AMA Quarterly Summer 2017

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Interview with

Karin Hurt and David Dye

A Deep Well of Winning Leadership Techniques Page 18





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SUMMER 2017 Volume 3 • Number 2





CULTURE DEVOURS Digital Strategy

A Deep Well of Winning Leadership Techniques AMA Quarterly spoke with leadership experts Karin Hurt and David Dye, the authors of Winning


Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, about how great leaders can act to empower employees.



Culture Devours Digital Strategy A culture evolution is the only path to achieving a digital transformation. By Doug MacKenzie and Micah Alpern


Managing the Future Workforce Serious changes are taking place, and it requires serious action on the part of employers, managers, and leaders to stay ahead of the shift. By Mary Kelly


Five New Ways Leaders Should Approach Strategic Growth The very nature of business is change. New technology, capabilities, and competitors pop up and customer demand changes. Here are five ways leaders can rethink their approach to strategic growth. By David Braun


What Managers Need to Know About Strategy Through Execution Quality, innovation, profitability, and growth all depend on having strategy and execution fit together seamlessly. Otherwise, you risk losing your focus. By Ivan de Souza, Richard Kauffeld, and David van Oss


The End of Management As We Know It? It’s pretty clear that our current approach to management just isn’t cutting it anymore. By Dean Stamoulis



Clearing Managers from the Path to Higher Employee Engagement Work should be a rewarding, fulfilling, engaging experience, and when it’s not, it takes a real toll on the people who do it. By Jason Lauritsen


How to Influence Change at the Middle Manager Level The literature is replete with studies of general anecdotes for addressing the ailments of middle managers. But what is still missing from these suggestions are specific actions a middle manager can do now to influence change and strategic focus. By Lori Coakley


Roundabout Leadership in the Era of Disruptors Great leaders in the era of disruptors are more like roundabouts; their predecessors are more like traffic lights. By Chip R. Bell


Good Riddance to Traditional Talent Management! Few things have given management and corporate culture a bad name like the traditional performancepotential talent management matrix. By Kim Scott


Leadership Is Dead, Long Live Leadership Real leadership, as it is supposed to be exhibited, is timeless. It’s not broken or inadequate, it simply needs a more specific focus and real attention to application. By D. Kevin Berchelmann


EDITOR’S PICK Executives Need to Up Leadership Game


AMA RESEARCH Do You Set the Bar? How Executives Are Defining HiPo Eighty HR professionals identified HiPo traits during breakfast events in San Francisco and New York City hosted by American Management Association (AMA Enterprise) in fall 2016.


Power of the People When making predictions and projections, numbers count. By Sharon Hulce


The Conversations That Count Certain exchanges are remembered for a lifetime. By Kristi Hedges


A Future of Continuous Learning The most effective training still occurs in an instructor-led setting, where people share experiences and illuminate best practices with practical advice. Participants are more engaged when they can interact with instructors and get immediate feedback on their performance in class. By Edward T. Reilly



Executives Need to Up Leadership Game T

he problem of disengaged workers around the world is profound. Gallup estimates that 24% of workers worldwide are actively disengaged from their work, outnumbering engaged employees by 2-to-1 (just 13% of those polled said they were actively engaged in their work). According to a December 2016 entry in Gallup’s Business Journal blog, managers who don’t know how to meet the engagement needs of their team become a barrier to employee, team, and company performance. Engaging teams is important because engaged teams demonstrate 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents, and 41% less absenteeism. This issue of AMA Quarterly focuses on how leaders can be better at engaging with their employees, and how to get employees more engaged in their work. Our cover Q&A features leadership experts Karin Hurt and David Dye, authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul (AMACOM, 2016). Hurt and Dye spoke with AMA Quarterly about the common types of managers, how to balance humility and confidence, and how to create oases for employees to thrive within a tough company environment. Doug MacKenzie and Micah Alpern of A.T. Kearney, in “Culture Devours Digital Strategy,” show how trying to implement a digital strategy without changing the overall company culture is a bad move. Mary Kelly details what’s important to today’s workers in “Managing the Future Workforce.” Want to determine the high-potential employees in your organization? Turn to AMA’s research, “Do You Set the Bar? How Executives Are Defining HiPo,” which identifies the traits that 80 HR professionals look for in HiPos. And David Braun, the founder and CEO of Capstone, outlines “5 New Ways Leaders Should Approach Strategic Growth.” Getting workers engaged in their companies again is a steep barrier for managers, but not impossible to achieve. The information in this issue can help, and you can turn to AMA for a skills assessment of your team and the courses you need to achieve your management goals.




Christiane Truelove CREATIVE DIRECTOR


Wing Lo



Tony Serio


Laura Grafeld


Christina Parisi PRESIDENT & CEO

Edward T. Reilly

AMA Quarterly © (ISSN 2377-1321) is published quarterly by American

Management Association International, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420, Summer 2017, Volume 3, Number 2. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to American Management Association, 600 AMA Way, Saranac Lake, NY 12983-5534. American Management Association is a nonprofit educational a­ ssociation chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. AMA Quarterly is an independent forum for authoritative views on business and management issues. Submissions. We encourage submissions from prospective authors. For guidelines, write to The Guest Editor, AMA Quarterly, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 or email Unsolicited ­manuscripts will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Letters are encouraged. Mail: Letters, AMA Quarterly, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420; email: AMA Quarterly reserves the right to excerpt and edit letters. Names and addresses must accompany all submissions. Subscriptions. Executive and Individual Members of American Management Association receive AMA Quarterly as part of their annual dues, a nonrefundable $50 of which is allocated for the ­subscription to AMA Quarterly. Single copies are available at $25 plus shipping and handling. Requests should be sent to Rights and permissions. ©2017, American Management Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written ­permission. Requests should be sent to Joe D’Amico, at Editorial Offices 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 Tel: 212-903-8075; Fax: 212-903-7948 Email:

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Opinions expressed by the editors, contributors or advertisers are not necessarily those of AMA. In addition, the appearance of advertisements, products or service information in AMA Quarterly, other than those of AMA itself, does not constitute endorsement by AMA.

Culture Devours


A culture evolution is the only path to achieving a digital transformation. Survey the business landscape and it’s impossible to find an industry where companies are not embracing digital strategies—whether it’s revamping how the organization interfaces with its customers, streamlining supply chains using sophisticated logistics applications, or arming employees with a host of digital tools to facilitate collaboration. “Digital transformation” offers the potential for a step change in value creation, but also the potential for negative consequences when a company is unable to successfully transform. Consider the recent transformation effort of one Fortune 500 retailer. As many of the company’s core customers began to shift to online purchasing, the retailer revamped its strategy to focus on its most loyal customers, expanding its online presence, creating a comprehensive loyalty program, and bringing in data analytics know-how to track and mine customer behaviors—at the same time pulling back on its commitment to the in-store experience. Unfortunately, this shift in strategy was poorly communicated to employees, who continued working the way they always had, stressing the face-to-face customer experience and largely ignoring online activity. The company lost billions and continues to close stores.

What went wrong? It came down to culture—management focused solely on implementing technology tools and entirely neglected the impact of these changes on the company’s culture. As a result, employees were simply going through the motions—attempting to attain new customer loyalty quotas without a clear idea of how this helped the company or them—and the initiative backfired. We’ve all heard the adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” When it comes to executing a digital strategy, culture is the orca and digital strategy is the tasty seal.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS ARE DIFFERENT Digital transformations fundamentally change the way companies do business. They involve embedding technology into all aspects of the business to stay competitive in a disruptive market, increase innovation and speed, open new or adjacent markets, or better deliver on customer needs. Digital transformations are increasingly prevalent. For example, out of all the transformation projects A.T. Kearney reviewed between 2010 and 2016, nearly half were digital. It’s easy to acknowledge the importance of digitally enabling the enterprise. But it’s equally important to acknowledge AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 3

that making the necessary changes can upend existence as people know it, altering their ways of working and the organizational elements that motivate and influence how they behave and think. While employees have become somewhat accustomed to initiatives that impact systems, processes, and organizational structures, a digital transformation is far more disruptive because it affects all of these elements simultaneously—at the same time introducing completely new concepts with which employees have little to no experience. The sheer number of moving parts involved in a digital transformation ups the ante for organizations that undertake them. Yet many companies set their digital strategy in a vacuum, focusing primarily on what it means for business results and their customers, and leaving arguably the most important constituent out of the equation—employees. What’s more, there is often a rush to implement the technology solution or the new agile development process. But technology and new processes won’t get the organization where it wants to go—no matter how cool or impactful it is— if no one uses or embraces it.

HARNESSING THE POWER OF CULTURE An organization’s culture is not just words on paper, a mission statement plastered on the wall of the reception area, or a list of values posted to the company’s website. Rather, culture determines what people see, how they feel, what they think, and what they do. It is an overpowering force that drives how everything gets done—or does not get done—in an organization. Therefore, to ensure success through a digital transformation, the culture and the new digital strategy must be aligned. Take the example of a financial services company that set out to deploy a digital strategy focused on taking a customer lifetime view and moving to agile, fast-paced product development. The problem was that the company’s dominant culture traits—risk aversion, command and control, and operating in silos—stood in the way of the transformation. Employees were not comfortable with the idea of learning from failures or rapid decision making—both critical to agile development. In fact, management insisted that every idea go up the long, slow chain of command to gain approval. Likewise, organizational silos prevented people across business units and functions from working together to establish a customer lifetime view. In addition to aligning culture and strategy, the formal and informal organizational elements must also be aligned. Formal elements include organizational structure, rewards, decision rights, and performance management; informal elements include the underlying networks and employee relationships, preferred methods of communication, unwritten rules, and ways of celebrating success, such as storytelling. In the financial services example, this could include creating a flatter cross-functional organizational


structure, implementing a performance management system that rewards employees for applying customer insights, streamlining approval processes, and spreading stories of how customer needs were fulfilled across the organization. In our experience, there are a handful of cultural traits that surface time and again as critical to digital transformations: • Customer-centric. Focuses relentlessly on the customer and the ability to view everything through the lens of the customer • Collaborative. Rejects organizational silos and fiefdoms; regularly uses cross-functional teams to develop both external offerings and internal policies • Agile. Able to switch gears or rapidly change course; uses data and external environmental scanning to tweak both products/services and strategic direction • Innovative. Open to continuously learning new ideas and ways of working; focused on maintaining a continuous flow of products/services • Failure-“friendly.” Applies a test-and-learn mentality where failures are viewed as an opportunity for learning and improvement; willing to take risks and make big bets Not every company can or needs to boast all of these cultural attributes, but, generally speaking, at least one or two of them will be important anchors to a digital transformation and achieving the digital strategy.

VIVA LA EVOLUTION While putting a wholesale culture overhaul into effect is impossible and, frankly, never the answer, culture evolution is a different story. A culture evolution involves identifying the current strengths of the culture—those traits that are the source of employee pride and motivation—and connecting them to the digital strategy. For example, at a hotel chain where the guest experience is the lens through which employees view and value their work, demonstrating how the digital strategy will allow them to deliver a better guest experience is a powerful way to enlist employees in the digital transformation. But leveraging core aspects of the culture is rarely sufficient. Evolving the culture will also require introducing new cultural traits that will help the company achieve its digital strategy. Evolving the culture toward digital transformation requires five steps: Conduct a culture diagnostic. Assessing the current culture helps identify existing cultural traits and their related strengths vis-à-vis the digital strategy, as well as any challenges they may present. It also provides a solid understanding of how the current formal and informal organizational elements influence behaviors. Define the aspirational culture. The company needs to define its cultural goalposts by identifying what cultural traits

are critical to executing on the digital strategy. For example, if the digital strategy stresses using digital tools to jumpstart new product development, then both innovation and collaboration may be part of the aspirational culture. Identify critical behaviors. The company must begin to flesh out its personalized version of the aspirational culture. This includes determining the dominant traits of the existing culture to preserve and leverage, as well as deciding which new traits they need to grow. The company should also develop a critical few specific behaviors aligned to the new traits they wish to emphasize and define them in practical, tangible terms for each key function and role within the organization. Map the journey. The company can now begin developing a process to modify or build formal and informal organizational elements to influence and motivate employees to exhibit the desired behaviors. Measure performance impact. It is critical to develop formal metrics that demonstrate the impact of the culture evolution. For example, if a company wants to increase its acceptance of failure, it might measure number of lessons learned from failed experiments. Companies that neglect to undertake a culture evolution to enable their digital strategy will experience a surface-level transformation that is really no transformation at all and could result in their eventual extinction.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN ACTION Evolving the organizational culture is challenging, but we have seen time and time again that it is critical to the digital transformation journey. A few examples can put this into perspective. A large, global education company was implementing a digital strategy to move from primarily print-based offerings to digital products shaped by customer insights. Management realized they would need to evolve the culture to enable such a digital customer-centric platform. In defining their aspirational culture, they focused on three culture traits: risk taking, agility, and empowerment. They identified a critical few behaviors for each of these three traits in selected functional areas, including sales, product development, and marketing, and tied them to specific key performance indicators (KPIs). To influence and motivate employees, management also put in place several changes. These included creating a customer insights group; incorporating an agile, test-andlearn framework into the product development lifecycle process; redesigning the performance management process to assess individual performance based on the new behaviors; and creating a rewards program based on demonstrating the new behaviors. The result was a successful and accelerated digital

transformation that led to multiyear growth and improved operating margins. In another industry, a global insurer made a strategic pivot from a product to a customer focus. The company needed to become an adaptive services provider with robust digital capabilities. It began by establishing a new digital function, bringing in digital talent, implementing an agile IT development process, and connecting the business more closely to IT. The company’s leaders had the foresight to know these moves alone would not be enough to change the mindset of all employees. Therefore, they looked for ways to evolve the culture that would enable the digital strategy, including leveraging their culture’s strong process orientation and growing the culture traits of customer centricity, empowerment, and adaptability. For each of these traits, the company identified a specific behavior that would bring the culture shift to life and assessed all the organizational elements to determine which to modify. This led to two simultaneous pilots: Customer-centricity. The company gathered a body of customer insights and had leadership share these across the organization. Empowerment. The company adjusted the decision rights to push decisions further down the organizational chain of command. The top two levels of leaders selected two decisions they owned and delegated them to an appropriate person/team lower down in the organization. These pilots were signals to employees that the culture was evolving. They also freed up leaders to focus on driving the new strategy and gave them a customer focus they were previously lacking. The result was an accelerated digital transformation and improved performance.

EVOLVE, ENABLE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Most organizations pay lip service to the importance of culture, but when faced with a transformational imperative, they relegate culture to a backseat. Invariably, this is an enormous mistake. Leaders who truly understand the power of culture will look for ways to evolve it that are aligned with and enable their digital strategy. Focusing on evolution and transformation simultaneously may seem counterintuitive. But when it comes to culture, our experience demonstrates that the former actually embodies the fastest route to the latter. Digital transformation that leaves out culture is no transformation at all, as culture is a famished beast that will consume the digital strategy. AQ Doug MacKenzie is a partner in management consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s Leadership, Change & Organization practice. He is based in San Francisco. MacKenzie can be reached at Micah Alpern is a principal in management consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s Leadership, Change & Organization practice. He is based in Chicago. Alpern can be reached at


Managing the


It doesn’t take a high-priced consultant to tell you that today’s workforce is changing. Business leaders can no longer rely on outdated information and tools from textbooks written decades ago. Serious changes are taking place, and it requires serious action on the part of employers, managers, and leaders to stay ahead of the shift.

ABOUT THE EMERGING WORKFORCE More and more people are working remotely. According to Gallup, anywhere between 37% and 42% of people employed


by a business do some or all of their work remotely. With home offices being preferred by the emerging workforce, there has been a rise of virtual platforms that increase the productivity of remote work. This makes the traditional corporation seem antiquated to employees who favor flexibility and a home environment for better productivity. The traditional model of an accounting department or IT

department where every team member is working every day onsite seems like a thing of the past. Globalization adds a new degree of difficulty to the modern work economy. More people from different locations, time zones, and cultures are entering the workforce worldwide. This makes it crucial for leaders to be more engaged with employees in order to get work done. Working across multiple time zones and cultures increases the difficulty of coordination, but most agree that increased collaboration is a growing need. Some cultures in the workforce have different work ethics and different preferences for when and how they perform their work, such as when and how much time is given for holidays. This can increase the strain of achieving deadlines, and it challenges the ability to hold synchronous video meetings during traditional business hours. To adapt to the changing workforce, especially with the advent of Millennials, leaders have to understand what employees want from their employer, their industry, and their career.

