Perspectives

Lisa's thoughts on topics relating to organizational excellence and more...

Bring Your Organization to Life

posted Feb 12, 2016, 7:10 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Feb 12, 2016, 7:56 AM ]

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman 
 
A vibrant and effective business culture creates a palpable energy that you can feel the moment you walk in the door. It’s more than employees who enjoy their work and it’s more than employees with a single-minded focus on execution. What you feel is a sense of purposeful activity, passion and commitment. You feel the dynamic resonance of a group of people with diverse talents and perspectives, joined by a common passion. You feel the energy of a group of people who have come alive.

There are many stellar examples of businesses that have managed to create this energy within their culture and have experienced tremendous success as a result. How do they do it?

Wegmans is supermarket chain based in the North East that consistently ranks highly on Fortune’s Best Places to Work For, coming in at 12th for 2014. The chain employs 42,000 people, is extremely profitable and experiences employee turnover consistently less than 6%. What makes Wegmans such a great place to work? They provide excellent benefits, above-average pay, allow employees flexible scheduling and provide a generous college scholarship program. They invest considerably in employee training, sending department managers to visit suppliers and learn about the products they sell. Their “Eat Well Live Well” programs help employees live healthy and active lifestyles and inspire them to share their way of life with customers. Their happy, knowledgeable and empowered workforce is clearly a significant factor in the cult-like loyalty of their customers.
It’s more than employees who enjoy their work and it’s more than employees with a single-minded focus on execution. What you feel is a sense of purposeful activity.
Hubspot is an in-bound marketing software provider that employs over 500 people in the Boston area. It has been lauded for several years as a best place to work by the Boston Business Journal and was recognized as a Best Medium-Sized Company to Work For in 2014 by Glassdoor.com. Key elements of the Hubspot culture include a “No Door Policy,” where CEO Brian Halligan and other top executives share the same office space as everyone else, a transparent communication policy, no vacation policy, and employee organized projects to improve the company. Employees are inspired by the Hubspot mission to create marketing that people love. All of these elements are immortalized and kept front and center with their “Culture Code.” Hubspot views their culture as a key strategic differentiator.

Finally, The Motley Fool
is an investment advice firm that thrives on being disassociated with the standard Wall Street bandwagon. Employing about 300 people, its mission is to help individual investors take control of their financial futures. In 2014 Glassdoor.com ranked it as the No. 1 Best Medium-Sized Company to Work For. Central to its culture are a lack of formal titles, no separate offices and no set vacation or sick days. They have a full-time wellness coach, on-site recreation activities and provide free healthy snacks. Employees write their own job descriptions and each choose their own personal “motley value” to add to the company values. Every employee that joins the company is given $1000.00 to invest along with advice from in-house experts. The Motley Fool excels in a conservative industry with an unconventional culture.

Far more instructive than any of the specific elements of these cultures, is to understand the beliefs or principles that are behind them.
Every employee that joins the company is given $1000.00 to invest along with advice from in-house experts. The Motley Fool excels in a conservative industry with an unconventional culture.

A Business is a System

Fundamental to each of these companies is the awareness that business is an interconnected system of stakeholders, the belief that the employee is central to the system, and the recognition of the importance of a motivational culture. They pride themselves on rejecting conventional wisdom regarding how to run their business.

Per Wegmans CEO, Danny Wegman, “Our employees are the number one reason our customers shop at Wegmans. I’m convinced there is only one path to great customer service, and that is through employees who feel they are cared about and empowered.”
Business is an interconnected system of stakeholders, the belief that the employee is central to the system, and the recognition of the importance of a motivational culture.

Trust and Respect the Individual while Fostering Community.

Employees that feel valued and respected as individuals will return that respect to their colleagues. Mutual respect is foundational to effectively building community and fostering collaboration. As Tom Gardner, CEO of the Motley Fool puts it, “To not trust your people means something is fundamentally wrong with the culture.”

Allowing employees to manage their work schedules and vacation time, openly sharing information and minimizing hierarchy are all actions that send the message that employees are valued and trusted.

