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What does Your Body Language Say?

“A blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts … the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.” – Edward R. Murrow

You may know your content backwards and forwards, inside and out, and be completely confident in your subject, but is your non-verbal communication – i.e. your body language – undermining your authority in spite of your knowledge?

A little while ago, I was working with a client who didn’t realize that he was a “fidgeter.” After a first practice recording, he watched his video, and before offering any feedback, I asked him what he thought about his performance. He paused, and was quiet for a moment before very matter-of-factly declaring: “I’m going to cut off my hands.”

Running his fingers through his hair, folding and unfolding his arms, touching his face, hands in and out of the pockets, scratching his neck, lacing and unlacing his fingers… Not only did it distract the viewer from listening to the message, but more importantly, the “antsy-ness” (as my mother would call it) practically screamed of insecurity and discomfort, and this completely undermined his efforts to establish himself as a confident, competent leader.

What’s most important to realize is that before you even open your mouth to speak, your body has already communicated very specific messages to the audience, and those messages have one of only two possible effects: If aligned with your words, they strengthen your image and reputation; otherwise, they weaken it. That’s it.

The Importance of Alignment

This binary result is because when your words and body language are aligned or congruent, they reinforce each other, which is much more convincing to the audience. But when they are not in alignment – where perhaps your “script” seems confident but the delivery is not, or your words claim that you are caring and want to hear from people but you never smile and your voice is flat – it makes the audience question why, and this casts doubt.

When working with entrepreneurs preparing to pitch in front of investors, I always say, “Before anyone will buy your product or service, they have to buy into you.” Regardless of how well-composed the content of the pitch is, if the delivery isn’t in alignment, this will never happen.

Ultimately, alignment between verbal and non-verbal communication is the foundation of credibility. Lack of alignment destroys that foundation. Let’s look at ways to ensure that you are in alignment, in order to maximize your credibility.
Body Language – Do’s and Don’ts

Just about everyone gets nervous when speaking on camera (or in public without a camera), and in an earlier post I offered some strategies for calming your nerves ( insert hyperlink later). But that nervousness can come across as uncontrolled fidgeting and bad habits like touching your face or waving your arms around without realizing it, or on the flip side, you might come across as stiff, robotic and unfeeling.

In this video on body language, you’ll get a quick checklist with examples of non-verbal cues to watch for when speaking in public or on camera. I use the easy acronym P.E.G.S., which stands for Posture, Eye contact, Gestures and Smile.

Take a look at the examples for each category in the video to see how many of them you’re guilty of doing… then ask yourself how that might influence the success of the video’s overall objective.

In case there’s still a part of you that wants to argue that your position and experience speak for themselves, and your body language shouldn’t make a difference, I leave you with the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

When the way you deliver meets up with the words you say you are speaking in unison. That is when your intended message is reinforced and your credibility shines through.

Growth Management Personal Development

High Performance Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is often characterized as a scientific, analytical way of thinking. It helps us form more knowledgeable opinions and make better decisions. As a business leader critical thinking is not only necessary, but when you become a high performance critical thinker it will differentiate you from others. This is impetrative today in the business world we live in with much more complicated technologies, customer demands, and drive to go to market quickly.

High performance is defined as better, faster, or more efficient than others and we all know about high performance sports cars that are in a class of their own. High performance also applies to leaders and like the car is carefully crafted to be elite, so can you.

I have no doubt that you already have strong critical thinking skills, but you can learn how to improve and develop your mind and become a much higher performing leader.

Here are three steps to high performance critical thinking:

1. Ask the right questions

If you are going to be high performance in the critical thinking department you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. This begins with how you clarify the problem and what questions you ask. You cannot make assumptions or have ambiguous information, which may seem obvious, but how many times did you think you had a clear picture only to find out later you were missing critical pieces of information? Pieces that could have easily been uncovered if better questions had been asked or different people had been questioned.

You won’t be able to reasonably analyze a situation and locate a solution if you’re not completely clear on what you’re trying to accomplish!

The best way to get a clear understanding fast is to ask questions, but not just any question, the right questions. You want to ask open-ended questions. These cannot be answered with a yes or no. You want to start all open-ended questions with who, what, how, why, where, or when. Close-ended questions that allow the respondent to say yes or no are the wrong questions if you want to be a high performing critical thinker.

For example instead of simply asking will this change have an impact to the project, ask the team what impact will this change have on the project? Who will be impacted, how long will the impact take to overcome, what is the benefit of the impact, etc.?

