performI have coached a number of companies whereby management is doing everything right– clear vision, core values, mission statement, USP (Unique Sales Proposition), and have clearly branded themselves in their respective market.  The problem is the team members have not bought into these changes.  So, what is the problem?

The foundation for getting your employees to take ownership in the Strategic Plan, is to give them a game worth playing. Please keep in mind that your business certainly is not a game, but nonetheless you must create an environment where people are given the expectation and the understanding that only their personal best is allowed to support the team effort.

It is no longer just a matter of properly motivating and inspiring your people; every game worth playing has to have rules that are designed to help everyone win. So, what are the rules of your game? Does everyone know what the rules are? How do you get everyone to buy into the rules of the game?


Without the preparation of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, the rules of the game are never clearly defined. What ultimately happens is that employees make up their own rules, many times not aligned with Strategic Plan. This leads to mismanagement and further miscommunication, and that is a recipe for disaster. What are the necessary steps to avoid the chaos?

1- Agreements

Managers and employees establish clear agreements for the expectation about the work that is to be done, the quality of the work, and how and when it is to be done. Within the body of these agreements are the Roles and Responsibilities, Accountabilities, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), the Systems, and the Work Flow.

Unless these items are clearly defined and clearly documented, you are left managing by abdication. By establishing an environment of Management by Agreement, only then are the standards fully communicated and documented.

2- Communication

Any and all changes in the Roles and Responsibilities and the Mapped Procedures, occur only after there is mutual agreement between the manager and employee. Agreement needs to be reached about anything that might deviate from the expected results, work, and standards.

3- Responsibilities

By having an agreement, employees take full responsibility for performing the work and achieving the results as agreed upon. The managers are accountable for providing the employee with the necessary resources, tools, guidance and training to achieving the work.

4- Changes

The employee and the manager are accountable for immediate notification for any and all changes or exceptions to the established agreements.

5- Space

Managers can assume the work is being done as agreed upon, unless notified by the employee. To avoid micro-management of the employees, a mindset change needs to happen to allow employees the space to do their job, with the understanding they know what is expected of them, when it is expected and how it is expected.

6- ‘Huddles’

Schedule regular ‘huddles’ with the employee and manager to communicate and update the progress of the work and the KPI’s. By regular communication, testing and measuring, only then can you confirm that you are on track with the plan.

7- No Exceptions

Failure to notify each other of changes, exceptions, or missed due dates is unacceptable. Period. Your management strategy can only be effective if you are willing to hold your employees and your managers accountable for their agreements, and if you are willing to hold yourself accountable to those agreements.

8- Trust

Relationships built on trust are developed as managers and employees keep their commitments and successful results are achieved. Trust is an ideal to live by, without trust your management strategy cannot work. Find a way to implement these Rules of the Game, and make them rules that you live by in your business. You will find that you start taking huge strides toward consistency in your business and predictable results. You will also go a long way toward creating a company culture that people are attracted to and fulfilled by.


Problems with getting your employees buy-in?  Just contact me for a free 2 hour consultation.



quit 3If you believe all the headlines on the evening news or in the Wall Street Journal, you’d have to conclude that the US economy is continuing to struggle. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. Employers seem to be reluctant to hire new people to their full-time payrolls, even as corporate cash levels are at record highs.

So, you would probably be surprised to know that more Americans are quitting their jobs today than at any point in the past 4 years. In March 2014, 2.475 million Americans quit their jobs. This has been steadily increasing recently from a low in late 2009 (just after the financial collapse finally bottomed out) from a monthly rate of 1.7 million quits a month. Why are almost 2.5 million Americans a month these days – or about 30 million a year – willing to quit their jobs?

People Quit Bosses, Not the Company

If you want to keep the most talented members of your team, it’s time you started looking in the mirror and realize the biggest reasons why people quit have to do with You.

