10 Strategies Improve Culture and Performance

Rick Miller featured in The Business Edge, March 30, 2012:

START_QUOTE_30t_smIt is often said that the toughest thing to turn around is a culture. According to Harvard Business School researchers and authors, John Kotter and James Heskett, “Culture represents the interdependent set of values and ways of behaving that are common in a community and that tend to perpetuate themselves.” I came across their classic Corporate Culture and Performance when I was a regional vice president at UNISYS in the 90’s. The book not only validated the link between culture and performance, but the authors’ findings gave me a starting point for the roadmap that I created and used for the next 20 years.

Turnarounds are my game. In assignments ranging from a startup to a $13 billion worldwide business unit, I developed and deployed a simple roadmap that has led to consistent and sustained improvement on corporate culture and performance. Recruited to join AT&T to turn around a $3.3 billion unit growing at 5 percent, I used the roadmap, had the company averaging 16 percent growth for three consecutive years, and built a robust $5 billion business. I’d like to share the key takeaways of what worked for me then and highlight some of the research on which it is based.

Kotter and Keskett promoted the importance of building an adaptive culture, rather than simply a strong culture. Adaptive cultures expect and embrace change and are the key to create long-term economic performance. Over a ten-year period, the results of the companies studied are compelling.

cost of low performance cultures
It was clear from these results that while culture may be among the toughest things to turn around, it is absolutely the most important and only place to start. As a president, COO and turnaround specialist, my roadmap is designed for senior executives to use as a blueprint for their organization, helping them build and sustain a corporate culture that delivers stronger results.

The 10 Strategies for Improved Culture

Specifically, research indicates senior executives must display an uncommon combination of

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personal attributes and actions. My experience spent on the front line has taught me that executives must focus on five sets of choices in areas that include discipline, insight, support, creativity, and values. I encourage senior executives to adopt 10 specific strategies that will drive improved performance by addressing corporate culture:

1. Create a sense of urgency and a need for change when setting a new direction.
2. Communicate consistently and broadly.
3. Display and “outsider’s” propensity to embrace change and new ideas.
4. Reinforce the importance of innovation.
5. Build and maintain an “insider’s” credibility.
6. Institute a balanced focus on the success of customers, employees, and shareowners.
7. Establish leadership (the ability to produce change) as a focus at ALL levels.
8. Decentralize decision making where possible.
9. Promote carefully and demote when necessary.
10. Celebrate early success.

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Choosing Resilience Program

Rick Miller featured in USA Today online publication, “All-In Leadership Founder Rick Miller and Transition Expert Dr. Susan Berg Offer New ‘Choosing Resilience’ Program”:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTerror alerts circulate as U.S. and allies’ embassies are attacked. An investment banker ‘loses’ $2 billion and stocks plunge. Gunman appear out of nowhere, wounding and executing bystanders outside shopping malls and restaurants. Tornadoes flatten entire cities. Storm floods leave monumental destruction. In all of this, one thing is certain: in todays world, disaster can occur at any moment.

A recent study by The Creative Group found that responding to crises or problems took one third of executives’ time on the job.

“Corporations that are prepared for change have the best chance of being resilient in the face of enormous upheavals and devastating alterations, whether man-made or a force of nature,” said Rick Miller, founder of the All-In Leadership concept and president of Choices & Success, LLC, an executive coaching firm. “Smart, disciplined leaders focus on resilience before disasters occur. They communicate information employees need to know in addition to the organization’s recovery plan and strongly convey confidence in their team’s ability to overcome obstacles.” 

Miller, a highly regarded corporate turnaround expert and successful senior leader of multi-billion dollar corporations, noted that employees are in need of support more than ever before as their consistent stress levels have reached new heights. There are continuous waves of change and demands that push human limits. “Most companies can benefit from resilience programs and must prepare its workers for unpredictable hazards by creating cultures where people can excel,” said Miller.   

Miller and renowned Transition Expert Dr. Susan Berg, whose career focuses on mastering change and helping executives and groups transform into achievement and stamina-characterized teams, have collaborated to create an insightful program for organizations and individuals; helping them remain flexible while sticking to their values, providing the tools needed to cope with challenges as well as resilience strategies that include disaster recovery plans.    

The tools provided in the ‘Choosing Resilience’ program help individuals reassess their choices. It promotes participants to re-energize, encourage pliability within themselves, their colleagues and their companies when dealing with unforeseen change.




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4 Steps to Sell Your Way to Success

Rick Miller featured in 1 to 1 online publication:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTimes are tough for lots of businesses: layoffs, disappearing market demand, and lost revenue. At the same time, business leaders are still accountable for delivering bottom-line profits. As a senior executive, the one thing you don’t have is time. People are looking to you for results now. Some think the best approach is to focus on cutting expenses, but there is a limit. You can’t save your way to success when employee morale drops and customers feel the impact. Your best bet to start a successful turnaround is actually to do a better job selling to your current customers and top prospects.