Don’t ask can we implement this idea; ask how can we implement this idea? Rather than asking can we do this, ask how can we do it?

You will also need to make sure you have asked everyone the questions and not assume that someone in a different department does not have valuable insight. Just because the problem is in one area of your business or on one team or in one project, it does not mean that understanding the problem lies only within that area.

Talking to the business users who will use the solution might best solve an IT problem, but you will never know if don’t ask. Maybe the impact is not that big and assumptions are being made. What if the solution that IT is working on will have an even bigger production impact to the users? Are you asking everyone that might have insight or ideas; and how confident are you that the right questions are being asked?

Many corporate challenges are systemic and uncovering that is going to lead to even better solutions. When a project breaks down it may be a symptom of a much larger issue than just the specific project. What if the policies in place throughout the organization are no longer adequate?

Lastly on the topic of asking questions: Make sure those you ask are open to answer freely without any repercussion and that they know that it is safe to tell the truth. Without this it really doesn’t matter how good the questions are that you ask.

2. Identify possible solutions

If you want better solutions, high performance solutions, you need a different way to come up with them once you have clarified the problem.

Start with a core group of people who are familiar with the problem. These are most likely the people who helped you identify the problem in the first place. This means that they could be people from different departments and different areas of your organization if you followed the guidance in step 1 above.

One of the biggest mistake leaders make is assuming that the executive team is best suited at coming up with the best solutions. Or even worse thinking that they must be the one to come up with the answer and work in a vacuum. You do not have to have the answer and knowing this is a key factor in being a high performance leader. The answer is in the room, but it may not always come from you. High performance leaders understand this.

Make sure it is crystal clear that there are no bad ideas, nothing is off topic, and no one will be reprimanded for anything said. And then mean it! If you cannot say this and mean it there is a much deeper issue you must face and that is an issue of ego. Great leaders check their ego at the door and that is something to start practicing if it’s a new idea for you.

Remove emotional attachment to the outcome. This means remove the emotional attachment to wanting to be the one who comes up with the solution and remove attachment to what you think the outcome should be. Go into this stage of the process with an open, clear, and present mind.

You’ve got the right people in the room now it’s time to restate the problem clearly so everyone knows what they are working towards. Allow everyone to ask their own clarifying questions and then start brainstorming. It may be beneficial to bring in a facilitator who is not close to the challenge to help with the brainstorming and discussion process.

Take some time with a pen and paper to define all possibilities. Brainstorm without thought as to how the solution can be implemented. Be creative, be open, and just write; don’t delete or omit anything yet. Bring other people into the brainstorm if there is a team of people who will help implement the solution or benefit from it.

To improve and develop your high performance critical thinking skills, you must be open to new ideas, so try and incorporate as many solutions and ideas as you can into your list. It does not matter initially how they could be implemented or how realistic they are. Everything that is said must be included in the list.

3. Analyze the Solutions

You have your problem clearly defined and now a list of solutions, so it’s time to start analyzing and gathering more detailed information in order to support or refute each one. This is where you will start to weed out the solutions on the list that just don’t seem the most viable and get down to the top 3 – 5 that have strong merit.

Gather as much information as possible to support all the solutions you’re considering, as well as information you need to refute them. Include the benefits and challenges of each suggested solution.

Ask each team member to work on different solutions to gather this information and bring it back. Considering your solutions from all angles will keep you from making a haphazard decision, and don’t assume you know anything without the information that can support it.

Once you have the information that supports your 3-5 top solutions start talking as a group. Ask lots of questions, open-ended questions, and start asking how. This is where the rubber will need to meet the road. The solution will need to be realistic in both tec
hnology and cost, specific enough to implement, and you must have or be able and willing to get the resources needed.

Final Thoughts

By following these steps to high performance critical thinking your organization can become faster, better, and more efficient at not only solving problems but identifying them earlier, saving time, money, and energy.

Thinking critically in this way can help you with many aspects in your life. Keep practicing these skills on a regular basis and soon you’ll enjoy the benefits of high performance critical thinking.

Growth Human Resources Management Personal Development

Dissolving Problems: What Strategy Works Best?

Have you ever solved a problem only to see it return? We have all experienced this frustration. How can we reduce this frustration and make our best effort to prevent a problem from returning? What is the best strategy?