1. Have you overloaded your best people with too many responsibilities? A lot of companies in America, there have been waves of layoffs over the past 6 years. In cut after cut, there’s a constant job staffing question: how do we get the same amount of stuff done with fewer employees to do it? The simple answer has been to get the remaining employees to do the jobs of 2 or 3 old employees, in addition to the regular job responsibilities they used to have. And then a lot of bosses never revisited staffing responsibilities 3 or 4 years later. It’s time to take a fresh look at who is doing what in your group and probably redistribute how work is getting done on the team. Your best people need to be doing higher level stuff, not just getting lower level stuff done. Your best people will quit if they’re just continuing to be asked to do the same boring stuff years later.

2. Are you a micro-manager? A lot of bosses get promoted because they’re perfectionists. They were able to get a lot of work done in their old jobs to get noticed. Now, in their new jobs, they keep wanting to make sure that whoever’s doing their old job is doing it just as well as them. Plus, they are into all their direct reports’ business as well. Having your fingers on the pulse of what’s going on (or not going on) in your group is good management. But, at some point, you cross the line into micro-managing. Your worst people are probably happy for you to tell them what to do constantly. But your best people will be driven up the wall by this tendency. They want to know you give them a task and then enough rope to let them do it rather than doing it for them.

3. You’re never around. The opposite of a micro-manager is a drive-by manager. This is the boss who’s perpetually never in the office. They’re not around. They don’t check in. They give you a job to do and then check back with you 3 months later on if it’s done yet. Lots of bosses protest that they have an “open door policy” for their people to come in and talk with them whenever they need to. But, if you’re never around or – when you are – you zip in to grab something off your desk and zip back out or get on a conference call for an hour and then take off to a meeting, that’s not going to invite a lot of your staff to come in and shoot the breeze with you.

4. You’re not in touch with how some of your hires or promotions are driving your best people nuts. It’s human nature to want to be around other people we like and trust. Why would we choose to be around – and hire – people we dislike and don’t trust? However, we usually like people who like us. Even though we think we’re good at spotting people sucking up to us, it’s awfully tough when you’ve got a direct report telling you how great you are. Big problems arise when we promote based on who we like instead of on merit. One promotion or hire like that is ok, but two or three can sabotage a team’s morale. If you’re out of touch with who’s really talented on your team and who you’re promoting or hiring, it’s a matter of time before your best people tender their resignation. Why stick around if the bozos get promoted?

5. You’ve never given your people a sense of where they can go in their careers. Nobody takes us aside out of college or even in business school and teaches us how to sit and talk with our direct reports about upward career progression. As a boss, most of us just want to make sure all our work gets done. But how much do you care about getting that next promotion? It turns out that your people care about it just as much. So take the time to talk to them individually. Ask them where they want to go in their careers – it turns out many won’t have a clue but will appreciate you showing an interest. Talk to them about how they can get there, including what kinds of experiences and successes by them would make them stand out to your bosses.

6. You run terrible meetings. Even one of the most successful CEOs in the world today, Google’s Larry Page, wasn’t born with a keen understanding or respect for being a good boss as this account describes. Page – a former doctoral student at Stanford, when he started Google – thought the ideal way to run meetings was to instigate a big argument among a team. Whoever had the best idea, he thought, would rise to the top. Instead, he created anarchy and a lot of hurt feelings. There are plenty of other way to run ineffective meetings including never calling them or letting them go on and on with no real action items coming out of them. All these approaches are tremendously morale-sapping.

7- You communicate that you care more about yourself than the team. As a leader, you’ve got to show your reports that you have done in the past or would be willing to do now anything that you’re going to ask them to do. If you seem above it, you’re likely going to turn their support away from you. You’re going to communicate to them that you care more about yourself than you do them. It’s tough to win back their support after that. So, show them that you care about their career progression more than your own. Show that you want the team to win more than you want you to win.

8- You’ve never given them the big picture vision of where your group is heading or you are constantly changing the big picture. Some bosses are great at strategy but they’ve got their head stuck in the clouds or like to change the group’s strategy every quarter. Some bosses are about as strategic as a banana. Either extreme is bad and debilitating for your staff. As a boss, you’ve got to tell the group where their North Star is, the direction they’re heading in and why. Then, you’ve got to give them everything they need to get there. Sometimes business conditions change and the strategy changes, but that should happen infrequently. If you worked for yourself as a direct report, what would you think of the strategic direction you’re setting?


