The Future of Business

The future of business, simply put, is making the future its business. And where better to look toward the future than to the business schools currently training our future leaders? Those of us looking for confidence in the future can take comfort in the great work being done by the worldwide network of PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) colleges and universities established in 2007 by the United Nations.

The idea to create PRME was officially introduced by the UN’s Global Compact Office at the Global Forum “Business as an Agent of World Benefit” at Case Western Reserve University, where I serve as a Strategic Advisor, in October 2006.

PRME’s mission is to “inspire and champion responsible management education, research, and thought leadership globally.” The Six Principles of PRME, inspired by internationally accepted values, are:

  • Purpose – working toward an inclusive and sustainable global economy
  • Values – global social responsibility
  • Method – creation of educational frameworks, materials, processes, and environments
  • Research – researching the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental, and economic value.
  • Partnership – exploring jointly effective approaches to challenges faced by corporations in meeting social and environmental responsibilities
  • Dialogue – facilitating dialogue between all interested parties and stakeholders

Sustainable growth is the only way forward for business today. Being Chief means making choices that move business in this direction. PRME is on the cutting edge of integrating sustainable business standards from the ground up—beginning with tomorrow’s leaders. More than 600 leading business schools and management-related academic institutions from over 80 countries comprise the PRME, many of which are also a part of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the “longest serving global association dedicated to advancing management education worldwide.”

In addition to Case Western, U.S. PRME members include leading business schools ranging from Bentley, Cornell, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M to University of California Berkeley as well as strong international representation ranging from Auckland University in New Zealand, Bangalore University in India, Cheung Kong University in China, and INSEAD in France.

Organizations such as PRME and AACSB are directing the future of business toward sustainable growth, and not a moment too soon.

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For Business Success, Use the Force, Luke!

What does Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people have in common with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’? Much more than you’d think. Both rely on our fascination with power and with those who wield it. And while Forbes and Star Wars offer very different views of power, your own business success could hinge on your ability to realize the Force—more specifically, your workForce.

Here’s why.

How do we define power? Forbes poses that four criteria determine the powerful:

How many people do they have power over?
How much money do they control?
Does their influence extend across multiple regions, industries, or aspects of life?
Do they actively wield their power?

This view of power is based on external, objectively identifiable elements. This year, Forbes editors determined that 73 individuals, representing one per 100 million people on Earth, were the most powerful. A significant 41 of the 73 (56%) are from the business community.

2015 represented the seventh year this list was published. Over that period, Forbes has identified 147 individuals, with only 22 appearing each and every year. Is it a surprise that 15 of these 22 (68%) are business leaders? Probably not.

Business success has always been all about influence and external power. Until now.

The Star Wars franchise offers a very different view of true power. Back in 1977, Obi Wan Kenobi offered the first description of an incredible power called the Force. “It’s an energy force created by all living things. It surrounds us; penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Obi Wan offered no objectively identifiable criteria.

The Force is internal. In Star Wars, true power comes from inside an individual and exists only because of one’s relationships with others and life around them. Master Yoda explains, “A powerful ally the Force is. Life creates it, makes it grow. You must feel the force around you. Between you and me. The tree. The rock. Everywhere. Yes.”

Those who learn to be with the Force are the most powerful. They become Jedi warriors. At one point in the Star Wars series we learn over 10,000 individuals have become Jedis through the study of discipline and meditation.

Star Wars asserts that success comes from the internal power realized through harmony and by training to be one with the Force. Jedi warriors fully engage in their surroundings and serve others around them. And when needed, they wield the Force expertly.

But how can the Force help us in business?

Today, CEO surveys show their #1 concern is around people, culture, and engagement. Current estimates indicate that only a third of U.S. workers are fully engaged, costing business a whopping $370 billion annually.

The good news is that research shows engagement can be positively influenced by anyone in an organization. If you commit to increasing the Force in your workforce, growth will follow. Future Forbes lists will be increasingly populated by business leaders who understand the need to support this different type of power, growth, sharing, and harmony. In many ways, it’s the key to the sustainable growth movement that is on the rise.

