10 Ways to Set Your Team Up for Success

“Talent is energy waiting to be released through an honest involvement in life.” These words, written by New York Times bestselling author Mark Nepo sure hit the nail on the head. If you view your team’s talent in terms of potential energy, you are sure to find a near-endless supply of innovation, motivation, and problem solving—but only if you do your part.

In my experience, leaders who relentlessly focus on each of the following ten areas unleash the talent (energy) in any organization and deliver sustainable results.

Selection: Hire thoughtfully. Consider not only past experiences but also personality and EQ—emotional intelligence. Will a candidate be able to succeed given the dynamics of the group they are joining? It takes more than book-smarts and experience to effectively operate within a team.

Education: Invest in your people. When employees feel supported while expanding their skills, your whole team will gain the fruits of their learning, and usually, their loyalty.

Communication: Remember that communication is the joint construction of meaning. Always seek feedback to ensure the desired message is getting through. Verbal and written communication is equally important.

Organization: Build to align. How you organize your team will determine how it functions. Strive to create synergies that help to balance skills and personalities across your teams.

Compensation: Pay at market value, and balance pay components to align with your short and longer term strategic focus where you can.

Recognition: Celebrate accomplishments both formally and informally. Positive reinforcement is an effective motivator. A simple, “nice work,” as well as performance bonuses or company-wide award programs will go a long way toward engaging your team.

Promotion: Once you recognize the role models on your team, promote them. Your employees will understand what it takes to move up.

Retention: Never assume your employees will stick around long-term. What can you do to retain your best leaders (at every level)? When others call to poach your best and brightest, employees should have no hesitation as they hang up the phone. You may need to take a closer look at what keeps your employees loyal.

Performance management: Review both the what and the how of expectations and results. Where misalignment exists, be sure to correct for it with effective consequences.

Values: Establish clear values across the team. Reinforce these values on a regular basis by taking them “off the wall” and putting them “on the agenda.” This will set the tone for the organization.

The only sustainable advantage for organizations is people. Tap into this energy—this talent—by recognizing its potential in every interaction and in every project. When a strong focus is centered around supporting the people who make up your organization, their ability to serve your customers, shareholders, and their community will be multiplied and it will be sustainable. With continued attention to these ten areas, the success of your team will be unleashed.

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A New Definition of Sustainable Success

My dad once said that any baseball player can have a good season, but it takes a different kind of focus to be great throughout his entire career. The goal of any athlete should be sustained excellence, Dad said. He also taught me that in business, the same rule applied.

As a career HR professional, Dad taught me that focusing on employees is the key to sustainable success and growth for a business. When markets shift and customers’ needs change while technology enables new solutions, it’s a company’s employees who design, develop, and deliver the services and products that keep customers happy and attract new ones. I learned the key was to create cultures where employees would bring their best to work each day. Employees who fully engage enable companies to thrive, year after year.

When I went to business school, professors helped me expand my notion of sustainable success. They indicated the focus for sustainability should include the shareowner. I learned it’s a company’s shareowners that provide the capital necessary to run and build a business. Shareowners who can count on consistent, long-term growth will likely see improving stock prices and increases in dividends. In turn, capital will continue to flow to the company to fuel growth over time.

During my first job at Sperry Corporation, my notion of sustainable success expanded yet again. In sales, it became crystal clear that a company’s focus should always be the customer. It’s a customer who decides if a company is successful by making a buying decision. Companies must work hard to earn customer loyalty. While a satisfied customer might seek a slightly better product feature or better price from a competitor, loyal customers won’t. Building loyal customer relationships enables a company to enjoy sustained success, quarter after quarter.

More recently, my understanding of what sustainable success truly means expanded again when I learned about the four questions former CEO Sam Palmisano used when he ran IBM. The first three were in line with what I had learned about employees, shareowners, and customers:

1. Why would someone work for you?
2. Why would someone invest their money with you?
3. Why would someone spend their money with you—what is unique about you?

