5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of July 31, 2017

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.


You Don’t Need Your CEO’s Approval to Build a Better Work Culture by George Anders at Forbes.com

What does it take to improve an organization’s work culture? “You don’t need to wait for your boss or the CEO to do something,” says consultant Vanessa Shaw, who will be hosting San Francisco’s Culture Week and Culture Summit in August.

Instead, Shaw argues, frontline managers and individual employees can (and should) take the lead. Something as simple as an individual manager’s willingness to stage once-a-week team breakfasts can set a positive example that spreads throughout the organization — and leads to a heightened degree of collaboration.

My Comment: No matter how caustic or broken your culture might be, no one can force you to treat people poorly. If you wait for other people to change first, you’ll be waiting forever. In Winning Well we give you the tools to create what we call a “cultural oasis” – in the desert of negativity and disrespect, you can be a refreshing source of dignity, respect, and a healthy focus on results. Stop waiting, start leading.

A Study of more than 50,000 Employees In Over 1,000 Companies Says These Are the 10 Things Workers Need the Most to Succeed by Marcel Schwantes at Inc.com

Late last year, Officevibe, the leader in employee engagement software, released an unprecedented, real-time report on the “State of Employee Engagement,” based on hundreds of thousands of answers from their customer survey software.

Unlike so many dated reports, what employees are telling their companies about what truly matters to them using Officevibe software is in the here and now. It updates in real time, adding new data as answers stream in, like, right now.

More than 50,000 employees from over 1,000 organizations representing 150 countries have registered their views since 2013, representing close to 1.2 million data points.

Officevibe captured data on 10 essential metrics for companies need to keep in mind when trying to improve employee engagement. They are…

My Comment: This is an interesting list. Interesting in part because the data set is large and yes, many of the ten items on the list are spot on. If you’re not providing feedback, recognition, and opportunities for growth, you won’t have an engaged workforce. However, there are also some items on the list that you want to be careful about interpreting.

The one that jumps out at me the most is “happiness.” Be careful here. Your job is not to make your employees happy. That’s a fool’s errand: whether or not your employee experiences happiness is not up to you. In fact, some of the most rewarding things we do don’t make us feel happy in the moment, but often do as we reflect back. Your job is to cultivate an environment that allows people’s strengths, talents, and energy to be directed in productive ways. The article says 23% of employees leave work feeling drained, exhausted, and sluggish. That’s interesting – those feelings may or may not align with feeling happy. It depends on what you accomplished, right?

How to Unleash Innovation Hidden in Your Enterprise by Skot Carruth

Toyota is a heavyweight. Not only is it the world’s largest automaker, but it’s also a master at innovation on the factory floor to continuously improve its operational efficiency.

Consider the concept of “Genchi Genbutsu,” a cornerstone of the Toyota Production System. Japanese for “actual place, actual thing” (and sometimes translated as “go and see for yourself”), Genchi Genbutsu bucks the traditional top-down operational hierarchy. It calls for leaders to descend from their ivory towers to the production floor, where they can truly understand issues, dig into root causes and discuss solutions.

This isn’t the tired “manage by walking around” approach. Genchi Genbutsu requires real engagement. Its goal isn’t to help leaders get their 10,000 daily steps; it’s to help them discover insights where insights live.

My Comment: When you “trust the trenches” and listen to the people closest to your customer and product, you get a sorely needed dose of creativity, efficiency, customer feedback, and problem-solving that you’re unlikely to see from one, two, or more org-chart levels away. I love this line from the article: “Innovation happens when those executive-level ideas collide with equally valuable ones from everyday workers.”

Kicking These Three Habits Made Me a Better CEO by Ajay Yadav at Fast Company

Pretty much nobody sets out to be an entrepreneur because they’re excited about becoming someone else’s manager. Usually, you start your own company because you’re passionate about an idea you have–and maybe also partly because you’re tired of having a boss yourself.

But as my company grew, I soon found myself the head of a company with dozens of people reporting to me. And eventually, I realized that some of the habits I’d adopted for managing other people in the early days had just stopped working. Once I’d kicked them, though, things started running a lot more smoothly. These are three that I’m really glad I gave up.

My Comment: I love this list. Three great concepts and a meaningful insight (namely, that most people don’t start out with the idea of leading and managing, but discover the necessity and then learn how to do it). My one question would be: what text book was Yadav reading? The ‘textbook idea of leadership’ he cites, being distant, keeping folks at arm’s length, doesn’t usually get the best results in long-term scenarios. A combined focus on results and relationships is the foundation for transformational success.

How this Hiring Manager Maintains a Millennial Team With a 93% Retention Rate by Kimberly Fries

A new hire costs a company 1.25 to 1.4 times of the base salary range. To give you a better perspective, a person with an annual salary of $50,000 will cost your business between $62,500 and $70,000, accounting for the recruiting expenses, employment taxes, benefits, the physical space and equipment required for this particular hire on top of the base salary.

Millennials, the generation now dominating the U.S. workforce, have already become a prized and somewhat “complicated” generation for traditional employers. Entrepreneurial, task-driven, demanding constant feedback, preferring digital tools for communication and seeking meaningful work, this generation is hard to retain with the standard work perks.

My Comment: “Standard work perks” don’t retain anyone, much less millennial talent who are driven by purpose and experience. This is a good look at some real-world fundamentals that cultivate an environment where people want to stay. I particularly appreciate the value of #2. Building a customer-centric culture that people can feel positive about helps you attract and retain the people you want in your organization. They’ll naturally be drawn to the work of creating those “wow” experiences.


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