Mcgovern.2You likely never heard of Pat McGovern until this week, but the man behind the ‘For Dummies’ series of books and many other media brands left a lasting legacy.

The world lost a multibillionaire entrepreneur recently–a great leader whom most Americans have probably never heard of. Given that he was the person behind some very successful media brands, that says a lot.

Pat McGovern, 76, began his business career in the 1960s, as the founder and chairman of International Data Group. He was the man responsible for magazines such as Computerworld, Macworld, PC World, and many other brands in the U.S. and abroad, including the “For Dummies” series of instructional and self-help books.

Think Big / Be First

McGovern wrote an article for Inc. in 2007, in which he talked about the importance of expanding your horizons to be successful. He was one of the first American CEOs to establish a joint publishing venture in China, for example, and his company was a pioneer in venture capital in Vietnam and India. With the establishment of a website operating from Antarctica, IDG became the first company in the world to have a presence on all seven continents.

“When a company ventures abroad, its point person should be its CEO, traveling frequently and acting boldly and enthusiastically,” McGovern wrote. “IDG launches businesses in three to five new countries each year, and for virtually all of them I’m first on the ground, meeting with potential customers, government ministers, and management candidates.”

Step Aside and Trust

McGovern was thinking globally long before most of his peers. His companies launched titles in Japan and the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and he reportedly spent four months of the year traveling overseas to drum up new business. Yet he was a hands-off leader, allowing the people he put in charge of overseas divisions to make decisions.

“His primary control is financial,” Inc. reported in 1988. “His headquarters works as an investment bank, putting money into each unit’s worthwhile ventures, denying or withdrawing it from ones that are not worthwhile, while McGovern cruises from office to office like a cheery potentate on a magic carpet, bringing enthusiasm and bonuses wherever he goes.”

Get Out of Your Way

Inc.’s Leigh Buchanan started out at IDG as a copy editor in the late 1980s, and she described her surprise when McGovern stopped by her cubicle to hand her a year-end bonus check.

Pat thanked me for my contributions. He asked how things were going and looked vaguely disappointed when all I could muster was an unilluminating “Fine.” Then he complimented me on a column I had ghostwritten for some technology honcho. The column was my most substantive accomplishment to date and the thing I was proudest of. But my name didn’t appear on it anywhere, so how did he know? After three or four minutes, he handed me my bonus and proceeded to the next cubicle.

When she interviewed him years later, Buchanan said she learned that McGovern made one-on-one visits like that to every single one of the company’s 1,500 employees at the time, and that the process took almost four weeks.

Be a Personality, But Be Humble

McGovern was worth an estimated $5.1 billion, but he cultivated a modest image. He lived in a same house in Hollis, New Hampshire, which he bought in 1989. He flew coach and drove used cars, reported The Wall Street Journal. He would show up at employees’ 10th anniversaries to take them out for dinner.

“I don’t think he did these things because he was naturally outgoing,” wrote Harry McCracken, who covers technology at Time, but who spent 16 years working for McGovern at IDG. “If anything, he seemed to be on the reserved side–but…he believed that one of his responsibilities as IDG chairman was to make other staff members feel good about their work. Even when I was a low-level editor, I got occasional complimentary notes from him–always written on the same ultra-cheery letterhead, with GOOD NEWS! and a rainbow at the top. He must have bought it by the truckload.”

Earned a Lot and Give it Away

In 2000, McGovern and his wife founded an institute for the study of the brain at his alma mater, MIT, with a $350 million gift. It was one of the largest donations ever to a university in the U.S. To put it in context, the donation dwarfs the entire endowments of more than 640 American colleges.


Sales Engagement1.  What percentage of salespeople consistently over-achieve?