Improving sales performance can be as simple as following four steps based on actions and attributes that I call DISC. Here’s how this four-step “playbook” works:

Step 1: Discipline

Contrary to the approach of many organizations, my first step does not advocate pulling the reins in to centralize decision making. I advocate decentralization as much as possible to gain both speed of execution and better decision making by moving decisions closer to the customer. This requires you to optimize your selling process for efficiency and use the right dashboards to provide focus on the most meaningful metrics at all levels of your business on a regular basis. It also requires you to focus on performance management to maintain accountability and develop a pipeline of new talent for when you need it.

Step 2: Insight

In a turnaround situation, you always encounter different ideas about what is lacking. Your organization needs you to set a confident tone. Your confidence will increase when your self-understanding increases. Your self-understanding will grow as you stay focused in each moment on the task at hand, accepting of the reality of each situation, grateful for the opportunity to face challenges, and generous with others—and as you slow things down from time to time to hear the truth by listening to yourself and to your customers.

Step 3: Support

To make your sales organization as effective as possible you need to focus on five key areas. Thorough and ongoing training must comprise hard and soft selling skills. Good sales communication can enable your sales force to internally align team members, while externally giving customers clear, consistent, and simple messages. Use market-based compensation plans, as well as recognition programs for motivation. Finally, when many things are changing in your market you can emphasize the values in your organization that will not change.

Step 4: Creativity

Using the root of the word, your full creativity is unleashed when you create internally and externally. Internally, you need to trust your gut and pay attention to how you feel. You also need to be aware of what you think. These things lead to external creativity. You know the positive impact you can make with the right words when you speak. Similarly, you can create real momentum when you write a well-timed, well-worded email. Finally, always do what you say. Aligning these creative forces brings out your best, when your organization needs it most.

The underlying theme of the playbook is to be aggressive. Establish a culture of metrics, performance, and individual accountability. Channel the confidence you have in yourself and those around you, and commit as a team to stretch goals. Back your sales force with what they need to succeed. Personally, bring your “A” game every day and realize everything matters.

At a time when so many organizations need to turn around their performance quickly, focus on selling excellence as the best place to start. Building a profitable business becomes easier with the positive momentum created with top-line



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Return on Engagement: A New Metric that Matters

Forbes guest bloggers John Hagel, Suketu Gandhi, and Giovanni Rodriguez posted a great article on February 9 titled “The Empowered Employee is Coming; Is the World Ready?” I think the answer to their question is yes, but the key will be the ability for companies themselves to measure the return on their required investment. The authors make a compelling case for the empowered employee in exerpts quoted below. Next, I offer a real-life example of a company that made the choice to invest in their employees AND measured the R.O.E.—Return on Engagement. The results are compelling.

“Return on assets for public companies in the U.S. has collapsed by 75 percent since 1965. Businesses have largely responded to this pressure by focusing on the denominator side of the productivity equation – by squeezing out costs wherever possible. … Employees are viewed as costs.

But here’s the problem: focusing on the denominator of the productivity equation – the cost side – is a game in diminishing returns. Each additional increment of cost reduction is harder and harder to deliver. And yet the pressure continues to mount. What to do?

The key answer that defines the post-digital enterprise is to shift attention from the cost side to the value side. Rather than treating employees as cost items that need to be managed wherever possible, why not view them as assets capable of delivering ever increasing value to the marketplace? This is a profound shift in focus. For one thing, it moves us from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.”

Understandably, much of the business world wants to “see the numbers” before they switch its employee strategy from “minimize costs” to “increase value.” The good news is that examples of companies that are leading in this area exist. I had the pleasure of working with a just such a leading company for more than two years. This organization found success investing in employee engagement. It also has the metrics to prove its strategy worked. Here is a summary of the organization’s story:

After seven consecutive quarters “in the red,” senior leaders at this major financial organization decided to build employee engagement through a multi-faceted plan. The plan included a multi-year investment to increase employee value, and in 2009, the company strategically hired an experienced learning leader to spearhead a three-year effort to improve employee value. The organization also increased its training budget by 15 percent each year, resulting in revamped attitudes and increased employment engagement.

This particular financial organization also wanted to “see” the return for its investment. Here are a few of the selected “returns” announced internally at the end of 2011:

  • Engaged Branch employees converted 30 percent more customers to primary relationships.
  • Engaged Mortgage employees generated 38 percent more mortgages.
  • Engaged Private Wealth employees generated 48 percent more in investment sales.
  • Engaged Commercial Banking employees opened 49 percent more new primary relationships.
  • Engaged Business Banking employees generated 59 percent more revenue.

