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Why Not Set Goals?

Why Not Set Goals?

Do your company or law firm leaders have clearly defined written goals? Research shows that those people who actually sit down and write out their goals not only end up achieving them, but have higher incomes and ratings for overall success and life satisfaction.

There are four main reasons people don’t set clear goals and write them out. Many people say they can’t be bothered to take the time to sit and write them out, preferring to keep them in their heads. But no one is really that busy, as it only takes a few minutes. The real reasons are probably deeper, involving the fact that if they are kept in “the head,” it is easy to change, revise and ignore them. This avoids accountability issues and facing failure. Looking further into the psychological reasons, we find the following four factors:

1. First, most people don’t realize the importance of goals. If you grow up in a home where no one has goals or you socialize with a group where goals are neither discussed nor valued, you can very easily reach adulthood without knowing that your ability to set and achieve goals will have more of an effect on your life than any other skill. Look around you. How many of your friends or family members are clear and committed to their goals? Successful people are all committed to action plans. They set goals out in writing and follow them.

2. They don’t know how to set goals. Some people confuse goals with wishes and fantasies. They think in terms of “having a lot of money,” “getting a great job,” “having a nice family,” “getting fit,” without breaking these wishes down into their component parts and the action steps it would take.

These aren’t goals but wishes and fantasies common to everyone. A goal is different. It is clear, specific and measurable. You know when you have achieved it or not.

3. They have a fear of failure. If goals aren’t written down, we can change them to match what is actually achieved without having to face any feelings of failure. Furthermore, many people make the mistake of setting goals that are easily attained in order to avoid failing. This is a form of unconscious self-sabotage. They end up going through life functioning at sub-optimal levels rather than at the level they are truly capable.

4. They have a fear of rejection. The fourth reason people don’t set clear, written goals, is that they fear they will be seen by others as ridiculous if they fail. They don’t want to face criticism be seen as not capable or worthy. This is one reason to keep goals confidential when you begin to start out with goal setting, other than sharing with your coach, mentor or a trusted peer.

The best way to get support for your goals is from a coach. Friends and family members may be helpful, or not. A professionally trained coach is an expert at helping you to achieve what you want. He or she can also help you with the goal setting process to ensure that your goals are aligned with your values.

Choosing and planning your goals is hard work. It takes time and commitment. The rewards, however, are great. By aligning your head with your heart you will set meaningful, attainable goals that will help you make progress toward what you truly value in your life.

Working with a seasoned executive coach trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating leadership assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i and CPI 260 can help you become a leader who develops and achieves significant goals. You can become a better leader who models emotional intelligence, and who inspires people to become happily engaged with the strategy and vision of your organization.

                             © Copyright 2010 Dr. Maynard Brusman, Working Resources

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Box 471525 San Francisco, California 94147-1525
Tel: 415-546-1252
Web Site:
Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter:
Visit Maynard's Blog:

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded "Board Approved"
designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

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Discover Your Talents and Strengths: Strategies for Self-Leadership

Discover Your Talents and Strengths: Strategies for Self-Leadership

"Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer."— Peter Drucker

Most of us have a poor sense of our talents and strengths. Throughout our education and careers, there is a lot of attention paid to our weaknesses. We are acutely aware of our faults and deficits, our “opportunities for development,” or whatever euphemism is popular for naming them.

Parents, teachers and managers are all experts in spotting deficits. In fact, most parents, teachers and managers consider it theirresponsibility to point out flaws and try to help us correct them.

We have become experts in our own weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair our flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected. The research, however, is clear: we grow and develop by putting emphasis on our strengths, rather than trying to correct our deficits.

Most people don’t concern themselves with identifying their talents and strengths. Instead, they choose to study their weaknesses. A Gallup poll investigated this phenomenon by asking Americans, French, British, Canadian, Japanese and Chinese people of all ages and backgrounds the question: “Which do you think will help you improve the most: knowing your strengths or knowing your weaknesses?”

The Path to Improvement: Strengths or Weaknesses?

The answer was always the same: weaknesses, not strengths, deserve the most attention. The most strengths-focused culture is the United States, but still only a minority of people, 41 percent, felt that knowing their strengths would help them improve the most. The least strengths-focused cultures are Japan and China. Only 24 percent believe that the key to success lies in their strengths.

