together, you will work, play, and honor your mind, body, and spirit with a transformative program. Experience influential relationship building, mastermind, small group, and full leadership sessions, delicious food and restful

Learn more at http://remarkablewomenleaders.com/.






Old school leaders say, “Obey me.” It’s time to listen to what evolving leaders say.

Evolving LeadersIn January of 2011 I found myself weary from nearly 100% travel with change management consulting. I took the first quarter of that year to reflect on what I had learned and where I was going. It was at that juncture that a few things became crystal clear to me:

Leadership Matters

It really matters. When the projects I worded on had solid leadership, the changes we were implementing were realized. There was focus and energy. And of all the techniques at my disposal to influence positive adoption of change; engaged and committed leaders were the most important.

Leadership is an Action, Not a Position

On these enterprise wide change projects, leadership emerged at different levels of the organization.  Invariably, there would a junior leader on the project teams that could reach across the organization, building understanding, buy in and ultimately the right actions. And there would be some senior leaders who failed to take action; believing that an email from them as the “senior leader” would suffice. Believe me; I’ve yet to see any circumstance in which an email helped people implement a change; no matter who it was from.

Leadership Models are Shifting

Ambiguity abounded on these projects, by their nature. It is not dissimilar to the ambiguity every leader faces today, given the pace of change. It is virtually impossible these days to find an industry or function that is stable enough that leaders can “know it all”.

Since that time of reflection in 2011, I’ve focused more and more of my time and energy in the development of leaders. I am more convinced than ever, that we need solid leadership ACROSS our organizations, communities and community groups. Not just any leaders and not just those that happen to hold a title that confers leadership responsibilities.

Old School Leadership vs. Evolving Leadership

We need leaders, at all levels and in all our places of interaction, that have moved from our “old school” leadership models to a new “evolving way of leadership.” Here is the difference:


Old school leaders ask for blind obedience: do what I say because I know best.

Evolving leaders ask for focused action; let’s work together toward a desired goal.


Old school leaders ask others to listen and comply.

Evolving leaders give others a voice and choice.


Old school leaders are most comfortable when they know, without doubt, the way forward.

Evolving leaders trust that together, we can find the way forward.


Old school leaders say, “Here’s is what you need to do. You don’t need to know why.”

Evolving leaders say, “We may not know exactly how, but we know why.”


Old school leaders say, “Obey me.”

Evolving leaders say, “Follow me.”

Join me for a complimentary webinar called “Passing the Torch: Three Strategies to Develop the Leadership Your Community Needs” on October 20th or 26th. Register by clicking the date that works best for you. I hope to see you there!

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The Importance of Developing Capable, Community Leaders

collaboratecommunityMy belief is that the stronger the leaders are within a community, the healthier and stronger that community is.

Places that have individuals who are willing to step out and make their place of employment better, lead in order to improve the community as a whole, and guide social, religious, and volunteer organizations are the places that vibrant and healthy communities emerge.

What can happen when there is a lack of community leadership?

Sometimes it is hard to understand why things matter until we envision the opposite. In the case of community leadership, a lack of willing and able leadership talent in your city, town, county or region may result in the following problems:

  1. Businesses, small and large, failing to do as well as they might
  2. Civic organizations without direction or energy; declining and perhaps dying
  3. Being less attractive to new residents, employers and other growth opportunities
  4. Fewer ad-hoc volunteer efforts sprouting
  5. Less vibrancy in shared community space
  6. Less innovation
  7. Less social action
  8. Greater isolation and polarization

We are seeing these problems occur in many places and across organizational boundaries. Organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, volunteer fire departments, Grange, Masons, philanthropic fraternities and sororities all are facing potentially cataclysmic drops in membership. Religious organizations report the same decline in membership and attendance. Employers bemoan the lack of leadership talent. And the common theme from the 2016 election rhetoric is the prevailing belief that surely we can do better than this.

There are many reasons for these declining trends. There are more pulls on our time, both inside and outside work. Leading in our complex and chaotic world is more challenging than in the past. Virtual communities are supplanting older forms of face to face, elbow to elbow social connectedness.

Developing capable, community leaders

No matter the reasons, communities and the organizations within them can choose to rethink and retool existing practices to attract members, retain them through meaningful actions, and develop leaders for the 21st century. We can build organizations that leverage the emerging generational shift. To do so will require new thinking, strategies, and actions.

To learn about three strategies to “Pass the Torch”, to engage younger leaders, and to develop leadership in your community, register for our upcoming webinars.

Collaboration is critical in today’s world.

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Leadership 101: What You Do Matters. What You Don’t Do Matters Too.

AtDeskSometimes leaders think that communication is what happens when they make a presentation. Or send an email. Or hold a meeting.

In fact, leaders communicate every moment of every day. In their words. By their actions. With their inaction. Because people are watching and adjusting – sometimes to the subtlest of cues.

The minute you step into a leadership position, no matter what level, others begin to look to you for direction and guidance. And as such, what you say is important. Words matter and you can use them to further the worthwhile purpose you are leading. You can also, if not careful, use them to derail and detract and to detour effort.