WHAT THE EMERGING WORKFORCE WANTS Increasingly, employees want: Collaboration. It seems simple, but working as part of a team makes the bigger picture more evident. Members of the emerging workforce, more than any other groups, want to know why they are doing something, not just what they are doing. They value the mental stimulation from lively discussions and an exchange of ideas. As a result, they prefer to work as part of a big-picture concept. Sense of purpose. This big-picture concept is a critical aspect for future workers. They must have a sense of purpose that gives them meaning in their work. These workers are less driven by monetary reward or personal gain. Rather, they need to see that their work has an impact on the world in some way. Professional development. Millennials also want to get better at what they do. They want the freedom to pursue further education and training to become skilled in various aspects of their job. They don’t want to be the best accountant; they want to be the best mathematician, logician, accountant, spreadsheet designer, and so on. Flexibility. Free time is important. In fact, many people prefer time off or a flexible schedule to having a higherpaying job. In this flexible workforce, they also want flexibility with their time and the right to spend it how they want, in a large respect. A time clock is a completely outdated object. Ability to work remotely. We could credit Google and some other companies with shifting the idea of the workplace. Google was ahead of the curve in many respects. Now, instead of working in a place that is fun, young workers wish to work from home or a rented office space so that they have freedom to come and go as they please.

Opportunities and challenges. The new workforce wants much more than a paycheck. Employees need to feel that they have a chance to make a difference in the company and in the world. They also enjoy having a challenge hanging over their head. Instead of being given the specifics of the simplest task, they want the freedom to explore. Live wherever they want. Gen Xers were willing to follow the money. They would relocate to a new location and consider it a new challenge or a new chapter in life. No more. The Millennials want to live in the place where they choose to put down roots. That may be a buzzing metropolis or a slow country town. No commute. In addition to all the freedoms, they want the chance to skip the traffic as well. Driving across town is not appealing. This is an instant culture and an instant generation. Long commutes are not appealing to anyone, but they are a huge deterrent for the modern workforce. Work/life balance. This generation seems to be more in touch with its inner self. These workers strive to bring balance to their lives, and that especially applies to work. It is much more important to have the home, the car, and the schedule they want than it is to have the job they want.

WHAT ORGANIZATIONS MUST DO Organizations need to provide: Faster employee responses. Instant is the best answer. You can never be fast enough for this generation. They have had instant information at their fingertips since they were born. More agile products and services. You can’t rely on the same static products and services you’ve had for the past three decades. If that’s what you’ve got, invite these emerging workers to be the agents of change in your organization. More global influence for products. Your products can’t be specific to a region or even a country. Your marketing needs to be something that has the world in mind. It should definitely influence and be influenced by as many as possible. Knowledge management systems. Millennials want to know everything about your company and products. You’ll need to have a system that tracks everything you’ve ever done. These are the diligent workers that will delve into your past and find hidden gems for you. Best possible workers at low cost. The major benefit of singleproject workers, freelancers, and contractors is specialized work by experts at a relatively low cost. Many employers don’t think about the explicit cost of having a salaried worker perform a specific job. It may seem that contracting out work adds costs, but in the long run, employers save by only paying for what they need when they need it.

LEADING THE EMERGING WORKFORCE Leaders of the future workforce need to: Recruit (and keep) top talent. Whether we like it or not, the AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 7

labor pool has gone global. With so many companies offering virtual commute opportunities and remote employment, the workforce is not dependent upon keeping a job. Leaders have to be able to inspire talent so that they choose to follow.

Be comfortable with constant change. The pace of change is going to continue to accelerate, and leaders have to be flexible, think and act quickly, and respond to new information immediately.

Motivate employees. We may never meet our employees, but we still have to find a way to motivate them. Positive comments and genuine appreciation go a long way. Employees want to know their supervisors hear their concerns, listen to their ideas, and consider their opinions. Leaders need to develop ways to reach out to employees and make sure they know they are valued.

Be supremely organized. In addition to using project management and task software, leaders will need to stay organized to keep their teams on track.

Focus employees on the vision and goals. Clarifying your mission, vision, and goals in a world that increasingly competes for every second of our attention will continue to be challenging. Team members must be crystal clear on the mission, vision, and goals that need to be accomplished. Workers who buy into the vision need less guidance and less supervision. If employees embrace your vision and goals, they understand the importance of their contribution, and they have a reason to truly invest in their work and in you. Hold employees accountable for outcomes. If your team feels like they are getting the job done and nothing more, they aren’t going to stick around long term. They need to know the “why” behind what they’re doing, which increases the level of both commitment and accountability. Leaders need to use systems where everyone can see what is due and when. Project management tools such as MeisterTask, Todoist, Centrallo, Pintask, and Trello are great now and will continue to evolve and provide greater functionality as the workforce demands even more capabilities. Build diverse teams across cultural and geographic boundaries. Our teams must include different thoughts, ideologies, backgrounds, and skills. If we are creating diverse products or servicing a diverse industry, we obviously benefit from a diverse team. Create loyalty through teamwork. Leaders have to coalesce people into cohesive, functional teams (see “How to Build Effective Teams” at Leaders need to work harder to communicate in a way that is tailored to each employee. Some current solutions include using a messenger app, such a GroupMe, where everyone can be in a chat together. It’s a good way to build rapport among team members and strengthen bonds. Compensate fairly. Pay the top performers on your team as much as you possibly can. This increases their motivation and loyalty, and they understand they are appreciated. Utilize objective data to determine what constitutes a fair, good, or excellent rate of pay. Do your best to stay on the upswing of the curve rather than in the bottom half. To succeed in the new workforce, leaders will have to:


Provide more feedback more often. There are great assessment tools available. Look at the one that can best serve your industry. If you know where the weak link is, you can address that and help the entire team improve. Don’t be afraid to provide honest feedback and hold people accountable. They’ll respond to a challenge. Think progressively. Think of ways you can make the work even more enjoyable and more challenging. Your employees may not know how to be productive when working from home or at an alternate work site. You may have to train employees on how to work remotely. Discipline and good working habits and routines need to be developed, especially for those who are new to that environment. Be more accessible 24/7. No leader or manager will be just a 9-to-5 worker anymore. Let people know when you are specifically unavailable; otherwise, they will assume that you are always within reach. Future workforces will see more blending of personal and professional lives. If you need to be unreachable, let your team know, and let them know the why. For example, if you let them know you have a family event, they will be understanding and even wish you well. If you just shut off your phone every day at 5, they’re not going to reach out as often, and communication and teamwork will suffer. Overcommunicate. Things can get missed or misunderstood without face-to-face communication. Send follow-up emails, or better yet, texts. Start a chat group. Have an open forum for questions. Provide PDFs with clear instructions. Find humorous ways to communicate team and company mottos, such as memes or even cartoons. One federal worker customized comical memes to remind workers to complete their weekly timecards. Completion rates went from 22% to over 95% in three pay periods. Alter expectations. Most important, leaders and managers have to get out of antiquated mindsets. Old habits die hard. Don’t expect to have stiff and rigid relationships with employees. Hierarchies are flatter. Think of ways to have fun together, make connections, and share information, even if it’s just a video chat once a week. AQ Mary Kelly, PhD, CSP, is the CEO of Productive Leaders, a firm dedicated to improving profit growth through leadership development. Kelly spent 25 years on active duty in the United States Navy, retiring as a commander. Her latest leadership book, authored with Peter B. Stark, Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for Success (Bentley Press, 2016), is being used in nine countries. Kelly can be found at


Do You Set the Bar?

How Executives Are Defining HiPo What is the number one characteristic you look for when identifying high-potential (HiPo) talent?


ighty HR professionals answered this question during breakfast events in San Francisco and New York City hosted by American Management Association (AMA Enterprise) in fall 2016. The events included panel discussions focused on “Navigating a Talent Development Roadmap,” during which executives from AMA, BioMarin, Pitney Bowes, Sharp, Simpson Thacher, and others shared their experiences. At each event, attendees were asked to write down the characteristic they most often look for in HiPos. These were all posted on a wall so that the group could visually compare them. The panelists also participated in the exercise, and they shared with the group the reasoning behind their top choices. The most common trait listed in both cities was “agility,” followed by “curiosity.” Thirty-five different traits were posted and only five appeared

multiple times, exposing the breadth of priorities among attendees.

Why agility? As highlighted throughout the breakfast event discussions, agility is a common trait valued by leaders across geographies. Panelists emphasized the importance of an employee’s ability to adapt to and evolve with the ever-changing, fast-paced world of commerce. However, some expressed that agility is actually a secondary trait displayed in HiPos; to be agile suggests that one must embody certain prerequisite characteristics. Barbara Zung, Vice President of Global Talent Management at AMA, looks for curiosity, passion, and motivation when identifying HiPos. In her experience, “if someone displays curiosity, half the battle is won. Skill is important, but curiosity is much more vital. The biggest challenge is reigniting that passion, and curiosity is one vessel

through which it can be accomplished.” Zung suggests that motivation is intrinsic in HiPos and is the bedrock on which agility is formed. She also notes that if agility is your goal, the corporate culture must be one that welcomes thoughtful risk taking. Agility often requires stepping out and trying something new where the risk of failing is higher. The culture must be one that supports individuals after failure and encourages them to get back up and start again. People cannot be punished for taking risks and at the same time be expected to function with agility, she says. Shveta Miglani, Learning and Development Manager at Palo Alto Networks, suggests that the impetus behind the development of agility is one’s desire to be a lifelong learner. “They must have an open mindset and be open to learning,” says Miglani. “They should also have a desire to develop others.” She suggests that “if a HiPo’s AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 9

desired outcome is to rise through the ranks, the desire for self-promotion should be in equal status with the desire to leave a path of strong leaders behind you. Coaching is a tactical way to help someone foster agility.” Panelist Steve Bartomioli, Vice President of Learning and Development at Pitney Bowes, looks for passion when identifying HiPos. According to Bartomioli, if core competencies are the standard for performance, then passion is what breathes life into the competencies, allowing the individual to

tenacity to not accept the popular “change du jour,” Bartomioli says.

How can leaders better identify and equip HiPos? Bartomioli suggests that leaders identify people early enough in their careers to build the right habits. “You really have to have a passion for the front lines. Senior leadership should maintain contact and be comfortable working with frontline leaders, frontline processes, and management systems, because that is the last thing between you and the client. If

“ [Agility] is the combination of resilience and self-awareness that leads to insight about what is required in the future.”—Steve Bartomioli, Pitney Bowes rise above the standard to HiPo. “There is a difference between high potential and high performer,” says Bartomioli. “High performers are really good at what they do, and we need them to attain business objectives. But passion is what allows someone to go beyond today’s definition of high performance, to transition toward what the future really needs, and elevate themselves to high potential.” Agility, Bartomioli says, “is the combination of resilience and selfawareness that leads to insight about what is required in the future. Reflectiveness enables one to evaluate what actually changed and ask: How do I integrate that into who I am and what I need to do in the future?” Self-awareness can be a difficult thing to develop in people, Bartomioli says; it is experiential, a journey of self-discovery. “You must lead the person there as a coach or mentor. You have to anticipate what the person needs to learn and create environments where that learning will occur.” He further explains that tenacity should also be a prerequisite characteristic to enforce agility. At times, one must demonstrate


you have that passion for the front line, you will know your clients, you will know your people, and you will know what the right thing is moving forward. This passion allows you to identify HiPos earlier in their careers, eliminating layers of management and process, because you are actually seeing and experiencing the HiPo yourself,” Bartomioli says. When communicating HiPo standards with the workforce, Zung says, “you have to bake them into your core competencies; otherwise it ends up being just a hobby. If standards are not being measured, if they are not being communicated, if they are not in the fabric of your organization and modeled at the top, then they are just a fad that some hope will go away. Standards should be discussed during the recruitment process and interviewed against, making sure your job descriptions align.” It is important to communicate expectations and then establish goal-setting benchmarks throughout the year, she says, so that when the time for an annual review takes place, nothing is a surprise.

Bartomioli echoes Zung’s thoughts and further suggests that overall there is a need for more clarity and transparency in communicating HiPo expectations. For leaders, Bartomioli notes, “the challenge is not getting bogged down in the day-to-day but really carving out time for developmental discussions—developmental in a more aspirational way. It is not so much about what is in your development plan; these conversations are more about asking who you are and who you want to be.” Miglani adds that senior leadership needs to be equipped with the same language used when communicating standards during onboarding, and must demonstrate these standards on a daily basis to validate their own expectations. “Transformational leadership, in a very contemporary sense, is really critical for HiPos and agile leaders,” Bartomioli concludes. “The rate and pace of change today demands that successful companies transform. Knowing when it is the right time to stop doing things the good ol’ way and jump across the chasm in a new direction successfully is something I look for as a differentiator. This is another byproduct of passion. Passion gives you the confidence to propel forward versus being satisfied with inertia.” There is no exact science to identifying HiPos, especially since the lines are often closely blurred with the standards for high performance. However, HR leaders suggest that there are some qualifiers that help bring clarity to these lines. HiPos are typically identified because their actions in the workplace are setting them above the rest. However, these actions are fueled by a foundational appetite for more. HiPos are curious, passionate, motivated, and lifelong learners. Allow these traits to flourish, and you will unlock their highest potential. AQ Contributing author, Paul Quigley, of Profitable Ideas Exchange, is a facilitator on behalf of American Management Association. In this role, he manages and facilitates the AMA CLO Exchange and AMA’s Breakfast Briefing Series: How to Navigate a Talent Development Roadmap.


Characteristics of HiPos AMA Enterprise asked more than 80 senior HR and L&D professionals, “What is the number one characteristic you look for when identifying high-potential (HiPo) talent?” The most common trait was found to be “agility,” followed by “curiosity.”


Curiosity Resilience

Agility Creative


Honest Versatile





Visionary Innovative Authenticity Interpersonal


Willingness Excellence Coachable

CONCLUSION: While high-potential talent may not look the same for every organization, having a foundation that defines the characteristics of high potential is a necessary point of origin for navigating a talent development roadmap.

High Potentials (HiPos) elevate themselves beyond just performing their jobs with excellence.




High Performers (HiPers) demonstrate exceptional execution of business expectations.



• Task- and results-oriented • Delivers expectations with proficiency • Performs current responsibilities with excellence

• Agile, curious, passionate • Desire for continuous improvement in themselves and others • Greater vision outside current responsibilities


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New Ways Leaders Should Approach


One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to simply keep doing something because that’s the way it has always been done. It’s easy to fall into this trap without even realizing it. Especially for leaders who are busy running a company and heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, it can be tempting to go on autopilot and keep going about “business as usual” with the thinking that if it worked once, why not continue doing it? While a proven process or method can often be repeated successfully in multiple circumstances, it is important to reevaluate these processes with a fresh perspective and today’s business environment in mind. The very nature of business is change. New technologies, capabilities, and competitors pop up and customer demand changes. Here are five ways leaders can rethink their approach to strategic growth.

KNOW THYSELF Before leaders can determine where they want to go as a company, they must have an understanding of where the business stands today. Over time, even founders of companies can lose sight of their strategic vision and get caught up in the daily grind of keeping a company in business. While leaders may be tempted to skip this step, don’t! Introspection provides a rational foundation for making growth decisions. Leaders need to take a step back and view


their business with fresh eyes. The information gained during this self-examination will prove invaluable as leaders go about determining the next steps for growing the company. Self-examination does not come naturally to many, but do take the time to focus on this discipline.

BE PROACTIVE Many leaders are reactive rather than proactive when it comes to growing their companies. Some rely on opportunities that happen to come their way rather than seeking out the best ones. The problem with passively accepting whatever happens to come to your attention is that you are leaving your success to chance. Instead, leaders should first determine what their ideal opportunity or opportunities look like and develop a strategic plan based on this ideal. Then, search for growth options, whether it’s a partnership, a new technology, or a new product to help execute this strategy. Don’t wait around for the right opportunity to drop into your lap. Another reactive approach is relying too much on the competition. For some companies, the strategic plan revolves around what the competition is doing. Although

it’s important to have an understanding of the competition, reacting will always mean you are one step behind. Leaders should take control of their own future by focusing on customer demand. Happy customers are the source of success for any company. Find out what they want and focus on that, rather than on your competitors.

CONSIDER EXTERNAL GROWTH When it comes to strategic growth, most leaders tend to focus on organic growth—hiring more sales staff, building a new branch, or internally developing a new product. While there are many benefits to organic growth, there are times when relying on organic growth alone will not move the needle. When markets are saturated and organic growth is stagnant, companies should consider using external growth. External growth is partnering with an outside organization, whether that’s through strategic alliances, joint ventures, minority investment, majority investment, or acquiring 100% of another company. Many companies that would benefit from external growth shy away because it seems too intimidating, while others have tried external growth and been disappointed. There’s a common misconception that only large companies execute acquisitions. That is simply not the case. Many middle-market and private transactions go unreported as companies stealthily execute their growth strategy without broadcasting their plans to the marketplace. External growth can help you rapidly enter a new market, add a new technology, grab market share, or bring on talented people. Developing all of these initiatives through organic growth alone takes time and expertise that you may not have. By the time you figure out how to build your own solution, it may already be too late. On the other hand, with external growth you can react quickly to changing industry dynamics and leverage new opportunities. If you pursue external growth, you don’t have to abandon your organic growth initiatives. In fact, external growth should complement your organic initiatives.

