“Without ambition, one starts nothing...

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...Without work, one finishes nothing.” In today’s dynamic business environment, it seems far too many leaders are struggling with getting started in a direction for their business, completing a strategic objective for their business or some combination of the two. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote in the title then ends with, “The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” In the context of today’s business environment, how ambitious is the team you lead to move in a specific direction as a team? How hard is your team willing to work as a team to finish what they start and achieve the team’s desired results? Let’s explore both questions through the lens of leadership required to answer them effectively. However, before we get to ambition and work ethic, let’s first level-set on the use of the term “Team”. Unfortunately, team and teamwork are often used improperly to describe...
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Don’t Raise Your Voice…

Persuasion
…Improve Your Argument! Much is written about conflict and how society continues to struggle with managing it in an open forum. I see this struggle first-hand with my own clients who continue to work on their effective communications skills, especially with those who disagree with them. One of the key skills of leadership is the ability to influence and persuade their teams to go where they have not yet gone before, knowing they have to change but cannot do it on the strength of their own motivations. The Leader’s ability to persuade, and manage through the potential resistance, is directly proportional to their ability to build an argument supporting why their followers should behave differently than they are currently. With the advent of technology infused communications tools, the ability to persuade should be easier. The ability to reach more people efficiently theoretically makes the process itself more efficient. However, if you...
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Soft Skills...

BAMM_20190626-150042_1
…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 can’t Motivate People…

happen
…You can only Create a Game Worth Playing” Motivation seems to be a recurring topic in many of the coaching conversations I have so it seems fitting to discuss in some detail as it is clearly still misunderstood by so many leaders and followers. And given the timing of March Madness and the upcoming Opening Day for baseball, it seemed only appropriate to use the quote from Michael Gerber to open the discussion of how leaders can create a “Game Worth Playing”! One of the biggest misconceptions around motivation is that it can be externally applied. What is externally applied are the conditions in which a person is motivated to apply the three elements of motivation: Direction, Intensity and Persistence. As these three elements are applied to one’s behavior, that person’s motivation can be inferred by how much they apply to each of the three. From my own experience, creating a...
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“You never get a second chance…

WF_1216_onboarding_newsltr
…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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Making Leadership a Way of Life!

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The title of this month’s conversation also happens to be the Vision for RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. As we celebrated our ten-year anniversary in September, it seems only appropriate to reflect on how our Vision has inspired and affirmed everything we achieved and what it has meant to our business these last 10 years.   To set the stage for how it all started, one of the prevailing issues I saw throughout my military and corporate career was just how few leaders there are in business, politics, religion, sports and any other category of work you want to add. Of course, by leadership I mean those who are leaders versus those who carry the title or just “do” leadership. And so, it has been a personal crusade to support those who strive to be leaders to their core, to the point they don't know any other way; it’s now a way...
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“The Best Way to Find Yourself…

…is to Lose Yourself in the Service of Others” As we continue our discussion of Leading at the Speed of Business , we look this month to expand on last month’s discussion in the Get Ready to Warp post. While last month’s theme was speed, this month we look at the concept highlighted by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote in the title, Servant Leadership. More specifically, we explore the idea that the leader of any organization can only be as effective and successful as the team they lead. The implication here is that no leader can keep up the pace of business solely on their own merits. They need followers who are fully bought in, physically and emotionally to the Vision and Purpose of the organization. In order to stay relevant at the speed of business, followers are the ones who will make it happen because they trust, and willingly follow, their leader!...
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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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“No matter how thin the pancake...

...it always has two sides.” By the end of 2017, I will have given multiple versions of our popular “Generational Diversity in the Workplace” presentation to over a dozen different audiences. While each audience is unique, a common question usually arises along the lines of, “I fit the generational demographics, but I don’t think like my generation.” Each time, this question, and subsequent conversation, brings me back to the wisdom from my Aunt in the title as it frames for me the value of understanding psycho-graphics to be an effective leader in the today’s dynamic business environment. Psycho-graphics are quantitative methodologies based on people’s attitudes and values. Most of us are used to demographics that are the tried and true “labels” to help us organize what is going on around us. If all we focused on was demographics, the best we could hope to gain would be effective management. However, we...
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“Sir, I do not understand”

This month’s title comes from my days as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and was one of the only four answers we could give as plebes (freshmen) when questioned by upper-classman.  As I do a fair share of key note team presentations and workshops on Effective Communications, I thought it appropriate to the subject.  Effective communications, or the lack thereof is, in my experience, the number one issue in business today. An issue because we are communicating more, yet listening less.  We are blitzed with content and yet struggle to put the content into a reliable context of our leadership situation.  The result is a too often occurrence of unmet expectations. The purpose of all communications is to elicit some degree of behavioral response.  Any change effort, no matter the scope and scale, begins with understanding expectations.  Sustainable success, the ability to repeatedly achieve desired...
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The difference between wanting change clarity and resisting change is…