The majority of people in the world don’t think that the secret to improvement lies in a deep understanding of their strengths. Interestingly, in every culture the older people (55 and above) were the least fixated on their weaknesses. Perhaps they have acquired more self-acceptance and realize the futility of trying to be what they are not.

Why are Weaknesses so Attractive?

Why do so many people avoid focusing on their strengths? Weaknesses may be fascinating and strangely mesmerizing, like watching soap operas and Jerry Springer shows. But the attraction lies in the fact we deeply fear our weaknesses, our failures and even our true self.

Some people may be reluctant to investigate their strengths because they may fear there isn’t much in the way of real talent or strength inside them anyway, or that they are just average (again, ingrained from education models). Or, maybe there is a feeling of inadequacy, an “imposter syndrome,” and an underlying fear of being found out.

Despite your achievements, you may wonder whether you are as talented as everyone thinks you are. You suspect that luck and circumstance may have played a big part in your getting to where you are today.

However, if you do not investigate your strengths, for any of the above fears and feelings of insecurity, you will miss out on discovering more of who you really are. You will miss out on becoming who you are really meant to be.

Too Close to See?

You are probably not as cognizant of your strengths as you could be because most of us take them for granted. We are so embedded in our strengths, we are not aware of them as strengths. We think everybody is that way too. It never occurs to us to be any other way; it is just natural for us. 

This way of thinking excludes developing our strengths and becoming even stronger and more brilliant. You can’t develop what you don’t recognize. You can’t expand what you are not aware of.

Building on your strengths is also about responsibility. You probably don’t take pride in your natural talents any more than you would take pride in your sex, race, or hair color. Natural talents are gifts from God and your gene pool.

However, you have a great deal to do with turning your talents into strengths. You can take your talents into the realm of excellence. It involves becoming acutely aware, developing an action learning plan, and “practice, practice, practice”.Viewed in this light, to avoid your strengths by focusing on your weaknesses is almost a sign of irresponsibility.

The Courage to Be Brilliant

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…We ask ourselves,`Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”— Marianne Williamson

The most responsible, yet the most challenging, thing to do is to face up to your natural talents. It is an honor to have such blessings. Do not waste them. Step up to the potential inherent in your talents and find ways to develop your strengths. Be true to yourself by becoming more of who you really are.

This advice is easy to give and difficult to put into practice. It is easier when working with a trained professional coach. Working with your coach can make it easier for you to identify your talents and strengths. There are also a number of online self-assessments available to help. Once your five top strengths are identified, you can examine how they show up in your life.

It is a process of a few steps back, a few steps forward, and learning as you go. It is not the same as book learning. The only way to learn about your strengths is to act, learn, refine, and then act, learn, refine. Open yourself to feedback. This means you must be strong and courageous. Personal development is not for sissies.

Discovering your true strengths is the path towards improvement and success. When you pay attention to your deficits and try to overcome them, you are placing emphasis on becoming what you are not. You wind up living a second-rate version of someone else’s life rather than a world-class version of your own.


                                                                                                   © Copyright 2010 Dr. Maynard Brusman, Working Resources


Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Box 471525 San Francisco, California 94147-1525
Tel: 415-546-1252
Web Site:
Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter:
Visit Maynard's Blog:

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded "Board Approved"
designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

Connect with me on these Social Media sites.


A Shocking Tale of Extraordinary Customer Service


A Shocking Tale of Extraordinary Customer Service

A friend called me a few months ago to tell me that he was recently injured and had to go on temporary disability. He said he was having a hard time financially and the doctor didn’t want him to return to work right away. He has a teenage daughter and is a single parent. He asked for my advice, and I suggested he apply for a mortgage modification, which he did.

Last week he called me again to tell me that he was back at work, but was still trying to catch up with his bills. Unfortunately, his bank, Wells Fargo had turned him down for the mortgage modification and he was worried he wouldn’t be able to make future payments. Wells Fargo had suggested he reapply in person during the three-day workshops they were holding at the Oakland Convention Center. He had made an appointment and asked me to accompany him for moral support.

His appointment was today at 3:00 PM. At 2:30 he called and said he didn’t see the point, but I said some encouraging words and he decided to go.

I didn’t know what to expect. Wells Fargo is huge, and he had already been turned down, because his debt to income ratio and his expenses were too high.