There are many ways to increase the power of your employee group. The first step is to recognize that as an objective. Then you can incorporate discipline, creativity, support, insight, and values.

Naysayers in business would be wise to remember Darth Vader’s warning, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror [the dreaded Death Star] you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

Cynics might also be reminded of Yoda’s wise counsel. Luke said, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda responded “That is why you fail.”

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Business Education on the Right Track

In a recent New York Times op-ed, David Brooks reminds us that many of the original American universities were founded as religious institutions explicitly designed to cultivate students’ spiritual and moral values. Over the course of the 20th century, many institutions moved away from that mission.

But today the pendulum is shifting back in schools that lost this focus.

Brooks points out: “On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem the careerist tide and to widen the system’s narrow definition of achievement. Institutes are popping up—with interdisciplinary humanities programs and even meditation centers—designed to cultivate the whole student: the emotional, spiritual, and moral sides and not just the intellectual.”

Educating the whole student offers high-impact benefits to society in many areas, perhaps none more than in business education. Here’s why:

  1. When businesses are poorly led, we all suffer.

Enron, Worldcom, and the Wall Street institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008 offer recent examples. Much of the country has yet to fully recover. And, unfortunately, too many people in power still believe unethical behavior is “just business.” We need more ethical leaders.

  1. Business is becoming the place where social problems are solved.

Fortunately, more businesses are stepping up to a new definition of sustainable success. Companies like Aetna are setting a new pace. Minimum wage increases are occurring at retailers like Walmart. Netflix is setting a new standard for paid family leave as Starbucks is investing in employee education. But the pace is too slow and we need more enlightened leaders.

  1. Business collaboration will accelerate much needed progress.

We need new business leaders capable of collaborative capitalism. These Chiefs can ensure that by working together more people are included as the economy grows. Working together, companies led by whole leaders can create a business alliance for the future.

As a graduate of both Bentley University and Columbia University, I have benefitted from curriculum that always included a focus on the whole student. More recently, I’ve had the privilege to work with other leading business schools where such a focus is clear, including U Penn/Wharton, Emory/Goizetta, Penn State/ Smeal, Weatherhead/Case Western, USC/Moore, and FDU/Silberman.

As more of the 517 US members of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) step up to the challenge of educating the whole student in a secularized yet morally and emotionally integrated manner, they will accelerate progress already made to create a better future for us all.

Just in time.

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An Employee-Employer Contract that Works

LinkedIn Chief Reid Hoffman is right when he says that employers and employees are not honest with each other. Specifically, Hoffman is referring to the misleading commitment between the two whereby employers offer continuing employment and build career paths for their “family” of employees and employees in return offer employer “loyalty.”

The truth is this contract hasn’t existed for years. The far majority of workers are “at will” employees that have no real job security. Similarly, an increasingly mobile workforce has learned that the best career move is to eventually find work elsewhere. Old style loyalty no longer exists. But the fact that many organizations continue the family-loyalty charade no doubt contributes to the low employee engagement scores that are estimated to cost U.S. businesses in excess of $370B each year.

What’s the answer?

In my experience with running organizations ranging from a startup to a multinational, rebuilding trust  starts by establishing a new contract between employees and employers. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

First, openly acknowledge the moose on the table and engage in frank conversations about the current state of affairs. For example, LinkedIn prospective employees are informed that the company plans to have a huge impact on their career; under this light, they are asked what job they want after LinkedIn.

Second, include a broad range of participants to build a new contract that reflects today’s reality. Set clear expectations in each of three areas:

  • Employees must commit to constant performance improvement, continuous learning, and to increasing their market value.
  • Employers must commit to employee retention programs, market-based pay, adequate skills training, and to increase the value of each employee.
  • Both must commit to the values of the organization, and to open and honest communication.