But the fourth question caused me to expand my thinking again:

4. Why would society allow you to operate in their region?

This last question caused me to shift my thinking in two ways. First, it expanded my recognition of the impact of an organization and got me thinking about what measurable outcomes are required to claim success within a specific community. We had employee engagement surveys, customer satisfaction analyses, and enough financial reporting to choke a horse. But being a good corporate citizen in the community includes more than an occasional philanthropic donation for social good or caring for the environment beyond simply not polluting. Sam’s fourth question requires more than a “do no immediate harm” approach; it requires a “make it better” solution.

Second, this new question also shifted my perspective about time. Unlike the first three questions that had an unspoken time frame of “quarter to quarter” or “year to year,” this question shifted my thinking from the short term to the truly long term. Thinking in terms of “decade to decade” or “century to century,” such that it could continue indefinitely, is clearly a new bar.

Taken together, this expanded view of inclusion along with a completely new view of accountability over time forms a new definition of sustainable success. Those companies that deliver truly sustainable growth are focused on all constituencies and a true long-term perspective. Companies that earn employee engagement, deliver shareowner value, create customer loyalty, and operate as conscious members of the community are accountable for the sustainable prosperity for this and future generations.

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The 5 Elements of Effective Leadership

Rick Miller featured in MWorld, the journal of the American Management Association:

START_QUOTE_30t_smYou may not realize it, but every person on your team at every level of your organization has the potential to be a Chief. By that I mean they have the potential to be a more effective leader, and you can make it happen. Let me explain.

Based on 30+ years of experience, I have developed a roadmap that enabled entire organizations to move from a position of losing market share to a place where record level productivity and profits occurred right alongside personal development and relationship building—for everyone involved.

You have likely been introduced to, and practiced, a variety of leadership styles, but I’m willing to bet that you haven’t considered the critical intersection that exists between the implementation of five key elements: discipline, support, creativity, insight, and values.

These five elements make up what I refer to as the All-In Roadmap. With this roadmap teams of employees tripled the growth rate in million and billion-dollar companies. The roadmap allowed me to connect with my teams, and most importantly, it helped my teams connect to each other and to themselves. The result was a measurable shift and strong, sustainable growth.

I have used the All-In Roadmap in a broad range of organizations—from startups to multinationals to nonprofits—in a number of industries. Each time, the result is growth—both personal and profit. After 30 years of putting these concepts to work, I am now sharing them so that they can work for you, too.

DISCIPLINE

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases the likelihood of a desired outcome. In business, discipline is the essence of management. Discipline begins with self-discipline. When you are able to adhere to a particular practice, set of parameters, or guidelines will you effectively inspire others to do the same. There are five main choices when it comes to discipline. A chief chooses to envision, strategize, plan tactics, implement and measure, and adjust.

You can think of these five choices as the discipline toolbox. Implementing one or more of these choices on a regular basis will help you to be a better Chief. Here’s how.

Envision: It is not only the duty of executives to provide the vision for an organization, it is an opportunity for everyone. When you encourage each individual to choose and follow their own personally compelling vision, the energy behind them becomes boundless.

Strategize: Your team will be more effective if you share your strategy—at least part of it—with everyone. Those at the top can determine strategy, set goals, and allocate resources, but by sharing the “why” behind the “how,” the entire team will move more cohesively toward the targets.

Plan tactics: A Chief understands the critical nature of detailed tactical planning and the role it plays in the probability of a strategy’s success. When all members of a team set their own work goals and are encouraged to give input during planning, execution is much more likely to run smoothly.

Implement and measure: Success occurs when you plan the work and work the plan. Quality implementation and careful measurement are the backbone of discipline. They provide shape and direction so that any project can move forward.

Adjust: Change is the only constant. When a Chief recognizes this and creates an environment that nurtures an optimistic perspective about change, then your team members feel comfortable seeking opportunity when change arises rather than recoiling in fear of the repercussions.