As soon as we entered the convention center, there were people to greet us. They smiled, welcomed us, and let us know they were there to help, as they accompanied him to registration. From the first smile, I could feel his tension lesson. 

His first step was to meet with Adela, a representative who reviewed his financials. She spoke with him about his bills, and he told her that he had cut way back on expenses since he had first applied. She was encouraging, and told him that he had several options. She let him know that there were a lot of other people in the same situation, and she wanted him to be able to keep his house. There were no lectures, no judgment, just kindness and empathy.


He began to feel hopeful as she walked him over to the next person, Ernesto, who was going to run the numbers and possibly give him the verdict. Ernesto offered him a cookie, which he accepted. He told me that as soon as he ate the cookie, he knew that he would be ok. Ernesto smiled, looked him in the eye asked him about his situation. He was comfortable opening up and talking. My friend told me that he had been embarrassed about his situation since he had never had to ask for financial help before, but when he spoke with Ernesto, he was treated like a peer, and with great respect.


All of a sudden I saw my friends’ face light up, he sat up a little straighter, with a big smile on his face.  I knew he had gotten the help he wanted but had been too afraid to hope for. “I can’t believe it, they lowered my interest rate three points, and I don’t have to make a payment for another five weeks,” he said as walked over to where I was waiting. His step was lighter, and he told me, “Wells Fargo has a customer for life, and I’m going to let everyone know about the care I got.”

With Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, etc. reports of bad customer service can go viral, but it’s important that examples of extraordinary empathy, and problem solving get posted and go viral in the clouds and blogosphere.

Creating workplaces where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business


Simma Lieberman Associates


Fax: 510.527/0723

1185 Solano Ave. PMB 142

Albany, CA 94706 


Call us about our New Remote On-Call Executive Coaching Program

visit my Fast Company expert blog 


Subscribe to our free newsletter

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Why More CEOs Need to Clean Toilets; Lessons in leadership from “Undercover Boss.”


Why More CEOs Need to Clean Toilets; Lessons in leadership from “Undercover Boss.”

In the new reality show,  “Undercover Boss,” executive leaders go “undercover” as new hires in entry-level positions, to better understand how their organization works.

The first episode featured Larry  O’Donnell, President of Waste Management, Inc. cleaning porta-potties along with one of his employees. After each show the executives reveal their true identity and talk about what they’ve learned.

To some people this is a revolutionary concept, but I have to ask, “Why doesn’t every manager, executive or CEO take time to understand what their employees actually do at work?”

I’ve conducted numerous organizational assessments and have spoken to several thousand employees, during my last twenty years as a consultant.” My clients include; hotels and restaurants, high tech, facilities and waste management, airlines, transportation, beverage bottling and distributing, public works, and call centers.

The most common complaint and question I hear is, “Why doesn’t my manager/ director/ CEO, try to do my job?” followed by, “ if he or she tried to do my work, they would understand what I have to deal with everyday.”

This is a big “DUH!”  The common mantra these days is, “engaged employees are productive employees.”  Employees who think you have no idea or empathy for them are not going to be engaged.

I know that senior executives can’t necessarily meet all of their employees, or spend all their time on the floor, but they at least need to know what people who are on the phones, on the production floor, in housekeeping, and behind the counter, have to deal with every day. They need to have a process in place, that holds each level accountable for communicating with the next level down, and every one in management needs to spend a day at the call center, cleaning toilets, at the bottling plant, or driving the bus.

I’ve worked at entry-level jobs in various industries, and I’ve worked with CEOs. I know that where there is acrimony between employees and management and executive leaders, you’ll find low morale, poor service, extreme stress and increased absenteeism, and, too many resources allocated to internal problems as opposed to growing business. I also know that when inclusion, communication, and empathy are part of the culture, employees are happy and they are much more likely to make your customers happy.

So maybe, there should be more CEOs taking an hour or two to clean the toilets, flip burgers, or listen to customer complaints.

Simma Lieberman

"The Inclusionist"

Creating workplaces where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business


Simma Lieberman Associates


Fax: 510.527/0723 

1185 Solano Ave. PMB 142 

Albany, CA 94706  


Author of “Putting Diversity to Work, how to successfully lead a diverse workforce.”


Upcoming book, “The Dynamic Workplace, Where Employees Love to Go, and Customers Love to Buy.”