GET INPUT FROM YOUR TEAM Developing and implementing a strategy requires multiple skills, and successful growth requires multiple perspectives. When it comes to developing a growth strategy, brainstorm as many ideas as possible and leave no possibilities off the table, no matter how crazy they might seem. Only a strong idea will stand up to rigorous analysis from multiple perspectives. Leaders should not shy away from disagreements during these talks. This process will actually strengthen the strategic plan because team members will have to address doubts and convince others of the benefits of their idea. Who should be included in these discussions? It is best

to bring in a team member from the various functions in an organization, including sales, operations, finance, accounting, legal, and human resources. Having multiple team members not only encourages different perspectives and voices but also prevents “silo thinking,” where leaders become so focused on one aspect that they might miss out on critical items. Another advantage of having a team involved is that as a leader, you will gain buy-in from others when it comes time to implement the growth strategy. If leaders have taken the time to listen, their management will be supportive and invested in the process, which will greatly increase company morale and the likelihood for success.

USE CRITERIA FOR OBJECTIVE DECISION MAKING While a leader’s years of experience may be invaluable, companies should not make decisions based on instinct alone. In today’s information world, it is important to pair real-time data with analytical skills to arrive at the best decision. Leaders should establish criteria for evaluating growth options in order to measure each idea against the same benchmark. Establishing criteria for an ideal opportunity is important. If 10 equally bad opportunities are compared against one another, they might not seem so bad. But if these opportunities are measured against the ideal, the downsides will become evident. Leaders should determine four to six criteria that are most important to their ideal growth opportunity and develop metrics for each one. This should be clearly communicated with the rest of the team so that everyone is aware of how opportunities will be measured and scored. Try defining even subjective criteria such as “culture.” For example, metrics used to define culture could include high employee retention or a management team with more than 10 years’ experience. Evaluating options using criteria gives leaders the confidence to say “no” to bad opportunities and “yes” to good ones because these decisions are backed by data. There is no need to spend a long time agonizing over whether or not you made the right decision or if any information has been overlooked. If an opportunity matches the company’s criteria, go for it. If it doesn’t, move on. Relying on yesterday’s strategy in today’s market can lead a company down a dangerous path—to ruin at worst or mediocrity at best. Instead, leaders who want to be successful should follow the tips presented here to spark innovation and accelerate their company’s growth. AQ David Braun is the founder and CEO of Capstone, which he established in 1995. He created the company to meet the unique demands of midmarket companies and their corporate growth initiatives. Braun is also the author of Successful Acquisitions: A Proven Plan for Strategic Growth (AMACOM, 2013). He has more than 20 years’ experience formulating growth strategies in a wide range of manufacturing and service industries.


What Managers Need to Know About




For any organization, having a close link between strategy and execution is critically important. Your strategy is your promise to deliver value: the things you do for customers, now and in the future, that no other company can do as well. Your execution occurs in the thousands of decisions made each day throughout your company. Quality, innovation, profitability, and growth all depend on having strategy and execution fit together seamlessly. Otherwise, you risk operating at cross-purposes and losing your focus. In a recent Strategy& global survey, 700 business executives were asked to rate their company’s top leaders in terms of their skill at strategy creation and at execution. Only 8% were credited as being very effective at both. Strategy&, the strategy consulting business of PwC, has studied the relationship between strategy and execution for years. Most iconic enterprises—Apple, Amazon, Danaher, IKEA, Starbucks, and the Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier—are exceptionally coherent. They put forth a clear, winning value proposition, backed up by distinctive capabilities, and apply this mix of strategy and execution to everything they do. An increasing number of companies are following the same path as these successful firms. If you join them, managers will need to cultivate the ability to translate the strategic into the everyday. This means linking strategy and execution closely together by creating distinctive, complex capabilities that set your company apart, and applying them to every product and service in your portfolio. These capabilities combine all the elements of execution—technology, human skills, processes, and organizational structures—to deliver your company’s chosen value proposition. The following 10 principles, derived from our experience at Strategy&, can help managers avoid common pitfalls and accelerate their progress. Don’t compromise your strategy or your execution. Set a lofty ambition for your strategy: Aim not only for financial success but sustained value creation, making a better world through your products, services, and presence.


Aim High

Aim just as high on execution, with a dedication to excellence that seems almost obsessive to outsiders. Apple, for instance, is known for its intensive interest in every aspect of product design and marketing, iterating until its notoriously demanding leaders are satisfied. At your company, top executives must lead the way. They must set lofty goals, establish a clear message about why those goals are relevant, and stick to them without compromise. This may take a while, because lofty goals

require patience. But leaders must demonstrate courage and commitment, or no one else will. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if the rewards start to appear sooner than expected—both financial rewards and the intrinsic pleasure of working with highly capable people. With high aspirations, you recruit talented and committed people. There are things your company does better than anyone else, which you can use as a start to create greater success. But your strongest capabilities have likely been obscured. If, like most companies, you pursue opportunities that crop up without thinking much about whether you have the prowess needed to capture them, you can gradually lose sight of what you do best, or why customers respond to what you offer.


Build on Your Strengths

Take an inventory of your most distinctive capabilities. Look for examples where you have excelled as a company, achieving greatly desired outcomes without heroic efforts. Articulate all the things that had to happen to make these capabilities work, and figure out what it will take to build on your strengths, so that you can succeed in the same way more consistently in the future. Sometimes a particular episode will bring to light new ways of building on your strengths. That’s what happened at Bombardier Transportation, a division of a Canadian firm and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of railroad equipment. To win a highly competitive bid, Bombardier shifted some models to a platform-based approach, which allowed it to use and reuse the same designs for several different types of railway cars. The approach required adjustments to Bombardier’s supplier relationships and product engineering practices. But the benefits were immediate: lower costs, less technology risk, faster timeto-market, and better reliability. In business, ambidexterity is the ability to manage strategy and execution with equal competence. Ambidextrous managers can think about the technical and operational details of a project in depth and then, without missing a beat, can consider its broader industry ramifications. Mastering ambidexterity is needed for strategy through execution.


Be Ambidextrous

Lack of ambidexterity can cause chronic problems. For instance, if IT professionals focus only on execution when they manage ERP upgrades or the adoption of new applications, they may be drawn to vendors for low rates or expertise on specific platforms instead of their ability to design solutions that support the company’s strategy. AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 15

When the installation fails to deliver the needed capabilities, there will be an unplanned revision; the costs will balloon accordingly, and the purchase won’t fulfill its promise. Not everyone needs to be equally conversant in company strategy. A typical paper goods manufacturer employs chemists who research hydrogen bonds to make paper towels more absorbent. They may not need to spend much time debating strategy in the abstract, but they must be aware of their role in it. Similarly, your top leaders need not be experts on hydrogen bonds or cloud-based SQL server hosting, but they must be conversant enough with technological and operational details to make the right high-level decisions. When the leaders of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of Saudi Arabia decided to improve how they ran the country’s airports, they started with the hub in Riyadh. They had already taken some steps, but not much had changed. Leaders then realized that some seemingly minor operational issues—long customs lines, slow boarding processes, and inadequate basic amenities—were not just problems in execution. They stood in the way of the country’s goal of becoming a commercial and logistics hub. Individual airport employees could make a difference. The head of the airport then conducted in-depth sessions with employees on breaking down silos and improving operations. In these sessions, he turned repeatedly to a common theme: Each minor operational improvement would affect the attractiveness of the country for commercial travel and logistics. The sessions marked a turning point for the airport’s operational success.


Clarify Everyone’s Strategic Role

If the people in your day-to-day operations are not motivated to deliver the strategy, the strategy won’t reach the customers. Financial rewards and other tangible incentives only go so far. Workers cannot make a greater personal commitment unless they understand why their jobs make a difference, and why the company’s advancement will help their own advancement. Set up all your organizational structures, including your hierarchical design, decision rights, incentives, and metrics, to reinforce your company’s identity—your value proposition and critical capabilities. If the structures of your company don’t support your strategy, consider removing them or changing them wholesale.


Align Structures to Strategy

Consider, for example, the metrics used to track results delivered by call center employees. These individuals must often follow a script and check off that they’ve said everything on the list—even at the risk of irritating potential customers. It is better instead to get employees to internalize the company’s strategy and grade them on their prowess at solving customer problems. At the same time, a spreadsheet is no longer enough to capture and analyze metrics and incentives; you can use


large information management systems to deliver carefully crafted performance data. No matter how complex the input, the final incentives and metrics must be simple enough to drive clear, consistent behavior. Great capabilities always transcend functional barriers. Consider Starbucks’ understanding of how to create the right ambience, Haier’s ability to rapidly manufacture home appliances to order, and Amazon’s aptitude for launching products and services enabled by new technologies. These companies all bring people from different functions to work together informally and creatively. Most companies have some experience with this. For example, any effective trade promotion excellence (TPE) capability brings together marketing, sales, design, finance, and analytics professionals, all working closely together and learning from one another. The stronger the cross-functional interplay and the more it is supported by the company’s culture, the more effective the promotion.


Transcend Functional Barriers

Unfortunately, many companies unintentionally diminish their capabilities by allowing functions to operate independently. It’s often easier for the functional leaders to focus on specialized excellence, on “doing my job better” rather than on “what we can accomplish together.” Pressed for time, executives delegate execution to IT, HR, or operational specialists, who are attuned to their areas of expertise but not necessarily to the company’s overall direction. Collaborative efforts bring together people who don’t understand each other or, worse, who pursue competing objectives and agendas. When the narrow priorities of each group within the company conflict, the teams end up stuck in cycles of internal competition. The bigger a company gets, the harder it becomes to resolve these problems. You can break this cycle by putting together cross-functional teams to blueprint, build, and roll out capabilities. Appoint a single executive for each capability team, accountable for fully developing the capability. Ensure this person has credibility at all levels of the organization. Tap high-quality people from each function for this team, and give the leader the authority to set incentives for performance. The seventh principle should affect every technological investment you make—and with luck, it will prevent you from making some outdated ones. Embrace digital technology’s potential to transform your company—to create fundamentally new experiences and interactions for your customers, your employees, and every other constituent. Until you use technology this way, many of your IT investments will be wasted and you won’t realize their potential in forming powerful new capabilities.


Become a Fully Digital Enterprise

Adopting digital technology may mean abandoning expensive legacy IT systems, perhaps more rapidly than you had planned. Customers and employees have come to expect

the companies they deal with to be digitally sophisticated. They now take instant access, seamless interoperability, smartphone connectivity, and an intuitively obvious user experience for granted. To be sure, it is expensive and risky to shift digital systems wholesale, and therefore you need to be judicious. Some companies are applying the Fit for Growth approach to IT, in which they reconsider every expense, investing more only in those that are directly linked to their most important capabilities. Many company leaders wish for more simplicity. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. In a large, mainstream company, execution is by nature complex. Although you might clean house every so often, incoherence and complexity creep back in, along with the associated costs and bureaucracy.


Keep It Simple, Sometimes

The answer is to constantly seek simplicity, but selectively. Don’t take a machete to your product lineup or org chart. Remember that not all complexity is alike. As Vinay Couto, Deniz Caglar, and John Plansky explain in Fit for Growth: A Guide to Strategic Cost Cutting, Restructuring, and Renewal (Wiley, 2017), effective cost management depends on the ability to ruthlessly cut the investments that don’t drive value. Customer-facing activities can be among the worst offenders. Some customers need more tailored offerings or elaborate processes, but many do not. The principle “keep it simple, sometimes” is itself more complex than it first appears. It combines three concepts in one. The first concept is, be as simple as possible. Second, let your company’s strategy be your guide in adding the right amount of complexity. Third, build the capabilities needed to effectively manage the complexity inherent in serving your markets and customers. business relies on 9 Shape Your Value Chain Every other companies in its network to help shepherd its products and services from one end of the value chain to the other. As you raise your game, you will raise the game of other operations you work with, including suppliers, distributors, retailers, brokers, and even regulators. Since these partners are working with you on execution, they should also be actively involved in your strategy. That means selling your strategy to them, getting them excited about taking the partnership to a whole new level, and backing up your strategic commitment with financing, analytics, and operational prowess. Use leading-edge digital technology to align analytics and processes across your value chain. In the past, companies that linked operations to customer insight in innovative ways did it through vertical integration, by bringing all parts of the operation in-house. For example, Inditex created a robust in-house network that linked its Zara retail stores with its design and production

teams. Real-time purchase data allowed designers to find out what was selling—and what wasn’t—more quickly than their competitors could. This approach has helped Zara introduce more items that would sell quickly while keeping costs down. And it has helped Inditex outpace its rivals in both profitability and growth. The more internal rules and procedures for making and approving decisions bind your company, the slower it becomes. Hence leaders frustrated by bureaucracy, in which people can’t make decisions because they don’t know the strategic priorities—or even what other stakeholders will think.


Cultivate Collective Mastery

The alternative is what we call collective mastery, often found in companies where strategy through execution is prevalent. It is the state you reach when communication is fluid, open, and constant. Everyone moves quickly and decisively, because they have the ingrained judgment to know whom to consult, and when. People trust one another to make decisions on behalf of the whole. To operate this way, you must be flexible. That doesn’t mean giving up your strategy; you still should pursue only opportunities with which you have the capabilities to win. Indeed, knowing what you do best allows you to be closer to the customers who matter, and to give more autonomy to employees. By being less distracted by nonstrategic issues, you will have the attention and resources to pursue worthwhile opportunities as they arise. Collective mastery also makes it easier to conduct an experiment: to launch a project and learn from the response without making a huge commitment. This high level of fluidity and flexibility is essential for navigating in a volatile economic landscape. AQ Adapted and reprinted with permission from “10 Principles of Strategy Through Execution” from strategy+business. Copyright 2017 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www. for further details. Ivan de Souza is the Global Thought Leadership leader for PwC’s Strategy&. He heads the global editorial, knowledge management, marketing, and campaign teams responsible for supporting development and communication of leading ideas to clients and the world. He is a member of PwC’s Global Consulting Leadership Team and Asia-Pacific and Americas Leadership Team. Richard Kauffeld is an advisor to executives in the consumer products industry for Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting group. Based in New York, he is a principal with PwC U.S. He specializes in helping clients refine business strategies and tailor supply chain capabilities to pursue customer and channel growth opportunities. David van Oss is a partner in PwC’s global management consulting business in the United Kingdom, specializing in product/service innovation, operational transformation, and global growth.




Karin Hurt and David Dye

A Deep Well of Winning Leadership Techniques BY CHRISTIANE TRUELOVE

AMA Quarterly spoke with leadership experts Karin Hurt and David Dye, the authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to PHOTO: COURTESY OF KARIN HURT AND DAVID DYE, AJ COOTS, AJC PHOTOGRAPHY

Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul (AMACOM, 2016). Hurt and Dye, who were on a multicountry speaking tour in Southeast Asia at the time the interview took place, spoke about the inspirations for the book, the archetypal leaders they have encountered, and how their strategies can be used by rank-and-file employees as well as leaders.


What was the inspiration for this book? Why did you feel the need to write it?

really came from, for both of us, was that balance was very important.

DD: Although I was from a nonprofit human services background and Karin was from a Verizon/telecom/ massive Fortune 100 background, both of us had very parallel journeys where we developed a ton of different leadership and management tools and resources, both for ourselves and for the managers and leaders we started training. And though there were tons of great resources that worked in theory, there were not a lot of practical, dayto-day, “how do you get results and be a good human being along the way” resources. There is very little like that out there, in terms of resources. So in many ways, we wrote the book we wish we had as managers. KH: Everything that we had in the book, it’s based on everything [we experienced] as we were leading—we saw good role models and we saw bad role models. And we felt really strongly that it was incredibly important to get breakthrough results. We knew that if you wanted to have results that really lasted, you needed to do it in a way that balanced results with relationships. It was the balance of leading with confidence and humility and results and relationships that really led to results that last. We saw examples of people who had any of those out of kilter and the long-term impact that it had, not only on the business but on people. So that’s where the calling

How important is it to get that message out now? Is there anything you’re seeing in the business world or in the world in general that really calls for this message to be heard? DD: In many ways, it’s interesting, we’ve been on this international book tour, and we could be anywhere in the world. We could be in any city in the United States, and the issues that we’re hearing from managers, and leaders and senior leaders as well, they are consistent. There’s a tendency in many leaders, as change becomes more volatile, to want to become more controlling and more authoritarian. It’s working less and less, particularly with Millennials and the coming next generation. The approach just doesn’t work. It never did get the best productivity out of anybody, but even less so now. So you see these global forces kind of coming into conflict with one another—and there’s a better way to lead. To that extent, it’s not just the case in the U.S. with politics there, it’s kind of a global phenomenon. KH: When people are under stress, and you see these very strong leaders emerging, one of the things that happens to many other people is that they are afraid to speak the truth. And we are very focused on giving people the practical tools to stand up for what matters, to speak the truth.