Third, each side needs to step up to new behavior to make it work. Employees must develop new self-advocacy skills as they think of themselves as market free agents. They need to be willing to build skills outside of work. And employers must do a better job listening to employee feedback, committing to more training, and beginning to manage human capital with the same rigor as they do financial capital.

Overall, the myth of life-long employment has been gone for years. It’s time we stepped up with integrity to an updated contract between employees and employers—an employee-employer contract that works.

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Real Chiefs

Conventional wisdom about Chiefs is all wrong. It says Chiefs are special. Chiefs are chosen. Chiefs have titles. And only those with the power and influence at the top can truly be Chief. Fresh out of business school, I aspired to be Chief. I worked hard to move up the ladder in the hope that I could eventually earn a job as a Chief Executive Officer.

For years, I trusted that wisdom. It guided me into and through bigger and bigger roles where I was responsible for generating results for companies in many difficult situations, developing plans for success that focused on a clear vision and a winning strategy to meet customer needs. Those plans often required raising capital, controlling costs, beating competition, and building positive community relationships in order to succeed.

But as I worked my way up through these assignments, and I had the privilege of working with many strong individuals at all levels who possessed a power and influence that had nothing to do with their title or position, my views shifted. I came to understand that real Chiefs are people who connect what they do to who they are. Their power and influence comes from inside and includes any number of attributes. Here is a starter set. What would you add?

Be alive
Be authentic
Be creative
Be all-in
Be a winner
Be your hardest critic
Be loving
Be peaceful
Be curious
Be thoughtful
Be deliberate
Be sincere
Be considerate
Be interested
Be resourceful
Be respectful
Be awake
Be smart
Be focused
Be mindful
Be honest
Be kind
Be generous
Be grateful
Be present
Be still
Be accepting
Be calm
Be loud
Be enthusiastic
Be courageous
Be diligent
Be yourself
Be strong
Be quiet
Be the fullest manifestation of who you are

Be Chief

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A One Minute Solution to the Biggest Issue Facing Business Today?

What if you could solve the biggest issue facing your business in just one minute?

In my experience, the biggest issue facing business today has been highlighted by Gallup’s research, which indicates that only 13% of employees are giving 100% on the job. That’s a lot of unhappy people and lost profits.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

In fact, Gallup just released its list of 40 Organizations That Lead the World in Employee Engagement. Collectively, on average these organizations earn the enthusiastic support of 64% of all employees. That’s almost five times more engagement than the average company.

The question is how do they do it?

Gallup’s research shows that 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units is related to management. Clearly, these 40 organizations have figured out how to hire and develop managers who can make that type of a difference.

But what do you do if you don’t work for one of the top 40?

My answer: read The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

This new book was just released and is based on the latest research in both medicine and behavioral science while offering an ease of readability that few books can match. It is a completely updated version of the all-time #1 bestseller on managing your work and life that has sold more than 13 million copies.

The book’s power is evident in its simplicity. The New Minute Manager offers 3 simple keys (goal setting, praise, and re-directs) to becoming a great manager. The book’s power is also found in its approach, offering an easy-to-read story to help everyone apply these important concepts. The authors do a fantastic job demonstrating how to have direct, open, and supportive conversations that deliver results.

What could happen if your company matched the top 40, where two-thirds of all employees give 100% each day? Imagine the possibilities.

The original One Minute Manager has been integral to my personal experience working with great teams that tripled the growth rates of million and billion dollar organizations. The New One Minute Manager will not only give you three powerful tools to help you succeed today but it will also help you apply these tools using stories that you will remember. It will be integral to your work, too.

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The ROI of Gender-Balanced Leadership

Many strong arguments have been made by authors Gerzema, Sandberg, Grant, Herman, and others for an increase in the number of women in business leadership roles, including at board, C-suite, and general management levels.

But here are the simple, research-based facts:

Leading global companies like Alibaba make gender-balanced leadership a top priority.

The clear bottom line is that an investment in gender-balanced leadership has a compelling ROI.

Learn more about gender-balanced leadership and do the smart (and right) thing for your business.