Call us about our New Remote On-Call Executive Coaching Program


visit my Fast Company expert blog 


Subscribe to our free newsletter


Member of the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame


Follow me  www.twitter/theinclusionist



The #1 Leadership Communication Program Preventing Your Employees From Doing Exactly What You Want


Communication is a “catch-all” phrase for things that go wrong in companies and relationships. Unfortunately, the concept is too ambiguous to do anything constructive to fix it. 
I’ve identified seven communication mistakes that lead to mis-understandings, and cause conflicts between co-workers, and bosses and their subordinates which lead to low morale and toxic work environments. I call them “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication.”
The least understood and most common of the sins is communicating with a lack of specificity. 
The “Law of Specificity” states, “the level to which communication lacks specificity is the level to which individuals are required to become mind readers.”
 Three of the most common areas for non-specific communication are:
* Lack of Specific Details
* Lack of Specific Direction 
* Lack of Specific Meaning
Lack of Specific Details
This is one of the most regularly violated. It’s a simple as leaving out dates, times, and locations, etc. when making a request. Here is an actual client example:
“Steve, I need you to get me details of all of our vendor and sub-contractor relationships by the end of next week so I can evaluate them for next year’s budgets I’m submitting.”
This request seems straight forward, but Steve did not meet the expectations of his boss. 
Steve took “the end of next week” to mean by “the end of the day next Friday.” His boss meant that he was submitting his budget proposal by the end of the day the following Friday and therefore needed Steve’s information by the first thing Friday morning, or preferably Thursday.
As you might imagine, this caused a conflict between the boss and his direct report. It wasn’t the first time. I had to coach both on ensuring more specificity was included in future requests. 
I suggested a statement like this, “
“Steve, I need to submit our budget proposal by the end of next week. So I need a detailed report on our vendor and sub-contractor relationships by Thursday at 5 p.m. This way I can use those figures in my proposal, which I will be finalizing next Friday. Based on your present priorities is that a timeframe you can make happen?” 
This request has much more specificity. It is also very respectful of the other party’s priorities. It doesn’t assume that he or she can just drop everything to fulfill this request. It allows for honest and open negotiation so both parties feel supported and expectations can be met.
Lack of Specific Direction 
In this situation my client, a CEO, had a habit of moving things off his desk by putting them in his office manager’s “in-basket.” 
Because of his position, the office manager assumed that if he was giving her something “it must be important.” Every time she would immediately stop what she was doing to work on the latest thing he had given her.
On the surface this seems like very proactive assistant getting things done. The challenge is that it was frustrating the office manager as it prevented her from getting other priorities accomplished. She was becoming stressed by her inability to keep up with her workload and that of her boss.
I solved the problem in 30-seconds. I asked my client, the CEO, if everything he put in her in-box was an urgent priority that required immediate attention. 
He said, “no,” that he was just trying to get stuff off his desk. 
I coached him to put a note on the top of any item identifying the level of urgency the item required. This allowed the office manager to prioritize and schedule those items around her work without having to assume and mind-read. 
Lack of Specific Meaning
My wife recently accused me of leaving the front door to our home “open” when I come from appointments during the day. Her meaning for the word “open,” as it pertained to the front door of our home, and mine are very different.
Upon further discussion we learned she meant that the door was not “locked” so as to seal the door to keep the cold winter air from seeping through the weather stripping. My meaning for an “open” front door was that the latch was not shut and the door was truly open so you could see outside.
Words have different meanings to different people in different contexts. Often times we assume the person has our same point of reference. That is often not the case causing misunderstandings and trust to break down.
If you or others on your team may be making these leadership communication mistakes I invite you to go to and get my free special report “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication” where I will show you how to fix these sins, communicate like a champion and build a championship organization.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication


Upon completing a recent project I took my client to lunch to thank him for his business. We reminisced about how we first met at my End Procrastination NOW! Workshop and how he realized at that time he was tired of tolerating things in his business.

Among the problems with which he was becoming increasingly frustrated were senior team members and frontline employees who…

  • Were not taking responsibility for their jobs
  • Needed constant prodding to get things done
  • Were not responsive to client requests
  • Did not return phone messages
  • Were throwing their fellow employees “under the bus”
  • Were having shouting matches in the office and on project sites
  • Using profanity when communicating with co-workers, clients and vendors
  • Procrastinated on following through on business opportunities
  • Were showing up late or leaving early with no explanation
  • Had negative attitudes
  • Complained about customers and co-workers
  • Were “disappearing” during the day

I began my project searching for the real underlying cause of these issues by:

  • interviewing the entire staff of 25
  • holding a series of focus groups
  • observing interactions and conversations between the business owner and his people.