Setting the Stage for Winning BY KARIN HURT AND DAVID DYE

Too often, managers try to win at all costs, when they should be focused on Winning Well. The hypercompetitive postrecession global economy puts frontline and middle-level managers in a difficult position—expected to win, to “move the needle,” to get the highest ratings, rankings, and results. Many managers become hell-bent on winning no matter what it takes, and they treat people like objects—in short, they lose their soul. This exacts a high price from managers as they work longer hours to try to keep up. Those unwilling to make this trade-off either leave for a less-competitive environment or try to stave off the performance demands by “being nice” to their team. After years of trying to win while sandwiched between the employees who do the heavy lifting and leaders above them piling on more, they give up and try to get along. Inevitably, after prolonged stress and declining performance, they surrender to apathy, disengage, or get fired. Don’t think this is happening where you work? Research says otherwise. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of American workers


We have a concept in our book that we call the “Diaper Genie” of feedback. The idea around that is, the Diaper Genie is the newfangled version of the old diaper pail—you take a stinky diaper and wrap it with these self-protecting plastic layers so that it doesn’t stink. We use that as a metaphor, where people have bad news or have something bad that they need to tell their boss, or something bad that they need to tell their employees, and they disguise it in ways that really can’t be talked about. So we give people practical tools to own the ugly, to have the conversation about what is not working, and that metaphor works very well. It’s been very interesting, because no matter where we are, when we talk about this concept of the Diaper Genie, people identify that as being one of the biggest problems in their organizations or in their communities.

You mentioned Millennials as a reason why management needs to change. Have you been able to see the effects of your concepts in the field? Have managers told you stories about how they were able to use these concepts to reach their Millennial workers? KH: We’ve spent time and we’ve developed techniques that help organizations connect what they’re asking people to do with why they’re asking them to do it. It’s not just, “You need to do that.” Everyone who ever talks about Millennials talks about that, but you need to give Millennials some tools

and managers are disengaged.1 We don’t believe that’s a coincidence. No one wins in environments like that. ••• “You can’t be in last place!” Joe shouted, and immediately winced as he saw Ann’s exhausted eyes begin to tear up. Later in his office, Joe admitted: “She didn’t deserve that. She’s a newly promoted center director working long hours in a fast ramp-up. The problem is, we’re out of time. The business plan called for this center to be profitable in six months, and it’s been over a year, and we’re not even close. My VP keeps calling for updates every few hours, and that just wastes everyone’s time.” Joe squeezed his temples. “My people need me to coach and support them, but if we don’t improve in the next 90 days, none of us will be here next year. Maybe I need to go.” Joe leads a 600-person call center. The company stack ranks employees, meaning that every representative is assessed on a balanced scorecard of quality, productivity, and financials and ranked in order from highest to lowest. The managers and centers are ranked in the same way, and Joe’s center is dead last. The vice president of operations keeps a close eye on

to make those connections, and we’re finding that is one of the biggest things resonating with leaders. We’ve actually partnered up with a Millennial leader here in Malaysia; he’s 30 years old and he’s running a training company. And he says these tools are exactly what Millennials need, to feel connected to the work that they’re doing and to be empowered to have the voice that they need. DD: Many of our clients as well run into these same issues that you’re describing. It is a lot of the work that we do, helping managers be more effective with their Millennials. But it’s not just Millennials, and that’s one of the things we often emphasize, that everybody needs that connection of their work, community, and purpose. Not everybody says it the way that Millennials say it, but everybody needs it. Everybody needs a sense of growth in their work. That’s a human need. People feel more productive and more energized when they feel a personal sense of growth in their work in an increasing capacity. So we give leaders the ability to do that. One of our models is the “Confidence-Competence” model, where you interact with your employees, your colleagues, your team members based on their level of competence (how good are they at what they do) and their level of confidence (how much do they believe in themselves and their ability to do it). The intersection of those helps you give the person exactly what they need. Do they need encouragement? Do they need coaching?

those numbers and constantly calls Joe to ask what he’s doing about the ranking. Joe spends most of his time putting out fires, answering customer complaints, and crunching numbers in a desperate attempt to move his team up the stack rank. Whether your organization stack ranks or not, can you identify with Joe’s frustration? He’s been asked to win a game that feels rigged. He can’t possibly do everything he needs to. The company keeps score, and Joe is losing. Every time he tries to win, he ends up hurting people—people he knows are trying as hard as he is. At this point, he’s not sure he can win, but if he can, it seems that victory will cost him dearly. He can feel his soul slipping away every time he loses his temper. It gets results—but at what cost?


Winning doesn’t mean you reach some imaginary state of perfection. Winning means that you and your people succeed at doing what you’re there to do. The real competition isn’t the department across the building or the organization across town. Your competition is mediocrity. Whether you manage a group of engineers with a government contract to build the next interplanetary satellite, or you supervise


Do they need growth opportunity? Or do they need training and instruction? Those are practical ways that we’re able to help address those issues that are kind of stereotyped as Millennial issues—the need for growth, the need for purpose—but are human needs. Millennials are just more vocal about them.

You outline in your book the four principles of winning well, with two internal values and two external values. In the internal values, confidence and humility seem to be opposed to each other. DD: Those are the internal values that the model is based on. You’re cultivating confidence and humility, and often those are seen as disparate or opposing values. But in the healthiest leaders, they’re combining both of them and leading from a foundation of both. KH: And the external values are on results and relationships.

So how you do balance confidence and humility at the same time? KH: Confidence is being able to stand up for what matters, to be able to speak the truth, and know your strengths and own your strengths as a leader. It’s coupled with the humility to know your vulnerabilities, both as a leader and as an organization, to admit mistakes, and to invite people to challenge you. When leaders have that balance, that’s where they engender the deep respect. That’s where they create the

a nonprofit team working to save an endangered shrew, or you manage a team of property tax assessors in a large city, or you’re a surgeon working with an anesthesiologist and operating room nurses you’ve never met before to save a patient’s life, or you manage a 24-hour convenience store, winning means you achieve excellence. When you win, we have better customer service, better products, better care, better experiences, and a better world. When you win, life is better for everyone.


Winning Well means that you sustain excellent performance over time, because you refuse to succumb to harsh, stress-inducing shortcuts that temporarily scare people into “performing.” You need energized, motivated people all working together. Your strategy is only as strong as the ability of your people to execute at the front line, and if they’re too scared or tired to think, they won’t. You can have all the great plans, six sigma quality programs, and brilliant competitive positioning in the universe, but if the human beings doing the real work lack the competence, confidence, and creativity to pull it off, you’re finished. In fact, in today’s connected world, people increasingly expect a positive work environment. When you don’t provide it, they can


real connection that goes with the work that they are doing and the human beings that they are working with. Humility is not being weak; it’s actually being confident enough to own your strengths and invite those tough conversations.

What are the external values of results and relationships? DD: The idea there is that most leaders, most managers, we tend to gravitate toward focusing on one or the other. We hear this from leaders all the time: “I’m here to get results! They didn’t pay me to be nice to people!” Or there are the people who gravitate more toward the relationships. The reality is that effective leaders who are winning well, in every interaction, they focus on both. When you go to the dentist, they tell you that the two things you need to do to have healthy teeth are brush and floss. This is the brush and floss of leadership, where it can’t be an either-or. So you’re having a one-on-one meeting with somebody or you’re having a disciplinary conversation, or you’re having a strategic planning meeting or maybe it’s your weekly stand-up meeting, whatever it might be, to focus both on achieving the results you need to achieve in that business context and investing in, collaborating with, and building that healthy personal relationship. So when we talk about results, it’s focusing on what matters most, with your mind on the MIT—knowing what the most important thing is at any particular moment, and holding ourselves accountable for that and making sure we

easily go across the street to your competitor or go into business for themselves as freelancers or independent contractors. Now everyone else but you benefits from the time and training you invested. The stories and best practices in this book come from our experience working with thousands of managers across private, public, and nonprofit industries who have something in common: They must motivate their people to achieve results that often feel impossible. Winning Well doesn’t mean you’ll be a pushover. It means you’ll be a manager known for getting results, whom people respect, and whom people want to work with. You can win—and you can win without losing your soul. 1. Nikki Blacksmith and Jim Harter, “Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs,” Gallup Poll, October 28, 2011, accessed October 15, 2014,; “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders,” Gallup report, October 28, 2011, accessed January 11, 2015, services/182138/state-american-manager.aspx. 2. Intuit’s research predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelancers. Intuit, “Intuit 2020 Report,” October 2010,

have clear expectations around that MIT and those results. You serve your people when you do that. KH: One of our tools that we use to help people get their mind on the MIT or focus on the most important thing that balances relationships is what we call the MIT Huddle Planner. It’s a one-page worksheet that you can sit down with your boss with, or the boss can give to their manager or the person working for them. It says, “What is the most important thing I accomplished last week, in terms of results and relationships? And what support do I need?” If a manager and employee think about that before having a 10-minute huddle, then the conversations they’re having about what’s important and what they are accomplishing are balanced between results and relationships.

You have your four manager types defined—the User, the Winning Well, the Gamer, and the Pleaser. You said that most often you encounter the Pleaser manager, but how often do you encounter the Users and the Gamers? KH: It’s interesting, when we ask audiences, “How many of you have ever worked for a User?” or “How many of you have ever worked for a Gamer?” there is going to be a universe of people raising their hands. DD: What’s fascinating is that people will willingly selfidentify as a Pleaser, but they don’t often self-identify as some of the others.

accessed April 3, 2015, intuit/futureofsmallbusiness/intuit_2020_report.pdf

Karin Hurt, founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul in the process. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association’s 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the award-winning author of two books: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss (Let’s Grow Leaders, 2014). David M. Dye works with leaders to get their team to the top without losing their soul or mind in the process. He is the award-winning author of The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say (Trailblaze Incorporated, 2013) and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul. Adapted, with permission of the publisher, from Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul by Karin Hurt and David Dye. Copyright 2016, Karin Hurt and David Dye. Published by AMACOM.

KH: I think people are more likely to self-identify that they have User tendencies than Gamer tendencies. That’s because the Gamer is lacking confidence. And so the User will say, “I am, and it works, and so are these other famous leaders, by the way!” So that’s where you can engage the dialogue; a Gamer will sit back and be afraid to engage in the conversation.

Obviously, this book is geared toward managers, but how about employees themselves? Has anyone ever come up to you and said they had given this book to their manager, or read it themselves, and it’s changed their relationship with their manager? DD: We can take that from two different directions. One is that for employees, or for individual contributors, there are many principles in the book that are very helpful. For instance, we had a gentleman read the book who is not a manager, and he wrote back and said, “I want to thank you about the chapter on meetings and decision making. I won’t run meetings, but what you gave me was that you helped me know how I can better contribute to the meeting, and where I can take ownership and where I can leave it alone.” So we talk about different types of decisions and how they are made. Does a single person make it, or is it a team vote or a team consensus? When you’re clear about that as a leader at the beginning of the decision, you enable people to share in the best way and then to be attached at the right level. And he thought that was incredibly powerful for him as an individual contributor. There are many tools like that throughout the book which are helpful for the individual contributor. KH: There’s also a section of the book about building a better relationship with your boss, and how do you do that. And how do you have more power in that relationship and get what you need out of it, and get the support that you need. And one of the chapters is, “What if my boss is losing their soul and doesn’t want to win well?”

So what do you do in those cases? DD: We invite leaders in those situations to create what we call a cultural oasis. If you’re in an organization that is a human desert in terms of how people are treated and it’s a negative environment, one of our beliefs is that no one can force you to treat other people negatively. You always have a choice about how you’re going to interact with others. But Karin’s credo is “Results buy you freedom.” And if you’re getting results, it gives you the opportunity to create that oasis and nourish at least the people on your team. You may not be able to change the whole organization, but you might over time, as you create those pockets of excellence and expand those outward. AQ


The End of


Management and leadership are hard, and they are about to get harder. Over the last few decades, organizations have slowly transitioned from promoting employees based solely on technical ability to recognizing the critical importance of soft skills. No longer does the best accountant become the finance director; now it goes to a solid performer who can also manage stakeholders, develop employees, and communicate in an engaging manner. At the same time that this transition has occurred, companies have significantly increased investment in leadership development, recognizing that not only do new managers need help to thrive, but that the quality of leaders directly impacts the performance of the organization. Companies have embraced soft skills and the value of leadership and have invested significantly to support this culture change. Things must be going swimmingly in organizations, right?


Not quite. According to recent Gallup surveys, only 38% of workers say their manager helps them set their priorities, and fewer than one in five workers under the age of 37 (which includes the prime years when new workers need development the most) say they receive any routine feedback from their boss. Were you expecting more from your managers? Maybe you shouldn’t: According to Gallup, only 35% of them are engaged themselves. There’s a lot of truth to the old saying, “You don’t quit a job, you quit a boss.” In fact, Gallup says that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is directly attributable to the manager. Strong, engaged managers will naturally develop strong, engaged employees. Therefore, given the lack of engagement in the management ranks, is it any wonder that Gallup has found that only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged? Or that slightly more than half of your workforce is actively looking for

a new job or keeping an eye out for job openings? It’s becoming pretty clear that our current approach to management—while substantially better than earlier models—just isn’t cutting it anymore.

TEN IN THE NEXT FIVE For many managers, even those who are successful in their role, this transition to a focus on both hard skills and soft skills has been a difficult one. Unfortunately, according to research my team and I recently conducted for Russell Reynolds Associates, the next five years are going to get even harder. We recently interviewed 30 executives and thought leaders from around the world representing both emerging and established organizations. They came from industry, academia, and professional services. Despite their varied backgrounds, these executives were surprisingly aligned on the emerging trends that will redefine how we structure our organizations, change what we expect of our leaders, and ultimately require a completely new approach to management and leadership. Accommodating all 10 of these changes may be good for the organization, but they will certainly make managers’ jobs harder in the near term. The 10 changes are: New executive roles. Taking a cue from the world’s most visionary companies, expect new executive roles to be created to promote people, culture, and a focus on the future. Not simply focusing on the warm and fuzzy elements of culture, these executives will enable companies to adapt faster and compete more successfully for critical talent. Forward-thinking managers recognize that organizational culture is the defining hallmark of a company’s brand and the embodiment of its core values. As a result, new roles will be created surrounding the creation and upholding of an uplifting company culture that helps drive competitive advantage. Role shaping and customization. We are growing used to everything being tailored to our own personal needs. From food to entertainment to everything in between, our world has become increasingly customized to who we are and what we want. It’s no surprise then that many experts see existing management and leadership roles evolving to become more individualized and suited to a person’s specific strengths. Although many titles may remain similar, role individualization will likely lead each leadership role (and roles in general) away from rigid job descriptions and toward work that better aligns individual strengths with organizational needs. The growing tension between data and soft skills. There is growing awareness across industries of the need for complementary skill sets among managers. It’s clear that Big Data is truly taking over the working world, and without question the executives of the future must have a strong

foundation of data analytics and tech savviness to keep up. Equally important is the need for softer skills and emotional intelligence in leaders who have exceptional hard skills. The executives of tomorrow will need to be masters of multiple capability sets to be successful. The rise of the agile specialist. In many ways, adaptability is becoming more important than deep knowledge. Of course, this isn’t to say that expertise is on the outs, but in a world that moves faster with each passing year, having an expert without the ability to move quickly is having an anchor in your organization. Going forward, leaders must become agile specialists, colleagues who may not necessarily have the same level of expertise as their predecessors but are just as valuable for their ability to act quickly and provide effective solutions to keep up with the times. These agile specialists are equally as valuable as leaders with deep expertise. In partnership, they make a powerful team. Egalitarianism infiltrates the C-suite. One of the most impactful trends shaping organizations is the shift toward the structural flattening of hierarchy in the workplace, a direct result of a cultural move toward egalitarianism and democracy in general. And so it is beginning to go with company leadership, with even the biggest companies dispersing influence by creating less rigid hierarchies and more channels for input among their employees. The C-suite is getting flatter organizationally, and the influence of each executive is decreasing, particularly in newer organizations. While this might look like a benevolent gift of egalitarianism, it may possibly indicate a growing lack of desire for responsibility or true accountability among an increasing percentage of the workforce. The real question: Will younger workers really want to be leaders? Moving from bosses to caretakers. We used to fear our bosses. Then we started having beers with them. In the future, our bosses may not only be our friends but our caretakers as well. Because many companies fear losing their talent, and because they have increased survey-based management and frequent emotional temperature taking among employees, many experts felt that compassionate leadership was becoming of paramount importance. As a result, future-forward managers are making an effort to put their people first, making employees’ wellness and happiness a priority to enable them to produce their best work. However, this well-intentioned philosophy could grow into a dysfunctional (not to mention costly) burden to bear as executives take on an increasing amount of responsibility for employees’ welfare, potentially leading to a lack of independence and resilience in the broader workforce. In a few years, we’ll see employers begin to take on an unprecedented level of responsibility for their employees’ welfare, investing perhaps too heavily in positions and AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 25

resources to sustain employees’ physical, psychological, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. Smart leaders, though, will find ways to support their employees while continuing to develop their independence and resilience. Redefining success and loyalty in organizations. Younger workers and executives are redefining how things are done in the organization. For this group, there are new definitions of what success and loyalty will mean: Loyalty is not about how long someone stays; it’s about the value of the contributions made during one’s employment and the level of investment during that tenure, however long or short it may be. With declining tenures and an increasing focus on nonfinancial goals, success can no longer be judged simply by profit. Future leaders will begin to view it in more holistic terms—by what the company is contributing to the world, the values it promotes, the lifestyle it offers, and the societal advancement it provides. While they will still be economically motivated, up-and-coming executives will be more comfortable putting their money where their mouth is, making decisions that may sacrifice (some) margin for the sake of the greater good, from sustainability to social issues. Leading through a shared purpose and vision. Visionary CEOs have become corporate role models for Millennials, a generation of workers for whom it’s not enough to simply collect a paycheck. Their desire to derive meaning and purpose from their work cannot be underestimated as they

approach. In the future, a laundry list of degrees and titles may be less important than a listening ear. Qualities that were previously perceived as weak in the workplace may become hallmarks of the great leaders of the future: empathy, humility, respect, and empowerment. As executives rely more heavily on others and have an abundance of data insights at their disposal, their level of awareness will become wider as well. This improved understanding of their organization and surroundings, combined with qualities such as empathy and respect, will likely lead to changes in how organizations treat their workers, engage with their customers, and position themselves in the marketplace. Disrupting diversity, or a comfort with constructive conflict. When it comes to innovation, most organizations would rather be the disruptors than the disrupted. But how does a company breed disruptive thought and true innovation? The short answer: diversity of everything. Organizations are recognizing that diversity is not only important in terms of keeping with the times, it’s also the only way to stay ahead in today’s fast-paced world. With diversity comes increased collaboration, crosspollination of ideas, and cross-functional thinking. So while we may have more nice people in management and leadership roles going forward, it’s not going to be all rainbows and sunshine. Diversity will expand as executives seek disparity in everything, yet strive to maintain tolerance