In March 2017 the United States Congress failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare (Affordable Care Act). The media reported numerous reasons for this failure and most of them involve blaming a person or group of persons. Looking for the “culprit” is a popular strategy for attempting to dissolve a problem and it never really works. Focusing on who caused a problem is very popular but also very unsophisticated. It’s popular because it is easy and it helps us avoid personal responsibility. It is unsophisticated because it is a focus on symptoms and not root causes. How can we avoid blame and focus on the root causes? The answer, focus instead on the first 15%.

I painted a bathroom this past weekend. Taking extra time to carefully tape the trim allowed me to do a high-quality job faster and with less waste in the cleanup stage. I spent time on the first 15% of the job, namely the taping, and it helped me save time and to do better job overall. I focused on the first 15%.

“The secret for reduction in time of development is to put more effort into the early stages, and to study the interactions between stages.” (Deming, 1994)

The Butterfly Effect

A mild-mannered meteorologist professor at MIT was simulating weather patterns by entering data into a computer program. He decided to enter data dropping the last three decimals (ten thousand, hundred thousand, and millions) from the data seeing it as unimportant for his research. After the calculation, he was astonished to see how dropping those very small effects made an enormous impact on the outcome of the simulation. This effect came to be known as the “butterfly effect.” (Dizikes, 2011)

The metaphor of the butterfly is astonishing. The claim is a butterfly flapping its wings in New York will change the direction of a typhoon in the Pacific. Very small changes in the very beginning of a process will make an enormous change in the outcome. Focus on the first 15% to improve the outcome.

Typical managers use a different strategy. They ask questions about people such as “Who did this?” or “Who did that?” They also ask questions about fixing the issue, “How shall we fix it?” “When shall we fix it?” and/or “Who shall fix it?” They are assuming if they fix the problem they make progress. It’s not true. All they do is go back to where they started. The typical manager uses the typical performance appraisal to attempt to solve problems. This action rarely gets to the root cause because it does not focus on the first 15%. It focuses instead on the employee behavior which is most often not the root cause but instead the symptom. I could focus on being very careful not to get any paint on the trim in my bathroom and if I did, my wife could tell me to be more careful. But, because I had focused on covering the trim first my ability to be careful was less critical.

We must remove the root cause and we can only do that by looking in the right place. We must look at the beginning of the process. We must focus on the “0th” stage. To truly make progress we must improve the first 15% of the process.

Peter Drucker explained, “Progress is obtained only by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. When you solve problems, all you do it guarantee a return to normalcy.”

It is likely Congress chose the incorrect strategy in the first 15% of their planning and that poor choice damaged their ability to achieve their goal. What can we learn from these ideas? At the beginning of every project spend extra time to align the team members on the vision, the mission, and the action plan. Don’t be too quick to roll out the plan until this first 15% is clear.

When improving a process, identify all the steps that need to be completed to achieve the intended outcome and then spend most of your time on the first 15% of the process steps. This strategy will allow you to achieve an excellent outcome.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal. Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP. Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.


Growth Health and Wellness Human Resources

3 Steps to Fearless Communication learned from the United Airlines Story

While the details of the removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight are still being uncovered, there are many things to learn from this unacceptable outcome.

In all likelihood there were people who could have stopped this from escalating to what it became. There were people who had the skills to move through the conflict with calm and produce an ending that would have been quite different. There were people with courage and high ethical standards, right there, watching and feeling paralyzed by fear.

The situation got this bad because too many people thought they were powerless to suggest a change of course or break some rules.

As members of organizations, families and communities what do we need to learn from this episode?

We can’t stop bad things from happening. We CAN remind the people in our lives how simple it is to communicate without fear.

We CAN increase the number of times we feel confident and powerful and connected to others. When we feel connected to others we have less fear.

These are three ways I know to stave off fear.

Kindness is KING

Treat people well. Smile and say hello. Thank people for a job well done from the people who pack your groceries to the lobby attendant who hands you a pass to enter a building. Your positive energy actually increases when you are kind to people. It sets the stage for you to feel good and for the people around you to feel good too. Communicate kindness and you will feel more connected to people and situations.

Listen to LEARN

I can’t say this enough. People want to be heard. In even the smallest conversations, if you practice listening to people to learn something – other than listening for your moment to speak – you will feel lighter when you communicate and you will learn something that will take you out of your head. You’ll routinely learn more about people and how much you have in common.