What I learned in just two short weeks could fill a book.

My new client was violating virtually every leadership communication mistake. To simplify the project moving forward I categorized them into what I now call “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication:”

  • Communication Sin #1: Lack of Specificity
    This causes people on the receiving end of a communication to have to mind-read or guess as to what is being requested of them. Details are left out or are at best, vague. The recipient, for many reasons, fails to ask follow up questions to get specifics and have to figure it out on their own.
  • Communication Sin #2: Lack of Focus on Desirable Behaviors
    People are great at saying what they don’t want or what they don’t want others to do, but have challenges identifying the behaviors they want instead. Where your focus goes, grows. As such, people are getting more of what they don’t want than ever before because they continue to focus on it.
  • Communication Sin #3: Lack of Directness
    This is where people go behind the backs of co-workers, peers, bosses and subordinates with water cooler gossip. Another example is the leader who tries to fix a problem that should be addressed to one person but calls a team meeting offering a blanket directive. A third is when co-workers tell managers the mistakes their co-workers make, hoping to look good at someone else’s expense.
  • Communication Sin #4: Lack of Immediacy
    This is procrastination. This is when communication is avoided because the conversations are difficult and leaders don’t know how to approach the offending party, so they choose not to.
  • Communication Sin #5: Lack of Appropriate Tone
    Ever had someone in a professional setting raise their voice at you in a condescending or threatening manner? How about responding in a sarcastic tone? These are just two of the ways inappropriate tone ruin relationships and trust in company cultures.
  • Communication Sin #6: Lack of Focused Attention
    In this day of technology and multi-tasking too many office conversations occur while one person is checking/responding to e-mails, or talking to us while they are on hold waiting for someone they will more likely deem more important than us once they come on the phone. This fosters disrespect and low trust in organizations.
  • Communication Sin #7: Lack of Respectful Rebuttals
    This may be the most common and subconscious of all seven leadership communication sins. It’s the conversations when someone agrees with you, or provides you with positive feedback in one breath, only to be followed by “but.” After the “but” comes the other shoe and you end up feeling misled and disappointed.

These behaviors caused significant damage to my client’s 25-year-old, $15 million business with 25 employees over the past ten years. My client estimated that allowing these communication issues to build up over ten years had cost him about $5 million.

That’s real money for some people.

If you are making these same leadership communication mistakes I invite you to go to and get my free special report The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication where I will show you how to fix these sins, communicate like a champion and begin building a championship organization.



Six Components of a Dynamic Workplace That Every Leader Needs to Know


The Six Components of a Dynamic Workplace That Every Leader Needs to Know

Do you want employees who love to do their best work, and customers who bang down your doors to do business with you? If your answer is yes, it’s time you use your dynamic leadership skills, and use the six “I”s, to create that dynamic workplace where employees love to go and customers love to buy.

The six “I”s are:




4-Individualized convenience Perks



My best clients are constantly improving their leadership skills and growing their businesses. These dynamic leaders are at different “I”levels, but all of them began with, and consistently still use their insight.

# 1- Insight

My colleague, Keith Chapman, retired executive with Diageo, spoke to me about the importance of insight, “an organization built on insights about their employees will be inclusive and productive - insights can only be gained by taking time with one's team members - and also giving them an insight on you!

• Dynamic leaders use insight, to assess the current needs of their employees,

organization and customers. They know they there is always room to improve in order to differentiate their products and services from their competition.

• Dynamic leaders are also not afraid to use their insight for themselves, and assess their own leadership skills. Their employees respect them because they are not afraid to admit mistakes, are willing to apologize when they are wrong, and are open to listen to employee’s ideas and give them the right kind of recognition.

• Leaders of stagnant organizations are not leaders, but are “bosses.”  They are reluctant to take time to use their insight because it may mean they have to take responsibility, be accountable, and be willing to let go of old obsolete ideas.

• Determine your “I”level. Do your employees leave their house ready to do their best work, and do your customers love doing business with you, or have your employees retired in place, and your ex-customers have blogs that say “your organization sucks.”

