helpBusiness coaching has gone from fad to fundamental. Leaders and organizations have come to understand how valuable it can be, and they’re adding “the ability to coach and develop others” to the ever-growing list of skills they require in all their managers. In theory, this means more employee development, more efficiently conducted. But in reality, few managers know how to make coaching work.

According to the 2010 Executive Coaching Survey, conducted by the Conference Board, 63% of organizations use some form of internal coaching, and half of the rest plan to. Yet coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others.

With such limited time devoted to coaching, organizations need to be sure their managers know how to do it right. To improve the quality and impact of your coaching efforts, start by giving your individual managers tangible information about how to coach their direct reports. Typically, managers meet their coaching obligations by giving reviews, holding occasional meetings and offering advice. For coaching to be effective, they need to understand why they are coaching and what specific actions they need to take.

Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

Broadly speaking, the purpose is to increase effectiveness, broaden thinking, identify strengths and development needs and set and achieve challenging goals. Research has boiled down the skills managers need to coach others into five categories:

1. Building the relationship.

It’s easier to learn from someone you trust. Coaches must effectively establish boundaries and build trust by being clear about the learning and development objectives they set, showing good judgment, being patient and following through on any promises and agreements they make.

2. Providing assessment.

Where are you now and where do you want to go? Helping others to gain self-awareness and insight is a key job for a coach. You provide timely feedback and help clarify the behaviors that an employee would like to change. Assessment often focuses on gaps or inconsistencies, on current performance vs. desired performance, words vs. actions and intention vs. impact.

3. Challenging thinking and assumptions.

Thinking about thinking is an important part of the coaching process. Coaches ask open-ended questions, push for alternative solutions to problems and encourage reasonable risk-taking.

4. Supporting and encouraging.

As partners in learning, coaches listen carefully, are open to the perspectives of others and allow employees to vent emotions without judgment. They encourage employees to make progress toward their goals, and they recognize their successes.

5. Driving results.

What can you show for it? Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful ones and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them.

You should seed your organization with coaching role models. All managers need some guidance on the whys and hows of coaching, but most organizations can’t afford to train them on a large scale, so the least you can do is make an effort to create a culture of coaching. The key is to create a pool of manager-coaches who can be role models, supporters and sustainers of a coaching mindset.

When you select the right people and invest in their development and position them as coaching advocates, you plant the seeds for expanding coaching well beyond the individual manager-direct report relationship. Your role models demonstrate effective coaching both formally and informally, and they help motivate others to use and improve their own coaching capabilities.

Always link the purpose and results of coaching to the business. Managers have to know the business case for coaching and developing others if they’re to value it and use it effectively. Where is the business headed? What leadership skills are needed to get us there? How should coaches work with direct reports to provide the feedback, information and experiences they need to build those needed skills? Set strategic coaching goals, tactics and measures for the organization as well as including coaching as an individual metric.


Finally, give it time. It’s not surprising that managers feel they don’t have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root. Your managers will have a new way to develop and motivate their direct reports. Individuals and groups will strive to build new skills and achieve goals. And your business will be on track to a more efficient, comprehensive system of developing people.



Sam Headshot cropped1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short enjoy it.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don’t worry, God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive (and don’t forget to Forgive Yourself)

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a “gift”

46. Lastly and one of my favorites, from Jim Valvano,“To me there are three things everyone should do EVERY day. Number one is LAUGH. Number two is THINK — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to TEARS. If you LAUGH, THINK and CRY, THAT’S A HECK OF A DAY”


Are rich people just good with money or is there something a little deeper contributing to their success? Most people would agree that certain lifestyle choices and daily habits are as valuable in the quest for wealth as a sound understanding of finances.

A recent study indicated that a whopping 21 percent of Americans see winning the lottery as an important wealth-building strategy. A similar study of Canadians showed that about 12 percent were counting on winning a big lottery so they could have enough retirement income to retire in style.

There are many things you should never do if financial security is one of your main goals.  So what do the rich do every day that the poor don’t do?  Tom Corley,, outlines a few of the differences between the habits of the rich and the poor.

  1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
  2. 23% of wealthy gamble versus 52% of poor people.
  3. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing a single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.
  4. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. Only 23% of the poor exercise.
  5. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work versus 5% of poor people.
  6. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list versus 19% of poor.
  7. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month versus 3% of poor.
  8. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month versus 3% of poor
  9. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls versus 11% of poor.
  10. 67% of wealthy write down their goals versus 17% of poor.
  11. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons versus 2% of poor.
  12. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind versus 69% of poor. (Are you a Victim or Victor?)13.
  13. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month versus 16% of poor.
  14. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day versus 23% of poor.
  15. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV versus 78% of poor.
  16. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts versus 3% of poor.
  17. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children versus 1% of poor.
  18. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity versus 4% of poor.
  19. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck versus 9% of poor.
  20. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement versus 5% of poor.
  21. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.