SUPPORT

Support is the structure that holds an organization together. It is made up of tangible components, such as offices, factories, and all things tech. It is made up of visible components such as the organizational structure, company benefits, and resources. But most of all it is made up of the interactions—spoken and unspoken—that transpire between people.

These interactions drive the pulse of an organization. Fueled with the proper support, your team can move mountains. Thus, it is the duty of a great Chief to help ensure that proper support is always given. To do so you can choose to model, inspire, enable, encourage, and question.

Again, think of these five choices as the support toolbox from which you will utilize the tools you need to build a sound support structure.

Model: The credibility required to build trust and earn respect comes from consistency. As an effective Chief you will not only talk the talk and walk the walk, you will be the talk and the walk. When you align how you talk with how you feel, think, write, and act—all in alignment with your values—your authenticity will be felt by your entire team.

Inspire: An effective leader’s authenticity, as created by modeling, will also serve to inspire the members of an organization. As an effective Chief you will choose to inspire as well as be open to be inspired by others. You will recruit and align people to a cause without relying on positional power, which will serve to better integrate your team as a cohesive whole.

Enable: A great Chief is an enabler, in the best way. As a servant leader, you provide freedom for individuals to exercise new capabilities and to choose to be Chiefs themselves. An organization thrives when people feel empowered and accountable.

Encourage: When you choose to encourage others while also seeking encouragement yourself, you will be able to change the underlying tone in any organization from one of resentment to one of respect. The ripple effect of encouragement has the potential to extend far beyond employees.

Question: An effective leader has a natural curiosity and learns to foster this curiosity in others. Underlying this curiosity—this need to question and understand the connection between people and ideas—is the ability to listen. Choosing to listen while questioning may be the single most important element of being Chief.

CREATIVITY

Creativity is traditionally defined as it pertains to innovation, but I define creativity in an unconventional manner. I propose that creativity is actually the ability to create, or manifest, the future. There are five main choices when it comes to creativity. Chiefs create the future when they choose to feel, think, speak, write, and act in alignment with who they are. Your creativity toolbox will be used by continually checking to ensure that each of the following choices is made in a consistent manner with the others.

Feel: When you are aware of and attuned to your emotions, you will have access to a strong source of truth. Listening to gut instinct, which is very much a physical and mental feeling, is crucial for the fine tuning required of a great Chief.

Think: We all think, of course, but when you choose to actively think—that is, to manage your thoughts—not only does your intellect become more organized, but you fuel the energy that will help to create the future. As the saying goes, “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions.”

Speak: As an effective Chief, you can choose your words carefully, acknowledging the energy behind verbal communication and the impact words have on the future being created. Speaking involves more than words, however, so care must also be taken when considering eye contact, facial expressions, and body language.

Write: The written word enjoys a greater level of permanence and impression. People have long understood the power of the pen as a creative force to influence others. Writing is the action of bringing together feelings, thoughts, and words in a concentrated and powerful manner. I recommend utilizing this tool to be a more effective leader. Write down your thoughts and your dreams, and write away your fears.

Act: Building on the previous creativity choices, our actions are the culmination of creativity. We are held accountable for our actions more than for any other form of creativity. When you act in alignment with who you are, the ease with which your goals are met will increase along with the quality of your efforts.

INSIGHT

Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. Such powerful insight can be a challenge to discover in a world that appears to move faster and faster each day. The development of insight is key to increasing confidence and effectiveness. Be on the lookout for insight in the simplest experiences in life and from the least expected places.

There are five ways you can learn more about yourself. When you choose to be present, still, accepting, generous, and grateful, you develop the ability to know yourself in a way that you may not have previously considered.

Be present: When you choose to be totally attentive and participate in the moment, the activity you are engaged in will be energized and you will be more effective as a leader. When present, you give 100 percent of your attention to the people with whom you are engaged. This simple practice can completely transform interactions and relationships.

Be still: When you choose to be still for a certain period of time on a regular basis, you will develop the ability to listen to the voice that matters most—your own. In this noisy and fast-paced world, the ability to be still will help any individual be a Chief.