As a result of the success of the program, the company’s senior leaders tightened their belts in other areas to fund an amazing 300 percent increase in training support for 2012. They were sold on the return for their investment.

Today, there are many companies that include employee engagement as part of their strategic plan. Unfortunately, fewer companies have not made the choice to find the necessary funds and realize the increased value and potential of their employee base. Many organizations operate under the axiom: if it is important, you measure it. In this case, R.O.E. stands for Return on Engagement. As one prominent financial institution determined, it is an important new metric that matters.


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Connect for Results: Try Unconventional Thinking

Rick Miller featured in Personal Excellence Magazine, January 2012:

START_QUOTE_30t_smTo improve performance and results, you need to connect people and pieces that have been traditionally disconnected, thanks to conventional thinking.

Conventional thinking is no longer acceptable because it: 1) disconnects managers and leaders (“Managers do the right things, while leaders do things right; manage things and lead people”); 2) disconnects professional and personal life (“it’s just business”); 3) disconnects the value of looking for guidance from personal reflection (feeling, thinking) as opposed to taking action (speaking, writing, acting) or relying on the opinions of others; and 4) disconnects the power of all potential leaders from the impact of a few people at the top of the hierarchy.

To facilitate connected leadership, I developed an All-In Leadership Roadmap that connects sets of choices, including Discipline, Insight, Support, and Creativity (DISC), and asks you to self-assess your actions and attributes in these areas.

Discipline starts with a vision. Who are you and what do you stand for? It is followed by a strategy and plan to accomplish that vision. After you plan the work, you work the plan. Discipline is required to build trust. Instead of relying solely on strong central control over decision-making, you decentralize decision-making and build appropriate controls to build rapid response capability to make critical adjustments.

Insight starts with self-understanding. As a connected leader, you understand who you are and what you stand for. With all the change that surrounds us today, people are looking for leaders who are reliable and confident in themselves. These leaders can integrate information that comes from others with their gut instincts and trust their own voice. They find that voice when they are focused, present, accepting, generous, and grateful. Connected leaders also understand the downside to multi-tasking. They know that by devoting all of their focus to a given individual, communication can be enhanced and relationships strengthened.

Support for others is effective only after you understand their needs. It starts by listening to understand and learn from everyone and every opportunity—being willing to accept the input of others. It can be challenging to be confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling—and also be open at all times to input. Support also includes questioning, inspiring, encouraging, enabling, and role modeling for others.

Creativity is at its fullest and is unleashed when you connect what you do to who you are. When you connect your internal creativity (your feelings and thoughts) to your external creativity (your written and spoken words and your actions), you see a dramatic increase in both your effectiveness and your positive influence. Knowing that your words matter, you connect your email language with the words you use in everyday conversations. You also integrate your personal and professional roles and remain true to yourself and what you believe in.

In his new book Great by Choice, Jim Collins and co-author Morten Hanson write: “It is not discipline alone that makes greatness, but the combination of discipline and creativity.”

The DISConnect strategy is supported by a strong focus on core values. When you are managing or guiding others, your values (values like truth, respect, teamwork, equality, service, and connection) are visible in word and action. Values become the ultimate glue that holds people and organizations together when everything else is changing.

When you connect what has traditionally been disconnected, amazing things happen. The potential of all people is released, leading to turnaround performance, along with improved results and resilience.



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Start Your Turnaround Before the Crisis Hits!

Answering simple but important questions could make the difference between choosing a quick fix or a truly broad turnaround strategy before a crisis strikes.

With a fresh year upon us, business leaders would be well-served to review key indicators and determine whether even short term success may be hiding significant long term problems. It may be time for a turnaround plan, depending how you answer the following 10 questions:

  • Are you continually improving your margins?
  • Are you meeting profit objectives primarily by cutting expenses?
  • Are you growing below the market rate?
  • Are you managing your business quarter-by-quarter?
  • Are you regularly measuring customer satisfaction/loyalty?
  • Are you in demand at industry conferences?
  • Are you attracting top talent to your business?
  • Are you retaining your best people?
  • Are you expanding your community of partners faster than your competitors?
  • Are you improving communication with key suppliers?

If your organization cannot answer these questions, you have a choice to improve your management system in the New Year by including them in a new dashboard. If your answers to these questions raise some concern, they should. The good news is you

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can choose to create a turnaround plan before these critical leading indicators point to a real crisis.

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Follow a 7L Path for True Success

There is a commonly used phrase in our culture that appears on coffee cups, bumper stickers, and wall posters that is offered as a recipe for happiness and success in life’s journey. Specifically, Live, Love and Laugh, or the 3L’s, can be seen in homes and offices across our country. With today’s economic, political, and social challenges, these words of wisdom may seem a bit simplistic and optimistic to some, when they are in fact more important than ever.