  6. READ

There is a firm belief that a lot of poor people are simply too busy or disadvantaged one way or another to change their situation. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pick themselves up. This is best explained from Dave Ramsey’s blog “Poornomore”:  “I was born poor, raised in poverty and watched my parents die that way. I worked hard, eliminated my bad habits, started doing what the wealthy did. Mostly, I stopped blaming others for my lack of wealth. Now I am wealthy, and help others who want to be helped.”


RespectYes, that spells the word Respect.  But what has happened to Respect in the workplace and with regards to customers and clients?

The workplace is a reflection of society at large. Today, we see a range of behaviors that demonstrate a lack of respect and civility, both inside and outside the workplace. Studies and polls indicate that we all view disrespect as a serious problem that is getting worse.

One study found that 60% of employees believe that co-workers’ annoying behaviors negatively impact the workplace and, as a result, 40% reported that they are looking for new employment. These findings illustrate that disrespectful behaviors drain productivity and negatively influence both an organization’s bottom line and the overall economy.

The following are some tips to assist you in achieving more Respect in your workplace:

1-    Before acting, consider the impact of your words and actions on others.

2-    Create an inclusive work environment.  Only by recognizing and respecting individual differences and qualities can your organization fully realize its’ potential.

3-    Self-monitor the respect that you display in all areas of your communications, including verbal, body language, and listening.

4-    Understand your triggers or “hot buttons.”  Knowing what makes you angry and frustrated enables you to manage your reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner.

5-    Take responsibility for your actions and practice self-restraint and anger management skills in responding to potential conflicts.

6-    Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.

7-    Rely on facts rather than assumptions and second-hand information.  Gather relevant facts, especially before acting on assumptions that can damage relationships.

8-    Include others in your focus by considering their needs and avoiding the perception that you view yourself as the “center of the universe.”

9-    View today’s difficult situations from a broader (big picture) and more realistic perspective by considering what they mean in the overall scheme of things.

10- Become a bridge builder and role model for civility and respect. Act in a manner whereby you respect yourself, demonstrate respect for others, and take advantage of every opportunity to be proactive in promoting civility and respect in your workplace.

11- Respect yourself and those you work with. or criticism personally. Respect is a building block of meaningful relationships, and it comes about when we place value on other people.

12- DWYSYWD and Exceed the Expectations of Others. Don’t disappoint those around you, therefore Do What You Say You Will Do and Exceed the Expectation of Others.  You set the standard, as an example throughout the entire company.

13- Stand Firm on Your Core Values, Convictions and Principles and never waver. As a leader it’s always tempting to make politically correct decisions that promise safety instead of bold ones that involve risk.

14- Maturity Well-Beyond Your Years. One mark of maturity is the willingness to assume responsibility. Another indication of maturity is character, or the willingness to do what’s right even when it’s costly. A final mark of maturity is confidence.

15- Experience Success in Your Family and Career. Neither success nor failure is a one-time event. Rather, both result from the accumulation of thousands of seemingly insignificant actions done day-by-day and week-by-week. Identify which activities, performed daily, will develop you into the type of leader you aspire to be and then be relentless about practicing them.

16- Invest in the Success of Others. But, first define success, it has to involve helping people.

17- Plan, Plan, Plan. Leaders gain respect because they think ahead of others and more deeply than others. They project their minds into the future, and they discipline themselves to put sustained thought into major issues facing their team.


Respect in the workplace benefits everyone, and it’s really not that difficult to achieve. All it takes is a little care in the way you deal with others. Getting into the habit of mutual respect in the workplace will inevitably spread into your personal and social life as well, so the advantages just keep adding up.


CRM.1Anyone who has their own business has probably have heard of the term CRM – however a great deal of these people don’t actually understand what it means. In short CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, although this is a general term and it does not really take into account the full scope of what a CRM really means.

Obviously, customers are the backbone of your business- without them your business would fail. CRM or the implementation of a CRM web service is a way that a business goes about organizing, marketing, managing, handling and tracking customers and potential customers. To do this successfully a specific CRM software program is used, which is usually is a software program which can then be altered to suit the individual business.

There are some features of a CRM software program that all businesses will use such as:

  • Customer contact details – it is essential that these are kept up-to-date and accurate as communication with customers is crucial to any business.
  • Customer order details and analytics – it is essential that these details are up-to-date and accurate as they are needed to process jobs, create invoices and track you customer activities.
  • Quoting, helpdesk software, and invoicing tools – having such tools within a CRM program means that users do not have to have several programs open at once.
  • Outstanding debt and payment information.
  • Current tasks/jobs that outstanding and in which department.
  • Employee information, this can be anything from employee contact information and departmental information to information relating to employee wages and holidays.