Be accepting: You have the choice to accept people and situations for who and what they are. In doing so, you can avoid the frustration of trying to change people and change the past. The first step toward acceptance, however, is self-acceptance.

Be generous: When you choose to be generous with your time, possessions, and money you may find that instead of having less, you have more. To balance that generosity, however, you would benefit from getting comfortable with receiving. A continual flow of generosity, both giving and receiving, will teach you as much about effective leadership as the P&L reports.

Be grateful: A truly effective Chief will find gratitude not only in moments when everything is going well, but also in moments of struggle. The grace required to face tough times and remain thankful is a blessing.

VALUES

Values are the foundation of relationships and of effective leadership. Underlying each choice an individual makes are his values. When you choose to make evident your own values, all while seeking out the values of other team members and the organization itself, you will become a more effective leader.

I believe that values are a personal choice. Rather than list a set of values for you to follow, I urge you to take some time to choose your own values or reaffirm values you have already in place as a way to deepen your commitment to the driving force behind everything you do—business, personal, or otherwise.

I offer these five elements as a guideline that you can follow, but know that you can implement these elements and their corresponding choices in a way that works best for your unique situation. You may find that you do not need to modify your current discipline habits, for example. I am sharing this roadmap so that you may find an alternate path toward your goal when your current route no longer serves you.

By integrating the five elements of my All-In Roadmap, every individual in an organization can be a Chief, or be a better Chief. It’s not about title or level anymore. It’s about who we are that drives what we do and how we do it. Helping your team align these elements will unlock their potential and drive growth in and around your organization.

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Missing Warren Bennis—A True Chief

The following thoughts are extracted and inspired from Warren Bennis’ New York Times obituary by Glenn Rifkin printed on August 2, 2014.

The world lost what Harvard Business School Professor Bill George called the “father of leadership” when distinguished author, consultant, and professor Warren Bennis died on July 31.

A distinguished professor of business administration for more than 30 years at the University of Southern California, and author of over 30 leadership books, Bennis believed in the adage that great leader are not born but made. Indeed, great leaders, whom I call Chiefs, are made by their choices. Warren Bennis was a real Chief. “The process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being,” Bennis has stated. He was also among the first who believed in leadership tenets that are now widely followed, including the following:

We need leaders who can connect what they do to who they are. Bennis has said, “The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly.” It takes insight to be able to know oneself in this way, and it makes for outstanding leadership.

We need leaders to face corporate corruption by building trust from the inside out. Creating a culture of individual accountability—again, through the development of insight—is the key to rebuilding trust.

We need high-quality training at the nation’s business schools. While ethics training in school is a good start, leaders must double-down on the job as well, with consistent actions to ensure that a culture of ethical behavior is the most visible attribute in an organization.

Warren Bennis also remained optimistic about the next wave of business leaders, labeling it “the Crucible Generation.” Because the incoming leaders are inheriting a complex global environment, they will better understand the territory in which they lead, Bennis thought. These young leaders are just in time, as the world faces challenges that will put them to the test.

If more leaders follow the advice of Warren Bennis, I, too, remain optimistic about the future of business. Bill George put it best, “Warren’s legacy will be found in the leadership of the people he touched personally with inspiration, kindness, and thoughtful mentoring.” Luckily, he has also left a large body of work for new generations of leaders on how to succeed. Warren will be missed.

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Zappos’ Holacracy—A Brilliant New Idea or Not Necessary?

Did you see the news that Zappos announced it is abolishing bosses? Zappos refers to their “new” approach as holacracy, and it’s already being heralded as tech’s latest new management craze. In summary, holacracy is management by committee with an emphasis on innovation—even the CEO formally relinquishes authority by agreeing to a constitution and reorganizing everyone into decentralized teams that choose their own roles and goals.