With all the devices that keep us connected to the office 24/7, perhaps we need a reminder that a healthy life-work balance doesn’t necessarily start with work. Success is not burnout and living must be more than working. At the same

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time, a changing workforce expects more out of the work environment, just as companies expect more out of their workers. When employees love what they do, engagement and productivity both rise. Leaders at all levels need to raise the bar to create cultures where people excel, where hard work and laughter exist together.

And while I wholeheartedly agree Live Love and Laugh are incredibly important ingredients, I also think there is more to the recipe if the objective is true success.

In light of the number of people currently struggling and the severity of the challenges we are collectively facing, we need more. Specifically, we need to consider adding another 4L’s to the mix to truly create success. To the point, it’s time to consider a “7L Path.” It is time to also Listen, Learn and Lead with Light. Here’s how…

With all the differing viewpoints in the world, one might ask why so many people indicate that nobody speaks for them. Perhaps we all need to develop more trust in ourselves and Listen to own internal voice before we look to others for answers.

With all the different advancements in the world, one might ask why we have not discovered how to solve a large and constantly growing list of problems. Perhaps we all need to Learn to be much more open to new ideas and opinions.

With all the different experts in the world, one might ask why we have so few who are able to show the way for others. Perhaps we all need to exercise our own ability to Lead rather than look exclusively to others.

With all the different religions and spiritual practices that guide us united in their recognition of both a higher order and our inadequacies as human beings, one might ask why so many are so sure that “we” are always right and “they” are always wrong. Perhaps we all need to stay focused on the common Light of truth, respect, service, equality, and connection that unite us.

Live, Love, Laugh, Listen, Learn, Lead with Light. It may be too long for a bumper sticker or to fit on the side of a Grande coffee cup, but it is worth the time and effort. This path can guide all of us to true success in work and in life.

This blog is dedicated to my friend Louige.

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All-In Women Leaders: Just In Time

I first met Susan McKay more than 30 years ago when we were both hired by Sperry Corporation as sales trainees. In 1980, Susan joined Sperry in Philadelphia after four remarkable years at Franklin & Marshall College where she earned an amazing 12 Varsity letters in field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. She was also a nationally ranked squash player who built an equally strong academic record. Susan and I did not work closely together after training ended, but I was not at all surprised to see Susan repeatedly promoted in subsequent years.

At Sperry, Susan stood out for several reasons. She displayed both strong personal discipline and confidence in spite of a new setting. She seemed to know where she was going and that insight led many to admire her. Susan had an aptitude for team building and liked to support others. She worked very hard to create her future. In addition, Susan’s humility struck her contemporaries as representative of a strong set of values. Susan quickly established a track record of success in a culture that was dominated by men.

Years later, I was running a marketing unit for the company and I had the opportunity to add Susan to my team. I jumped at it. While Susan continued to deliver strong results, it was clear that she needed help to continue her rise up the corporate ladder. There were very few female role models for her to follow. I approached senior executive Joseph Tucci to sponsor Susan for a $10,000 Executive Presence Program specifically developed for women. This was the first request of its kind and Joe agreed. With support, Susan continued to build a successful career and is representative of many other women who are leaders in American business today.

I share this story in part because many organizations are now benefitting from strong leadership by women who started their careers at a time when men dominated corporate leadership positions. While Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard and Virginia Rometty at IBM have earned recent headlines, they join a long list of women who are leading major companies. Indra Nooyi at Pepsico, Ursula Burns at Xerox, and Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft are among other women currently leading Fortune 500 companies.

More importantly, as American businesses struggle, the increasing number of women leaders at all levels is perhaps one of our best reasons for optimism. While each story of success is unique, these leaders share common threads. In the face of daunting odds, every successful woman has earned a place of leadership with a combination of strong skills, hard work, personal choices, and the support of others. They have demonstrated resilience and delivered results.

These role models displayed a combination of discipline, insight, support, creativity, and values that positioned them for greater impact. I refer to these actions and attributes as All-In Leadership because they lead to engagement of all the leaders in an organization. Further, these are the essential elements that enabled many women leaders to climb the corporate ladder as they made positive impacts along the way.

Significantly, these very same factors are also of paramount importance in our current volatile business environment where so many organizations are experiencing poor performance. Corporations are facing new challenges and an increasing need for leadership throughout their organizations. In fact, the ascension of All-In women leaders in American business is not only really good news—it may be just in time.

As companies search for every competitive advantage in challenging times, all leaders would benefit from the lessons taught by All-In women leaders. One of them is Susan McKay, who currently works at technology giant EMC in Hopkinton, Mass. EMC’s visionary CEO is Joe Tucci.