Providing resources to help them manage other aspects of their life, such as wellness support, allows the employee to feel valued as a complete person, with outside interests and needs.
To not trust your people means something is fundamentally wrong with the culture.
Perks such as game rooms, free food, community service and social events provide the opportunity for employees to connect and build community. They also offer a change in context that can foster collaboration and innovation.
Empower Employees to Get Results

Employees are most productive when they are empowered to act and have the information and resources they need to achieve results. Empowered employees bring themselves fully to the task and provide the new ideas that foster innovation.

Brian Hooligan, CEO of Hubspot, describes their organization. “Part of creating this environment of innovation is making the organization decentralized and flat. We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers make decisions.”

Transparent communications, flat organizations, minimal bureaucracy and access to learning and development opportunities all help to create an empowering culture. 

Provide Meaning and Inspiration to Support Motivation


A human being’s highest potential is reached when they are intrinsically motivated. Each of these businesses recognizes the importance of providing meaning for their employees and they leverage their mission to inspire not only employees, but also partners and customers.

How can you help your organization come alive?

As you work to improve your own culture, don’t simply leverage what other successful companies have done. Rather, first understand and then internalize what they believe – the principles behind their culture. Ask yourself, “How can I bring these principles to life within my organization?”

You can always add a game room, but if you don’t really believe in or value the importance of creating community, that game room will be a lonely place.

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Author:  Lisa Shelley

Post originally published originally on:

http://switchandshift.com/why-an-executive-leadership-role-isnt-worth-the-sacrifice

The Fundamental Principle of an Effective Organization

posted Feb 12, 2016, 6:32 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Feb 12, 2016, 7:57 AM ]

What if you could focus on just one principle that would dramatically increase the effectiveness of your organization? How would your leadership approach shift if you viewed your organization through a lens of connection?


“Let’s just keep asking ourselves this question: ‘Is what I’m about to do strengthening the web of connections, or is it weakening it?’”
~ Margaret Wheatley


The concept of connection is central to the definition of an organization. In the simplest form, an organization is a group of people connected to each other, to their work and to a common goal or outcome.

When assessing your organization, it’s easy to focus largely on talent. Although talent is certainly important, the strength of the connections within your organization will determine how effectively that talent is leveraged and the ultimate capability and effectiveness of the overall organization.

The strength of the connections… will determine how effectively talent is leveraged.

Your opportunity as a leader is to foster three critical connections. How can you help your employees connect to each other, to their work and to your business goals?

Creating Community

Connection between employees in an organization creates relationships and a sense of community. These relationships support an employee’s motivational need to belong, create personal commitment and cooperation, and build the foundational trust necessary for effective collaboration. They also support something sorely lacking in many workplaces – the opportunity to enjoy our time at work.

Can you think of a time when you were strongly committed to an organization without feeling a strong sense of connection and belonging? Probably not.

Building a connected organization requires a leader that values relationships, is interested in connecting with people and is willing to invest the time required to make it happen. It requires recognizing that your employees are people first.

Your employees are people first.

Relationships support an employee’s motivational need to belong, create personal commitment and cooperation, and build the foundational trust necessary for effective collaboration.

Create a community for your employees by connecting with them and encouraging them to connect with each other.

Facilitating Success

The ability to feel connected and committed to your work is very closely related to your ability to feel successful. Humans all have a basic motivational need to achieve. If your ability to achieve is seriously compromised, you tend to dis-connect to minimize feelings of personal failure. In contrast, the opportunity to overcome achievable challenges builds a sense of success and commitment and allows you to truly enjoy your work.

All employees need to feel successful.

Fostering collaboration within an organization requires that all employees have the opportunity to feel successful. In a culture where success is very narrowly defined, perhaps as the attainment of a particular level or position, the employees’ drive for success will incentivize competition at the expense of collaboration.

Can you think of a job that you were absolutely loved and were committed to, despite your inability to feel successful? Can you think of a truly collaborative organization where all of the respect, recognition and accolades are reserved for a small minority?