“ The new generation of workers will flock to purpose-driven teams rather than standout individual leaders; thus we’ll move beyond the visionary CEO to the purpose- and values-driven leader.” dream of working to advance a shared vision and devoting their efforts to an organization and a team with values reflective of their own. However, moving forward, a visionary CEO is not going to be enough. The most successful organizations will have every leader living and breathing the purpose and values of the company. The new generation of workers will flock to purpose-driven teams rather than standout individual leaders; thus we’ll move beyond the visionary CEO to the purpose- and values-driven leader. Management teams, and the values they espouse, will be just as important and as much of a draw to an organization as those of the company and CEO. Cultivating empowerment and approachability. Moving forward, nice—or at the very least, nicer—guys may just finish first. The domination of the command-and-controlbased leader no longer resonates in today’s workplace. Going forward, great leadership will be defined by empowering others and adopting more of an others-focused


for it all. Living in conflict is not only to be expected, but celebrated. Organizations will strive to achieve diversity of everything—not only in gender, race, and age but also in thought, perspective, experience, and chemistry—in an effort to cultivate purposeful conflict and innovative thought. We’ll likely see managers become more balanced and representative of the world at large, but possibly more confrontational and conflict-ridden as well. The ability to promote constructive conflict will increasingly be a critical skill for effective managers. All of this will be in addition to the competitive challenges facing organizations, political and regulatory shifts, technological evolutions and revolutions, the issues that arise through global expansion, and the normal day-today issues that arise when managing teams and running organizations. What do managers need to do differently to succeed in this changing environment? They need to master competing competencies, both externally and internally.

“ People who have

Leadership Span have multiple

c apabilities that others don’t have, which leads them to be more flexible and adaptive, allowing them to successfully navigate their team.”

COMPETING COMPETENCIES It’s no secret that leaders need to manage multiple goals that are at odds with each other on a daily basis: Delivering short-term results while managing long-term strategy, balancing the needs of multiple clients who want the company to go in different directions, divvying up scarce resources among multiple business units or priorities. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that successful leaders also face the same challenge within themselves. In the fall of 2016, Russell Reynolds Associates and Hogan Assessments examined psychometric data on more than 5 million employees to understand what distinguishes successful senior executives from the rest of the workforce. What emerged from that research is that successful leaders are able to manage four pairs of psychological traits that would normally be considered at odds. These successful leaders are: Disruptive and pragmatic. Pragmatic disruptors are leaders who challenge the status quo and make the case for fundamental changes, yet also act as an organizational filter during times of volatility. They have a keen understanding of the practical limits on the amount of change an organization can absorb. Risk-taking and reluctant. Reluctant risk-takers thrive in ambiguity and adapt nimbly to changing circumstances, yet also exercise caution in taking risks. They are able to read a situation and foresee threats on the horizon. Heroic and vulnerable. Vulnerable heroes display perseverance in the face of challenges and know their own strengths, yet also are aware of their limitations. They open themselves to feedback and external data, which allows them to stay humble and keep developing.

Galvanizing and connecting. Galvanizing connectors inspire trust through influence, charisma, and drive, yet also let others take the spotlight. They empower others to create powerful networks within and beyond the organization. Followers are engaged beyond the energy of the individual leader by a sense of the greater purpose of the organization that the leader is able to convey. Leaders who are able to manage all four sets of these competing competencies are said to have “Leadership Span,” and they’re the future of your organization. People who have Leadership Span have multiple capabilities that others don’t have, which leads them to be more flexible and adaptive, allowing them to successfully navigate their team and their organization through challenging situations and cultural and organizational change. Additionally, managers who “Span” are successful in senior roles longer than other executives; they experience less change fatigue and organizational burnout from challenging situations. It feels like the world is changing faster and faster every day, and we’re failing to manage to keep ahead of the turmoil. Our competitors innovate quicker than we thought they would. Our customers’ moods and preferences shift ever more often. Technology revolutionizes our industry, then does it again. We can’t slow change down, but we can do a better job of picking managers and leaders who are able to successfully lead our people and our organization through these upheavals. Our future depends on it. AQ Dean Stamoulis provides guidance to boards about CEO selection and succession at executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates. He also consults with CEOs about how to build excellent leadership teams. In addition, Stamoulis leads the firm’s Center for Leadership Insight. The Center’s focus is on sharing fresh observations and solutions about C-suite leadership challenges and opportunities. He is based in Atlanta.



Power of the People Focus on your employees to make your company grow. BY SHARON HULCE


s the president of a busy executive search firm, I’ve observed thousands of leaders over the course of my 21-year run. Many leaders run amazing organizations that over time have grown considerably and have been very successful. Others, despite the same economic conditions, have not fared well. In analyzing the differences, there are some key factors that are quite obvious, but certainly worth reviewing. Successful leaders understand that you grow organizations through people. While you can make capital investments, technology upgrades, new product innovations, and so on, ultimately the people behind such changes are what make companies grow. So the companies that win are those that focus on their people. This includes hiring, engaging, and retaining your talent. One of the first things we notice in companies that excel is that the firm has a defined culture, one built upon shared values from the leaders that are bled into the organization from the top down. This is the “heart” piece of the business. As we know, most people hire with their head; the person has the right technical background and can do the job. The farthest they go with the heart piece is generally “I like them.” Truly understanding whether a person will integrate into your company’s culture takes heavier lifting than this. A strong “people first” culture is embodied by interviewing, onboarding, and training to the organization’s values, so that leaders know employees’ core values are aligned. This does not mean we all have to think the same! Quite the contrary, we want people who will bring new innovations and ideas. What this is about


is creating a core values system of acceptable behaviors for how we interact with and respect each other and how we represent the company. It’s the price of admission to enter into a great culture.

Rethinking the performance review Another critical factor we see at companies that grow through great people is that employees have a say in their careers. These firms engage them in establishing career paths. Employees lead goal setting and accountability to achieve not only what is important to the company, but also what is important to them throughout their careers. The best of organizations, from our perspective, allow the employee—not the supervisor—to lead the performance review. Employees analyze their own performance, answering questions such as, “What do you believe was your greatest accomplishment this year?”

“What was the most significant thing you learned?” “What would you like to improve upon?” “Where would you like to see your career progress over the next year, in three to five years and your ultimate role in our company?” The supervisor can then have an open dialogue about goal setting, expectations, and accountability. Moving forward, the employee will be accountable to his or her own career. The supervisor can check in to assist the employee, but the path is clear. Under this process, the main role of the supervisor during a performance review would be to align values, not just evaluate performance. This process assists in defining who is high performing, who has high potential, and who needs a performance management plan (or an exit interview). Isn’t it true that when we really analyze why someone isn’t working out, it is usually due to cultural fit, not technical misalignment?

Retaining Millennial talent Retention continues to be another huge focus for high-performing leaders. Today’s leaders have a new challenge in the work environment that we really have not had to deal with before—the generational difference between how the Baby Boomer generation thinks versus the Millennial generation and their “arrival” into leadership in mass numbers. Baby Boomers grew up in a generation in which parents wanted a better lifestyle for their families than they

by a Baby Boomer who wants to focus on “I earned my stripes, you need too also.” Therein lies the challenge. We need Baby Boomers to transfer their institutional knowledge, and we need Millennials to be open-minded to learn the way it has always been done while honoring their need to seek a better method. And then we wonder why senior leaders are pulling their hair out! Companies need to frequently communicate their purpose in order

By sharing common ground, all generations can get behind what the organization does that helps others. had growing up. Many of the recipients of that generosity are members of today’s Millennial generation (along with Gen X, but at a lesser number). But Baby Boomers dislike the very reward system they created. Baby Boomers believe Millennials are too “entitled” (take, for example, the trophies for participation that Millennial children received in some activities). Baby Boomers are not willing to transfer their institutional knowledge because they’re certain they will train the Millennials and then they will just leave anyway. After all, the average Millennial stays in a position from 18 months to three years. So even though we have 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day nationwide, in many cases the institutional knowledge they have is leaving the organization with them. Millennials see this attitude through a very different lens. They find Baby Boomers unwilling to try things in a new way. Millennials want to work for an organization that understands its “why” and is open-minded to lots of ideas on how to get there. They seek an organization whose purpose is strong and makes a difference for other people. If they leave, it’s because they are stifled

to retain employees. By sharing this common ground, all generations can get behind what the organization does that helps others.

The value of shared culture How do we begin to comingle this workforce into one dynamic high-performing culture? Shared values are critical, but there are other things leaders can do to continue to build interdependency, leadership competencies, and trust. We spoke earlier about performance reviews and how they can help define who is high performing or who has high potential. By defining this group, you can start to bring the team together in a variety of ways. One strategy that we encourage is an Innovation Summit, a one-day, offsite retreat where you focus on leadership development with the two teams. One group of high-performing teammates works on strategy. Any business challenge that you are wrestling with, give it to the group. You will be amazed at what you might learn. The other team is a high-potential group in which the members have all the right competencies to be a good leader; they just need more coaching and

development. For this group, we suggest assigning critical-thinking exercises or challenges to solve problems the business has encountered. Both groups should be widely recognized internally. This creates a desire by all employees to be a part of these elite groups. It also assists with Millennial retention, as you are asking these employees for their valued opinion. We conducted an Innovation Summit several years back for a client. One gentleman in the room was a highpotential engineer. He was somewhat introverted and rarely spoke unless called upon. In this setting, his group was given a problem to solve that had been a longstanding challenge for the business almost since the beginning. Not only did he offer up the solution, but his recommendation has since transformed the company, and as a result, it has made millions in additional revenue. Years after the revelation, the CEO approached the young engineer and asked why he hadn’t shared this insight previously. His answer? No one had ever asked. We frequently are asked if compensation plays a role in having happy, engaged employees. It does, but not as much as one may think. Being fair and paying the market rate are important. Sharing the wealth of a good profit year beyond a few senior leaders also goes a long way. Strong benefits are important to Baby Boomers. But overall, compensation plays less of a role in retaining people in your company than making employees feel motivated, significant, and worthwhile. Leadership certainly has its share of challenges, and those challenges will be ever-changing. But what is a constant is that those organizations that put people first always win first. AQ Sharon Hulce is president of Employment Resource Group Inc. She is celebrating her 21st year in executive search. Hulce is the founder of ERG and is a sought-after speaker on retention, empowerment, and succession planning for employees and employers.


Clearing Managers from the Path to


Over the past two decades, the argument over the importance of employee engagement to organizational results has been won. 30 I AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017

It’s hard to find anyone who will argue against the significance of engagement these days. What’s far from settled is the question of why employee engagement levels have been stagnant at atrociously low levels for as long as Gallup has been measuring them. According to Gallup Business Journal’s January 2016 post, “The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis,” since 2000, when the organization began tracking employee engagement in the United States, less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces. “According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged—meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace,” write Annamarie Mann and Jim Harter. “Worldwide, only 13% of employees working for an organization are engaged.” One of the most popular theories for why engagement levels remain low has to do with the quality of management within the organization. We’ve all heard the phrase, “People leave managers, not companies.” And most who study employee engagement data would probably agree that bad management plays a significant role in stifling employee engagement, often to the point where employees decide to take their talents elsewhere. As a result of this belief, an entire industry of management training and development has exploded to fix the management problem. If you’ve been in a supervisory role for longer than a few months, chances are you’ve been subjected to any number of efforts to improve your management skills. “We must fix management” seems to have become the mantra of the employee engagement movement. When the employee survey data says we don’t communicate, we roll out management training to close the gap. If goals and accountabilities aren’t clear, we coach up the managers to address the issue. If employees don’t feel cared about by their managers, we blame the selection process and commit to only promote people who actually like people. Despite all the time and attention paid to improving management within our organizations, engagement results remain unchanged. It seems we are stuck in a cycle of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I’ve spent most of the last two decades at the heart of this engagement storm as both a practitioner and consultant. The lack of progress we’ve made in solving this riddle of engagement is something I take personally. Work should be a rewarding, fulfilling, engaging experience, and when it’s not, it takes a real toll on the people who do it.

MORNING STAR SHEDS SOME LIGHT In December 2011, I found an article in the Harvard Business Review that changed my thinking completely. The article was

titled “First, Let’s Fire All the Managers” and was written by one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, Gary Hamel. In it, he shares the story of California-based Morning Star Company, the world’s largest tomato processor. Hamel describes in detail how Morning Star has not only outperformed the market but dominated it over a 20-year span despite the complete absence of traditional management roles. “Morning Star’s goal,” he wrote, “according to its organizational vision, is to create a company in which all team members ‘will be selfmanaging professionals, initiating communications and the coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers, and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others.’” The way in which Morning Star operates its business is, at first, hard to process when you’ve known nothing but the traditional hierarchical management structure. But the more you learn about it, the more brilliant it seems. Ultimately, it led me to reframe my thinking about the bad management problem of employee engagement. I began to consider that maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong; what if it’s not bad management that’s killing engagement? What if it’s management itself that’s hurting employee engagement? Morning Star is at least one example of a company that has proven management may not be as critical to an organization’s success as we’ve historically thought. If management itself is the problem, it helps explain why all of our efforts to improve management haven’t reaped many rewards.

GETTING INTO AGILE This new perspective on management inspired me to seek out other examples and models of self-management. What I discovered was that software developers have been experimenting with and perfecting self-management for more than a decade through a movement called Agile. I’d heard about Agile, but I had no idea that it was a model for organizing the work of collaborative, cross-functional, self-organizing teams that lack any sort of formal management structure. It was through my curiosity about Agile that I met Serena Godfrey, VP of CARE Operations at Vistaprint. Vistaprint would describe itself as an Agile organization. It applies the methodology to software development and in many other areas of the organization. It was Godfrey’s story, though, that was most intriguing to me. Among her many responsibilities is leading the global customer support team for Vistaprint, which employs thousands of people in call centers around the world, including Montego Bay, Jamaica, where she currently resides. From the first few moments we spoke, it was clear that she AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 31

“People crave the clarity and structure that help them work more effectively. Agile is a great example of what a self-managed team structure looks like.” is an innovator when it comes to leading and motivating teams. She described to me how her experience working for companies such as Virgin and Netflix has shaped her belief that, “If you get the right culture and people from the beginning, you can let them run and they will come up with better ideas than you have.” It was this belief in the inherent motivation and talent of people, combined with her exposure to Agile, that prompted her to create an experiment within her Montego Bay call center. Godfrey views the call center as a workplace just like any other, where work should be a great experience and employees can both thrive and enjoy their jobs. As evidence of this commitment, her Montego Bay call center has become an employer of choice in the city.