CRM for Marketing

CRM also plays a large role in a targeted marketing to customers and future customers, it can help a business plan a marketing strategy based on a number of critical data like previous sales. This means that you are not wasting money on marketing campaigns targeting the wrong demographic. Similarly a CRM helps the sales staff when they are speaking on the phone to customers as it can help them to identify trends in customer’s habits which can then enable them to up-sell products and increase profits.

When using a CRM in your marketing strategy, you now have the ability to track all customers and prospects throughout the sales process.  When using the CRM to map the entire Sales Process, by each campaign, you identify the type of ‘touches’ and the analytics with each strategy.

Incorporate CRM into Your Business

While salespeople are obsessed with targeting new leads and closing deals, they don’t have a track record of being excited about using a CRM. When the topic of CRM is brought up to many salespeople who have used some form of CRM in the past, expect eyes to roll, to hear heavy signs, and even to see some salespeople ending their own life in some comical fashion. This reaction is justifiable as older CRM systems have a reputation for being clunky, limited in function, and perceived to be a waste of time. Because CRM systems are constantly being re-engineered for maximum efficiency and flexibility, CRM’s today are hardly recognizable to salespeople today. Still, the bad taste from past CRM systems remains. How do you get your current sales team to start using your CRM system? There are a few different methods.

1. The benefits of using a CRM

Part of the reason you probably want your company to start using a CRM system is to increase sales – and CRM does this. With critical customer background information your salespeople have the maximum amount of information about a customer before the sales call or sales appointment is ever made, this allows the sales representative to customize the appointment to the customer’s needs. When a sales call is more focused on the customer’s needs rather than a sales goal or a salesperson’s commission. When the customer’s past orders are visible to the sales associate, this gives the sales person an opportunity to either sell the customer more or, at the very least, get their feedback on their past purchase for future business. With all of this knowledge available to them, this should work as great incentive for sales people to utilize CRM for not only the benefit of the entire company, but their own sales.

2. Provide the proper CRM training.

After showing your sales people the benefits of using a custom CRM system, implementing a CRM will be an uphill battle without the proper training. Arranging for the proper training doesn’t have to be an elaborate event or require too many resources. Just setting aside some time for a certified CRM consultant to show your sales team the ropes and answer questions. You may also consider having a follow-up training session over lunch or some other related event where sales people, after having had a chance to use CRM, bring their questions, voice their concerns, or share how CRM has benefited them so far.

3. Build CRM into your existing system.

You’ve talked up the benefits of CRM and given your sales staff the proper training in order to use it, but you still have a few sales people who are dragging their feet. You may feel like you’re running out of options, but there are a few more things you can do. One of the ways to ensure that your sales people utilize your company’s CRM system is build it in to your existing systems. Because of the tremendous versatility of today’s CRM systems, CRM can be used to make announcements, to share data, to make marketing decisions, and much more. If your sales people are receiving leads via email or some other system, switch that avenue to your CRM. If your sales team has to use CRM in order to access their bread-and-butter leads, they’ll have no other choice but to utilize the investment your company has made in them in the form of an effective CRM system.

As you phase your CRM system in, begin to phase your older systems out and make sure to have a pre-determined date your sales team knows about when older systems or methods will be completely gone

4. Get Serious about your CRM system.

Sales people are a very independent bunch of workers. While on one hand, sales people work to sell products and services for a company, many struggle to be “team players” in order to have a vision of what’s best for the company as a whole several years down the road. It can be easy for sales people to forget that, though their pay is usually directly based on their ability to sell, they are ultimately part of a team just like everybody else.

5. Incentive to Use the CRM

If a company makes the investment in their sales team in the form of a CRM system and a sales person refuses to use it, those are resources going to waste.  Not only have you wasted the money in the cost of the CRM system, but also what is the ultimate cost in the form of lost sales opportunities that would have resulted from properly implementing the CRM system.

Build in the compensation program for your sale people with an incentive or dis-incentive for the sale people to use the system.  This can be easily justified if you need the services of another staff member to help build the critical data into the CRM system.  At a future date, this redundancy will need to be addressed and the sales person needs to realize that as of a certain date, the ship will set sail, with or with them.


AngryI recently had a customer service experience that I feel compelled to share.  Just a bit of background first . . .

I used this outside vendor for the past 12 months, with no issues.  However, I was not deriving the necessary ROI (Return on Investment) for this service.  Therefore I cancelled this service, compliant with the understanding they needed 30 days prior notification.  While looking at my business account some 45 days later, I noticed a recent charge that should not have been there- for this very service.  Therefore, I notified the company and requested reversal of the charges.

I received the following email as a reply to my request for the reversal of charges . .

“When you cancel, we do require a 30 day notification, so if you’re notifying us today that you do wish to cancel your agreement with us, that would technically start the 30 day notification as of now, and September would be your final payment due to us.”