  • How can you connect your employees with what they need to feel successful?
  • Believe in them. Set clear expectations and believe in their ability to deliver.
  • Provide context. Do your employees understand why what they are doing is important? How it connects to the goals of the business?
  • Provide resources. Do your employees have access to the information, tools and training that they need to get the job done?
  • Create a Learning Environment. Value and encourage ideas, constructive conflict and contributions from all employees at all levels. Encourage exploration and autonomy, as well as results.

Facilitate your employees’ commitment to their work by connecting them with what they need to feel successful.

Fueling Inspiration

Although we are all motivated at some level for personal success, ultimately it is the opportunity to contribute to something larger than ourselves that hooks our intrinsic motivation, taps our highest creativity, and keeps us inspired for the long term. This type of meaning is also a powerful connector for an organization and drives the collaboration necessary for optimal performance and innovation.

How inspired is your team? Are they aligned by the opportunity to make a significant impact on something they believe in?

As a leader your opportunity is to keep your employees connected to the inspiring elements of your business. What is the contribution your business provides to the world? How are you positively impacting your customers? What breakthrough technologies are you working on? How do you excel in your industry? Although financial results are a critical metric and tool for any business, they are not inspiring for most employees. Inspiration comes from the opportunity to make an impact on something you believe in – it comes from meaning.

Although we are all motivated at some level for personal success, ultimately it is the opportunity to contribute to something larger than ourselves that hooks our intrinsic motivation, taps our highest creativity, and keeps us inspired for the long term.

Inspire your employees by connecting them to the meaning in their work.

Helping your employees connect in these three areas not only motivates the individual; it simultaneously strengthens the effectiveness of the overall organization! It is these connections that allow the group to achieve more than simply the sum of each individual’s efforts.

One focus. Connection. Does your approach with your organization strengthen or weaken them?

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Author:  Lisa Shelley

Post originally published originally on:

http://switchandshift.com/why-an-executive-leadership-role-isnt-worth-the-sacrifice

Why do so many Women choose different Paths?

posted Mar 24, 2014, 2:30 PM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Feb 12, 2016, 6:18 AM ]


In large corporations, women continue to be under-represented in executive leadership roles, with many self-selecting out of the running for these jobs by mid-career. What can we learn from this continuing trend? Could it be a call to re-evaluate the corporate culture and potentially even how businesses are managed?


The dominant paradigm of today is that the primary purpose of business is to maximize value to the shareholder. This thinking is often coupled with the view that the value available to distribute within a business ecosystem is limited, and therefore, to meet the short-term demand of value to the shareholder, it is necessary and acceptable to trade-off value from another stakeholder – such as the employee, customer, supplier or partner. In its extreme, this model of business can drive short-term thinking, cannibalize the viability of the other business stakeholders and put the long-term sustainability of the business system in question. It can result in a resource-lean environment that challenges the ability to get things done, encourage competition over collaboration, and leave little white space in which to foster innovation.

Are women simply rejecting this model of business and the often fear-based, competitive, 24/7 culture that it creates? I’ve written before that women tend to view their careers from a different lens: they tend to define success differently than men, and they feel more freedom to choose a different path. These differences offer insight into their choices.

Men tend to define success as hitting the target – winning in some fashion. Making trade-offs in order to achieve a target is a generally accepted approach to life. Women are far more committed to living a multi-dimensional life, encompassing career, family, friends and other interests. They prefer a collaborative and open work environment, and are more motivated by the need for meaning and to make an impact, than just by financial reward. In short, many women do not find the experience of executive leadership in a traditional corporate culture to be worth the necessary sacrifices.

Women at the same time feel more freedom to choose a different path. They are more willing to challenge the status quo, and when they don’t feel their perspective is valued, they feel less pressure to conform. They do not feel the same societal expectations to follow the traditional corporate ladder path to success, and as a result feel free to choose differently.

Of course, this discussion of the differences between “men” and “women” is based on generalities. Women are certainly not the first and only contingent of leaders to question the current business paradigm and culture. However, maybe women’s choices are more visible? They are a distinct demographic, rendering visible a trend which has certainly been in place over time.

So, what are the potential implications of this trend? For businesses operating within the traditional paradigm, one of two things will likely happen. For some businesses, the visibility of this trend may highlight the need to question the current business culture and the business model behind it, hopefully prompting change.