THE CALL CENTER EXPERIMENT Despite having already created a positive and productive work environment, Godfrey had a hypothesis that perhaps management was getting in the way of further improvement in performance and employee engagement. So she and her team designed a pilot experiment to test the performance of self-organized, self-managed teams. This eight-week pilot included three separate teams, each with 15 members, all doing the same work with the same performance measures. The groups were provided with different approaches to self-management and selected the one they felt would work best for them. Group 1 consisted of individuals of average tenure within the call center. In this group, the supervisor’s role was limited to administrative functions such as payroll and policy violations; they did not manage performance or provide guidance as they normally would. The team had very little structure imposed on them and had true autonomy to determine how work was organized and how things got done. We’ll refer to this group as having no structure.


Group 2 consisted of newer hires with less experience in the center. The supervisor in this group gave some basic instructions to the team, and the members decided on a limited support structure. They were provided with minor guidance about what needed to be done and when it was due. They were also provided with a list of assignments and tasks that were required, but given autonomy to determine how they were completed. If the team needed assistance, they were able to solicit help from the supervisor, who otherwise would not get involved. We’ll refer to this group as having limited structure. Group 3 was comprised of more tenured employees. For this group, the supervisor conducted additional research to learn the fundamentals of how to self-organize using the Agile process and trained the team on the basics of this approach. The supervisor in this group assumed a role similar to that of a “Scrum Master,” which is a formal role within Agile. According to one Agile expert, this role can be described as a facilitator and coach. The Scrum Master removes impediments to team performance and is the framework custodian. The Scrum Master is not a supervisor or manager of any person. We’ll refer to this group as using Agile.

THE RESULTS Let’s start with the bombshell. None of the three groups declined in average performance over the eight-week pilot. Let me say that again. There was no decline in overall performance when management was removed from the equation. This is a pretty compelling finding on its own, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For Group 1, the average-tenure group with no structure, while performance on the average didn’t decline, it was more sporadic and inconsistent week over week. This group suffered from a lack of clarity about roles and tasks, so its members spent a lot of time experimenting. They were often confused and craved more structure. The employees

in this group did not enjoy the experience and their level of satisfaction declined. Group 2, with newer hires and limited structure, also maintained overall average performance, but it was less sporadic than Group 1. Perhaps the most interesting finding about this group is that the members quickly swapped the intended limited support structure design for a process with greater involvement from the supervisor. This group used its autonomy to change the rules to better suit members’ needs. In hindsight, it appears that attempting to swap an existing team structure for a partial replacement created nearly as much confusion as replacing it with no structure at all. In some ways, this group reverted to the old supervisordependent system, although not entirely. The presence of some structure did, however, improve the employees’ experience when compared with the “no structure” group. About half of the employees in this group enjoyed the experience, while the other half did not. It was the Agile Group 3 where the magic happened. The performance of this team improved above the average, and every employee in this group reported enjoying the experience for a variety of different reasons. One of the things noted by these employees was that they liked having all members of the team (including their former supervisor) treated as equal and important contributors. Godfrey also noted that members of this team demonstrated more learning behaviors. Many of them went to the web to find resources to help them be more effective within the team. Overall, the pilot experiment seems to provide compelling evidence that self-managed teams could be highly successful in a call center through the lens of performance and employee engagement. Godfrey is bullish about the possibilities and is currently running several pilots in other call centers around the world to validate the results across different cultures. The Vistaprint Philippines call center in Manila is testing a similar approach to Group 3. The center has added further features of the Agile process, including daily stand-ups and the use of Kanban boards to visualize and manage work. The teams have seen some early success, including reducing the average customer call length by 18% while still maintaining consistently high quality. These results had been pursued but never achieved in the past with traditional management.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MANAGEMENT AND ENGAGEMENT? Since most companies operate using a traditional, hierarchical management structure, the mere suggestion that management might not be necessary is hard to fathom. But, it’s hard to ignore the mounting evidence that this old model just isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s also clear that transitioning to a culture of self-managed teams isn’t as simple as just eliminating anyone with a manager title. Both the Morning Star and Vistaprint

examples illustrate that unleashing the power of selfmanagement requires replacing traditional management with a structure and system (something like Agile) to support this new way of working. Here are some other observations about the changing (diminishing) importance of management: Hierarchy and structure are not synonyms. Hierarchy is a structure, and it may very well be what’s choking out both engagement and performance in many organizations. But simply collapsing that scaffolding does little more than replace one frustration with another. People crave the clarity and structure that help them work more effectively. Agile is a great example of what a self-managed team structure looks like. Self-managed teams only work when there’s a strong personal accountability by each team member. In selfmanaged teams, there’s no place to hide and no supervisor to bail you out when you fail. If you aren’t pulling your weight, it will be obvious to your team members. It’s not going to be for everyone. Godfrey’s speculation about why half of the Group 2 (limited structure) team members liked it and half did not is that it felt more natural to those with higher accountability and was probably uncomfortable for the less accountable. Moving to an environment like this will cause some turnover and put additional pressure on your recruiting process to find people who will thrive in this system. Managers aren’t bad—it’s how they’ve been taught to manage that’s bad. Any manager could (and should) study how the role of the Scrum Master works in Agile. There’s nothing preventing any manager from adopting this method of managing in nearly any work team. It does require some very substantial changes in thinking about how decisions are made and what the relationship between the employee and the manager looks like. It can no longer be treated as a subordinate-supervisor dynamic, but rather an equal partnership between two people with different roles to play. Overall, it’s my conclusion that with the right structure in place, a self-managed work environment has all the makings of a highly engaged work experience. And while I know there are good managers out there, it seems reasonable to conclude that the practice of management is a disengager for employees. Practically speaking, since traditional management isn’t going away anytime soon, increasing employee engagement is less about creating “good” managers and more about minimizing the damage of management in general. AQ Jason Lauritsen has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits—first as an entrepreneur, then a corporate HR executive, then as a consultant, researcher, and speaker. He is the co-author, with Joe Gerstandt, of Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships (Talent Anarchy Productions, 2012).


How to Influence Change at the


Paula, a strategic, mid-level director at a large global organization, has been given the opportunity to determine the next location for expansion in one of two cities identified as a strong fit for the company’s business. She is determined to demonstrate that, although she is junior to most other directors, she is the right person for the job. She feels completely ready to handle this enormous challenge—to present her findings in two short weeks. This could be a significant, career-changing moment. With a laser focus on the task before her, Paula conducts a thorough financial breakdown of the costs and benefits associated with each location. She prepares a detailed statistical analysis of the results to share with her boss and other strategic directors. She is confident she has done her homework and identified the best course of action for establishing the next location for the organization. The presentation fails to convince her audience. At the meeting, two senior directors challenge her recommendations. They promote the other location, failing to consider any of the supporting data Paula has proposed. She leaves the meeting stunned and wondering where she went wrong in her approach. A manufacturing plant wants to promote a culture of safer work practices and decides to launch a Safety Ambassador initiative. After the launch fails several times, Owen, a young supervisor at the plant, volunteers to spearhead the program and ensure that it is successfully launched this time around. At first, Owen realizes it is easier to plan the launch than


to actually launch a program that not everyone agrees is worthwhile. However, with a vision of what needs to be accomplished in mind, he first identifies the four critical decision makers who are essential to approving which operators will be selected as Safety Ambassadors. He then meets with many of the supervisors and takes the time to listen to feedback from frustrated managers who have been asked to support the program. Afterward, Owen secures commitment from the key supervisors whose agreement is paramount to the program’s success. The result? The initiative experiences a very triumphant launch, and Owen is awarded much-deserved recognition. So why was one middle manager’s attempt to influence change successful while the other’s failed, despite each developing a plan and working hard to promote the change initiative? According to a summary of the Towers Watson 2013 Change and Communication ROI Survey, “Employers claimed that 55% of their change initiatives met their initial objectives, but only one out of four were able to sustain gains from their change initiatives over the long run. More importantly, while 85% recognize the role managers play in promoting change initiatives and thus offer their managers training, less than 22% of respondents report their training was effective.” Why do such training programs fall short, compromising the hard work necessary to foster and promote change initiatives?

What does this really mean? Research would suggest that to improve the engagement of middle managers and heighten their ability to initiate change, organizations should focus on fundamental levers that are known to drive success: leadership, communication, involvement, training, and measurement. Yet, how do such levers direct the actions of middle managers trying to initiate change in the face of budget restrictions, skepticism, potential resistors, and limited resources? The literature is replete with studies of general anecdotes for addressing the ailments of middle managers. But what is still missing from these suggestions are specific actions a middle manager can do now to influence change and strategic focus. Here are three tactics for securing support and achieving desired outcomes: Build credibility. As Jim Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner state in The Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass, 1987), “If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.” Many middle managers assume that because they were given a task to complete, there is organization-wide confidence in their ability to do so. This flawed thinking leads many middle managers to jump directly into planning change before they have enhanced the credibility they need to ensure success. Practice the art of advocacy and inquiry. While many middle managers will do their homework, pursue in-depth analyses, and develop extensive spreadsheets and pivot tables, they often forget that advocating a position solely based on research is futile if they do not inquire about the competing opinions, concerns, or interests of other stakeholders.

Understand the political terrain. Even middle managers that have credibility and practice advocacy and inquiry will not be successful in initiating change if they do not have a firm appreciation of who is in their corner, who is on the fence, and who is either a potential or staunch resistor to the change initiative being considered. Mapping the political terrain is essential to influencing change at any level in the organization, but especially at the mid-level, where the manager must influence up, down, and laterally.

EFFECTIVELY BUILDING CREDIBILITY While Paula did her homework, she failed to notice the obvious: Her lack of credibility compromised any hope that the senior directors would listen to and seriously entertain what she had to offer. Credibility is the foundation of trust and change. To build credibility, Paula should have considered the approach used by Owen. She could have met one-on-one with the other directors, listening to what their concerns and positions might be on the issue and taking these into account as she delved into her extensive research. Through oneon-one conversations, she could have gained information, better understood each director’s interests, and addressed these findings in her final presentation to promote both trust and her willingness to collaborate with colleagues. This approach would have enhanced her own credibility and built a foundation of not only trust but authenticity. Owen realized early in the change process that he would need the support of those above him as well as those working on the plant floor if the Safety Ambassador program was ever going to launch successfully. He wrote a memo AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 35

to the plant manager outlining the steps he thought were necessary to begin the process of implementing a safety program, including setting clearly defined, measurable goals. Next, he suggested hosting a plantwide meeting to explain what the Safety Ambassador program was about and to clarify the purpose of the program, resulting in greater awareness. He then began to conduct private interviews with other supervisors and operating managers to share his enthusiasm for the program and actively listen to concerns they needed to voice before agreeing to help move the initiative forward. Lastly, he asked for public support from the plant manager to enhance his own credibility and help him get the job done, securing trust from others in the interim.

PRACTICING ADVOCACY AND INQUIRY The second tactic in influencing change as a middle manager is to practice what Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal in Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2008) call the art of “advocacy and inquiry.” Advocacy is stating a position and sharing one’s own thoughts, beliefs, interests, and knowledge. Inquiry, on the other hand, is a middle manager’s opportunity to discover others’ concerns, interests, and feedback. Paula’s inability to sway her senior colleagues stemmed from being too assertive, focusing on a high-advocacy but lowinquiry approach. Such behavior can be perceived negatively and further damage the advocate’s credibility. It is critical, therefore, that middle managers carefully balance advocacy with inquiry to further bolster credibility and gain support from senior managers and others essential to the change process. Had Paula done so, she would have known that the director of finance would only be interested in using “cost” as the primary decision criteria, but the director of operations was more vested in the ease of supply-chain access. Other directors may have liked the alternate location because it provided greater access to critical clients who had been loyal customers for many years. Using this information, she would have been in a better position prior to making her presentation to influence change by demonstrating how her chosen location could satisfy each of these concerns. In contrast to Paula’s approach, Owen firmly believed there were certain operating supervisors that would be better Safety Ambassadors than their peers would, and he suggested as much to some of the key decision makers. However, he then solicited feedback, questions, or concerns regarding his choices as compared with their own selections. Through the act of both advocacy and inquiry, Owen was better able to convince other senior managers to listen to his suggestions while simultaneously understanding their positions and addressing most of their concerns. Next, he held private interviews with each of the key decision makers to further advocate his list of operators who would be more effective in the role of Safety Ambassador. By further


enhancing his credibility, while both promoting and soliciting diverse points of view, Owen was able to begin the training program with a group of ambassadors who would be most influential at promoting safety standards around the plant.

UNDERSTANDING THE LANDSCAPE The most common mistake middle managers make when trying to launch a new change initiative is the failure to adequately map the political terrain and capitalize on both formal and informal networks of influence. Most change initiatives are met with resistance. When prominent senior managers or directors become potential resistors, and the change agent lacks position power and credibility, overcoming resistance is almost futile. Yet it is paramount to successfully influencing change. Ultimately, the key to success for Owen was mapping the political terrain and identifying different routes around obstacles, being flexible, adaptive, and persistent. When he realized that many of the goals he had established for the program would not be accomplished without support from the maintenance department, he advocated for adding an ambassador from this department and was pleasantly surprised when the maintenance supervisor himself agreed to the role. To secure support from other supervisors already overwhelmed by a demand for increased metrics, Owen made a concerted effort to meet with the supervisors, listen to their frustrated outbursts, engage them in identifying better practices for a safe work environment, and diffuse concerns by agreeing to have the Safety Ambassadors meet with their departmental supervisor three times a week to keep them quantitatively abreast of safety standards being met or exceeded.

THE SUCCESSFUL ROAD TO CHANGE For middle managers to influence and promote a change initiative, it is indeed necessary to provide training that focuses on leadership, communication, and engagement and to create a culture that values employee contributions. But these activities alone are insufficient if middle managers do not actively work to enhance their credibility, to advocate and inquire into thoughts, feelings, information, and knowledge, and to familiarize themselves with the political landscape that can create opportunities as well as barriers for change. And these tactics, ultimately, enhance influence. So let the change begin. AQ Lori Coakley is a management professor at Bryant University. She has published and presented on topics ranging from defense conversion to adaptive leadership. She runs a robust consulting practice, teaching change management techniques, personal branding, negotiation, managing millennials, and women and leadership for clients that include BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hope Global, and Women & Infants Hospital. Follow Bryant University on Facebook at and on Twitter at @BryantUniv


I hate traffic lights! They slow me down, waste my time, and upset my flow. They also instigate boredom as I sit waiting on the light to change. Oh, I understand their relevance to safe driving and ensuring order on a highway laced with a need for speed and reckless drivers. But I still find them a nuisance. That dark sentiment is what makes me so impressed with roundabouts. You come into a roundabout and, while you might slow down, you never have to stop. Granted, you cannot mindlessly negotiate a roundabout. I also like their reliance on the sense of fair play and courtesy of drivers as they determine who has the right of way and who goes next. As such, they promote collaboration, not just obedience. Traffic lights are like stop signs with no driver negotiation—just law and order. Great leaders in the era of disruptors are more like roundabouts; their predecessors are more like traffic lights. They allow a lot of give and take, not wishing to retard the

forward-thinking ideation and inventiveness of those they lead. They rely on the guidance system of commitment rather than the rules of compliance. They are respectful of those they lead, despite the occasional quirky, harebrained renditions of their more risk-taking followers. And they support effective execution over waste-my-time allegiance to bureaucratic efficiency. Now, leave that thought on the page and we will diverge to what got us here—disruption.

HOW DISRUPTORS ALTER EXPECTATIONS Uber is the classic disruptor. The company has forever changed the rubrics for hailing a taxi. Instead of summoning a cab, only to get a dingy vehicle with a driver with poor communication skills who insists on spending the ride on a cell talking to his brother in a foreign language, Uber gives me a driver with AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 37

courtesy, a clean vehicle, and knowledge of my route. Even before the driver arrives—beckoned by my smartphone app—I know the driver’s name and customer service rating, vehicle description, license plate number, and contact phone number. Instead of fumbling with a credit card or money at the end of my journey, I exit the vehicle knowing all will be charged to my account. And I can instantly rate the driver, who must maintain a 4.5 on a 5-point scale to keep an Uber license.

birthed profits. It ushered in leaders who carried stopwatches and clipboards. As brawn-based factory work became more brain-based office work, the concept of “organization” emerged as the modus operandi, with its military-style chain of command focused on policies and procedures. Leaders were benevolent dictators, such as Eisenhower and Bradley. Notice how the shift in the means of production ushered in a change in the typical style of leadership.

But there is more to this disruption than taxi riders getting “Ubered.” There is a growing number of Uber-like encounters. Sheraton now lets me remotely check in and use my smartphone to open my guest room door, completely bypassing the front desk. Domino’s Pizza not only lets me text the cook, but through my app and phone GPS, I am able to know precisely when the pizza will arrive, giving me time to put the dog out before the delivery person rings my doorbell. A true disruptor alters many industry sectors, not just its particular space.