2.  Are your salespersons’ order-takers and account managers instead of proactive Hunters and Closers?

3.  Are your sales people effective selling value and trust rather than selling price?

4.  What is the percentage conversion of your pipeline to closed transactions?

5.  Are there enough qualified opportunities to close in your pipeline?

6.  How many steps in your sales process have been properly mapped?

7.  Do you have a formal sales process that everyone follows every time?

8.  Do you have a formal sales recruiting process that consistently yields the ‘right’ salespeople?

9.  Does your sales force execute your strategic plan, and keep it moving forward?

10. Is your sales team aligned with your sales strategies and core values?

11. Are your salespeople coached on a consistent basis?

12. What Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) do you track and test that drive sales?

13. Do you hold a daily short (10 minutes) ‘huddle’ where salespeople are held accountable for their KPI’s?

14. Is everyone using your automation to track clients, sales and the sales process?

15. Have you optimized your selling demographic and geography?

16. Do you have a formal 90 day orientation and professional sale training process that prepares each salesperson for success at your company?

17. Are your salespeople selling consistently regardless of outside influences?

18. How have you optimized your sales cycle and reduced your ‘Cash Gap’?

19. Does your sales management spend too much time over-managing your salesperson accountability?

20. Have you identified and quantified all the value drivers for: total sales call, closed sales calls, the cost of a bad hire, etc.?

21. Are your salespeople fully engaged?

22. Do your salespeople know exactly what is expected of them at work?

23. Have you supplied your salespeople the necessary materials and equipment to their work right?

24. Do your salespeople have the opportunity to do their ‘best’ every day?

25. In the last seven days, have you given a salesperson recognition or praise for doing good work?

26. Do your sales support personnel, respect and care about your salespeople?

27. Do you have an active role of encouraging your salesperson personal and professional development?

28. Do your sales people opinions count?

29. Does the company mission/purpose of your company make your salespeople feel their job is important?

30. Are your salespeople committed to doing quality work?

31. Have you, in the last six months, talked to your salespeople about your progress?

32. In the last year, have you created opportunities for salespeople to learn and grow?


Success 2So with January behind you, how are those 2014 Goals coming along? Feeling down about your business these days? Is the broken economy hurting your sales and keeping you up at night? Need some motivation and tough love to help you stop pitying yourself? Well, here you go, here are 13 reasons you might have in your head about why you’re not as successful as you should be.

#1 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – LAZINESS!!

I don’t think there’s an easy way to put this. I have to assume that you’re lazy. Every single successful person works their butts off to get where they are. It’s ok to be lazy. Just admit it. But don’t whine about not being rich and successful, Ok?

#2 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ENTITLEMENT!!

Only a few people in the world are part of the lucky ‘Reproduction Club’, neither You and me. We have to work to get what we want. Quit thinking you are owed something. You’re not. Get to work Now!

#3 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – FEAR!!

You are afraid, plain and simple and afraid of looking silly. Afraid of what your friends and family will say. Are you afraid of everything? Look, you’re either going to stop being afraid, or you’re not. Nobody can convince you to stop. Imagine though… what awaits you when you stop with the fear excuses?

#4 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NEGATVITY!!

You may not realize it, but the people you associate with might be negative. They could be soul-sucking beings who don’t want anyone to be successful. Get rid of them, now! Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like.

#5 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – STOP THINKING, START DOING!!

How much do you want to bet you have Analysis Paralysis? You think way too much about what you could or should do. Doers get what they want, and everyone else gets what they get. Stop Analyzing and start Doing.

#6 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NO GOALS!!

You plan nothing. You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen. So you “play it by ear” and wait. You need goals to shoot for. Otherwise, you’re just treading water.

#7 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – “THEY”!!

There’s no “They”. There’s no secret group of people who controls your success or failure. You’ve made that up to make you feel better about yourself. The truth is you, and you alone, control your success in life/business/everything. It’s easy to blame “Them” though, isn’t it? Don’t be Weak.

#8 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – THERE IS NO “X” FACTOR!!

You can’t do it because you’re not pretty or smart enough. Or don’t have a strong personality? You don’t have the “X” factor? Wow, what an unbelievably lame excuse. The truth is that even jerks, idiots and boring people can be just as successful as anyone else. Your problem is you don’t believe it yet.

#9 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ARE YOU A TIME WASTER?

You’re a classic time-waster. You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working. You do things that aren’t productive. How are you ever going to get anything done, or reach any goal if you keep wasting time? You’re not. So you might as well give up now if you’re going to keep this path.