However, for many businesses, the attachment to the current business paradigm may run too deep to see its frailties. They will continue to operate in this model, squeezing as much margin as possible from the system. They likely won’t recognize the erosion of their talent, their inability to innovate, their hostile partner relationships, their poor supplier quality and their unhappy customers until it is too late.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story; it’s simply a new beginning. The most significant implication of this trend may be that many of the women who have chosen differently, along with the heretics who came before them and the millennial leaders just beginning their careers today, are actively building new businesses. Businesses which operate according to a new set of rules, based on purpose and the recognition that value provided to employees, customers, partners, suppliers – society ¬– is the only sustainable way to provide long-term value to investors and facilitate the overall growth of the system.

These new businesses are quietly proving to the world the validity of a new model… they are the future of business, and it’s looking bright.

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Author:  Lisa Shelley

Post originally published originally on:

http://switchandshift.com/why-an-executive-leadership-role-isnt-worth-the-sacrifice 

Three Things Your Employees Need From You

posted Oct 14, 2013, 6:03 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 14, 2013, 7:07 AM ]



If you want employees who are passionate and focused on helping your business succeed - and who doesn’t? There are just three things you need to do. 

1.    Respect them.  Do your employees feel like valued and respected members of the team?  All of them?  Do they feel like their voice and contribution are important and appreciated? Do they feel like you trust them and believe in their ability?

2.    Empower them. Do your employees have access to the tools, training and information they need to effectively do their jobs? Do they understand how their work contributes to the success of the business? Are they able to leverage their strengths? Do they go home each day feeling like they made an impact?

3.    Inspire them.  Are your employees inspired by your business?  Are they passionate about your purpose, your customers, and your products? Do they have daily opportunities to be reminded of them? Are they proud to be a part of your business? 

Why these three things? Because they support your employee’s basic motivational needs of belonging, achieving and meaning.  Supporting these three things frees your employees to focus their energy on helping your business succeed, rather than struggling to earn your respect, to get things done or to find inspiration. Doing just these three things allows you to accomplish the primary objective of leadership – the alignment of your employee’s interest, motivation and action with the success of your business – engagement.

Sustainable employee engagement requires a culture that integrates and amplifies these three things into the way your business operates.  Consider the elements of your organizational culture…

      • Values/Purpose/Mission
      • Leadership behavior
      • Communications
      • Performance management processes
      • Your facilities

How does each of these support your employees’ need to feel respected, empowered and inspired?  Or not?  How could they?

Your employees want to leverage their strengths to make a valued impact on something they believe in… I think we all do.  What do you think?

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Author:  Lisa Shelley
Photo Credit:  Tony Fischer

5 Reasons Your Engagement Program Isn't Working

posted Sep 18, 2013, 11:55 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 14, 2013, 6:45 AM ]


As a business leader, why should you be concerned about the engagement level of your employees? Given all of the other burning issues you are faced with, devoting time and energy to work on engagement may feel like a luxury you can't afford.

Why Should You be Concerned?

"After all, I'm engaged, my staff is engaged. If there is an issue beyond that, it's nothing that additional metrics won't handle. Besides, our engagement efforts never seem to impact the bottom line."

Have you heard this, possibly even in your own head?  Unfortunately, studies continue to point to disturbingly low levels of engagement within business work forces, 30-40%. Based on the opportunity that these numbers represent, it's probably worth taking a deeper look at your organization. Far from a luxury, an engaged organization is foundational to the long term success of your business.

What is the Benefit?

The benefit of highly engaged employees goes well beyond discretionary work effort, productivity and retention.  

Highly engaged employees also produce higher quality work and bring an enhanced level of creativity and innovation to the workplace. They work more collaboratively with coworkers, and have better relationships with customers, suppliers and partners. Highly engaged employees become leaders themselves, positively engaging all other stakeholders.

Why then, given the opportunity available, do so many efforts aimed at improving employee engagement fail to produce sustainable results?  Have we been looking at it from the right lens?

5 Reasons Engagement Efforts Fail

1. The Wrong Owner. Engagement is, at its core, an output of leadership. Not HR.  Not an outside consultant. A leader inspires and supports the motivation and action of others toward achieving a common goal.