After wasting my time researching and providing previous emails to this company, I received the following response . . .

“I wasn’t privy to these emails, so my apologies. I will instruct accounting to reimburse you immediately.”

As of today, over one week later, I am STILL waiting for the reimbursement into my account. In fact I am thinking that my next email will be to question the timeliness of their commitment to the word ‘immediately’.

What went wrong?

This business is not a terribly large, with only 15 employees, but (whether they admit it or not) they have significant challenges with their customer service.

1- Communication.  All communication needs to be shared with all people in their customer service area, by customer account is preferred.

2- Never write an email with a confrontational tone. There should be Systems and Procedures that have an approved email template that customer service personnel can use without deviation.  Remember, the objective for Customer Service is to help the customer not anger the customer.

3- In an apology, there are three critical parts that need to be addressed:

a. We made a mistake.

b. We are sorry for this mistake.

c. What can we do make it up to you?

4- The cost of acquiring a new client is six times more than maintaining an existing client.  I am NOT a satisfied (previous) customer, therefore the ultimate cost of a dis-satisfied customer has an huge exponential (and largely unknown) cost to your business.

5-    Every customer service break-down, represents the opportunity to identify and improve the level of the customer experience.

What to do?

You need to get into your customers’ heads.  Unfortunately, you can’t read minds. The Technician in you accepts this and tries to genuinely meet your customers’ expectations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it.

The business owner wearing the Technician hat takes the easy route and bases the company’s entire customer experience system on the “standard” systems they see everywhere else.

• The automated hold message says, “Your call is important to us…”

• The customer service represent asks, “How may I help you?”

• The supervisor replies in a neutral tone, “I understand your frustration.”

These things might work at times. But they’re not achieving the desired result. In fact, they’re keeping your business stagnant.  If your business is like most, you thrive on repeat business, loyal customers, excellent customer service and positive word-of-mouth.

So, if the desired result is a healthy and thriving customer base that will keep coming back and telling others about you (and it should be), it’s time to change hats. Many companies have been able to achieve this. But staggering numbers haven’t, even though it’s entirely within their reach.

Companies that create a healthy customer base do so by providing an exceptional customer experience. They create an experience with a systematic approach and intention to exceed customer expectations.  It’s not by accident.  It’s by design.  The two areas of focus that most business owners tend to unintentionally overlook are also the two areas that can have the greatest impact on increased sales and profitability.

Customer Service and Delivery

“Customer service” is an overused phrase that has little meaning any more, but customers still want their needs met. To accomplish this requires that customer service is the responsibility of every employee, whether they have direct customer contact or not.

Customer service is different from any add-on service you offer for sale.  If you charge money for a service, it’s part of your product mix.  Customer Service is free.

Customer Service enhances your main offer – it’s not your main offer – but a pleasantly unexpected bonus that reinforces your message that you care.

Customer Service opportunities are endless.  It is a major area that can give you a competitive advantage – especially if you are seen as a commodity with numerous competitors.  So when you start thinking about the customer services you might offer, think beyond the obvious.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What attributes of your business lend themselves to better customer service?  Don’t be afraid to experiment and then elicit feedback from the people who know best – your customers.

Delivery Experience

There comes that moment in your customer experience where your customer accepts delivery of your product or service. This really is the moment of truth. It’s the culminating moment where you either exceed, meet, or fall short of your customers’ expectations.

The mechanics for delivery are different for every business, but every business has a process to get the product or service into a customer’s hands. The question you must ask yourself is: does it “deliver?” Delivery has two main components: transportation and experience.

Transportation runs from very simple to very complicated – from handing your customer their product at the time of purchase to outsourcing to a parcel delivery service. This decision is informed by the nature of the product or service and the available transportation channels.

One of the keys to building customer loyalty is to regularly subject your transportation systems to various measureable analytics – making sure you deliver the result your customers expect at the most reasonable cost.

The delivery experience, on the other hand, is your opportunity to differentiate your business from every other competitor.  In order to do that, you must fully leverage the marketing principle of “sensory impact.”

In other words, you need to do more than simply hand off your product or service to your customer; you need to make them feel good about the value they receive. The way you present your product or service to the customers who purchase it will have a lasting impact on their experience of your business.

While your concerns about delivery might be the costs of shipping, the reliability of your transport company, and whether to ship ground or air, your customers have their own definition of delivery.

They are focused on convenience, speed, and the cost to them. And because they look at how the package arrives, having it delivered by premium shippers like UPS or FedEx can enhance the perceived value to your clients. Not because those trucks are any better than anyone else’s, but because they are associated with speed and convenience.

From your clients’ perspective, you cared enough to satisfy them quickly, even if you had to pay extra for it. The result is a positive delivery experience.  Remember, “the medium is the message.” How you say or do something often has more impact than the actual content of the message.