The objective of holacracy is to unleash the potential of every employee to behave like a Chief. While I am a huge fan of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, in my view this organization design is not new, nor is it required to unlock employee potential. Here’s why.

Holacracy is Not New

I recall a sales review I did almost 20 years ago as a Regional Vice President at Unisys Corporation. During a forecasting session, a sales representative told me he had no idea when a computer sale would close because his customer made all decisions by committee. That’s when I first learned about a company named W.L. Gore.

The sales rep told me that founders Bill and Vieve Gore started W. L. Gore & Associates in 1958. The company initially served the electronic products market. The company’s 1969 discovery of a versatile new polymer led to the development of many new applications in medical, fabric, and industrial markets.

What distinguished Gore from its start in 1958 was its innovative management structure. Specifically, it has never utilized traditional managers, titles, or budgets, and it has always been very wary about economies of scale. Amazingly, their CEO has never been appointed by the board, but instead has been chosen by peers. The Gore culture expects every associate to act as a Chief. As a result, what has Gore accomplished?

Today, Gore is one of the 200 largest privately held U.S. companies with 10,000 employees (called associates) and more than $3 billion in revenue. In 2014, Gore retained its position as a member of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, as one of the few earning this distinction every year since the ranking was initiated in 1984. Gore has been granted more than 2,000 patents worldwide in a wide range of fields, including electronics and polymer processing, and has had more than 35 million of its medical devices implanted, saving and improving the quality of lives worldwide.

If it’s so successful, should every company move to holacracy?

Holacracy is Not Necessary

In my experience, neither Zappos’ holacracy nor Gore’s committee structure is required to enable companies to create a culture of Chiefs, in which individual potential is unlocked. I have personally worked in a wide range of companies and company structures that delivered great results with cultures that enabled every associate to act as a Chief. For example, an internet startup facing a market crash grew revenue from $1M to $11M in just a year, and a multinational tripled its revenue growth rate from 5 to 15%, growing to $5B while facing intense market competition. In each case, both employee and customer satisfaction reached new levels.

The keys to success can be found in Jim Heskett’s and John Kotter’s book Corporate Culture and Performance. First published more than 20 years ago, it provides great insights on how any leader in any company can build a culture of Chiefs.

Heskett and Kotter offer specific, research-based advice on how to create performance-enhancing, change-adaptive cultures where Chiefs lead at all levels. They focus on actions (discipline, support, and creativity) and attributes (insight and values) that unlock employee potential, drive innovation, and lead to sustained success:

10 Specific Ways to Build a Culture of Chiefs in Any Company

  • Establish a vision for the organization that emphasizes consistent tactical adjustments
  • Communicate consistently and broadly
  • Display an “outsiders” propensity to embrace change and new ideas
  • Reinforce the importance of innovation
  • Build and maintain an “insiders” credibility
  • Establish leadership or the ability to produce change as an important focus at all levels
  • Decentralize decision making where possible
  • Promote carefully, and demote when necessary
  • Operate as a servant leader

The bottom line: success comes from an engaged employee group in which individuals at every level are empowered to act as Chiefs. This culture can be created in any organization with the right attention and intention.

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A New Measure of Business Success

We are currently facing some of the most difficult global challenges in a generation: inclusion, recession, and depletion.

Inclusion: nearly three billion people will enter the global middle class in the next 20 years.
Recession: the global economy is still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown.
Depletion: the climate is warming, which is straining our resources and depleting nearly two-thirds of our ecosystems (e.g. soil, fish and forests).

But there is good news.

While these problems are escalating worldwide, there has been a growing movement in the business community toward “triple bottom line” solutions—those that focus on people, profit, and the planet. Triple bottom line solutions actually enable companies to solve customer problems while driving increased profitably and improving society.

Sound too good to be true?

There is an increasing body of research to support this claim. For example, R. Paul Herman’s Human Impact + Profit (HIP) methodology tracks, rates, and ranks companies’ quantifiable impact on society, connecting “doing well” with “doing good.” The research from Paul’s 8-year old company shows consistent improvements in results with triple bottom-line strategies. While Paul’s ground-breaking book The HIP Investor is targeted at current or prospective business owners, the HIP Scorecard is also a management system that shows how business leaders can benefit from doing the right thing, the right way.

