Soft Skills...

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…are the new Hard Skills.” Our conversation around the emerging importance of soft skills has, to this point, focused on their impact to the individual leader and in general terms of the impact to the organization which the leader leads. In this issue, we will directly address the importance of soft skills in the context of achieving sustainable organizational success using the Business Alignment Maturity Model © ( BAMM ) outlined in our “ The Missing Piece… ” series of books. As a quick refresher, BAMM is an organizational business model outlining the five stages of business alignment necessary to create sustainable success. Whether you are a small business leader/owner, a leader of a corporate business unit/team or a non-profit leader, your organization must align all its moving parts in order to achieve the desired results – over and over again! So let’s explore how soft skills factor into this sustainable...
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“You never get a second chance…

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…to make a good first impression.” As leaders, we have countless opportunities to make good first impressions no matter the industry, market or business model. This is especially true in today’s dynamic business world in and amongst all the clutter of so many “impressions” we come across on a daily basis where relationships ultimately carry the day. There is one facet of making a good first impression that I see organizations, large and small, for-profit and non-profit, public and private struggle with and that is creating and executing an effective onboarding process. I maintain there is very little else that says an organization cares about a person’s success in their new role than an effective onboarding process! My focus here is not to define the perfect onboarding process as that is going to be organization specific. My focus, instead, is to share some thoughts on effective onboarding at three different levels...
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To win in the marketplace…

…you must first win in the workplace! Welcome to the fifth and final key to success in our series on " Leading at the Speed of Business" . We’ve spent several months now talking about the importance of adaptability as it pertains to staying relevant in today’s business environment. Whether leading a growing small business, an established large business or a non-profit enterprise, staying relevant will always be a concern. In our final installment, we focus on the importance of the right culture that views adaptability as a norm rather than something members of the organization have to do.  It is who they are versus and not just what they do. Adaptability is how the organization collectively thinks in order to achieve sustainable success! It is always important to level-set definitions with the audience so the discussion doesn’t get side-tracked. We define culture as the shared set of beliefs, values, attitudes...
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"The absence of conflict…

…does not equal the presence of trust.” Just over five years ago, I wrote these words in a blog detailing the important elements of trust. They recently came back to me as the topic surfaced as a key element of so many coaching conversations over the last several months.  There was a leader struggling to verbalize the diminished trust they had with a key associate. Or the leadership team concerned that a public proclamation of trust as a value would somehow have a negative effect (images of the sleazy salesperson who leads with “trust me” accompanied by a sly grin!) These, and other similar conversations, have me wondering why something so obviously key to effective leadership would be so difficult to verbalize. Upon reflection, I found the conversation broke down to two primary categories of trust; Ethics and Compliance, both of which we’ll explore a little deeper. Trust based on Ethics...
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“It’s What You Do, Not What You Say...

…If You’re Not Part of the Future, then Get Out of the Way.” Whenever I see these words to John Cougar Mellencamp’s song, “Peaceful World”, it reminds me that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is painting a clear picture of the intended future of their team, department, business or organization. This is the time of year where many leaders are doing just that, visualizing the intended future produced by strategic plans, budgets and resource allocations now ready to be executed in the upcoming new year. However, these documents aren't enough to dictate success as they are typically created by spreadsheets and analytics. Visions are realized through emotional engagement by members of an organization so having more than logical plans and budgets to achieve success is necessary. What is the story? ~ Before leaders share the picture of the intended future, they have to have a clear idea of the...
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“Adapt…

…or Die” I was recently reintroduced to Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch’s book by the same name as the title.  I have always liked the bluntness of the message, especially as it applies to Organizational Culture. The importance of the value and impact of culture begins with understanding what culture really is and that it has multiple moving parts.  Once we define what culture is, we can then look at how culture affects organization execution externally as well as how culture impacts organizational operations internally.  As leaders continue to fully grasp the nuances of 21 st Century Leadership with all its changes, one truth remains constant; Culture will ultimately determine whether success is fleeting or sustainable! Culture is defined as the system of shared values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that develops within an organization and guides the behavior of the members.  Culture exists on some level with or without leadership doing anything...
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Change the Narrative...

…Change the Culture! I recently attended a lecture that carried the above title and was intrigued by the ensuing discussion around how effective communications can literally change the course of an organization based on the narrative used to inspire it.  In my mind, effective communication is the number one leadership challenge in business (for-profit and non-profit) today supported by an abundance of real-world examples, surveys and professional articles.  Most surveys I’ve read on this topic not only identify the issue, but also identify leadership’s own poor attempts to improve communications within their organizations.  It is this challenge to improve what is a well-known issue that highlights this leadership discussion. Effective communication is defined as the ability of the sender and the receiver to understand the message in the same context.  This implies using clarity in the message itself, choosing the most effective and efficient media to transmit the message and using...
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“Excellence drives Mediocre People away…

…just as Mediocrity drives the Superstars away” One of the greatest challenges any leader will face is putting the right team together and positioning them to excel and achieve desired results!  This is true of businesses large and small, for-profit or non-profit, public or private sector.  What I love about the title quote from Jim Hunter’s book, “ The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle ” is the simple truth it represents for leaders to invest in fielding the right team to realize the Vision, execute the Strategy by achieving their Goals leading to the aforementioned Desired Results.  However, what is frustrating is how many leaders are not addressing the mediocrity and lamenting the inevitable departure of their best team members.  Let’s break down the two issues and address what leaders can do with each one. Excellence drives mediocre people away ~ Of course the first challenge to this issue is defining...
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“What we see…

…depends mainly on what we look for.” It seems that everywhere we look in business writings these days, you will find multiple posts and articles on the importance of culture to business success. With all the expertise being distributed, you have to wonder why we haven’t figured it out by now!  The truth lies in the definition of culture combined with the accelerated speed of change we now find ourselves in as 21 st Century leaders. A common definition I use with clients and my graduate students is where culture is the shared beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors and norms that guide members of the organization. Based on this definition, we can conclude that culture exists in every organization large or small. While every organization has culture embedded in its DNA, the real question is whether the culture can support sustainable success through the vision and strategy of the business. How does...
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Preach Always...

...Sometimes Use Words We have all heard the phrase “Practice What You Preach” at some point in our lives. There is even a variation that goes “Preach What You Practice”. The underlying theme is the effective combination of Preaching and Practice. However, Preaching does not always mean words are involved. This takes on added importance the more we talk about business culture and the many ways leaders influence the culture of a business, regardless of whether it is a for-profit or non-profit, small venture or large corporate venture. What leaders say and do to reflect the culture are as important as what they accept what others say and do, whether positive or negative to the culture. What do people see from your actions? What are you preaching without saying anything? We often forget that every move we make as leaders is under some level of scrutiny. People are watching and judging...
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"The culture of any organization is shaped…

…by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate." This has been one of the easiest newsletters to write for the simple reason that I see so many examples of the situation outlined in the undated quote above from Gruenter and Whitaker. So much so that it seems like the right time to break down why it occurs and provide some thoughts on how to help leaders avoid the this trap that many find themselves caught in. One of Peter Drucker’s quotes reads, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” which means when you get culture right, the rest will more often than not, fall into place. The conversation begins with the definition of culture itself. We define culture as the shared set of beliefs, values and attitudes that guide the behavior of the organization. Every organization, large or small has a culture that is created in one of three ways: Leaders...
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