In other words, the way in which you present your product to your customer may often times have more impact than the product itself.

Doing What It Takes

As a business owner, you know your resources are finite.  There is only so much equipment, inventory, cash, workspace, and employee time available.

When considering how to excel in providing an exceptional customer experience, it’s up to you to get the most value from those resources. But there’s more to it than just quantifying output.

It is counter-productive to your goals to simply squeeze more cost-effectiveness from your processes if it dilutes or sacrifices your customer experience or places undue burdens on your employees.

The key is to manage that delicate balance between productivity and the expectations that fuel true customer satisfaction.


Strategic ThinkingDuring my career, I had the opportunity to work under two different Harvard MBA’s, (coincidentally both were females).  Both of these Harvard MBA’s intellect were far superior to almost everyone I ever known, yet I still wonder if they rose to the pinnacle of their career due to their intelligence, their education, or their ability to think strategically far and above the ‘rest’ of us.

However, during my tenure under these Harvard MBA’s, I felt almost invisible, and became little more than a statistic.  I also found that from this experience and as I went my about my career, as the proposals ended up in a pile, my only acknowledgement was an occasional raise- usually once per year. More often than not, I sensed that my individuality and input became buried.

Jack Welch (former Chairman of GE) called this feeling of anonymity “being in the pile,” and he recommended thinking as the means of escape. Most people go with the ‘herd’ doing what’s asked of them but not much more. In Welch’s estimation, the key to elevating your business is to go above and beyond expectations whenever someone asks you question or you have a customer or employee complaint.

As Jack Welch wrote, “If you understand that the question is only the beginning, you will get out of the pile fast, because 99.9 percent of all employees are in the pile because they don’t think. If you understand this principle, you will always be given more critical questions to answer. And in time, you will be the one giving out the questions to others!”

I would like to offer five ways to begin thinking your way to the top.

Where to think . . .

Today’s work environment is incredibly fast-paced and fraught with demands and huge workloads. Unless you’re deliberately get away from the noise of day-to-day operations, you will never break free. The first step to getting out of the pile is giving yourself permission to disconnect. You have to get away from all the daily challenges by retreating to a space free of any and all interruptions. Initially, you might think that scheduling this time feels incredibly unproductive. However, this is the only way and the beginning to gaining perspective to working smarter and more strategically.

Shape your thoughts . . .

In the beginning most ideas lack clarity. Our initial ideas are unclear due to the clutter in our mind. As a leader, challenge yourself to translate your gut feelings into distinct ideas and plans, which you can document and articulate to your team. Next, strategic ideas never come fully formed. As a leader, your job is to test your ideas by asking critical questions. Does the idea proceed from reasonable assumptions? Does the idea align with the mission, core values and strategic vision of the organization? Does the idea make sense given the structure and strengths/weaknesses of the organization? Lastly, thoughts spring into existence with huge possibilities. However, they must undergo tests. For instance, how would the idea actually take shape in your organization? What would it cost to pursue? How long would it take to implement? What significant changes (positive and negative) would impact the business?

Stretch your thoughts . . .

Throughout my career, some of the best ideas have come from others. Many times my ideas start out small until we got ahold of them and found ways to stretch them to their maximum potential. Isolated leaders never obtain as much influence as those who surround themselves with an inner circle of key advisors.

Land your thoughts . . .

Before an idea can take shape, it must take on a concrete existence. The number one question to ask when landing or implementing an idea is: Who will own it? Who will champion the idea and push it forward? A leader must prepare the way for the idea to touch down safely. This means winning the support of your team and communicating clearly with those most likely to be impacted by the idea’s implementation.

Fly your thoughts . . .

If you wanted to fly an airplane, you would begin by taking lessons from an instructor.  To fly an idea, you first need to learn from an instructor or a practice flight. Testing your idea on a small scale will expose weaknesses before a major launch. Sometimes the flaws are fixable, and the idea can be reworked. On rare occasions, you may even have an idea that tests out brilliantly on the first attempt. However, other ideas are not feasible in real life and ought to be scrapped. A practice flight confirms that an idea can actually withstand the challenges of real-world application.


Woman stressWharton management professor Ethan Mollick has a message for knowledge-based companies: Pay closer attention to your middle managers. They may have a greater impact on company performance than almost any other part of the organization.

In other words, says Mollick, “the often overlooked and sometimes-maligned middle managers matter. They are not interchangeable parts in an organization.” His view upends the long-held belief that performance differences between firms are due mainly to organizational factors – such as business strategy, management systems and HR practices — rather than to differences among employees.