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Recruiting Wisdom

The last time the NASDAQ index hit 5,000 I was celebrating my one-month anniversary of leading operations at Opus 360, an internet startup with a compelling vision for the future, a great brand, and plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in the near future. Optimism was everywhere until the index began a slide that it would not fully recover from until earlier this month, one week shy of 15 years later.

There have been many articles written about the lessons learned when the bubble burst, but from my perspective—sitting in the middle of it—I can tell you the biggest lesson I learned was the critical role of employee support in a crisis and the value of recruiting wisdom. As a recent New York Times article points out, certain mental faculties increase with age. Tapping into this wisdom by recruiting experienced Chiefs can make all the difference when markets are under duress.

Background

Ari Horowitz and Carlos Cashman founded Opus 360 to provide innovative workforce solutions. Both entrepreneurs were visionaries who agreed with a view offered in Daniel Pink’s book Free Agent Nation: full-time employment will decline rapidly as companies increase their temporary workforce. These project-based workers act as free agents, capable of filling the needs of an organization by arriving just in time to begin a project and leaving the company’s rolls when the project was completed. Opus 360 had registered the domain FreeAgent.com.

This new view of the world created several business opportunities. First, an exchange, or marketplace, needed to be created to bring together buyers with specific projects (companies) and individual sellers with specific skills (free agents). Opus had initiated a major software development effort with the assumption that descriptive skills standards could be established among many constituents.

Second, the opportunity was created to attract free agents and to market products and services directly to them, supporting their independent lifestyle. Opus had already begun an aggressive advertising campaign to publicize this opportunity to a dispersed, independent community across the country.

Third, increased reliance on traditional staffing companies and temporary agencies created an opportunity for automated solutions to handle the increased workload and improve the quality of the matches. This would require another major software development effort.

Supporting Chiefs

When I arrived at Opus in February, the startup company was severely stretched as it tried to address all three markets. To their credit, Ari and Carlos had attracted a very talented but inexperienced team of Chiefs who were committed to changing the way the world works but who were also lacking discipline and focus. While prioritizing projects was essential to gaining control of the situation, another important part of our strategy was a recruiting plan to bring in experienced Chiefs who could help our existing Chiefs grow. We were in need of some real wisdom.

When the bubble burst and the NASDAQ crash began in March, it was clear we needed to accelerate our plans to support our team.

The plan worked. We were successful in recruiting a number of amazing Chiefs including:

  • Mary Anne Walk from AT&T to support our Chiefs in Human Resources
  • Pete Schwartz from Computer Associates to support our Chiefs in Finance
  • Jeanne Murphy from Cendant to support our Chiefs in Law
  • Tom Plunkett from ADP to support our Chiefs in Information Technology
  • Ram Chillarege from IBM to support or Chiefs in Development

These experienced Chiefs each brought wisdom in addition to critical skills, including the ability to coach and the willingness to learn. Our reliance on a cascade of Chiefs at Opus enabled us to convince our board to go ahead with an initial public offering.

Importantly, the team at Opus achieved the quarterly revenue and cost projections that Ari and I made during our IPO roadshow for the first year in spite of an economic climate in which a majority of our competitors went out of business. We continued to develop products and attracted a merger with Artemis a year later.

The blend of wisdom from our recruited team along with the innovative energy that already existed in this burgeoning young company created a diversity that drove our resilience in a volatile market.

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HR Skills: Critical for Entry Level Managers to CEOs

There are many routes to the CEO suite, but human resource jobs are often discounted as “not the proper path.” Change may be coming though, and sooner than you think.

Did you see December’s Harvard Business Review article, titled “Why HR Chiefs Make Great CEOs—Really”? The piece focuses on research conducted by Ellie Filler and Dave Ulrich. They analyzed similarities between top performers with Chief titles. The bottom line? The best performing Chief Human Resource Officers displayed traits most similar to those of successful CEOs, more so than high performing CFOs, CMOs, or CIOs. In fact, only Chief Operating Officers, whose roles and responsibilities often overlap with CEOs, displayed higher similarities.