…apparently a difficult question to answer!  I’ve asked this question hundreds of times to business leaders, non-profit leaders and MBA students and the answers are as varied as their backgrounds.  It stems from an age-old scenario where, during a change conversation, some brave soul stands up and asks a question to clarify the change initiative.  The room waits in anticipation as to whether the questioner will get an honest answer or be forever tagged as a resistor of change.  Having led numerous change efforts in my corporate career, I welcomed questions as I knew it would help everyone understand the change in the long run.  However, in my coaching practice I get the sense I may have been in the minority! We have to ask why this challenge exists after many decades of change.  If we put the usual personalities and egos aside, one of the key issues is a fundamental...
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It’s OK to not Know How…

…It’s not OK to avoid Learning How! It’s not a secret that continuous learning is an important element of staying relevant in today’s business environment.  While there are a multitude of reasons and business drivers why this is our reality (technology, global enterprise, socio-cultural shifts to name but a few), it still amazes me how often ignorance is used as an excuse for not keeping up with change, to which I usually respond with the opening quote.  At some point, all leaders arrive at a point of “I don’t know…” relative to their business.  However, leaders must never fall for the, “…but I’m not going to worry about it” as a means to avoid learning what they need to know. In my experience, there are two primary reasons leaders fall into the trap of avoiding the right level of personal development necessary to stay relevant.  The first is lacking a complete...
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It’s not the facts we disagree on…

…it’s the interpretation of the facts we most often disagree! In this classic conflict between content (facts) and context (interpretation) lies a key element of effective leadership; managing perceptions! We’ve heard many of the mantras around perception including the most common, “Perception is Reality”.  But what is perception and how does it influence our ability to be effective leaders?  Perception is the process we use to organize and interpret our sensory inputs in order to understand, and give meaning to, what goes on around us.  More specifically, perception can be addressed by looking deeper into the factors that shape our perceptions and reside in the Perceiver, the Situation and the Sensory Target.  Let’s look at each of these to see what we can learn to be more effective leaders! The Perceiver ~ Even before we encounter our next sensory input, our previous experiences and attitudes will impact how we interpret, or...
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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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You are never too old to learn…

…or too young to teach. It seems never a week goes by but which I have a conversation with leaders of all ages about the opportunities and challenges of a multi-generational workforce. The digi-sphere is rife with blogs, videos and posts espousing the perceptions of each of the four (or five depending on where you work) generations in today’s workforce. What I see little of, and the focus of this post, is perceptions of each generation preventing them from learning from the others. It seems to be mostly an either/or conversation versus an also/and when it comes to solutions presented on this topic. Over the past several months, I have worked as part of a multi-generational team of community leaders to create mastermind groups to provide duel-mentorship for those who participate in the groups. It is, by design, meant to provide those who are over-forty and those who are under-forty the...
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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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“Are you trying to be Perfect…

…or Excellent?” I only ask because I seem to run across this question quite a bit lately, so it seems worthwhile to address it in a more widespread forum. The conversation usually begins with a discussion around how the leader is trying to accomplish a multitude of actions to advance her or his business. As the frustration becomes evident when not being able to accomplish it all, the obvious question of priorities takes center stage. Of course, when one prioritizes, it means something will not get done which brings us to the title question. Are you trying to be perfect or are you trying to be excellent? To highlight the question, I often tell the story of two campers whose campsite is approached by a bear. One camper takes off running in the opposite direction while the other camper calmly takes off his boots and starts putting on running shoes. Seeing...
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“Carry a Message to Garcia”

With the recent talk of normalizing relations with Cuba, I am reminded of the popular, and even famous in some military circles, essay that was ultimately made into two movies, a book and translated in thirty-seven languages. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, President McKinley needed to reach the leader of the insurgency in Cuba, General Calixto Iniguez Garcia in an effort to secure his cooperation with the United States. The problem was, no one knew where Garcia was. An American officer, Lieutenant Andrew Rowan (West Point Class of 1881) was given a letter with the simple directive, “Carry a Message to Garcia”. Off Rowan went to successfully complete a simply stated mission of vital importance to his country. So what do we take from this story of Mission, Accountability and Leadership? Let’s take a look at each one and see what we can glean from Rowan’s example. One of the...
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Are you measuring Headcount…

…or Heartcount? As we enter into what is arguably the most emotional season of the year, it seems fitting to remind ourselves as leaders the importance of engaging followers at a level much deeper than merely following orders. We’ve all read the ever-growing number of articles and blogs concerning the low levels of employee engagement in the workforce. One reason may well be the simple reference to people as “headcount”. What if we stopped measuring headcount and started measuring “heartcount”? Heartcount, for purposes of this discussion, refers to the level of commitment to the Vision, Mission and Strategy as active participants in the organizational Culture. Imagine a monthly meeting where leaders report their heartcount or heartcount-as-a-percentage-of-headcount to their management and boards. Think of the discussion that comes out of a leader stating, “We had a 43% heartcount this past quarter” which is akin to saying, “We were 43% committed to the...
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