Simplification is almost always a good idea, particularly when you are attempting to focus a large group to act on complex global challenges. Since research supports exponential returns with this approach, I offer this equation as the new measure of business success:

Responsibility3 = people + profit + planet

Want even better news?

There is a dramatic increase in the number of business leaders who are working together and taking a Responsibility3 focus. Networks of these enlightened leaders are quickly growing around the world, and they include small to medium sized companies (the American Sustainable Business Council has over 200,000 members) as well as some of the world’s largest companies (the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has over 170 multinational members). These networks also include more established groups that are adding Responsibility3 to their existing charters (the Young Presidents’ Organization has over 21,000 members worldwide). These groups are all focused on exponential vs. incremental change.

Building on this momentum, several of these powerful networks recently chose to align. As a result, the Business Alliance for the Future was formed. And while work is underway to determine how best to measure progress in all three areas, this alliance of networks has chosen as its motto: “The future of business is making the future its business.”

The bottom line: Business is increasingly taking responsibility for a truly sustainable future.

That’s really good news.

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A Grand Strategy—Five Questions

The following information is offered as a restatement of the ground-breaking work of Patrick C. Doherty, Director, and Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby USMC (ret), Senior Fellow, both at the New America Foundation.

1. What is the reality of our current and growing challenges, including recession, depletion, inclusion, and resilience?

  • The U.S. macro-economy is in a deleveraging, not a cyclical, downturn. The spiral has been contained, not solved, by extraordinary federal intervention. Demand has shifted away from the Cold War-era, U.S. economic engine.
  • The climate is warming. Two-thirds of ecosystem services are being depleted (e.g., soil, fish, and forests). Three of nine planetary boundaries (carbon, nitrogen, and biodiversity loss) have been crossed.
  • Three billion people will be entering the global middle class in 20 years. Commodity prices are already at or near all-time highs. Access to energy, water, food, and minerals is driving conflicts between major economies.
  • Critical systems, supply chains, and infrastructure (bridges, roads, and energy grids) lack resilience. U.S. infrastructure is $2.2T in arrears.

2. Is there a Grand Strategy that could address all of these national and global issues, built on a foundation of historical research?

Yes. During both WWII and the Cold War, Washington shaped the economy to do the heavy lifting, out-producing the Axis and outperforming and outlasting the Soviets. These earlier versions of a Grand Strategy aligned our economic engine, governing institutions, and foreign policy to meet the global challenge of the era.

3. What would a modern Grand Strategy plan look like for both the sustainable economic engine and the required foreign policy focus to meet today’s challenges? It would:

  • Create new demand by focusing on mega-trends in communities, agriculture, and productivity.
  • Utilize record corporate cash reserves and other underperforming assets.
  • Leverage stranded human capital, infrastructure, and ecological assets.
  • Develop new global partnerships that facilitate regional economic blocs.
  • Assure security with consistent U.S. strategic behavior ensuring predictable regional economic transitions.

4. What could happen if the United States stepped up again with a Grand Strategy?

  • The U.S. economic house would be in order with widespread prosperity and public revenue.
  • U.S. interests would be aligned with major economies and partners.
  • A positive narrative of America’s role would restore global credibility.
  • Greater citizen participation and trust in government would return.
  • Price signals would reshape global markets toward sustainability.
  • Agile U.S. firms would receive early-adopter trade advantage.
  • Tensions over resources would be reduced.
  • Ecological depletion would slow.
  • Vulnerability to geopolitical disruption would lower.

5. Would you be interested in learning more?

For a video of Patrick and Puck sharing the central messages of their Grand Strategy, go to bit.ly/GrandStrategy. Patrick is scheduled to present the Grand Strategy in November at the SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing) Conference. Or connect with either of these superstars at doherty@newamerica.net or mykleby@newamerica.net.