When leaders assume the responsibility for the engagement of their organizations, it becomes a way of operating, as opposed to a yearly or bi-yearly event.

2. Poor Definition of Engagement.  Employee engagement is often poorly or loosely defined.  It is more than employee satisfaction, and you can’t build it by focusing only on performance.  The engagement that matters is the level of sustained motivation your employees have to get things done in support of your business.

Effectively improving engagement requires a comprehensive approach that not only supports an employee’s ability to enjoy work, but also their ability to get things done.

3. Fixing the Symptoms… Lack of System Thinking. There are many employee survey tools available that align employee feedback on the work experience to engagement. These surveys can identify a reasonable list of symptoms.  What they don’t provide is the diagnosis. Treating symptoms without understanding the root cause can yield ineffective actions or actually contribute to the problem.

Before taking action on a survey ask yourself, what are these symptoms telling us about how our leaders and culture are supporting employee motivation? What is the system level issue?

4. Outdated Model of Human Motivation. What do employees need to feel motivated? Many businesses mistakenly believe compensation and advancement are the primary ways to motivate employees.  This approach assumes that work is inherently a chore and the only means to motivate people is extrinsically, through carrot and stick. The current thinking on human motivation is that we perform best and are more creative and innovative when we are intrinsically motivated – when we believe in and enjoy our work.



Maslow provides a simple hierarchical model of motivation, which can be simplified to three basic workplace needs. First is the foundational need to Belong, followed by the need to Achieve, and finally by the need for Meaning.   




Employees need to feel like a valued part of the organization to belong. They need to be empowered and able to get things done to achieve. And they need to believe that their efforts are contributing to something important to find meaning.

How well are you supporting these basic motivational needs for your employees? What do your survey results tell you when you look at them through this lens?

5. Lack of Customization. Your organization is not average. What works in one business, department or demographic, may not be effective for another. Effective employee engagement actions must be flexible and provide options to meet the needs of a diverse organization

How well do you know your employees? What makes them feel valued, what do they need to be empowered and what inspires them?


What Can You Do?

Consider for a moment your own motivational needs.  How important is it for you to feel like a respected and valued part of the organization? To be empowered with the information, tools and resources necessary to get things done? To be inspired to contribute to something you believe in?

Now consider, how well are you supporting these needs for your employees?

Respect. Empower. Inspire.  A simple but powerful framework for effective leadership and highly engaged employees.

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Author:  Lisa Shelley







Shifting the Culture of Business

posted Sep 18, 2013, 6:30 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 3:02 AM ]




In yesterday’s post I raised the possibility that the number of women in C-level leadership positions may be lower because many women define success differently and therefore may not aspire to these roles. My premise was women tend to desire a multi-dimensional life, which is difficult, if not impossible, to attain as a C-suite executive within the typical business culture today.

Maybe we should re-examine the business culture, rather than expecting women and others to re-define how they view success

If we truly desire a more diverse representation of leaders in the C-Suite, maybe we should re-examine the business culture, rather than expecting women and others to re-define how they view success. What is lacking in the environment that if present might allow more women to find their version of success in the C-suite? A few points to consider:

Humanity at Work

As long as reaching the C-suite requires a singular focus on work to the extent that you must significantly sacrifice (or outsource) many aspects of your personal life, the number of women at that table will remain small. Women tend to be collectors of experiences and enjoy living a multi-faceted life. They want time in their lives to engage with what they value, such as family and friends, and the organizations and activities that they care about.

Richness of engagement is a big part of what women have to offer to business

In fact, this richness of engagement is a big part of what women have to offer to business. Their connection with many communities allows them to bring a broadened perspective to the office, which feeds creativity and innovation. This diversity of perspectives at the table can help prevent the leadership from drinking their own Kool-Aid.

Purpose

Women are more naturally motivated by opportunities to make an impact on something they think is important. They see metrics as an enabling tool and profit as the result of making a successful impact. Cultures that attempt to motivate only through metrics and profit-related compensation models will have difficulty engaging women for the long run.