It’s important to recognize the critical skillsets that human resource jobs enable employees to develop: namely, managing human capital to strengthen a company. Leaders at all levels must make HR a primary focus if they want to build a team that can generate sustainable growth.

For any company to succeed, it is critical to attract and retain the right talent. Companies need to organize, compensate, and build a change-adaptive culture. While the CHRO leads these efforts for a company, these keys are the responsibility of Chiefs at all levels, independent of their job titles.

Premier organizations like The Conference Board regularly report on CEO views of top global business priorities. Their 2015 survey results are due in March, but most expect last year’s top five CEO concerns to stick:

  1. Human capital
  2. Customer relationships
  3. Innovation
  4. Operational excellence
  5. Corporate brand and reputation

With Gartner reporting that over 85% of the U.S. workforce is not fully engaged (at a cost of $370B annually), the top priorities for every manager needs to include a focus on human capital and employee engagement.

The Harvard Business Review indicates that companies will increasingly look to executives with HR experience as CEO candidates, following path finders like Mary Barra, the current CEO at General Motors. Hopefully that’s true. But even a powerful CEO can’t fix engagement issues by him or herself.

All companies need to emphasize the human capital element of every manager’s job to increase the success of the organization. Integrating HR assignments as part of the development plans for future leaders is part of the solution.

The bottom line: HR skills are critical at every level to the success of any company—really.

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Suppliers and Appliers: Another Key to Sustainable Success

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” —Albert Einstein

Does your company understand what type of business it is? In my experience, there are three types of companies. Understanding what type of company you are is a key factor in unleashing your potential for truly sustainable success.

In a previous blog I shared my definition of sustainable success: (1) maintain above average market growth while you (2) earn employee engagement, (3) deliver shareowner value, (4) create customer loyalty, and (5) operate as a conscious and accountable member of the community.

To accomplish these objectives, companies must start by understanding what type of business they are, and must connect their understanding of the company to the priorities they set and the choices they make. There are three types of companies: suppliers, appliers, and combos.

Suppliers

The majority of companies in the world are suppliers. They provide products that meet customer’s needs. The product must match or beat the customer’s expectations in many areas, including specific features, availability, delivery, and quality. The best of these companies make it easy for potential new customers to choose products by selling them either directly or indirectly via convenient means. Accessibility to their product is key for supplier companies.

The best suppliers can also create new products, staying one step ahead in the game. Pricing is nearly always an important factor and profits stay high only for companies with demand or without competition (e.g. patent-protected drugs). One of the biggest challenges for suppliers is maintaining customer loyalty, even when competitors offer lower prices. Suppliers must invest financial and human capital in each of these areas to stay one step ahead of their competitors.

Appliers

Some companies understand a customer’s needs so well that they can become appliers. Using goods and services from multiple sources, appliers install or deploy a product that helps a customer solve problems.

Applier companies understand that their employees are their greatest asset. Investing heavily in human capital is important for appliers. Competition is part of every market, but appliers understand their employees can set them apart by delivering value and building strong relationships. One of the biggest challenges for appliers is to stay up to date on all the products and services in their industry, but appliers who build strong relationships can earn higher levels of customer loyalty and often, higher profitability.

Combos

The final category comprises combination companies, or what I call “combos.” They are both suppliers and appliers. A great example is Home Depot. With their original motto “You can do it. We can help,” Home Depot has generated revenue both as a supplier of goods and an applier of expertise. Another example is Xerox: “Do what you do best. We’ll manage the rest.” Similar to Home Depot, Xerox supplies customers with technology and applies technology to meet customer needs.

Companies like Xerox compete on features, availability, delivery, quality, or price as a supplier and compete on solving customer problems as an applier. Companies that both supply and apply have the challenge to compete against firms that specialize in only one area but also the opportunity for loyalty and higher margins by becoming a true partner with their customers.