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Business Growth from the Inside Out with Mindfulness

Employee engagement is a constant struggle that seems to be getting worse. The New York Times described the problem, yet again, just last month in an opinion article on employee burnout. The article reports that Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor Srinivasan S. Pillay surveyed a random sample of 72 senior leaders and found that almost every one reported some signs of burnout. As workers worldwide are reporting that they “lack a fulfilling workplace,” companies have an opportunity to get a better return for their investment in human capital and drive growth.

As it turns out, employees are more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. According to the Times article, the more effectively leaders support employees in meeting these needs, the more likely employees will be to engage, be loyal and satisfied, and exhibit positive energy, increased productivity, and less stress at work.

The answer is right in front of you. Or more specifically, within you. When you take a mindful approach to business—that is, when you engage in mindfulness meditation practices that develop your ability to remain attentive to the present moment—your performance at work improves. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It involves observing current experiences without judgment. Mindfulness allows you to more fully participate in the moment in which you find yourself. When you are in a mindful state, you are ready for anything. You respond rather than react. And you create more space in your mind for insight—where your best ideas come from.

Although mindfulness is a hot topic these days, it’s hardly new. Harvard Business School professor Bill George reports that the company he led as Chief (Medtronic) had a meditation room almost forty years ago, thanks to the vision of founder Earl Bakken. A major proponent of mindfulness meditation, George has been meditating himself since 1975. Two years ago we learned about the wildly successful Search Inside Yourself (S.I.Y.) mindfulness meditation course held at Google and taught by Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s 107th employee. Tan teaches emotional intelligence via a practical, real-world meditation that can be used anywhere. This practice encourages participants to be aware of feelings without acting on them as a way to more accurately understand one’s circumstances. Google clearly sees this investment as a valuable part of their growth strategy.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is responsible for much of the popularization of the secular practice of mindfulness through his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program initiated in 1979. MBSR is the most widely studied mindfulness practice, although some would point even farther back to the groundbreaking work of Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking back in 1952. Since that time, clinical studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general, and MBSR in particular. Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans’ centers, and other environments. As relates to business, mindfulness meditation practices have been found to increase productivity and creativity as well as reduce burnout and increase growth.

In short, more businesses need to support mindfulness practices by employees. I view it as an effective investment in human capital that consistently delivers great returns. Chiefs at every level stand to benefit from this simple, yet profound practice.

For more information, you might enjoy:
Mindfulness is Spreading, But Here’s What’s Missing, Real Leaders
The Mindful Revolution, TIME magazine
Thrive, a book by Arianna Huffington

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Building Trust from the Inside Out

Building trust is central to building a great business. For companies to grow they need to earn the trust of their clients, partners, and the community at large. Unfortunately, many companies are failing to earn that trust, and confidence in business integrity is at an all time low. In fact, recent reports calculate that fewer than 26 percent of individuals have trust in the financial systems at the foundation of business.

Despite the downward trend in building and maintaining trust in business, there are plenty of examples of how to get it right. Warren Buffett made news recently when he and Charlie Munger revealed hiring trustworthy leaders is a central component of their growth strategy at Berkshire Hathaway (BH). Given the collective size, diversity, and success of their portfolio of companies, BH offers many company leaders a path worth following.

Buffett and Munger clearly understand the simple and powerful truth—trust is built from the inside out.

BH companies build a culture of trust among their employees who then extend that culture to clients, owners, and the community. Once hired, BH steps back and lets these trustworthy managers do their job. Working from the inside out, this approach is in stark contrast to many companies that “double-down” on centralized compliance measures that slow decision making and increase costs. All too often, centralized compliance strategies fail to produce cultures of trust and integrity. The lack of trust eventually extends to customers and the community at large.

On a daily basis, we see examples of ethics issues in business. Recently, the public learned that Snap Chat was dishonest to their customers about images saved on their servers. This latest example joins the growing number of ethics violations by financial companies, who now are paying record fines for illegal activity.