GET COMFORTABLE Being Uncomfortable

We are suffering from a lack of confidence in conflict because people avoid conflict at all costs. Conflict is not fun but if we are regularly kind and know how to listen to people (because we do it so often) then conflict doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

If something is wrong we need to be able to say it is so. Take time to go over what this means with the people in your life. If you’re a manager and/or a parent, talk about speaking up and ask if there was something you could have done better. Encourage feedback that may be uncomfortable. When you do this, you too get to practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

I tell my teenage sons before they head out to a party or a large gathering of their peers, “Right before something bad happens there is no neon sign saying, ‘SOMETHING BAD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.’”

I remind them they’ve got to rely on their ability to see right from wrong. They must be able to stand up for themselves and/or remove themselves from a situation that’s escalating. Yes, I tell them I trust them even when there is a string of terror running through my body with memories of times when they got into trouble.

Fearless communication comes from within. It’s developed over time. It needs to start somewhere and be nurtured.

We are suffering from a lack of confidence in conflict. We can turn this around.

Imagine how much better this would have turned out if one or more people at United could say what they needed to say without fear.

Growth Operations Personal Development

Don’t Let Common Sense Go Down with the Ship

Do you have policies or rules that are so strict that makes it nearly impossible for your employees to deliver the kind of customer service you actually want them to deliver?
In situations like these, common sense needs to prevail – especially when it comes to customer service – but following common sense is not always common, as evidenced by the following example.

Recently, I was sitting on an airplane next to somebody who was headed for a cruise ship vacation. The two of us started a discussion about how some employees are so set in their ways that they can’t think of creative ways to solve a customer’s problem. These kinds of people are so tied to their “systems” and the way they have always done things that they can negatively impact the relationships they have with their customers, even when common sense should prevail.

My fellow passenger has been on numerous cruises – and as good the customer service is on most cruises, he said you can always find a few of the ship’s employees that are more focused following the system or the process rather than on satisfying their customer. He then shared a few stories from his past trip about how some crew members lacked common sense. For some reason, I began to think of the Titanic and the story of how the eight-member band on the ship continued to play, even after the ship started sinking.

I wasn’t sure if the story of the band playing while the ship was going down was actually true, so I did a little research. Well, I found out that the reason the band kept playing was that Wallace Hartley, the band’s leader, had asked the band to continue to play because he thought it would help to calm the chaos that was ensuing all around them.
Maybe that was true, but to create a customer service lesson, I’d like to take some creative license and bend this story a bit. My fictitious version of the story has nothing to do with keeping the passengers calm. In my version, Mr. Hartley says, “Keep playing. We still have two hours to go in our set.” Meanwhile, the other passengers had already vacated the ship to save themselves, so the only sounds on that could be heard on the ship were coming from the band’s instruments. Yet the band played on … as they went down with the ship.

The point to the story is that, if common sense had prevailed, Mr. Hartley’s band would have stopped playing immediately and tried to save themselves. Like the rest of the passengers, the band should have headed for the life rafts. But, sometimes people are trapped in a rut caused by following processes and systems for so long that they disregard common sense … even when the ship is going down.

So, what does this have to do with customer service? The best companies hire people who follow the rules, but who are also smart, adaptive, problem-solving, customer-focused people. When it comes to preserving relationships with customers, they look for ways to work around having to say NO and come up with ways to say YES. They don’t get stuck on company policy. Yes, they work within the rules, but they also understand flexibility. They will do what’s right for both the company and the customer. In short, they use common sense, especially when the ship is going down – or when a customer is angry.

Best Practices Growth Skills Women In Business

Build Audience Belief the way Actors Do

To enhance your credibility when speaking for business, you can borrow a technique that actors use to build belief within the listening audience.

Why use an acting technique? The reason is simple: Persuasive and influential business speakers have a lot in common with actors. They all know that the key to successful speaking is to inspire belief in the hearts and minds of the audience.

The most important belief-building technique for actors is the use of what we call Acting Objectives. You can apply this technique to the rehearsal and delivery of your business talks (formal or informal), so that you will speak with the greatest power: power that comes from a complete commitment that is visible on your body and audible in your voice.

When actors are preparing a role, they make careful choices about what actions to take, to help the audience believe that the make believe situation is real. For actors, it’s all about actions; actions speak louder than words. So, actors examine each script and create acting objectives: actions that lie underneath the words – actions to take toward the listeners. This helps actors become motivated to speak the words that the playwright or screenwriter wrote and speak them truthfully, authentically, and conversationally.