The importance of individual skills and characteristics can be especially significant when measuring firm performance in industries and fields that value innovation, like computer games, software, consulting, biotech and marketing, according to Mollick, who recently completed a paper on this topic titled, “People and Process: Suits and Innovators: Individuals and Firm Performance.” It is in these knowledge-intensive industries where variation in the abilities of middle managers – the “suits” he refers to in his paper — has a “particularly large impact on firm performance, much larger than that of individuals who are assigned innovative roles,” he says.

The influence these suits exert, he suggests, stems from their key role in project management, including such tasks as resource allocation and supervision of deadlines – responsibilities often perceived as the bureaucratic, more routine and less glamorous side of the business. Middle managers also can play a key role in fostering innovative and creative environments.

A Look at the Gaming Industry

One challenge Mollick faced in his research was a lack of studies that measured the relative contribution of middle managers vs. innovators. He addressed that gap by analyzing the computer game industry, which not only is typical of many knowledge-driven industries, but also “represents a case where the tension between the firm and the individual should be at its most visible.” The industry, he notes, is populated by companies that are relatively established, have clear product strategies and yet depend to a great extent on the “innovative output of key individuals.” In addition, he writes in his paper, “success in the game industry relies not just on managers in charge of innovation, but also on project managers capable of organizing dozens of programmers and coordinating budgets that often reach into the tens of millions of dollars.”

He does not include top managers in his analysis although his paper cites an earlier study showing that the impact of CEOs, CFOs and other top-level executives on large firms is limited. Indeed, these top positions explain less than 5% of the variation in firm performance among Fortune 800 companies – a finding that Mollick says is in line with other research in this area. In large, established organizations, “the top managers, at least, account for relatively little of why some companies perform better than others.”

Mollick acknowledges that top management plays a significant role in setting the overall direction of the company. “But they don’t have a big part in deciding which individual projects are selected and how they are run. At least for the computer game industry – and no doubt for a lot of knowledge-based industries – it is all about the middle managers.”

His research differentiates knowledge-based companies from traditional industries where “economies of scale are critical, such as manufacturing, and where there seems to be little need to take individuals into account to explain performance.” Toyota is an example. “With a six-layered bureaucracy, cross-trained workers and clearly delineated departments, Toyota built a manufacturing powerhouse that integrates workers in a complex mechanism to produce cars efficiently,” Mollick writes. “Individual workers are ultimately replaceable and interchangeable with others who have received the same extensive training.” The process “does not rely on any individual worker’s skills but rather firm-level processes to hire and train the appropriate individuals for the appropriate roles.”

Emerging industries, however, rely more on knowledge and innovation than on process and assembly lines. Given that model, what can be said about the effect of individual middle managers on firm performance? A number of studies suggest that “their success is heavily dependent on the structure of the organizations … and their impact on performance is determined by firm structure and culture, rather than individual differences.” Mollick’s analysis of the game industry comes up with a different conclusion.

Good Skills Are Portable

In describing the focus of his research, Mollick notes that within the game industry, each game has a team of creators — including designers, programmers and artists — who work for firms of varying sizes. “Because accurate credits at both the individual and firm level are available for many games developed within the industry, it is possible to trace precisely both the individuals and firms responsible for innovation and entrepreneurship within the industry,” Mollick writes.

The game industry can be broken down into producers – similar to project managers in the software industry – and designers. A producer (middle manager) has to ensure that the project meets its deadline, gets the right resources and conforms to industry standards. He or she must communicate effectively with the rest of the company and with outside vendors such as promoters and public relations firms, among other responsibilities. The designer (innovator), by contrast, comes up with ideas and helps the development team turn the idea into a game, paying attention to story lines and characters, but also to logic, sequence and interaction. The producers fill the managerial roles, and the designers fill the innovative roles, according to Mollick, who focused his research on PC games as opposed to console games like those that run on the Nintendo, Xbox or Sony systems.

Using a Multiple Membership Cross-Classified Multilevel Model (MMCC) analysis of 854 games across multiple companies, he measured, over 12 years, “how performance changes as you combine different people in different companies in different ways.” He uses the revenue of each company, controlling for costs, to measure firm performance.

The games he analyzed accounted for about $4 billion of revenue and included 537 individual producers, 739 individual designers and 395 companies. With the MMCC model, he was able to determine which project success was due to individual designers as opposed to producers or the firms.

Mollick found that it was middle managers, rather than innovators or company strategy, who best explained the differences in firm performance. Managers accounted for 22.3% of the variation in revenue among projects, as opposed to just over 7% explained by innovators and 21.3% explained by the organization itself – including firm strategy, leadership and practices. “Far from being interchangeable,” Mollick writes, “individuals uniquely contribute to the success or failure of a firm…. Additionally, even in a young industry that rewards creative and innovative products, innovative roles explain far less variation in firm performance than do managers.”

Or, as Mollick later writes: “High-performing innovators alone are not enough to generate performance variation; rather, it is the role of individual managers to integrate and coordinate the innovative work of others.” So while innovators may come up with new games and new concepts, managers play the more crucial role of deciding which ideas are actually given resources. It is this “selection ability” that Mollick measures.