So what can business leaders do to build a culture of trust? In addition to hiring trustworthy people, leaders can take the following steps:

  • Set clear expectations and regularly reinforce integrity as the basis of all activities
  • Ensure proper and adequate training
  • Have zero tolerance for any activity “close to the line” on ethics
  • Include values in performance management tools
  • Align compensation plans with values

I believe Buffett and Munger’s success stems as much from who they are as what they do. Specifically, I believe they have developed a deep level of self-understanding that enables both leaders to build trusted relationships and set the tone that fosters trust in their companies.

In the book Building Trust, authors Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores offer an insightful view on what they call authentic trust. They assert that the ultimate question is not who to trust, but how to trust. They contend that the ability to trust comes from inside an individual.

To Solomon and Flores, trust is “an emotional skill, an active part of our lives that we can build and sustain with our commitments, emotions and integrity.” The key to building the capacity to trust, they say, comes with self-understanding.

So how can business leaders develop self-understanding to build a culture of trust? In my experience, this insight comes when we make five choices:

  • Be present and focused on the here and now
  • Be generous with others
  • Be grateful for the opportunities in front of you
  • Be accepting of the reality of what is
  • Be still and learn to listen to your own voice

Creating a culture of individual accountability—through the development of insight—is the key to rebuilding trust. When individuals throughout an organization are hired, recognized, trained, compensated to act ethically, and trusted with authority to make decisions that are connected to their values and who they are, they operate with an elevated level of intensity and commitment where speed and quality are the byproducts and growth is the result.

A culture of trust is the key to building a great business and it must be built from the inside out.

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Where to Look for Role Model Chiefs?

Where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business?

Last week CNBC released yet another list of top business influentials. Their list, the “First 25,” includes many Chiefs judged to have had the most profound impact on business and finance in the last 25 years. The top three positions on the list were held by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the executive team at Google. You might think this list would be a great place to look for role model Chiefs.

Ironically, at the very same time last week, many media outlets reported on a settlement between employees and Apple, Google, and two other Silicon Valley technology firms for the illegal restriction of movement of engineers between the firms. Emails directly linked Jobs and then Google CEO Eric Schmidt to the case. Clearly, the settlement will lessen the publicity that Apple, Google, and the two other firms would have received had the litigation gone to trial. Reports of ethics violations among companies viewed as today’s most admired are not the type of visibility that these companies want, but they can teach us something.

It strikes me how much the media influences our collective view of “good” and “bad” Chiefs and how very little we really know about the people who make headlines. We rely on others for information to build impressions and views about people based on what little we read. At a time when confidence in business to do the right thing is low, particularly on Wall Street, we need to Millennials to help reestablish the trust that has been lost. Business schools are increasing their focus on ethics, but Millennials still need role models to follow.

For example, while I do not know Bill Gates personally, there is no doubt his success at Microsoft and his subsequent philanthropic focus with his foundation cause me to believe he is a true role model. But his life and choices may be difficult to follow for most people.

The question remains: where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business? The answer is closer than you may think.

In my experience, the best role models are people I live and work with on a daily basis. They are the people I encounter who are disciplined, supportive, creative, and insightful. Their values shine through their actions and words. These real Chiefs teach me to act with honesty and integrity, and to work hard to connect what I do to who I am. They teach me to serve others and create fully while always using my values as my best compass. They may not have Chief titles, but they are every bit Chiefs by my definition.

Millennials need not look too far for the right role models. Often, the most influential people in our lives are the ones we truly know and not the ones we think we know based on what we’ve read or what we’ve heard.

Lists are fun, but when it comes down to it, there is so much we don’t know about the people we find in these lists. Given this limitation, we must be thoughtful about whom we choose to emulate. Admiration might best be saved for those we truly know. Perhaps we can turn our focus to the real Chiefs among us common folk. Who are the Chiefs in your life, and when was the last time you let them know it?

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