Why not take the time to stop for a moment and use your insight?  You might be on the road to success beyond your wildest dreams.


Simma Lieberman

"The Inclusionist"
Creating workplaces where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business
Simma Lieberman Associates
Fax: 510.527/0723 
1185 Solano Ave. PMB 142 
Albany, CA 94706  
Call us about our New Remote On-Call Executive Coaching Program
visit my Fast Company expert blog 
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Recently inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame
Follow me  www.twitter/theinclusionist

New Offerings at Simma Lieberman Associates

"The Dynamic Workplace, Where Employees Love to Go and Customers Love to Buy"

Contact Simma to speak at your next conference, meeting or event, if you want your employees to love to do their best work, and customers love to do business

On Demand Remote Coaching and Consulting

Are there times when you don't want to invest in a long-term process but need an expert sounding board to help you deal with an issue, make a decision or handle a conflict? Join our new Remote Situational Coaching Program.

Call us at 510-527-0700 or email for more information and to schedule a complimentary fifteen minute session.

Visit  Simma’s  Fast Company expert blog

Follow Simma:  www.twitter/theinclusionist


How Exclusivity Creates Inclusive Workplaces



Is Your Workplace an Exclusive Club? If not, maybe it should be

What??  A diversity and inclusion expert promoting exclusion in the workplace??? Has she gone over to the dark side?

There are still a lot of stressed out people going to work everyday. Some of them may be entering your workplace. They’re worried about the economy, health care, and their family. They are anxious about the future, and sometimes feel alone. They wonder if they’ll have a job, and are afraid to make mistakes, so they become afraid to take risks and their genius hides behind a thin smile.

In today’s economy, with so many employees feeling so uncertain, and solo in their silo, you can create an environment where people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves or their  “job.”

With all the research validating the fact that “engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees are more productive and make their customers happy,” (duh) you have the opportunity to engage your employees for little or no financial investment.

Employees will flourish if they have a sense of belonging to a community, or the “exclusive club,” where they are appreciated for the talents, skills and experience. Whether they are at work for four, eight or ten hours, if they feel secure, trusted and an essential part of your organization, they will be more focused, willing to share ideas and resources, and make your customers feel that they are part of the exclusive club called “your business.”

In fact, even if people don’t particularly like what they do, they can still feel good about coming to work, and even move into another position that they do like.

The more included employees feel, the more they’ll be engaged and we know the rest. As they make your customers feel more included and taken care of by your “exclusive club,” the more they’ll want to return and bring their friends, families and colleagues to share the experience.

Start by creating a culture of community with your leadership team and hold everyone accountable for implementing the culture by getting to know employees at every level. Become more accessible, less critical, and enlist the whole organization to become part of the change.

Give formal and informal recognition of good work, excellent customer feedback, and innovative ideas. Find out how your employees like to be rewarded.

Create more opportunities for employees from different work functions to interact with each other, and empower them to help each other, and learn from each other. If you don’t have one, develop a newsletter that features employees, and managers so people can be seen as more than the job they do.

By developing a culture of community, you’ll get more done, be more focused and your employees will be more focused on their work each moment of the day. They’ll feel good about coming to work and be less stressed and home, and your customers will be made to feel personally served and included in the exclusive club called “your business.”


Creating workplaces where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business
Simma Lieberman Associates
Fax: 510.527/0723 
1185 Solano Ave. PMB 142 
Albany, CA 94706  
Call us about our New Remote On-Call Executive Coaching Program
visit my Fast Company expert blog 
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Recently inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame
Follow me  www.twitter/theinclusionist

Twelve Leadership Questions for 2010

Published January 5, 2010 in BusinessWeek

Start the new year by asking yourself these simple yet profoundly important questions about yourself as a manager

By Gayle Lantz

If you're like most business leaders, you spent much of 2009 feeling down and just about out—an often-inescapable result of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Odds are, you grappled with numerous challenges, uncertainties, and "don't want to, but have to" decisions. As one weary bank CEO confided, "We're barely hanging on, just trying to survive." He wasn't alone, either. Many executives and leadership teams shared similar sentiments with me. It was a difficult year, period.