The best managers are able to work closely with the innovators to turn their ideas into realistic project plans, he adds, and they are effective at motivating the team and facilitating “collective creativity.”

In order to see if these skills were portable, Mollick re-examined the data, looking only at individuals who moved between companies. He found that middle managers who switched employers had an even larger impact on performance than those who remained within organizations. “This is not about a person being a good fit in just one specific organization. Their skills are useful anywhere.” It’s more evidence that managers are not “cogs in a machine. There is something innate in them that makes them good at what they do.”

Beyond Dilbert

“It’s amazing that the effect of these middle managers on a project is not only larger than the creative people, but larger than the rest of the organization,” Mollick says. “We tend to think of companies as all about systems and not enough about people.” He suggests that companies pay more attention to filling middle levels of management, figuring out who the best ones are and rewarding them appropriately.

Middle managers, he adds, “have a tough job.” They are managing a finite set of resources, they don’t have control over everyone’s actions, they can frustrate people around them who are not interested in changing direction when necessary, and they must go in a direction – even if it’s an unpopular one — that ensures the project’s success. Finally, the project has to fit in with the goals of the company. “It’s always easy to think about the worst manager you have had, the ones you see in the Dilbert cartoons,” Mollick says. “But it’s important to recognize the vital role these middle managers play in making sure that information flows and that creativity happens.”


Follow leadDefine leadership. Now redefine it in terms of YOU!

What is interesting about recent articles and books written  about leadership, seemingly all these have been written by people who are no longer leaders. Yet, these authors routinely write as if they are ‘Monday Quarterbacking’ for today’s leaders under fire to adopt their “former leader” direction.

A recent article by one of these ’former leaders’ included  key points, one of these point was that “clarity is the antidote of anxiety”; therefore “clarity” is the main concern of the effective leader. What???

If you’re a leader, and clarity is your main concern, nothing important must be going on in your business.

During our Mentoring Sessions, we discover that leadership is multifaceted. There is no “one” concern more powerful than the other, therefore they are all important. So, what is more important here:  lead by example, get the ‘buy- in’ of the team, achievement of the strategic plan, management of the sale process, watching the bottom line, continual excellence of performance, management of the KPI’s,  absolute ‘open door’ communication, or fulfillment of the employees in the company?  All of these are far more important than “clarity.”

“Clarity is the antidote of anxiety.”  If a leader has anxiety, the first step would be to discover what is causing it, and then take the necessary action to eliminate or change it. Being “clear” is another phrase coined by another ’former leader’ to sell books.  Furthermore, it is a meaningless as “added value” or “on purpose” or “focus.” Just empty leadership-created words and phrases.

If you are the leader, boss, or manager, you need to sharpen the real-world skills you need to be a true leader.  These skills are the leadership qualities needed to succeed: the action items, principles, and skills to employ so leadership works. So it works for you, your people, your customers, your vendors, and your company-in that order.

But there are degrees of leadership effectiveness. Your ability to master these leadership skills are in direct proportion to your ability to lead. If you are looking for ‘clarity’, look no further than these skills:

  • Develop respect from your people and to respect you. If the leaders are not respected they are eventually overthrown-or fired. If a non-respected leader cannot be fired, people will quit.
  • Make sure your people and their jobs are a “fit.” Remember . . . Right Person, Right Seat, Right Bus.
  • Let your people share their goals. Part of the Strategic Plan is the common goal of the people and the leader.  When people set their own goals, they can achieve them, and they ‘own’ them.
  • Give your people specific responsibilities and clear direction. Everyone needs to fully understand their responsible. And make sure they see the big picture and how their part fits into it.
  • Create an environment in which people love their work and their workplace. Make the workplace fun.
  • Make sure all “money matters” are clear. Do not mess with employees’ money. And worse, do not reduce pay or commissions to cut costs. Pay fairly, benefit well, and provide security. Otherwise people will leave.
  • Make sure paychecks are accurate. People count their money and count on it. Nothing hurts morale more than wrong paychecks.
  • Encourage your people. The most effective leaders are coaches. They stand on the sidelines and cheer for their players.
  • Praise your people.  When is the last time you praised someone for their hard work? Praise effort publicly. Praise accomplishment. Often.

By your actions and your achievements-be their hero. If you want them to become dedicated players, your people need to see your dedication. If you are the one driving the bus and making big things happen, you will become a hero to those who respect your ethics and accomplishments.

So what is wrong with this statement?  “You don’t have to be liked, you just have to be respected.” People want to work for people they like AND respect, otherwise they will work for someone else.


So . . . Lead, Follow, or get the Heck out of the way. If you are the leader, and you are not following the above rules, you don’t have to worry about getting out of the way, because your best people will run away from you.