#10 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – SOCIAL MEDIA IS B.S.!!

You spend way too much time in social media land.  You waste probably about 50% of your productive hours of the day doing this. The sad part is, you know it, but you can’t Stop. So, you can’t get anything done that matters.

#11 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU ARE THINKING TOO SMALL!!

You think way too small. You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead. Because of this, you never get anywhere, and you never lead; you always follow.

#12 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T WANT IT BAD ENOUGH!!

You don’t really want to be successful. Sure, you like to dream about it like everyone else. But in your heart you are afraid of what might happen if you really get it. That’s B.S. fear your brain is feeding you. Success is change, and it feels really, really good. Tell your brain to shut the [foolishness] up.

#13 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T BELIEVE!!

You never believed that it’s possible. Society taught you that only a few “exceptional” people get what they want. Everyone else should just settle. If you really want to believe that, go ahead. The rest of us will be at the front of the line because we believe.

Jim Kukral latest book is Business Around a Lifestyle Volume 2.


Sam Headshot croppedAt this time of Thanksgiving we pause to count our blessings.

 We give thanks to the freedom of this great country of ours,

And its’ opportunity for achievement.

 We give thanks to the friendship and confidence you have shown in us.

 We especially give thanks for all things.

 Our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

History of Thanksgiving

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the people responsible for the American Thanksgiving tradition. Contrary to popular opinion and the writings in classroom text books, the Pilgrims didn’t wear buckles on their shoes or hats, nor were they teetotalers. In fact, they smoked tobacco and drank at lot of beer- they drank beer due to the quality of the water.

When the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they found a cold, rocky, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them and there were no houses to shelter them. During the first winter, one-half the Pilgrims died of sickness or exposure. Though life did improved for the Pilgrims when spring came, however they did not prosper.

Part of the reason for the lack of prosperity, involved the original contract the Pilgrims had with their merchant-sponsors in London. This contract called for everything they produced to go into a common store. Each member of the community was entitled to one common share under a communal agreement. Furthermore, all of the land they cleared and the houses they built also belonged to the community.

What didn’t’ work was the motivation for people to work without incentive or ownership.  Contrary to the original agreement, the decision was made to assign plots of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of free enterprise. What was the result?

It was reported that, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” As a result, the Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat themselves. They set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London much faster than expected.  Thus, it was found that the entrepreneurial spirit worked.

Reasons to be Thankful

I’m thankful for the flexibility and freedom of entrepreneurship. Ever since I decided to start a business, I get to work my own hours, chart my own course, and have an awesome career. I’m grateful every day for being able to spend time with my kids and grandchild, and the flexibility that comes from being my own boss makes this even easier.

I’m thankful for the chance to serve and get the opportunity to help business owners. I love helping people develop systems and procedures in their business, recruit and train the best possible team, develop a ‘real’ strategic business plan, and ultimately exit their business. Every day I hear amazing, energizing stories from people who are doing great things in their business and in their life.

If you believe in what you’re doing, and if you find a way to deliver your exceptional products and services and delight your customers, we will help you to become more successful.  That truth is, as entrepreneurs, we have the power to shape our success and create the lives we want, which is the biggest cause for gratitude of all.

This Thanksgiving, I hope we can all take time to reflect on the amazing power, freedom and excitement that comes from being a business owner and entrepreneur.  Keep focused and don’t get distracted by negativity or petty slights; assume the best in people, and forgive everyone everything. Remember that no one is in charge of your happiness but you – and this is especially true when you decide to start a business. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take No for an answer.


Thursday we all will continue that tradition of having a Happy Thanksgiving. So, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Experts tell us that between 60 percent and 90 percent of all strategic initiatives fail to achieve their objectives. So at the end of every month and quarter and year, your company probably generates a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement. However, no matter how these numbers are, they represent a look in the rearview mirror.  So, how can you get your people focused on the numbers that are truly important to move your business forward?

Numerical targets and Milestones

In order to establishing numerical targets, everyone should understand exactly what the number means. Yes, you can track financial results as Numerical Targets, but what most people really understand are visible, concrete things; things they could count if they chose to. You will track these numbers publicly, so select measures that you don’t mind sharing. Remember that you want the people in your company to be aware of these numbers and discuss them.