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Leaders Need to D.I.S.C.onnect for Results

Many are questioning the state of leadership today. It’s no secret that the constant struggle in Washington has led to a disconnect between the governing and the governed. Less visibly, companies can find themselves with the same challenge between senior management and the employee base, at the very time they need to pull together to improve results. From my experience as a President of multiple companies focused on turnarounds, the biggest opportunity for leaders today may be our choice to connect the pieces that have been traditionally disconnected. In fact, I developed and deployed a successful strategy to D.I.S.C.onnect for results.

In my judgment, conventional thinking is no longer acceptable.

  1. Conventional thinking disconnects management and leadership. “Managers do the right things, while leaders do things right. Manage things and lead people.”
  2. Conventional thinking disconnects professional and personal pieces of an individual’s life. “It’s just business.”
  3. Conventional thinking disconnects the value of looking for guidance from personal reflection (feeling, thinking) as opposed to taking action (speaking, writing, acting) or relying exclusively on the opinions of others.
  4. Conventional thinking disconnects the power of ALL of the potential impact of the leaders in an organization from the impact of those few at the top.

Personally, I have had lots of success with connected leadership. I developed an All-In Leadership Roadmap when I ran organizations and needed to unlock the potential of all of my leaders. In each case, the key to success was a roadmap that included a focus on actions and attributes, and a D.I.S.C.onnect approach for connected leadership.

Specifically, the roadmap CONNECTS sets of choices, including Discipline, Insight, Support, and Creativity, and asks leaders to self assess their actions and their attributes in these areas. In my experience, the roadmap has led to increased engagement, results, resilience, and the development of cultures where people excel. These include employees, customers, partners, owners, and the communities in which companies do business—which, in fact, are all connected. Here are the highlights:

Discipline starts with a vision. Who are we and what do we stand for? It is followed by a strategic and plan to accomplish that vision. After we plan the work, we work the plan. Discipline is required to build trust. A key to connected leadership is the added focus on the importance of adjustments. Rather than solely relying on strong central control over decision-making, a connected leader will decentralize decision-making and build appropriate controls to make sure the organization has rapid response capabilities to make critical adjustments. While discipline does not guarantee complete control, it improves the probability of success.

Insight starts with self-understanding. A connected leader understands who they are and what they stand for. With all the change that surrounds businesses today, employees are looking for leaders who are reliable and confident in themselves. These leaders can integrate information that comes from others with their gut instincts and trust their own voice. They find that voice when they are focused, present, accepting, generous, and grateful. Connected leaders also understand the downside to the popular concept of multi-tasking. They understand that by devoting all of their focus to a given individual, true communication be enhanced and relationships will be strengthened.

Support for others is effective only after we truly understand their needs. It starts by listening to understand and learn from everyone and every opportunity. A connected leader is always willing to accept the input of others. It can be challenging for leaders who view their role to be confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling to also be open at all times to input, but it is an absolutely necessary component of connected leadership. It also includes questioning, inspiring, encouraging, enabling, and role modeling for others.

Creativity is at its fullest for each of us and is unleashed when we connect what we do to who we are. Specifically, when we connect our internal creativity (feelings and thoughts) to our external creativity (our written and spoken words and our actions) we dramatically increase both our effectiveness and our positive influence over others. Connected leaders know their words matter. They connect their email language with the words they use in everyday conversations. These leaders are also able to integrate their personal and professional roles and remain true to themselves and what they believe in.

Finally, the D.I.S.C.onnect strategy is underpinned by a strong focus on the core values of an organization. Whether a connected leader is engaged in managing or guiding others, values are visible in word and action. Truth, respect, teamwork, equality, service, and connection are among sets of values followed by many successful organizations today. Values become the ultimate glue that holds great organizations together when everything else changes.

The bottom line is when leaders choose to connect that which has traditionally been disconnected, amazing things can happen. Most significantly, the potential of leaders at all levels in any organization is released. When applied to a company where results have been going in the wrong direction, it leads to a successful turnaround. When applied to companies already going in the right direction, results improve and resilience grows.

Who knows what could happen if a D.I.S.C.onnect approach was introduced in Washington? Perhaps it is time for our leaders to try the unconventional.

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Young War Veterans Redefine Leadership

Although Veterans Day was celebrated last week, Time magazine ran a great article focused on members of our military on August 29th with a cover story titled: “The New Greatest Generation—How young war veterans are redefining leadership at home.” While November 11th offers us all an important annual reminder of the debt we owe our veterans and the opportunity to say thank you for their sacrifices on our behalf today and in the past, Time’s Joe Klein makes the case that veterans also offer us hope for the future as they bring a new set of skills home—when we need them most. Here are some of the skills veterans offer:

Discipline – “Every military officer was trained to construct an action plan for every mission. We were taught to write a five-paragraph memo…The inevitable military acronym is SMESC…Situation: What’s the problem? Mission: What’s our strategy for solving it? Execution: What tactics are we going to use? Support: What are the logistics? Command: What other organizations will have to be involved?”