Leader 3There is a huge difference between being an effective Manager and a Leader.  If you consider yourself a leader, or are interested in becoming one, you must first understand that becoming an effective leader is a process, one that never ends. Here’s a few tips (actually 82 of them) to guide you on your journey to becoming a better Leader.

Planning & Strategy

•Understand what the core principles of being a leader are. It’s not about power, but rather about vision, mission, core values, direction and setting the standard for others to follow.

•There are different ways of managing people.  So what is your leadership style?

•As a leader you are constantly studying and getting more information to continually improve.

•As you build your business, know how to maintain it and prevent serious failures in the business and the team.

•Constantly analyze and improve the process and systems.

•Be prepared in the event of a ‘disaster’. Have a plan ready and be ready to recover from it and move on.

•Keep ‘garbage’ out of your trash cans and out of your employees heads.

Team Building

•Know how to identify, recruit, hire and train exceptional employees.

•Having a standardized interviewing process, which means asking the right questions to find the persons core values and work ethic.

•Constantly building trust in your team and your team trusting you.

•Develop and effectively communicate your vision.

•Having your team ‘Own’ the companies goals and vision.

•Interdependence – making sure your employees are sharing responsible principles.

•Mentoring your team by being a strong positive role model.

•Improve yourself by being influenced and studying great leaders.

•Control the culture and core values of your organization and never stray nor sacrifice these.


•Never sacrifice ethics in the workplace as well as your company’s image in your industry.

•Develop strong public speaking abilities to get the message across to larger groups.

•Keep your employees up-to-date with things they need to know.

•Command your own body language and your team members as well.

•Improve your proactive and effective listening skills.

•Speak clearly and concisely using economies of words.

•Proactively deal with difficult situations and set the standard.

Build Trust & Confidence

•Clearly understand and communicate the definition of Trust.

•Believe in your team, and work hard to find the good in all your team members.

•Be open minded to accepting new people, new concepts and ideas into your life.

•Be credible and real by showing vulnerability.

•Be prepared to face your fears, only then can your empower yourself and others.

•Know and understand your positive characteristics and when to use them.

•Know, understand and work hard to improve your weak characteristic and shortcomings.

•Take a look outside yourself and see how others perceive you.

•Set the standards for confidence and charisma and others will be drawn to you.

Time Management

•Set goals to get you focused on getting important things done first.

•Have an action plan to achieve those goals.

•Stop procrastinating. Remember you can only manage yourself not Time.

•Know when and how to delegate work.

•Get rid of any and all kinds of distractions while working.

•Keep track of your life by writing things down.

•Keep a schedule and stick to it.

•Know your bad habits and how to break them.

Being Responsible

•Be responsible for all your actions, words and deeds.

•Be responsible and never deviate from your culture, core values, mission statement, name, brand, and company.

•Practice what you preach.

DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do)

•You must always be aware of what you’re saying and what your not saying. Does the listener get the message you were trying to communicate?

•Create responsible employees, but also be responsible for their actions.

•Assume responsibility, even when it is not your fault.

•Take care of your health. If you don’t care for yourself, why would anyone think you care at all?

•Teach responsibility to others, including your children.

•Surround yourself with the best and brightest team.

Continuous On-Going Learning and Improvement

•Continuously build your leadership skills by reading management and leadership books.

•Keep a leadership blog to document your learning’s.

•Attend management seminars.

•Find yourself a Mentor; shared wisdom proves to be priceless.

•Learn from your employees and associates.

•Embrace new technology, it only makes smarter.

•Understand and learn from yourself. And, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Become a role model

•Maintain a positive mental attitude- when times are tough, you need to be tougher.

•Great leaders exude strength before power.

•Lead by example in all matters.

•Demonstrate small and large acts of chivalry.

•Treat customers and co-workers with respect.

•Always dress for success.

•Set the standard for the office.

•Always encourage and nurture others; they will encourage and nurture you back.

•Be calm and exhibit patience in all your efforts.

•Know how to properly manage disappointments, both inside and outside of work.

•Value and cherish all life.

Being Real

•Show your employees and customers, that you care about them.

•Know that it’s okay to share your emotions from time to time.

•Allow people to see your shortcomings, for no one is perfect.

•The truth will set you free, so never lie to your employees about what’s going on.

•Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and redirect employees actions and attitudes when necessary.

•Look and learn from your employee’s vantage point.

•Promote job “ownership”.

•For everybody’s sake, make sure you have a life outside of work.

•Have fun at work! It will show.

Pay it Back

•You and your business donate to charity.

•Start your own charity or benefit.

•Help your employees learn, grow and develop.

•Good leadership means sharing your knowledge and mentoring those around you.

•Recognize exceptional performances and reward publicly.

•Use your skills and knowledge to write a book.