These numbers will be the basis for your budgets, financial forecasts, human resource planning, and more. Budgets and forecasts should not be done until you have created your company strategy and they must be aligned to the strategic choices you have made.

The Tropical Island Test

The “Key” in Key Performance Indicators means that you concentrate on the most important measures- choose no more than five. Then give your choices the “Tropical Island Test.”  Imagine that you’re vacationing on a distant tropical island. It’s lovely there, but it’s very remote and communications are severely limited. In fact, you can only receive a single five-line text message per week to let you know how things are going at the company. Your challenge right now is to identify the five Key Performance Indicators that will predict and drive the success of your current business model.

Start with the minimum acceptable level.  The minimum acceptable level is the level of performance where you can keep the lights on but not much more. You’re not making any progress at that level. How about good performance? Now set the threshold for good performance.  This is the level of performance you need to see delivered consistently every week if your company is making progress.

Choose your Numerical Targets

Now it’s time to get to work. Get your team together and do the following:

  1. Choose at least one, but no more than three Numerical Targets
  2. Make sure they are numbers that have meaning for all your people
  3. Project them over three time periods: 90 days, one year, and 2 or even 3 years
  4. Identify the person who’s accountable overall for achieving those numbers
  5. Decide how you will make the targets visible.
  6. These targets and your progress should be a regular topic of interest, conversation and accountability
  7. Make these Numerical Targets noticeable and provide frequent progress updates

Now list the outcomes you are looking for- or the end result. Now ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What is the measurable activity that if you perform enough of them, will drive the desired end result?
  2. How could you measure the quality or effectiveness of that activity?

KPIs do more than simply measure activity or effectiveness levels. They send a message to the people in your company, telling them what’s important. KPIs tell your staff what you will pay attention to and what you pay attention to drives behavior. KPI’s help align individual priorities with company priorities.

Daily and/or Weekly KPIs

Choose KPIs that you can measure every day or every week if possible. If your measurement cycle is longer than a week, you don’t catch problems early enough. You drive better performance with shorter measurement cycles. Shorter cycles let you spot trends earlier and spotting a problem early means you can solve it sooner. Those below-par numbers might be down for another week while we worked together to set things right, but they’d usually be back up in the fourth week.

There’s another advantage to catching problems early: they’re usually easier to solve. The longer a problem lives, the bigger and the nastier it gets. Tracking KPIs on a daily and weekly basis is also more engaging for your people, because it gives them the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of “winning” on a regular basis.

Now Choose Your Company KPIs

Based on what you know to be true right now, what do you expect to achieve by the end of the current year? What about the year after that? The further you project into the future, the less certain you can be, because, as we know, your current reality is always changing. Nothing is more demoralizing than displaying annual targets that bear no resemblance to the current reality.

Now it’s time to get to work. Get your team together and do the following:

  1. Pick KPIs that will drive and predict the financial results of your current business model (or if you are a team manager – the numbers that drive the performance of your team)
  2. Pick KPIs that you can measure every week (or even every day), where possible
  3. Pick only the five (or fewer) KPIs that will make the biggest difference for your company (or team)

You will maximize growth and profits when:

  1. You have clear duties and KPIs for each functional role
  2. You have the right people in each role
  3. Those people concentrate on the right things
  4. They are held accountable for performance every month

Single Point Accountability

Many people can be involved, but ultimately only ONE person can be held accountable. Identify these persons by respective KPI’s and manage these numbers, and accountability to these individuals.


Accountability is meaningless without consequences.


Core valueYour values are the behaviors you expect from your people. Values are clear statements of how you expect people in your company to act. Furthermore they must:

  • Provide a moral compass for your people. They can help your staff decide on the right course of action, regardless of the challenge they face.
  • Establish a basis for consistent decision-making by everyone.
  • When people share the same Core Values, they tend to make decisions using the same principles.
  • Give you some guides for hiring, rewarding, disciplining, and firing.