Insight/Self-understanding – It is true our completely volunteer military is comprised of individuals who join for varied reasons. Still, common threads of gratitude for freedom, generosity and service run throughout our armed forces. “Public-service warriors” include Seth Moultin, the Harvard valedictorian, who decided to join the Marines because it was the “highest form of service.”

Support – “The First Mission: Taking Care of One Another… Veterans are trained to believe that everyone in their unit rises and falls together. In the military, it’s never about you (according to former Special Operations leader Jason Lewis). It’s always about something larger. ”

Creativity – Military personnel are completely aligned in their speech and action. They create the future effectively with this clarity. “They look you straight in the eye when they talk; they can be funny as hell, but their language isn’t fancy…they don’t mince words.”

Values – Our military has been trained to live a life of values, including hard work, honesty, teamwork, respect, honor, humility, and service. “They tend to view public life through the prism of military values – which are, at times, contradictory.”

As many young veterans come back from war, they return to a country many would say is going in the wrong direction. Economically, socially and politically, it is true we are facing daunting challenges and are in need of effective leadership to turn things around. The article quotes General David Patraeus, who offers a perspective on why these young veterans provide a reason for optimism:

“These soldiers had to rebuild communities and make difficult decisions under huge pressure. They’ve had to show incredible flexibility, never knowing whether they’re going to be greeted with a handshake or a hand grenade. They’ve been exposed to experiences that are totally unique, compared with most Americans. Once they’ve seen the elephant, they surely can help rebuild Joplin. I believe they are our next great generation of leaders.”

Personally, I have never served in the military. I did meet General Patraeus in Iraq and worked closely with military personnel when I was President of Lucent’s Government unit and we installed a wireless communication system to support military operations in Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq. I was always in awe of the leadership skills displayed by our men and women in uniform.

At a time when leadership seems in short supply and high demand, Klein offers a perspective that young veterans are redefining leadership. I am not so sure. Perhaps the military’s definition of leadership has been there all the time and we are just now taking another look at a time when we need it most. Either way, we agree that we can look to our military as a source of pride, inspiration and true

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Business Lessons from a Diabetes Camp

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and while the national discussion continues around health care costs, perhaps no other disease impacts a business’ bottom line today quite like diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are just-under 26 million people with diabetes in the U.S. and there are an additional 79 million people with pre-diabetes—a condition where cardiovascular deterioration starts. That’s 105 million people, or 1 out of every 3 Americans affected. It is a good bet that many companies have a similar percentage of employees and retirees with the disease. With health care costs rising, many companies are looking to establish Wellness Programs to keep their employees healthier. Where is a company to turn for a model of success? The answer may be a kid’s diabetes camp in central Massachusetts.

Specifically, the Barton Center for Diabetes Education Inc. in North Oxford, MA operates the two longest running camps in the world for kids with diabetes. For almost 80 years, the Clara Barton Camp and Camp Joslin have taught girls and boys with diabetes how to live healthy and productive lives with balance and discipline. While these lessons help young people manage blood glucose levels, they also set a foundation for healthy living and overall success.

Today, the camps summarize their education focus in a program they call “Healthy Stars.” This simple and powerful program emphasizes connected choices to balance for health and life. For good health the program emphasizes a focus on nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and wellness support (people and products). For life balance the program emphasizes a focus on personal growth, community service, faith, school and work, and family and friends. In both cases, the Barton Center advocates the following principles:

  • Take Responsibility
  • Set a Goal
  • Measure, Measure, Measure
  • Help Others
  • Have Fun
  • Don’t Give Up

The track record of success at the camps run by The Barton Center can be measured in any number of ways. In one way, a study was conducted with 250 campers that proved that those who attended at least 5 years (10 weeks) of camp displayed significantly improved health measurements. In another way, successful campers consistently choose to return to the camp as counselors to share lessons learned with future generations. The Barton Center has created a culture where people excel.

As companies look for new ways of controlling costs and increasing employee health and engagement, perhaps they can look to The Barton Center as a model that has developed a proven program to teach us that balance and discipline lead to good health and life balance and overall success.

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Leading Innovation: AT&T’s First Shared Office

Rick Miller featured in Harvard Business Review, May/June 1998:

START_QUOTE_30t_smRichard S. Miller, vice president of global services (GS) at AT&T, leads some 2,000 sales and support professionals serving major corporations and government clients in the eastern United States. His organization generates $4 billion in annual revenues; its expense budget is about $200 million, of which real estate represents 6%.