Now, fast-forward to the era of disruptions. High performance must be coupled with innovation. Disruptor wins come through out-of-the-box thinking that alters the status quo and upsets the predictability of “we’ve always done it this way.” Work life at innovator Google, for example, has been well-documented—open spaces, free food, crossfunctional partnering, constant training, and an emphasis on fun as much as on hard work. But many of the unique culture features that bolster Googlers may become commonplace in the work environment of the future. So, now we go back to the roundabout metaphor that opened this article.

Retail mall stores can now communicate with you through your smartphone as you walk through the mall. (“We have that purple blouse you were hunting for, and it is 20% off if you come into the store and purchase it in the next 10 minutes!”) Smart bots are enabling stores to do product searching for you consistent with preferences you have established and, like the sweet sound of a siren, beckon you into the store for exactly what you want, and at an impulse-buy tempting price. Apple Watch (like the Disney Magic Band) is working on giving you a take-your-breath-away virtual experience, along with portals to your whole life. Imagine playing on the golf course and having your doctor call to inform you to get to the emergency room ASAP because your Apple Watch informed his or her computer (constantly monitoring your health) that you are in A-Fib and at risk of a heart attack. And, by the way, you forgot to set the security alarm this morning and your dog is overdue for a rabies vaccine! Enough about disruption: What does this all mean for leaders? It means customers (a.k.a. employees) are functioning in a brain-based economy and getting the freedom to order their lives as they choose. They have smart systems that save them time and eliminate hassle, putting them in control. They are perpetually made wiser through countless exchanges. Employees come to work after visiting a Bass Pro Shop, ordering an item on Zappos, and hearing their name called three times at a Starbucks. Customers’ (and employees’) standards for sensory stimulation and a funfilled experience are getting higher and higher. To paraphrase the World War I song, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen… well, Disney World!”

THE DISRUPTED EMPLOYEE The concept of interchangeable parts moved artisan-crafted products from niche creators to the mass production factory. Henry Ford perfected the assembly line, where efficiency


Roundabout leaders thrive in an era of disruption because they are courageous. While they value the civility of consistency and tradition, they know that innovation is about new and untried; breakthroughs come more from dreams than from routines. They lead from the heart of an entrepreneur focused on inspiration, not the blind obedience of a servant. They hire the best and then treat them like the best. Here are seven tenets of roundabout leaders in the era of disruptors: Roundabout leaders keep the flame burning. People need a constant they can count on in times of massive change. That constant must be compelling and relevant; it has to be a foundation for everything. The flame most likely to evoke a sense of purpose or calling is an effective vision­—the picture of what the organization is striving to be, not just organized to do. And the key to keeping the flame burning is to give every employee a match! Roundabout leaders keep in touch. “You can pretend to care, you cannot pretend to be there,” wrote Texas Bix Bender in his book Don’t Squat With Your Spurs On: A Cowboy’s Guide to Life! (Gibbs Smith, 1992). Bender was describing a vital feature of roundabout leadership: command presence. People who spend more than 20 minutes in the military know the power of command presence. Officer school candidates are drilled on the power and practice of the manner of a leader—focused, attentive, and engaged. Command presence is not about control, it is about connection. It is not about power, it is about partnership. Leaders with command presence convey character. Great leaders focus on being there, everywhere, not in absentia. And when they are there, they are all there—focused, attentive, and engaged. They hunt for genuine encounters. They also upset the pristine and proper by inviting vocal customers to meetings. They spend time in the field and on the floor where the action is lively, not

in carefully contrived meetings where the action is limp. They thrive on keeping things genuine and vibrant. Roundabout leaders keep out of the way. “Keep out of the way” is not an invitation to hands-off abandonment, but rather a caution to never use any more leadership than is needed. If you hired smart people and gave them solid preparation and clear assignments, they shouldn’t need a parent to watch over them. Limited leadership is the foundation of trust-building empowerment. Empowerment does not translate to unlimited license but rather responsible freedom. Roundabout leaders give employees the freedom to solve customer problems and answer questions on the spot within flexible guidelines. Customers use the level of frontline empowerment as a peephole into the values of an organization. The more they witness or experience employees who act with authority on their behalf, the more their confidence in the organization soars. Empowerment also means helping people “think like owners,” coupling take-care-of-the-customer service with take-care-of-the-organization stewardship. That takes ensuring everyone has the most up-to-date information, the best training, and the kind of inclusion that helps employees feel like insiders, not like mercenaries. Roundabout leaders keep relationships egalitarian. Power-free is the essence of effective partnership. Roundabout leaders create relationships that are visioncentered, not power-centered. Roundabout leaders focus on support, not subservience; on commitment, not compliance. They enlist employees as fellow alliance builders, working as equals for the greater good of creating great products, superior solutions, and loyal customers. This approach encourages employees to be partners with other employees. And it arms them with the confidence to exhibit partnering enlistment toward customers. Egalitarian relationships are ego-less. The focus shifts from “all about me” to “all about us.” It is a perpetrator of interpersonal strength to know we are many, not “on your own.” Great partnering needs broad guidelines that provide “solution spaces” in which to operate. It takes knowing that mistakes won’t be fatal; it relies on understanding that missteps in the pursuit of partnering will be viewed as learning experiences, not handled with punitive measures. Roundabout leaders keep the focus on results, not activity. Three turtles sat on a log at the edge of the swamp. One decided to jump in. How many are now on the log? Nope, there are still three. Deciding and doing are not the same thing. Until you execute, all decisions are just plain old intentions. Execution—putting skin in the game—is the true test of commitment. “I believe, I support, I approve” are all just weasel words unless they are coupled with visible demonstration. Creating a great, compelling vision is important. Crafting clear standards and expectations is vital. Selecting, training,

and resourcing people in how to deliver high performance is crucial. Determining the metrics and indicators of success is imperative. But in the end, all the planning and preparing is “just getting ready to.” People judge your position by the one you take, not by the one you propose. Roundabout leaders are all about “getting off the log!” Roundabout leaders keep their promises. One feature that has been wrung out of the work world is trust. Trust is born out of authenticity. We trust another when we perceive his or her motives are unadulterated and credible. Think of the goal as realness-in-motion. Roundabout leaders communicate an enthusiasm for the privilege of being of service to their employees. However, trust doesn’t begin with “kept promises,” it starts with a leap of faith. Someone takes a risk that builds experience, which leads to trust. And when an organization takes a risk with employees, employees typically respond in kind—and their loyalty soars. Roundabout leadership is about realness, not about role-ness. The stereotypical leader gets caught up with looking, sounding, and “acting” executive, and employees get a message of “plastic power.” Roundabout leaders know that humility bolsters trust. They are unimpressed with the trappings of supremacy and more interested in communicating an authentic spirit and an egalitarian style. Roundabout leaders keep jelly beans on their desks. “Jelly beans” is my code word for the sense of joy and fun today’s employees desperately need (and expect). As customers aim their anxiety at the front line, employees need the bulletproof vests that can come from high selfesteem. Happy employees are resilient in times of chaos, and courageous in moments of conflict. Sourcing an emotional strength that is bolstered by a supportive environment, they are able to absorb tension, converting it into compassion in arduous situations. And from that atmosphere of joy and trust comes the courage to be innovative. I grew up on a large, heavily wooded farm. Periodically, lightning would start a forest fire that would burn acres of trees. But within a few years, newer, stronger, more resilient growth would emerge from the scorched land. My dad would remind me of the Darwin principle of adaption and survival of the fittest. Then he would say, “But we are on top of this because we keep firebreaks that contain the fire and manage the forest’s renewal.” Roundabout leaders know disruption can bring the opportunity for adaption and renewal. It rewards the nimble and agile. Great leadership, like firebreaks, can channel the fire of change into resilient growth able to weather an increasingly competitive landscape. AQ Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national bestselling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2017). He can be reached at


Good Riddance to



Few things have given management and corporate culture a bad name like the traditional performance-potential talent management matrix. This approach systematically and unfairly disadvantages people doing some of the best work on a team: your “rock stars.” To make sure you are creating a team that generates exceptional results and helps members achieve their ambitions, you need some people who are on a steep growth trajectory in their careers and others who are on a more gradual path. When people are on a gradual growth trajectory, they are in “rock star” phase; when they are on a steep growth trajectory, they are in a “superstar” phase. Rock stars are solid as a rock. Think of the Rock of Gibraltar, not Bruce Springsteen. The rock stars love their work. They have found their groove. They don’t want the next job if it will take them away from their craft. Not all artists want to own a gallery; in fact, most don’t. If you honor and reward the rock stars, they’ll become the people you most rely on. If you promote them into roles they don’t want or aren’t suited for, however, you’ll lose them—or, even worse, wind up firing them. Superstars, on the other hand, need to be challenged constantly and given new opportunities to grow. The performance-potential matrix that so many companies use for succession planning or “talent management” systematically undervalues the rock stars on your team. The performance-potential matrix wasn’t meant to assess people at all. McKinsey & Company originally developed it to help General Electric decide which businesses to invest in, but HR departments at thousands of organizations have adapted it to do talent management. This matrix asks managers to assess both the performance and the potential of all employees and then put them into one of nine boxes—high performance/ high potential being the “best” and low performance/low potential being the “worst.” One problem with the word “potential” is that it doesn’t allow for a positive evaluation of people who were great at what they do and want to keep doing it. But there was a need to keep people like that happy and productive. Nobody wants to be labeled “low potential.” However, using the word “growth” instead of “potential” to help managers think about what opportunities to give to which people on their teams can make a world of difference. Instead of asking an implicitly judgmental question such as, “Is this a person with high or low potential?” managers can ask themselves questions like, “What growth trajectory does

each person on my team want to be on right now?” or “Have I given everybody opportunities that are in line with what they really want?” or “What growth trajectory do my direct reports believe they are on? Do I agree? And if I don’t, why don’t I?” Sometimes people really want to grow and are capable of contributing more than they have been allowed to; at other times, they simply want more money or recognition but don’t really want to change the way they work or contribute any more than they do already. As the boss, you’re the one who’s going to have to know your direct reports well enough to make these distinctions and then have some radically candid conversations when you see things differently. This set of questions around growth trajectory can help you discover what motivates each person much better than a set of questions around “potential” or “talent” could do. And the insights it produces will help you avoid burning out the rock stars and boring the superstars. They will help remind you that trajectories change and that you shouldn’t put permanent labels on people. They will help you build stable teams that achieve astounding results. Words matter. This is not merely a “semantic” exercise.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT: IT’S GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME Shifting from a traditional “talent management” mindset to one of “growth management” will help you make sure everyone on your team is moving in the direction of their dreams, ensuring that your team collectively improves over time. As a result, creativity flourishes, efficiency improves, people enjoy working together. You can use this “growth management” framework to clarify your thinking about how to manage the two different types of high performers—those on a steep growth trajectory and those on a more gradual growth trajectory—differently. It will remind you to help people conduct their careers in the way they desire, not in the way you think they should want to. You can also use it to remember to push everyone on a team toward excellent performance, as well as to figure out whom to hire, whom to fire, and when a person’s poor performance might just be the boss’s (your) fault.

UNDERSTANDING GROWTH TRAJECTORIES The most important thing you can do for your team collectively is to understand what growth trajectory each AMA QUARTERLY I SUMMER 2017 I 41

“ Only when you get to know your direct reports well enough to know why they care about their work and where they are in the present moment in time can you put the right people in the right roles and assign the right projects to the right people.” person wants to be on at a given time and whether that matches the needs and opportunities of the team. To do that, you are going to have to get to know each of your direct reports really well at a personal level. It’s also going to require you to have some of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have. Sometimes, you’ll have to fire people. The axes of this framework are past performance and future growth trajectory. The assessment of past performance on the horizontal axis of this framework does go from “bad” to “good,” but not the vertical axis. It’s just as good to be in the bottom-right quadrant as in the upper-right. Rock stars are just as important to a team’s cohesion as superstars. Stability is just as important as growth. The right mix of each will change over time, but you’ll always need some of each. When assessing a person’s past performance, it’s useful to consider both their results and more intangible things like “teamwork.” The expected results for a given quarter or year are ideally set by the employee; they should be as objective and as measurable as possible. The intangibles are usually impossible to measure but not too hard to describe, and so expectations should be clear here as well. Performance is not a permanent label. No person is always an “excellent performer.” They just performed excellently last quarter. The past is much easier to understand than the future. The future can best be described by each person’s current “growth trajectory.” Before considering how to manage each type of employee to ensure your team is cohesive, it’s worth taking a little more time to understand exactly what I mean by “growth trajectory,” and why it matters so much.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT MATTERS To be successful at growth management, you need to find out what motivates each person on your team. You also need to learn what each person’s long-term ambitions are, and to understand how their current circumstances fit into their motivations and their life goals. Only when you get to know your direct reports well enough to know why they care about their work, what they hope to get out of their careers, and where they are in the present moment in time can you


put the right people in the right roles and assign the right projects to the right people. “Steep growth” is generally characterized by rapid change— learning new skills or deepening existing ones quickly. It’s not about becoming a manager. Nor should steep growth be thought of as narrowly as “promotion.” It’s about having an increased impact over time. Gradual growth is characterized by stability. When they are on a gradual growth trajectory, people who perform well have generally mastered their work and are making incremental rather than sudden, dramatic improvements. Some roles may be better suited to a rock star because they require steadiness, accumulated knowledge, and an attention to detail that someone in a superstar phase might not have the focus or patience for. People in a superstar phase are bad at rock star roles, and people in a rock star phase will hate a superstar role. At one point in my career, I managed a team of diamond cutters in Russia. They were master craftsmen, as skilled as anyone in the world. They were rock stars; they had no desire for my boss’s job. My boss, Maurice Tempelsman, on the other hand, told a story about himself when was a younger, extremely ambitious, restless man. As he was building his company, he decided to try his hand at diamond cutting. One day he got on the phone, started negotiating a big deal, got distracted, and ground a million-dollar diamond away to dust. True story. That’s why you don’t want a person on a steep-growth trajectory in a gradual-growth trajectory job. Most people shift between a steep and a gradual growth trajectory in different phases of their lives and careers, so it’s important not to put a permanent label on people. For example, when I was at Google, there were two aspiring Olympic athletes on my team. Both women did great work, but right out of college, when they were at their athletic prime, they poured as much energy into training as into work. They were on a gradual growth trajectory. Five years later, both pivoted, pouring all that drive and energy into their careers rather than into training for the Olympics.

Their career trajectories rocketed. There are lots of reasons why people shift between a gradual and a steep growth trajectory, and circumstances that spur one person to do one thing spur another person to do the opposite. Generally an ambition or a commitment outside of work enhances a person’s value to the team—that means you get, say, a great artist as your graphic designer—as long as you don’t insist that the artist get on the fast track at work.

People who are doing great work and are on a steep growth trajectory need you to do the following things for them:


People who are doing exceptional work but are on a more gradual growth trajectory need something very different from you. Here’s the key to managing people in a “rock star” phase well:

It’s a basic axiom that people do better work when they find that work meaningful. I don’t disagree with this basic premise. However, bosses who take this to mean that it is their job to provide purpose tend to overstep. Insisting that people have passion for their job can place unnecessary pressure on both boss and employee. I struggled with this at Google, where we were hiring people right out of college to do dull customer-support work. I tried convincing them that we were “funding creativity a nickel at a time.” One young woman who’d studied philosophy in college immediately criticized that description. “Look, the job is a little boring,” she said. “Let’s just admit that. It’s OK. Plutarch laid bricks. Spinoza ground lenses. Tedium is part of life.” I loved her approach to finding meaning, but it was unique to her. A slogan like “Spinoza ground lenses” would not have been inspiring for the broader team. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to earn a paycheck that supports the life you want to lead. That has plenty of meaning. Your job is not to provide purpose but instead to get to know each of your direct reports well enough to understand how each one derives meaning from their work. A story about Christopher Wren, the architect responsible for rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London, explains what I mean. Wren was walking the length of the partially rebuilt cathedral when he asked three bricklayers what they were doing. The first bricklayer responded, “I’m working.” The second said, “I’m building a wall.” The third paused, looked up, and then said, “I’m building a cathedral to the Almighty.” For me, the most instructive part of Wren’s story is that he didn’t come up with a sense of purpose himself and pound it into everyone’s head. Each bricklayer cared about something different, even though all three were working on the same thing. Wren’s role was to listen, to recognize the significance of what he heard, and to create working conditions that allowed everybody to find meaning in their own way.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS The best way to do that is to replace the old growth management process with a much less judgmental, lighterweight analysis of what phase each person on your team is in, and to think clearly about how to manage appropriately.

• Give them new challenges so they are learning quickly. • Help them achieve their ambitions. • Find them mentors and coaches. • Help them build their bench so they can move on.