As a new leader, I was taken aback by how others reactions to my words and actions changed so quickly. As a team member, a snarky comment got barely noticed. As a leader, it became fodder for gossip, fear, and speculation.

As a team member, I could forget something and my forgetfulness was taken as a mere oversight. As a leader, not doing something signaled it was not important and others would shift their energy somewhere else.

As a team member, I could be friends with whoever I wanted. As a leader, friendships became equated with favoritism and people feeling they were either “in” or “out” of favor.

When you’re a leader, others are listening to what you say, but even more so are looking to see what you do. This quote sums it up quite nicely:

People hear what you say.

People see what you do.

Seeing is believing.

Nonverbal Cues

I would see this happen time and time again when the manufacturing plant I worked in would get a new general manager. If the new manager was a shirt and tie guy, within a period of two weeks, shirts and ties began to be the dress of choice with those that reported to him. Bring in a khaki and golf shirt guy, and the ties were retired and replaced by more casual attire without a word being said.

Non-verbal cues speak loudly. There was a day I was privy to unsettling news that we were closing a division, impacting over 1000 jobs. That afternoon, rather than making the rounds to all the lines before leaving, I gathered my things from my office with a heavy heart and just left. First shift passed information about my demeanor to second and then again to the people on third shift. When I arrived early the next morning, no less than three operators asked me what was wrong and had surmised that something big was happening. All that from a change in my routine and body language.

People take cues from what you say and do but also from what you don’t say or do. I once assigned an important project to a highly capable team member. Knowing it was in good hands, I focused my time and energy on other things. I was quite surprised to find, a few weeks before the project was to be completed, that it had been abandoned. My inattention had signaled unimportance, and this high performer had aligned their actions with cues. This was not a performance issue; it was my lack of leadership.

The 3 C’s of Stellar Leadership

Stellar leaders know that others are looking to them. As such, they lead with:

  • Clarity – they know the messages they intend to send and the direction they are taking others
  • Congruence – they align their words and their actions, seamlessly
  • Consciousness – they are aware of the impact their words and actions take – and avoid sending misleading or unintended signals

Leaders who have clarity, congruence, and consciousness create alignment, focus, and energy. Those that don’t create confusion, frustration and wasted effort. Which type of leader are you?

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Why What Millennials Want is Exactly What We Need

Millennials  sit alongside older generations in the workplaceA lot of energy is being spent on the topic of how to manage Millennials. There is angst as they come in and expect a different workplace – one that works for them as well as their employers. There is eye-rolling as their older workplace peers snicker a bit and wonder how they can be so naive, self-centered, and immature. There is a whole lot of “things don’t work that way here” going on.

As with all generalizations, they hold some truth in the macro sense, while exceptions abound when looking at a population case-by- case. Nonetheless, trends across this age demographic are evident. A recent INC article, called The Quick Guide to Motivating Millennials, points to six things that this younger, tech-savvy generation are looking for in their work:

  1. Purpose / Big Picture – They want to do work that matters. They want to know how their contributions relate to the overall mission of the organization.
  2. Development – Personal and professional development are valued even more than salary. They want to grow with intention. They want an employer that will invest in them.
  3. Responsibility – They want to make a difference. They want to be more than just a cog in the wheel. They don’t want to work for a paycheck alone.
  4. Mentors – Related to development, although this is a need for a personal connection. A relationship with someone taking the time and interest to invest in them.
  5. Integration of Work/Life & Flexibility – They want the freedom to blend work and life (vs. balance). They want to focus on getting the work done rather than measure the amount of time they are at work. And due to their ability to use technology, they can (and will) work anytime / any place.

As I review this list, I am struck by the degree of alignment with what research is showing us about emerging highly performing organizations:

  • Purpose is at the core of what they do. Purpose provides direction and energy. It engages customers and attracts the right employees. And, purpose driven organizations financially outperform profit driven organizations.
  • They invest heavily in people, recognizing that skills are reaching obsolescence quickly and that a well-equipped workforce is one of their primary advantages.
  • There is shared leadership – not just at the top. Traditional top-down approaches are replaced by empowered employees across the organization. There are opportunities to lead everywhere – and one does not need to wait until they are “officially” dubbed a leader by virtue of their box on the org chart.
  • People are connected across the organization and help each other out. All the time, not just when ordered. It is encourage and expected. Organizational knowledge is shared and technology enabled.
  • Performance is measured by outcomes, with one outcome being learning when results are short of expectations. The amount of time spent at work is not the focus nor the sole measure. The integration of work as part of a fuller life is encouraged; which may mean your dog or child can come to work, you can work from home, you can set your own hours, or any number of innovative ways to make work and life become more seamless.

The connections between what Millennials are looking for and what organizations need in order to be relevant, fluid, and high performing are clear and compelling. So I’d suggest more energy be spent on asking how we can create a workplace in which Millennials want to come to work and to contribute. Because, at the end of the day, I suspect deep down each and every one of us wants exactly those things: to have the responsibility to work at something that really matters, in an environment where people help us grow and develop. We may not have demanded it, but it is not too late.

And a final note – a clever and funny video on the topic. Warning: Boomers with thin skin should NOT watch.

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