I often wonder if our purely profit-focused business mindset of the last several decades has resulted in an evolutionary weeding-out of naturally purpose-driven business leaders, regardless of gender.

Cultures that attempt to motivate only through metrics and profit-related compensation models will have difficulty engaging women

Work Flexibility

Although connection and collaboration are critical for any high-functioning team, there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to achievement. To create flexibility, use a “maximum appropriate,” versus “minimum necessary” mindset. This flexibility isn’t just about women of course. It’s a critical element to encourage humanity in the workplace.

Use a “maximum appropriate,” versus “minimum necessary” mindset

Career Flexibility

One of the biggest opportunities for change in the corporate culture is the mindset and thinking around career path, particularly for women. We need to value the “chapter” approach to life and recognize all paths to executive leadership as equally valid.

Why not keep talented leaders engaged through chapters of their lives that require another significant focus, by creating smaller, high-impact roles? Why don’t we actively recruit from what I have long thought must be one of the best and biggest sources of available talent: women who have left the corporate world for another chapter in life?

Why not keep talented leaders engaged through chapters of their lives

Instead, the tendency is to view these women’s choices as an indicator that they didn’t have what it takes, and to write them off as “de-railed.”

The opportunity presented in these few ideas isn’t just for women. It’s for all employees and ultimately for business itself. After all, the point isn’t about achieving parity for women in the C-suite. It’s about the benefit that will result for business through inclusion of broader diversity at the leadership table. It’s about more perspectives and better innovation, increased collaboration and improved engagement for all employees. The opportunity here is for better businesses.

Maybe what the women’s movement really brought us is simply the opportunity to choose our own definition of success? What can business learn from the fact that so many women are choosing differently?

Photo courtesy of: Seattle Municipal Archives


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Women and the C-Suite

posted Sep 18, 2013, 6:19 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 3:19 AM ]



I find it interesting how the discussion of the low numbers of women in C-level leadership positions is generally framed. 

One perspective is that the “establishment” is holding women back, the Glass Ceiling theory. The premise of which is that there are discriminatory practices at work preventing women from rising beyond a certain level in management. 

Another perspective is that women themselves have held back and not done enough to push back on the establishment. I’ll call this the Lean-In theory. The premise of this perspective is women haven’t taken the necessary initiative and risk to achieve executive leadership positions. They haven’t put themselves forward adequately. 

I don’t mean to imply that these two theories aren’t valid considerations for some women. However, what is interesting is both of these commonly discussed theories are predicated on the idea that the majority of women don’t attain something they actually desire.

There is yet another perspective you don’t hear discussed in business forums, and as often is the case, what goes unsaid is the most informative.

What if the problem is simply that many women, maybe even a majority of women, simply do not want the lifestyle that goes along with these roles? What if the problem is the business culture itself?

What if the women don’t want the lifestyle attributed to C-level leadership positions?

Could the lack of women in the C-suite be analogous to the canary in the coalmine warning us of an unhealthy environment?

Have we given fair consideration to the idea that many women may see, define, and experience success differently than their male counterparts? Rather than a singular focus on reaching the pinnacle in one aspect of their lives, women tend to value a more multi-dimensional life experience, which often is not possible with a C-suite role.

Have we given fair consideration to the idea that many women may see, define, and experience success differently than their male counterparts?

My perspective on gender differences has always been if you look at the normal distribution of many characteristics represented in men and women, you’ll see a perceivable difference between the distributions’ midpoints. This is true no matter how the tails of these distributions generally overlap. Applying this concept to how women and men view success, it’s not surprising to me that in our current corporate culture women are under-represented in the C-suite.

In my corporate career, I rarely met a woman who felt that her success was hindered by discriminatory practices, thankfully. I also rarely met women who wanted a seat at the executive table, but lacked the initiative to take it.

I rarely met a woman who felt that her success was hindered by discriminatory practices

I met many talented women who aspired to and achieved executive leadership positions. And I met many, many more women, with a lifelong achievement focus, who simply chose to create their own version of success. These talented and capable women chose to scale back significantly, or leave the corporate world entirely to start their own businesses, work for non-profits, and yes, some chose to spend more time with their families.