Now, 2010 is here, and in the earliest days of the economic recovery it's time to take the bull by the horns. Smart leaders will bypass the predictable New Year's resolutions and, instead, start the decade with 12 essential questions:

1. What matters most?

The good news is, there's no right or wrong answer. Yet, what was most important a year or two ago may not be the driving force in the business today. Press the reset button and, together with your leadership team, clarify priorities and commit to keeping them in focus.

2. What can I let go?

Adopting new strategies and approaches can require letting go of some old attitudes, habits, or behaviors. If something isn't serving the business well, be willing to give it up. There is great power in purging, and you'll make room for better ways of working.

3. What is one "problem" I can turn into an opportunity?

No need for rose-colored glasses—just view a current challenge through a lens of opportunity. Think about past successes in the business and figure out how to apply those skills to the issue at hand. Fact is, you grow by building on strengths, not "fixing" weaknesses.

4. What would really inspire employees?

Be careful about sending the message that you need people to hear. Think from your employees' point of view—if they don't feel understood, they won't listen to you anyway—and resist the urge to tell them how they "should" think or feel. Also, inspiration doesn't come only from motivational speeches to the masses. It starts with a leader who simply shows he or she cares.

5. What is our customers' greatest pain?

Be relentless about knowing and meeting that need. Test your assumptions, but skip the complicated surveys. Instead, pick up the phone and ask. Listen and understand first—then get busy offering solutions.

6. What new business relationships will I pursue?

New opportunities come from new relationships. Inside and outside your industry, seek opportunities where there is potential for mutual benefit—not just "what's in it for me?" Remember, too, that even in these boom days of social media, significant business relationships begin with real dialogue, not a tweet.

7. How can I think more strategically?

Skip the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) exercise. Strategic planning isn't an event; it's a discipline. Get serious about setting direction, always starting with a big-picture view of the possibilities. Resist the urge to discuss and deal with tactics, until you're clear on what you want to accomplish. Even then, don't check strategy off your list. Put it into daily practice.

8. How can I make swift yet smart decisions?

Now more than ever, you can't afford to overanalyze. Clear the clutter—the "mind clutter" that plagues even the best leaders—and make way for swift, smart decision-making. Hint: Slow down your thinking on the front end—during the planning process—so you can make faster and better decisions later.

9. What leadership skill can—and should—I get better at?

Truth is, your personal effectiveness affects the success of the business. Pick the leadership skill that most needs your attention—listening, coaching, or problem solving, perhaps—and commit to improvement. Small changes really can make a big difference. Just ask your team and others on the receiving end.

10. What is my role, really?

Your success as a leader is largely based on how you view your role. Use the New Year as an opportunity to assess and adjust. If you want to raise your game, determine how you'll play differently from now on. Envision yourself performing at the highest level. What will the "new" you do?

11. How will I recognize success?

You won't know whether the business is on the right track if you haven't determined some key markers or indicators. What's more, not all measures of success are quantitative, so consider how you'll know when a result "feels right."

12. What is my biggest fear, and how will I face it?

Name it, and claim it. If you don't, it can be damaging, even deadly, to you and the business. After all, what you resist, you empower. Own your fear before it owns you, and decide how you'll confront it.

New year, new thinking. With smart leadership questions, you can find smart answers in 2010.

Gayle Lantz is a leadership consultant and author of Take the Bull by the Horns: The Busy Leader's Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself. She is founder and president of the consulting firm WorkMatters.


Has The Pendulum Swung Too Far On Seeking Consensus?


Are CEOs, senior executives, business owners, and managers of all stripes seeking consensus too often?

The demise of top down, arrogant, autocratic management is cause for celebration. Many executives and managers have seen the light and now treat their employees with more respect. They have come to realize that employees with differing expertise, experience, and positions within the company can provide valuable and varied input and ideas that facilitate problem solving, improve decisions, lead to more sustainable improvements, and save time. Furthermore, they now realize that involving employees in the organization's challenges doesn't just enhance that one particular situation, it also energizes employees, stimulates good ideas, improves employee judgment, and saves time throughout the organization on a daily basis. They also realize there is no shame in not having all the answers themselves and real danger in making important decisions without getting critical input from others.

Some old school managers still adhere to the old top down practices. Most people I know abhor working for such companies and leave when the opportunity presents itself. I don't want to say anything to suggest that companies return to this style, however, I believe the pendulum has swung too far in many companies. Many executives are now proud of having evolved to being consensus driven and they now do everything by consensus. And that is where the problem lies.