Think about companies with strong Core Values and cultures like Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Zappos, or Enterprise Rent-a-Car. People often say that “a certain kind of person” does well there. Those are the people whose personal values match the company’s Core Values.

Keep Core Values Simple

Here are some questions we want you to answer and think about:

  • Who in your company is a living example of “the right behavioral standards”?
  • What is your company known for?
  • What behaviors are so important that you’ll fire anyone who doesn’t consistently demonstrate them?

Southwest Airlines Defines Core Values

One key to Southwest’s success is its culture, “the way we do things around here.” One of Southwest’s most powerful cultural values is related to the concept of “fun.”

Southwest is clear about its values, and it hires people who have the same values and will fit into the culture.  Southwest’s number-one hiring criterion, the one they look for first, is a sense of humor. Southwest has designed a hiring process that helps them make smart decisions about whether a candidate has a sense of humor.

  • Your Core Values provide a moral compass for your people. They can help people decide on the right course, regardless of the challenge they face.
  • Your Core Values give you a basis for consistent decision-making by everyone.
  • When people share the same Core Values, they tend to make decisions in the same way.

Get started NOW!

Step 1: If you had to rebuild your company from scratch, name the 5 people you’d hire first because they behave the way you expect your people to behave. Forget functional skills and roles for a moment and identify people who act the way you want everyone to act, regardless of role:

Step 2: Use 3-5 word statements to describe the behaviors that are common to all of these 5 people.

Step 3: What behaviors has your company always been known for, or stood for no matter what the circumstances?

Step 4: Using 3-5 word prescriptive statements, list the top 5 behaviors you want demonstrated by everyone in your company? State very clearly the type of behaviors you expect from all your people, regardless of role.

Step 5: Core Values are “musts” not “nice to haves”.  Do each of your chosen Core Values pass these 3 tests? If not, they are NOT Core and should be eliminated from your list.

  1. Would you actively confront a colleague if he or she were not demonstrating this behavior?
  2. Would you spend money (or leave on the table) to uphold and demonstrate this value to your team?
  3. Would you fire someone if they could not demonstrate this value consistently, even if they were an excellent performer otherwise

Step 6: Where will you display your Core Values so they are clearly visible to your people every day?

  • Keep visible at all times
  • Test people – everyone should know them by heart
  • Reference them when making management decisions
  • Share Core Value stories at weekly team meetings, where everyone must share a story of where someone in the team lived one of the Core Values
  • Awards for the people who best exemplify your Core Values every month

Step 7: How will you incorporate your Core Values into your recruitment process and performance appraisal process?


leadersLeaders vary by occupation, personality, and style. There’s no specific formula specifying exactly how to lead well. Still, great leaders throughout history share a common set of characteristics. In an article by John Maxwell, we would like to fill in the picture of a leader for you—one quality at a time. The four features listed certainly do not represent a comprehensive list. However, if a leader lacks any one of them, then he or she will be limited in an important respect.

1) Character

Character gives rise to discipline and responsibility. It’s the inward character that enables a person to stand firm. Character is not inherited, nor can it be purchased. It cannot be built instantly, but instead requires years of construction.

Character shows itself in a person’s consistency. Jerry West, former Los Angeles Laker and member of the NBA’s Hall of Fame, once remarked, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” Character gives you the resolve to do what’s important, even when it’s not convenient.

In addition, character brings respect. When you don’t have character within, you won’t have respect without. J.R. Miller once wrote: “The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried, is the character of a man…What a man is, survives him. It can never be buried.”

2) Perspective

Perspective flows from a leader’s mind and relates to their vision for the future. Perspective brings insight. It allows a leader to see sooner, and to see farther, than others.

What you think depends on where you sit, and where you sit determines what you see. Aware of this fact, leaders realize that they must constantly put themselves in the place of others. A leader can only cast vision insofar as they can understand and relate to another person’s perspective. Great leaders factor in a person’s background, personal values, and stage of life when they communicate. They seek to connect before attempting to convince.

3) Courage

Leadership requires courage—the courage to risk, to reach, to put one’s self on the line. The word courage itself comes from the French word coeur, which means heart. Thus, leaders must have the heart for the task of working with and engaging others. The leader’s heart somehow speaks to the hearts of those around her or him, inspiring and touching them.