One very unique attribute that I noticed among these women was they viewed their career, and life, in chapters; each chapter with an important focus and growth opportunity contributing to an overall richness of life. They didn’t singularly focus on a specific definition of success or follow an orchestrated plan leading to a culminating achievement.

Women view their career, and life, in chapters; each chapter with an important focus and growth opportunity contributing to an overall richness of life

If we truly want to create change, maybe we need to talk more about why we would like to see more women in the C-suite. Are we after parity for parity’s sake? Or do we genuinely see opportunity to build more successful and innovative businesses through inclusion of more diverse perspectives at the leadership table? If we can really see that opportunity, maybe it’s time to stop defining success for women and instead challenge our assumptions about the culture in business. Maybe we need to create a business environment that encourages a broader spectrum of leaders to lean-in.

Maybe it’s time to stop defining success for women and instead challenge our assumptions about the culture in business

Click here to read the second part to this post.

Photo courtesy of ozz13x

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Leadership is about People

posted May 9, 2013, 6:12 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 3:29 AM ]



Somewhere along the line, leadership forgot who it was leading.

Leaders are often selected based on their business acumen and “results,” – not necessarily their ability to lead people. Unfortunately, the ability to produce results as an individual does not always scale to effectively lead others.

In addition, leadership development has evolved to focus on developing business acumen, often at the expense of developing critical people skills. Leadership, in many ways, has been reduced to managing outcomes.

The problem with this approach is that you can’t lead outcomes – you can only lead people. Without focus on the business of leading people, you are left with an organization operating well below its true capability, and likely not making full use of the business expertise at the helm.

Leadership is a social business. It is most simply defined as the act of motivating a group toward achieving a goal or vision. It’s fundamentallyabout people.

Leadership, in many ways, has been reduced to managing outcomes.

How do we put people back into the Leadership equation? For starters let’s review how we select and develop leaders. Let’s consider the characteristics that enable someone to become a great leader of people.

A great leader is interested in people.

They have a deep curiosity about what makes others tick, and a genuine desire to help them become a better version of themselves. They take the time to get to know, and connect with, those they lead. They naturally build a culture of respect.

A great leader believes in people.

They see, and mirror, the talent and potential in their people. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”

A great leader recognizes an employee’s strengths and aligns them with roles in the organization where they can best be utilized, and respectfully helps them find another job when they are not needed. A great leader provides support and resources necessary for employees to be successful. They empower people.

A great leader is inspired, by their mission, and by their people.

They see the unique talent, story and circumstance behind every employee and allow themselves to be impressed. Per Simon Sinek , author of Start With Why, “A leader must be inspired by the people, before a leader can inspire the people.”

Great leaders see what each individual has to contribute, value diversity of thought and experience, and naturally build a diverse workforce. Their ability to be inspired is infectious. A great leader naturally inspires people.

These characteristics should be the litmus test for any candidate in consideration for a leadership position. People with these foundational characteristics can be taught and will easily learn an arsenal of leadership and business skills. Unfortunately, without this foundation, it’s impossible for someone to become a truly great leader.

Great leaders see their people as the source of what the organization ultimately achieves. They recognize that as the leader, they alone have nothing but a vision. Their ability to bring their vision to life is dependent upon the extent to which they engage their people with it. They understand that engagement is about more than clear objectives and measureable outcomes; it’s about human connection and collaboration.

So what about business acumen? Does it have a place at the leadership table? Of course. However, the leader’s ability to leverage their business knowledge is predicated on the level to which they’ve earned their team’s trust and respect, empowered them to get the job done and inspired them to action.

Great leaders see their people as the source of what the organization ultimately achieves.

Leadership is a social business. Being a great leader requires more than a great business plan: it requires a deep appreciation of what can be accomplished when people align in support of a vision, as well as the interest, belief and inspiration to facilitate that connection and collaboration.

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Exceptional Leadership Starts with Yourself

posted Apr 18, 2013, 7:20 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 5:29 PM ]



“In order to have courage, you must do the inner-work necessary to know who you are.” 
Howard Behar, former President, Starbucks.


I invite you to join me on a brief virtual exercise. First, make a list in your mind of the characteristics of an exceptional leader. 