In December 1996, Miller learned on a television newscast about a competitor’s initiative to pursue an AW program. Driven into action, he asked the help of AT&T’s global real estate (GRE) organization in developing a new facility. His idea: a shared office that staff members who spend much of their time with customers outside the office would use as needed, without having assigned workstations. The objective: creating an environment in which teamwork would flourish while reducing real estate costs.

The GRE unit, then in the early stages of developing AT&T’s Creative Workplace Solutions strategy, had not yet planned the type of facility Miller envisioned. So he and GRE’s planning director, Thomas A. Savastano, Jr., formed a team to consider the alternatives. The team rejected several scenarios. One would have refitted a building already occupied by Miller’s group, but that would have disrupted existing operations. Instead, the team opted for a three-part plan: redesign vacant AT&T space in Morristown, New Jersey, as a shared office; move 200 employees from five traditional office locations and 25 others from three satellite offices to the new facility; and redeploy the space to be vacated.

The total group included 58 salespeople, 101 technical specialists, and 66 management and support staff. Miller knew that the staff would need full-time space in the new facility. But he estimated that at least 60% of the sales and technical people would be out of the office with customers at any given time and therefore could share work space. At the time, the GS organization was beginning to transform its technical specialists into virtual resources; that is, rather than dedicate individuals to specific customers, these individuals would float from one account to another as needed. That change, Miller reflects, eased the transition from a conventional to an alternative workplace.

The new shared office works as follows: Through their laptops, employees log onto a system to reserve a workstation either before they arrive at the building or when they enter the lobby. Once there, they retrieve their own mobile file cabinet and wheel it to their reserved space. The workstations are six feet square and are arranged in pairs with a C-shaped work surface so that two people can work apart privately or slide around to work side by side. The reservation system routes employees’ personal phone numbers to their reserved space. As one occupant says of the new arrangement, “I don’t know who is going to sit next to me tomorrow, but interacting with different people all the time helps me think about customer issues more productively. I’m always getting a new perspective and new ideas from others’ experience.”

AT&T has installed three low-tech features in addition to its high-tech systems. A café encourages people to mingle for coffee and conversation about new sales, customer solutions, and office events. Two large chalkboards allow people to leave messages for others; this feature also reduces the paper flow within the office. And three types of enclosed space—phone rooms, “personal harbors,” and team rooms—accommodate private meetings and teleconferences.

AT&T’s project shows how significant the tangible and intangible results of an AW initiative can be. It cost $2.1 million to develop, including construction, furniture, equipment, and systems. But the investment was well worth the effort, as the accompanying table shows. Annual savings alone amount to more than $460,000 or $2,000 per person. Over five years, the company will avoid nearly $2 million in costs associated with running a traditional office. In addition, individual space was halved, and team-meeting space doubled. Finally, the project has produced closer teamwork, better customer service, and greater employee satisfaction.



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A Senior Leader’s Biggest Challenge

Senior leaders in organizations have never had easy jobs. Among lots other tasks, senior leaders are expected to envision, strategize, and plan tactics for their firms after they have thoroughly researched the market for their products/services. Assuming they have developed an appropriate financial plan for their enterprise and have continually updated their competitive profiles, they are also expected to flawlessly implement their plans and measure with quality and speed to produce predictable results. They are also accountable to align their teams by communicating direction throughout their organization where they need to be confident, clear, concise, convincing, and compelling (5 C’s). Taken together, these tasks can seem daunting. Yet, these may be the easiest parts of their job.

The toughest part of their job might be that while they are communicating with the 5 C’s, they also need to be truly open to input and opinions from virtually every stake owner in and around their organization. With today’s unprecedented pace and change, the most successful leaders may be those who can confidently set the direction for a group while intently listening to input from employees, customers, and partners for the changes they fully expect will come.

In Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf describes the approach required of the leader who truly understands that game-changing insight can come at anytime, from anyone. “One must make choices. Perhaps one chooses the same aim or hypothesis again and again. But is always with a fresh and open choice, and it is always under a shadow of doubt.” Leaders open to fresh perspectives are more likely make critical adjustments ahead of others.

Greenleaf also offers a perspective on how a leader can create true communication and engagement. He emphasizes both the exercise of authority and the inner quality of humility that characterize a true servant leader. With a commitment to serve first, a leader is more likely to truly listen. With an underlying belief in equality and respect for every individual, successful leaders appreciate the necessity to learn from anyone and everyone.

With the economic, political, social, and environmental challenges we are now facing, pressure to perform is higher than ever for leaders to perform. Senior leaders will always be looked to for future direction. Their due diligence and the quality of their strategies and plans will continue to be an important starting point for any enterprise. Senior leaders will continue to need to display confidence to their organizations. In light of today’s complexities and uncertainties, however, their long term success balance may hinge far more on the challenge of finding the right balance of confidence and the humility that comes with a healthy dose of doubt.