I encounter executives and managers daily who no longer seem able to make a decision by themselves. I see CEOs take a decision first to one group, then another, and maybe more. The decision drags out for months. The process resembles a fishing expedition, casting here and there, motoring around to different corners of the lake. The result is similar too: another day gone.

In a random, wandering process, decisions are rerouted or derailed entirely for all the wrong reasons and tremendous time is wasted while too many people are involved and endless meetings are held.

There is a huge difference between appreciating the value of achieving consensus and doing everything by consensus. Being consensus driven is the opposite, and equally extreme, position to being autocratic. Both are wasteful and problematic in any organization. A consensus driven manager takes pride in gathering people and running meetings, but they likely spend more money evaluating a purchase than the purchase price, more time talking about an option than it would take to just try it, more anxiety hoping to pave the way for a change than it would take to deal with the consequences. But the goal is not to be consensus driven; the goal is to achieve great results.

Being autocratic versus consensus driven is not a matter of personal style. There are times when managers should be autocratic, make a decision, and get on with things, and there are times when managers should delegate the entire decision to a group and get out of the picture completely. In between, there are countless variations. The point is to choose the approach that best fits the circumstances.

In making that choice, factors to consider are:

  • Time Available

    If the window of opportunity is short, a quick decision is essential. Sometimes it is more important to act than to wait for more information. For example, when a customer complains, the organization that can address the concern on the spot, makes the customer happiest. Or perhaps an opportunity pops up that requires an immediate response. He who deliberates loses. You may wish you could get more input but collecting information takes time.

    Ask yourself how the passage of time affects the situation and be sure you decide as quickly as needed.

  • Significance of the Decision

    The most important decisions deserve the best resources, the most rigorous process, and adequate time. The least important deserve as little as possible. You simply don't want to devote more resources than the decision warrants. You don't want expensive resources making trivial decisions. You don't want large groups leaving more important work to make decisions of limited consequence. And, even on an important decision, you don't want to devote resources to debating options A and B if the differences are inconsequential.

    How much money does it make sense to devote to the decision at hand? Allocate resources accordingly. A thorough understanding of the steps of the decision process will help you choose and allocate your resources effectively.

  • Knowledge

    If you don't possess the knowledge needed to make a decision, you have no choice but to get input from others or live with the consequences. This is where the arrogance of autocrats leads to stupid decisions. They make decisions they know nothing about. This is where the consensus driven managers waste time and money; they often fish for more opinions without thinking through the best way to identify and collect the most important knowledge and opinions. You will never have all the knowledge you need because their will always be unknowns.

    Who can best shed light on the most important aspects of the decision? Involve and focus those people accordingly. Just don't exceed the investment you decided was appropriate for the decision.

  • Need for Commitment

    Employees usually accept decisions, whether they agree with them or not, if they believe the decision process was fair and informed. To be seen as fair, a decision requires honest, open, and reasonable objectives and decision-makers who are dedicated to those objectives. To be seen as informed, the decision-makers must take into consideration important factors such as the impact on those affected by the decision.

    This does not mean every affected employee needs to be involved, but it does mean they need to believe their interests were well represented. Furthermore, it does not mean that everyone involved in a decision must be involved in every step of the decision. For example, senior management may establish priorities and limitations that will govern a decision (strategy and budgets), but others need to be involved in identifying the best implementation options.

    Who will be impacted, how they will be impacted, where is their input needed, and how can you obtain it? 

  • Employee Development

    Involving employees in decisions is a great way to develop their skills and understanding of the business. Furthermore, it can pave the way to delegating decisions entirely, which helps you move decisions lower in the organization where they likely belong.

    This may sound like an invitation to involve everyone in every decision but that would be at the expense of everything else they are supposed to be doing and impossible to follow up on effectively. Where does it makes sense to invest in employee development? What's the best way to achieve it? How much can you tackle at once? 

    Note: If you want to teach employees to become better decision-makers, be sure you model good decision-making practices yourself. This is particularly important with group decisions. There is no point in teaching employees how to flounder through decisions.

If you have gotten in the habit of making all decisions by consensus, it is time to step back and consider the cost each time you assemble a group for another rambling, inclusive meeting.

Related Articles:

5 Reasons Employees Avoid Making Decisions


© 2010 Ann Latham. All Rights Reserved.



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