Now, create a corresponding list of the characteristics you would assign to an ineffective leader.

You likely came up with something along the lines of the following characteristics:

Exceptional Leader: Clear vision, Influential, Great Communicator, Empowering, Humble, Connected, Inspiring, Supportive…

Ineffective Leader: Domineering, Inconsistent, Manipulative, Disconnected, Inaccessible, Egocentric…

Now consider for yourself what type of leader you are personally. Likely, as difficult as it may be to admit, you have visited both lists.

In reality, we are all capable of being either type of leader.

An exceptional leader is someone who is aware of when they are not at their best, and is able to shift back to lead from a higher place. They “consciously” lead.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

Not exactly. Unsurprisingly, it is under conditions of stress and uncertainty, and the associated current of fear that these moments are charged with, that we find ourselves at the most risk of exhibiting negative leadership traits. And for good reason.

Fear has the ability to short-circuit our brain and limit our ability to access the neo-cortex, the area of the brain capable of higher-level processes such as empathy, compassion and wise decision-making.

Overcoming this automatic reaction to stress requires awareness and significant courage – the type of courage that, per Howard Behar, only comes from knowing yourself and knowing your values. This knowledge requires doing your own inner-work.

How well do you know yourself? What are your personal values?

Living from a set of personal, family and business values provides the stable platform from which you can effectively lead. Integrated into a mindfulness practice, it provides the awareness that enables you to recognize when fear has allowed you to stray from the course; as well as the courage and strength to bring yourself back on track.

Exceptional leadership requires a commitment to knowing and living your values. It requires integrating them into both your home and work life, and being fully you.

As Howard Behar would say, it requires wearing One Hat.

 
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The Container Store... A Culture Organized for Employees

posted Apr 16, 2013, 11:21 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Jul 23, 2013, 1:58 PM ]


“From Day 1 I felt valued, empowered and trusted.” This is a pretty impactful statement for any employee to make.

However when you consider that this is the reflection of an employee starting a job as a seasonal cashier, it’s not a surprise to learn that her company just celebrated its 14th year on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work” list.

The Container Store simply gets it.

To begin, the company understands and holds as one of its core principles that a great employee is worth three good employees. The management clearly recognizes the direct connection between the capability, energy and passion of the employees and the success of the business. And there is a clear understanding that having great employees requires not just hiring great people, but maintaining a culture that allows them to feel valued and empowered from Day One.

Add to all of that, a dose of inspiration, and you have a powerful recipe for great employees, who ultimately make a great business possible.

What Kip Tindell, co-Founder and CEO of the Container Store, has done seemingly instinctively, is to build a culture in direct support of human motivational needs. Albert Maslow first introduced the concept of human motivation stemming from a hierarchical set of needs in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

MaslowMaslow proposed that each higher level need builds on the foundation of the previously met need. Once a person’s basic survival and security needs have been met, humans are motivated by the Social need to Belong, the Esteem need to Achieve and ultimately by the need to Self-Actualize or to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

The management clearly recognizes the direct connection between the capability, energy and passion of the employees and the success of the business.

Putting this in terms of work, we all want to be a respected and valued part of the team. We want to be empowered to complete goals and achieve. And ultimately we are inspired by the opportunity to make an impact on something bigger than ourselves.

The Container Store believes in “Putting the Employees First,” and everything that follows from that core belief results in employees feeling respected, valued and a part of the team from Day One. Add to this mantra, over 260 hours of training in the employees’ first year, plus 170 hours per year of additional training after that, and you have an employee who has the tools they need for success… they are empowered to contribute.

What Kip Tindell, co-Founder and CEO of the Container Store, has done seemingly instinctively, is to build a culture in direct support of human motivational needs.

Inspired? The Container Store’s selective, employee-run hiring process yields people – often customers themselves – who are zealots about helping others improve the quality of their lives through organization.

It’s a simple formula that can work in any organization.

Respect. Empower. Inspire.

The trick is to remember it’s a hierarchy. It’s difficult to inspire someone who doesn’t feel like a valued member of the team. They are much more likely to seek inspiration elsewhere.


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