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6 Secrets of Turnaround Success

Working as a senior turnaround specialist in many companies across many industries, I have come to rely on specific strategies to consistently deliver great results. Inside these strategies are 6 particular areas where focus has made all the difference for the teams that I have been fortunate to lead.

When arriving at a new opportunity, it is critical to establish a level of trust with current team members to enable information to flow. When a new “boss” arrives, s/he should employ a specific 30-day strategy of day 1 speeches, symbols, language, and stories to set the right tone. The most important element of the strategy, however, is a recognition of the importance of “co-mmunication.” Co-mmunication is defined as “the joint construction of meaning,” requires active participation by both parties, and is the only way to ensure you are developing the trust necessary to make real progress.

Operationally, it is critical to establish a culture of disciplined management. Components of a disciplined management strategy include envisioning, strategizing, planning, and implementing and measuring. While leaders work diligently to set plans, the certainty offered by Peter Drucker rings true—plans are right 1/3 of the time, fixable 1/3 of the time, and just flat wrong 1/3 of the time. Organizations that succeed specifically recognize that adjustment is a critical part of their management discipline.

Many organizations that underperform do not encourage support as a specific strategy to increase employee engagement. Components of a support strategy include encouraging, enabling, inspiring, questioning, and modeling. Organizations that turn around quickly, however, are those where senior leaders both employ support practices but also understand and appreciate the opportunity to be guided and supported by members of their employee base.

In turnaround situations, speed is a critical issue. To accelerate necessary progress, individuals in organizations need to be encouraged to connect their internal creativity (feeling and thinking), to their external creativity (speaking, writing, and acting). It is particularly important for turnaround leaders to look for passion in team members as an outward indicator of this important alignment.

In my experience, successful turnaround specialists also start with a good self-understanding and insight. They model presence, acceptance, focus, generosity, and gratitude. These leaders know who they are and maintain internal confidence in the face of adversity. Importantly, they keep their personal and professional lives connected and behave consistently in all situations based on who they are and what they stand for.

It is also critical to ensure clarity about what the organization stands for. Values statements that reference universal themes including truth, service, and connection are critical as are behaviors that are consistent with those values. If there is one value that I have found most critical, it is equality.

Organizations that create cultures with an underlying understanding of the true equality of each member are open to suggestions from all sources, co-mmunicate needed adjustments more easily, engage passionate and confident employees, and deliver breakthrough results.

Practice co-mmunication, expect adjustments, be guided by and look for passion in others, maintain confidence, and stand for equality. Taken together, these 6 “secrets” enable leaders at all levels in organizations and deliver outcomes that define successful turnarounds.

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All-In Leadership

No matter where you turn today, it seems that groups in both the public and private sector are facing tough tests. With the economic, political, social, and environmental challenges we are facing, blame games seem more common in government and business than ever before. More than ever, we need effective leadership to drive much needed change but it seems in short supply…or is it?

I contend we have plenty of leadership potential, but we are looking in the wrong direction. We need to stop looking “up” when we All should be looking In. All-In Leadership is a term I use to remind all of us about our individual choice to lead and how we can best approach this opportunity today.

My hope is that today’s events will serve as a wake-up call for us to choose to stop delegating leadership to others and step up to our opportunity to set a new direction, each in our own unique way. All-In Leadership also advocates we each make a complete commitment to this opportunity utilizing discipline, insight, support, and creativity.

Discipline starts with a vision we create for ourselves. Who are we and what do we stand for? It is followed by a strategy and plan to accomplish that vision. After we plan the work, we work the plan. Adjustments are anticipated along the way to deal with the unexpected turns in the road. While discipline doesn’t provide complete control, it improves the probability of reaching our vision.

Insight enables us to create a vision and a plan that “fits” us. With so many opinions and views constantly bombarding us “helping” us determine where and how to find success, we need to learn to hear our own voice among the noise. We can find that voice when we are focused, present, accepting, generous, and grateful.

The ability to support others effectively comes after we truly understand their needs. It starts by truly listening to understand and learn from everyone and every opportunity. It also includes questioning, inspiring, encouraging, enabling, and role modeling for others.

The power of our full creativity is unleashed when we connect what we do to who we are. Specifically, when we connect our internal creativity (feelings and thoughts) to our external creativity (our written and spoken words and our actions) we dramatically increase both our effectiveness and our positive influence over others.

All-In Leadership also requires courage. The serious challenges we face individually and collectively can feel daunting if they fall to only a few to solve. We need leadership from senior executives, group managers, and individual contributors. Together, our combined leadership capabilities and skills can make the difference. Why not start today?

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