• Honor them for their work—set them up as “gurus” on the team, and don’t create promotion obsession. • Give them time and space to teach others if they enjoy teaching. • Make sure to give them fair performance ratings and bonuses—it’s unfair to give all the best ratings and the biggest bonuses to people in a superstar phase. • Don’t promote these people—either they don’t want a promotion, or they are not ready for one. The vast majority of people on your team will probably be doing good work, but not great work. Here’s how to get the most out of people when they are in this mode: • Give them stretch projects or other opportunities to show that they can do exceptional work. • Do not write them off as “B” players. Everyone can do exceptional work if they are in the right job. • Don’t let people linger here indefinitely. Sometimes people ought to be doing great work, but they are failing to perform. Here’s what to do when people are in this situation: • Look at yourself in the mirror. This is when somebody else’s poor performance may be the boss’s fault. Have you put them in the wrong role? Given them too much too fast? Set clear expectations? Or, is this a case of bad fit? Finally, there are the people on your team who are doing bad work and not getting any better. This is the worst part of being a manager. But in these cases there is one thing to do: part ways. You’ve probably delayed too long already. AQ Kim Scott is the co-founder and CEO of Candor, Inc. Prior to founding Candor, Inc., Scott was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and several other Silicon Valley companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University, developing the course “Managing at Apple,” and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google. Adapted from Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott. Copyright 2017 Kim Scott. Reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.



Long Live Leadership BY D. KEVIN BERCHELMANN

“The king is dead! Long live the king!” This medieval chant always confounded me. It seems, on its surface, to be a huge contradiction. After all, if the king is dead, how can we wish him a long life? Now, however, I get it—because the same chant should apply to leadership. “Leadership is dead! Long live leadership!” This should be our modern-day mantra, allowing for every fad, survey, or new statistic loudly proclaiming that leadership as we know it is “dead” and that something new should immediately follow it. A client of mine is fond of saying, “It ain’t what you know that gets you in trouble; it’s what you know that ain’t so.” This applies well to the concept of leadership as we know it. It’s not going anywhere, because real leadership, as it is supposed to be exhibited, is timeless. It’s not broken or inadequate, it simply needs a more specific focus and real attention to application. We just don’t always do it that well. Let’s unpack this a bit, fleshing out the realities of leadership as we know it compared with leadership as it should be.

REAL LEADERSHIP VS. BAD LEADERSHIP The problem with trying to supplant leadership as we view it today with something “new” is that we tend to see new leadership in its most favorable possible outcomes, while


viewing “old” leadership through the lens of the worst possible example. In other words, we compare the ideal of something new with something done incorrectly in the past. Real leadership—current, existing, successful leadership—has always required a lot of the things that we frequently extol as virtues for the “new” leadership behaviors. For example, real leaders follow up. There is, however, the difference between necessary follow-up and micromanagement. Micromanaging is simply not leadership. It’s been my experience that people who micromanage do so from a personal, egocentric need. From my experience, the underlying reasons driving this perceived need come from: • Real or perceived lack of competency. • Real or perceived lack of trust. In either direction. • Overdeveloped personal ego. Yes, this does show up as a reason—but not nearly as frequently as most tend to believe. Now, take the conversation around the Millennial generation. Much has been written, spoken, and opined about how best to lead this group of people who seem to have needs and desires that don’t make a lot of sense to most Baby Boomers in leadership today. In reality, Millennials don’t

want anything different than we Baby Boomers wanted 10, 20, or even 40 years ago. They simply have less tolerance for not getting it. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It’s not “new” just because some consultant or academic writes a new hardback. When you dig into it, you discover it’s just old leadership being repackaged. Don’t fall for the ruse.

REMOTE/MOBILE WORKER CHALLENGES Remote/mobile workers present us with unique challenges today, but in reality, they’re simply leadership challenges like communications, trust, and results—all skills that have been relevant to leaders since the dawn of time. Nothing new, no need to abolish the “old” leadership. Leadership must get really good at setting clear expectations. Ambiguity kills in this regard, as many leaders still tend to focus on process more than on results for mobile workers. And feedback mechanisms are necessarily different with remote workers. Feedback needs to be more frequent with remote and mobile workers and requires a mix of group (conference/video calls) and individual methods including phone and Skype. Get accustomed to “just pick up the phone and call,” not email exchanges trying to schedule a call. Trust—it’s a big deal. If you don’t trust the worker, don’t let him or her be mobile. You may be on the wrong side of history with high performers, but better that than frustrating both of you. Trust until you have evidence that your trust is misplaced. Allow mistakes, as you would if employees were collocated, without saying (or thinking) “maybe this isn’t working.” Don’t panic when there’s a brief communications outage. It happens. Results. Every senior leader I know says he or she is “results focused,” then gets upset when someone isn’t around when they want him or doesn’t do something the way they prefer, or some other process/tactic concern arises, instead of focusing on results. Tell mobile employees what you want (results), lay out your expectations (such as, generally available until 3 p.m.), then hold them accountable for the agreed-upon results, not so much the path they took to get there. Which, frankly, is what you should have been doing all along anyway. Here’s the thing: No new skills are needed; just get better at the leadership skills you should already have. Set crystalclear expectations—that’s not new, we are just not good at doing so. Provide regular, frequent feedback—same thing. A key skill that may need new development is the focus on results over process. If you’re clear with expectations, you must be OK with someone who can do those things quickly and accurately, and not get ballistic that they may not have done it a certain way or seem to have unscheduled free time on their hands. A collocated employee would just make himself “look busy,” and you would be none the wiser. A mobile employee only has results to share. Don’t forget to coach and mentor as you would someone in the office. Mobile employees have career aspirations just like those

who are office-bound. Make sure they get appropriate recognition, representation, and opportunities.

KEEP IT SIMPLE Leadership is inherently simple. By that, I mean that leadership is not complex. Can it be difficult? Certainly. But we need to remember to keep things as simple as humanly possible. We read books, articles, white papers, and so forth, all in search of a silver bullet, a magic wand, or something that will allow us to leapfrog common sense and simple leadership techniques. We study articles about the five principles of employee engagement; we listen intently to webinars that tell us how to increase employee commitment; we read books on how to motivate Millennials. And we don’t get any better. In fact, many could make a good argument that as we study these “new and innovative” techniques, our ability to actually lead people gets worse. Now, I always hate to simply offer opinions on matters. I like to provide some practical tips too. So here goes: If you want to know how to simplify leadership, there are some simple ways. Communicate. I know, I know, it sounds so simple. Actually, it is. Set expectations—clear expectations—for those you lead. Then, give feedback to let them know how well they are progressing toward reaching those expectations (or not). Get good at—and insist on—receiving feedback from those you lead. You can’t survive without it. Finally, listen. Learn to really listen. I don’t mean hear; I don’t mean notice; and I don’t mean simply acknowledge. I mean listen. Set a positive example. It sounds so simple, but we screw this up more than anything else. You must model the behavior that you want your followers to emulate. Remember that leading by example is not a choice. You do it every time you show up. And part of that example must be remaining positive. There is no place for moaning, whining, and complaining in leadership. Have integrity. You’ve gotta have it. Be honest, be consistent. Do what you say you’ll do. That’s it. Sure, there are plenty of other tips, techniques, and methods to finetune your leadership approach and success. None, however, will trump the simplicity of the three listed above. There is no single “12-Page Guide to Leadership,” whereby every time a leader needed help, he or she could simply turn to a page and there would be the answer. If there were, I’d have written it myself, sold it for several bazillion dollars, and be living on my own private island off Tahiti. Leadership is tough—wear a helmet.


D. Kevin Berchelmann is CEO and founder of Triangle Performance, LLC. He uses the leadership lessons learned from his military service and senior executive roles in general management, human resources, and operations to help companies improve performance by getting the most out of their leadership teams. He is an expert strategist, sought-after coach and consultant, and in-demand speaker.



The Conversations That Count Certain exchanges are remembered for a lifetime. BY KRISTI HEDGES


n our lives, we have lots of conversations. We have them one-on-one, in groups, in public settings, in meeting rooms, in auditoriums. We have them at home, at work, at the dentist, in line at the DMV, in the car, on walks, and sitting with a beer in the backyard. Nearly all of these conversations flit in and out of our consciousness. We barely remember them. But every once in a while, we have a conversation that changes our lives. You know the kind. It feels different. It crackles with energy. It has a zing. It makes time stop. Deeper and more real, it lands just right. After we walk away, we’re not quite the same as we were before. These are conversations that change how we think about ourselves, that open our minds to what we’re capable of doing and show us what’s possible. They infuse us with hope, determination, and confidence. They lift our mood, bringing joy and lightness. They fuel our ambition, validate our current choices, or inspire us to make new ones. These aren’t ordinary conversations, but conversations that count. They’re inspiring and unforgettable. They marinate. We save them in the recesses of our minds. We recount them from time to time. We carry them around like talismans to fortify us for days, months, or our entire lives. When people describe those who inspire them, they talk about these conversations that count. They’re the right words by the right person at the right time. Those who inspire might not even realize what they’ve done. And yet, look what they’ve done. Looking at my own story, I can precisely map the conversations that inspired my decisions and shaped who I became. I grew up in a small factory town in West Virginia. It was literally gritty, with


a limestone quarry in the middle of the town that deposited grit on our cars, outside our windows, and in the bottom of glasses of water. It was a town where people felt lucky to land factory jobs that came with decent wages and guaranteed pensions. Almost 40 percent of my high school class didn’t make it to senior year. We were a family that got by. No extras, with clothes on layaway and groceries that were thin by month’s end. Money dictated every decision. The first person in my family to go to college, I had a limited understanding about what a college education required. I didn’t know how to choose a major, or even what I could become beyond the few professional occupations, such as doctors and lawyers, that I saw in our town. Statistically, I was a long shot. But I did make it. I put everything I had into my education, went to Virginia Tech on student loans, and got a full scholarship to Purdue University for graduate school. I learned how to network, and right out of school got a rare, well-paying job in

politics that put me in the midst of the most powerful people in Washington. I worked hard and went into corporate life, eventually taking a huge risk by starting a technology-focused communications firm when I was just 28 years old. Ten years later, I sold my stake in the firm, and took another gamble by following a growing passion for leadership: I started a coaching firm to work with senior executives. By following this path, I was able to get two books published and grow a thriving business that challenges and excites me every day. While I certainly don’t claim to be anyone else’s image of success, my 18-year-old self couldn’t even have dreamed this big. I feel exceedingly lucky and grateful to be where I am, with an engaging career, a meaningful life, and a wonderful family around me. And here’s why I share this: When I look back, every major move I’ve made has been preceded by an inspiring conversation. They were conversations that helped me see possibilities, gave me confidence, uncovered my potential, validated my instincts, propelled me forward, and sometimes guided me in making a sharp left turn. As I began researching inspiration, stories that were so influential to me came flooding back—like this one: I was 23 years old, and starting an internship in Washington at a political consulting firm. This was a plum job that introduced me to some power players in politics, and held the promise of a permanent job after I completed graduate school the following spring. I had cold called dozens of people (this was before email), and networked like crazy to land this unpaid internship. It was my shot. Political jobs are infamously hard to

get; most go to kids of political donors, elected officials, or someone who knows someone who is owed a favor. My first day, I learned that another intern was there that year as well. He was a perfectly nice guy who got the job because his parents knew the firm’s head partner. He and that partner would go out at lunch and play tennis at their country club. All of my gravest fears set in. There was one paid job to be awarded at the firm, and it didn’t look like I would be getting it. I knew politics was an insider’s game, but I began to see that I’d picked the worst profession to make it on merit. I couldn’t afford another unpaid internship either, as I had student loans coming due. The situation was starting to get to me. No matter how hard I worked, I saw no

The exchanges aren’t exactly mentorship or advice. In inspiring conversations, nothing is forced. The other person isn’t exerting heavy influence on us. It feels more like an invitation to a space into which we can step.

What is inspiration exactly? For 20 years, psychology professors Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot have been studying the process of inspiration. They’ve produced numerous studies that uncover what transpires within us when we catch the spark of inspirational light. Thrash and Elliot have determined that inspiration is a culmination of several components coming together, not just a one-sided event. Inspiration may feel as if it just happens, but in fact,

In inspiring conversations, nothing is forced. It feels more like an invitation to a space into which we can step. way to overcome my lack of connections. Another one of the partners, one who had grown up similarly to me, took notice. He sat down and asked what was going on. In a moment of total honesty, I told him. He said, “Listen to me. Neither of us grew up like that, and it’s okay. You’ll be better for it. You can’t see it yet, but I promise you. Don’t give up.” I remembered those words, and went on to get one of the best first jobs in politics of anyone I knew. I’m sure the partner doesn’t remember that 10-minute conversation. But I replayed that tape in my head many times in the years that followed. These are just a few of the inspiring conversations from my experience. I’ll bet you have plenty of your own. When I bring up this concept, the people I’m talking with invariably share inspiring conversations from their lives. I’ve heard hundreds. No matter who’s doing the inspiring, and whether it’s for two minutes or two hours, something important is transferred. There’s a certain undeniable vibe to them.

there’s a rhythm or process to it. Thrash and Elliot have found that inspiration involves three defining elements: 1.  Transcendence: We can see beyond our ordinary preoccupations or limitations to discover new or better possibilities. 2.  Motivation: We feel energized, or even compelled, to bring an idea into action or carry it forward. 3.  Evocation: We are receptive to an influence beyond ourselves that creates the inspiration within us. We can’t will ourselves to be inspired, though we often wish we could. Rather, there’s a trigger. This may be a person, an idea, or both. Thrash and Elliot further state that inspiration actually involves two separate component processes: We are inspired by something as well as to an action. It’s both an insight and an energetic push. In an interview with me, Thrash put it this way: “There’s always a transmission process of one sort or another. What exactly that transmission means can

vary. Transmission could start with an insight, an exemplar, language, or the assistance of another person who helps you envision possibilities you might not have recognized on your own. “The person getting inspired has to become aware of a better possibility. That’s how the process starts. After that, they get motivated to bring that possibility into fruition.” The research also makes it clear that inspiration can’t be forced. It can’t feel like manipulation or even influence. In The Power of Presence, I wrote about influence. There are many situations where that’s the right approach. Inspiration, however, is a different route, though sometimes complementary. Inspiration is an invitation, and since it fosters a personal insight, it can’t be heavy handed. People don’t go home after work and say, “What a great day today, I was influenced!” But they would love to be able to say, “Today I was inspired.” Think about how much more engaged we would be at work if we were truly inspired in this way. When we’re inspired, we work the hardest and most creatively. We don’t need to be overmanaged because our energy pulls us along. We elect to do more and go further. It feels a whole lot more like fun than like work. If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders. And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there. AQ Kristi Hedges is a communications expert, author, speaker, and sought-after leadership coach. In her 25-year career and through her coaching and workshops, she’s worked with CEOs, senior leaders, and professionals in companies spanning the Fortune 500, nonprofits, and the U.S. government. In addition to running The Hedges Company, she is a founding partner in the leadership development firm, Element North. Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day by Kristi Hedges. Copyright 2017, Kristi Hedges. Published by AMACOM.



A Future of Continuous Learning AMA

is committed to helping organizations cope with rapid changes in their industry and workforce. As Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report indicates, nearly every industry has been touched by radical change in the last few years. Competencies and management styles that worked in the past no longer seem to engage and retain the best talent. The skills that keep organizations at the forefront of their industries have changed. To keep up, organizations need to continually develop their employees and adopt a culture of continuous learning. Yet, while there have been radical changes to the way we work and interact, some things have not changed. The most effective training still occurs in an instructor-led setting, where people share experiences and illuminate best practices with practical advice. Participants are more engaged when they can interact with instructors and get immediate feedback on their performance in class. At AMA, our courses are run by experienced practitioners—senior executives, managers, authors, educators, consultants, course developers, and even CEOs. Interaction with practitioners offers actionoriented instruction and practical advice that help participants envision how they are going to implement their learnings back in the workplace. Studies have shown that most people forget what they learn in courses, unless they internalize it through experiential learning. That’s why our approach includes opportunities throughout the session for the one-on-one mentoring critical to effective learning. We’ve now enhanced our unique approach to learning with the AMA Skill Assessment. Rather than guessing which courses employees need, organizations can evaluate their talent to get insight and guidance on skills shortfalls within their team. Assessments provide a quick and precise way to measure an organization’s most critical training needs. With skills assessments, employees get personalized information on their strengths and skill gaps, plus recommendations for personal development. Leaders can then create a blueprint for organizational development, shoring up areas of weakness while developing skills for future challenges. It’s a great way to take the pulse of where your organization stands today and whether it has the skill sets to execute your strategy going forward. Take the first steps toward your organizational blueprint for success. Go to http://www.amanet. org/organizations/ama-skill-assessment.aspx and give it a try. Once you’ve identified the skills and competencies you need to address, AMA can help you find the most effective training method for your team. From onsite, tailored training to live online and in-person seminars, one-day workshops, and asynchronous adaptive learning solutions, we can help you choose the right learning modality for your organization. Give us a call.

Edward T. Reilly President and CEO American Management Association


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