Priorities and Choices

Today, there are great companies succeeding in all three categories. This success stems from an understanding of what type of business they are. Does your company understand what type of business it is? Are you a supplier? Are you an applier? Are you both? The answers lead to decisions that will make your business more successful.

As a supplier, do you understand your customer well enough to anticipate their future needs? Who makes the buying decision for your customer? Is it an applier? What part of your value proposition is most important in your market? Do innovations in technology change your relationship with your customer?

As an applier, are you investing enough to keep your workforce current? Are you leveraging your customer knowledge to expand your business? Are you pricing your services to match the value you provide customers?

As a combo, how do you manage both parts of your business to optimize each? When do you recommend your own products and when are you best served to recommend others?

Achieving sustainable success is the objective of every company. In all cases, a clear understanding of your business enables you to make decisions on where to invest resources and where to focus to achieve growth—for the long term.

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Success without Control

The pressure to succeed in today’s market is ever present. In many hyper-competitive work environments, companies are looking in every direction to gain any possible edge. Yet everyone is operating with access to the same information.

Some company leaders respond by attempting to centralize decision making in an effort to gain tight control over the rapidly and constantly changing forces that influence business outcomes. Others have learned a key lesson—centralizing decision making is often the worst thing you can do to improve performance because of one simple truth: control is an illusion.

So, how do you succeed without overreaching for control? Generally, you do everything possible to maximize the probability of success without control. But how? A good place to start to look for tips and best practices is the 2014 list of Most Admired Companies. Great companies do five things, consistently. They:

Increase discipline: Discipline is a critical component of sustainable success without control, and is a key to increasing its probability. First, companies that succeed are meticulous in planning the work and working the plan. But an often forgotten element of discipline is also the ability to adjust. Amazon is a master of discipline. In fact, they have developed a reputation of adjusting before others. Bezos’ ability to envision and adjust ahead of the market is set to be proven yet again. Learn how to adjust before it’s your only choice, and you will be ahead of the game when it comes to discipline.

Increase support: Companies that succeed over the long haul understand that their employees are their most important asset. Accordingly, firms that choose to invest in these assets by supporting their employees will get great returns. Starbucks sets a great example of support by innovating around employee education and benefits policies. Practices such as these attract a motivated, loyal employee base. Informed and motivated employees don’t need to be controlled. Encourage and enable your staff and you, too will unleash talent in your organization.

Encourage creativity: I propose that creativity is actually the ability to manifest, or create, the future. Another key to success without control is for companies to ensure they are aligned in everything they do. Is there a direct correlation between what they say and what they do? Whole Foods succeeds in this arena, by connecting what they say and write with what they do. Their senior leaders have also been very transparent about what they think and what they feel. The Whole Foods team is raising the bar when it comes to paving a new road for how we do business. Is your organization connecting what it says to what it does?

Encourage insight: The development of insight is one of the most valuable investments you can make, both personally and as a business. Confidence comes from understanding who you truly are. Forward thinking businesses are offering mindfulness programs to their staffs. Google’s popular meditation course Search Inside Yourself has been wildly successful. They clearly see this investment as a valuable part of their growth strategy. Offering programs of this sort will help your company tap into a powerful resource.

Reinforce values: Values are the foundation of relationships and of sustainable success without control. When people can connect to their values, and connect their values to their company’s values, the coherence that results can fuel a stronger commitment to the company’s success. CostCo’s focus on a concise code of ethics makes for an easily communicated value statement that shows in every phase of business. Are your organization’s values known to all? If not, consider a new communication strategy to get the message out.

Taken together, these five steps will both unlock the potential in your organization and lead to sustainable success without ill-advised overreach for control. Use this guidance to help make good choices with customers, costs, and financial capital while you stay knowledgeable about competitors and be an active, positive force in your community.

Following this roadmap won’t guarantee that your company will be added to next year’s list of Most Admired Companies, but it will absolutely help your company maximize the probability of sustainable success without control.

It’s the best you can do.

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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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