Courage is contagious. As Billy Graham says, “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” Courage is also the power to let go of the familiar. The courageous person follows the motto: “If at first you do succeed, try something harder!” Finally, courage is belief that has been put into action. As Dr. Ashley Montagu wrote, “The only measure of what you believe is what you do. If you want to know what people believe, don’t read what they write, don’t ask what they believe, just observe what they do.”

4) Favor

Favor may be the most mysterious of the four traits, but at its root, favor simply means influence. In particular, favor implies the sort of special relationship that motivates extra effort. For example, if someone “does a favor,” they go beyond what is normally expected. Leaders with favor are treated by others as favorites, that is, they are particularly well-liked, and even loved, by those they lead. Favor comes from skill, especially the skill of connecting with people (charisma).

Favor also results from finding your calling in life. Awareness of one’s calling comes from the following sources.

• Knowledge: I’ve always known that this activity is something I enjoy.

• Focus: I can do nothing else; this is always on my mind.

• Passion: I want to do this; nothing else holds as much interest for me.

• Personhood: This is part of who I am.

• Giftedness: This is something at which I excel.

• Blessing: I have experienced providential help in this activity.


Healthy, effective leadership brings together character, perspective, courage, and favor. Indeed, an absence of any of these qualities limits a person’s influence. Without character, a leader is unstable—prone to moral failure. Without perspective, a leader has no sense of direction. Without courage, a leader cowers at the sight of a big challenge. And without favor, a leader cannot persuade others to take action. Which of the four elements do you have in greatest supply? How has it benefited you?


leadershipIt’s probably no news to most people who work that poor leaders produce disgruntled, unengaged employees. Harvard Business Review research also shows convincingly that great leaders do the opposite — that is, that they produce highly committed, engaged, and productive employees.

And the difference is huge- in a study of 160,576 employees working for 30,661 leaders at hundreds of companies around the world, it was found that the average commitment scores in the bottom quarter for those unfortunate enough to work for the worst leaders (those leaders who had been rated in the bottom 10th percentile by their bosses, colleagues, and direct reports on 360 assessments of their leadership abilities).

By contrast, average commitment scores for those fortunate enough to work for the best leaders (those rated in the 90th percentile) soared to the top 20th percentile. Simply put, the people working for the really bad leaders were unhappy than three quarters of the group; the ones working for the really excellent leaders were more committed than eight out of ten of their counterparts.

Types of Leaders

What exactly grows employee engagement? HBR observed two common, and very different, approaches. On the one hand are leaders called “Drivers”; on the other, there are those leaders called “Enhancers.”

Drivers are very good at establishing high standards of excellence, getting people to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thought possible, keeping people focused on the highest priority goals and objectives, doing everything possible to achieve those goals, and continually improving.

Enhancers, by contrast, are very good at staying in touch with the issues and concerns of others, acting as role models, giving honest feedback in a helpful way, developing people, and maintaining trust.

Which Is Best?

When people were asked in an informal survey, which was most likely to increase engagement, the vast majority opted for the Enhancer approach. Most leaders we’ve coached have told us that they believe the way to increase employee commitment was to be the “nice guy or gal.”

This is not surprising to many people who assume that most employees don’t respond well to pushy or demanding leaders. But those working for those they judged as effective Enhancers were even less engaged (well, slightly less). Only 6.7% of those scored in the top 10% in their levels of engagement.

The analysis suggested that neither approach is sufficient in itself. Rather, both are needed to make real headway in increasing employee engagement. In fact, 68% of the employees working for leaders they rated as both effective Enhancers and Drivers scored in the top 10% on overall satisfaction and engagement with the organization.

Leaders with highly engaged employees know how to demand a great deal from employees, but are also seen as considerate, trusting, collaborative, and great developers of people.


The lesson then is that those of you who consider yourself to be Drivers should not be afraid to be the “nice guy or gal.” And all of you aspiring nice guys or gals should not view that as incompatible with setting demanding goals. The two approaches are like the oars of a boat. Both need to be used with equal force to maximize the engagement of employees under your direct report.