In rehearsal and performance, actors pursue their acting objectives as if their lives depended on it. This helps the audience believe that the actor and the character are one and the same: that the actor IS the character.

This process is useful to business speakers for two important reasons:

• When you’re speaking in business, you want your listeners to believe something (believe that you have solution to their problems, for example). The more rigorously you pursue your actions (your acting objectives), the more completely your listeners will believe that you and your message are one and the same: believe that you are your message.

• As a business speaker or presenter, when you make your audience believe, they are likely to overlook minor shortcomings or mistakes you might make. Once you’ve made your listeners believe, you’ve won them over to your side. After that, your audience will forgive you almost anything!


In order to make choices about actions (to identify acting objectives), actors divide the script – and you should divide your notes for a business talk — into units. Actors call them BEATS. Each beat is a separate topic, smaller than the overall subject of the message. It is a topic of conversation: what the speaker is talking about: a simple noun or noun phrase.

Here is an example: an excerpt from the “Greed Is Good” speech, delivered by Michael Douglas’s character in the film Wall Street.

“Our company, Teldar Paper, has 33 different vice presidents each earning over $200,000 a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent on all the paperwork going back and forth between all the these VP’s. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the UN-fittest. Well, in my book, you either do it right, or you get eliminated.”

In this excerpt, there are two beats. Beat one ends with the phrase “all these VP’s”; it is about waste within the company. The second beat begins with “The new…” and ends with the word “eliminated”; this beat is about the survival of dysfunctional companies in America.

Take a deep dive into the notes you have for a business talk, and divide it into beats, separating the beats with small dividing marks. Consider what each beat is about, and where it begins and ends. Then, in the left hand margin, identify what the beat is about. Express this as a simple noun or noun phrase.


When you know what each beat is about, you are ready to identify an acting objective for each beat (an action that lies underneath the words you speak). This should be a specific, active verb expressing what you wish to do to your listeners as you speak; what you want to make them feel or do.

Choose objectives that are personally appealing and attractive to pursue, so that you’ll be motivated and project energy. There are three ingredients for an effective acting objective, and these are the very same ingredients for an effective speaker objective. Each objective should have the following qualities. It should be

1. A specific, active verb, Directed toward the listener

2. Personal and appropriate to the spoken message and the listener’s situation

3. Truthful (for our purposes, truthful doesn’t mean actual; it means believable)

Pursuing an objective (the simple, active verb) gives you energy and focus as you speak. Studies show that listeners pay the most attention to the actions underneath the words we speak – the vocal tone and demeanor of the speaker. Consider how a person’s tone/demeanor (not words alone) reveal sincerity, evasiveness, or sarcasm, for example.


Let’s imagine that in one beat of your business talk, you wish to be powerful.
Verb: to be powerful

Problem: the verb “to be” is static. It doesn’t contain active energy.

Better choice: you wish to obtain power

Problem: the verb is too general.
Ask yourself: “What must I wish to DO in order to obtain power?”

Now you can plan specific actions to take towards the audience – in order to obtain power. Possible verbs/objectives:
• I wish to impress the audience

• I wish to instill confidence

• I wish to earn their affection

Is the purpose of your presentation to move the listeners to give you money or provide funding for a project? Here are some objectives that may apply during your presentation:

• I wish to persuade the audience to make a sacrifice

• I wish to direct them on a noble/moral path (for PR purposes!)

• I wish to illustrate the joy that comes from sacrifice to others

• I wish to save them from their misguided ways

If these power verbs seem overly-dramatic to you, know that these objectives are for the purpose of strengthening your delivery and should remain your secrets. Keep your acting objectives private. Have you ever noticed that your secrets hold great power for you — the longer you keep a secret, the more power it holds for you? Have you noticed that when you let a secret out, tell it to someone, it loses some of its power over you? We want our acting objectives to have great power to affect our delivery! So, keep your acting objectives private; this will strengthen your motivation to speak and galvanize the commitment and passion in your voice and your gestures.

Actors write their acting objectives in the margin of the script, right next to the dialogue. In your speaking notes, in the right hand margin next to each beat, write one simple acting objective.

Rehearse By Pursuing Your Acting Objectives:

Actors rehea
rse aloud, rehearse often, and rehearse at performance level energy. Rehearse improvisationally from your notes; do not memorize or speak from rote memory. Internalize your ideas. As you speak the words of the beat,

• Focus on the underlying acting objective

• Keep it at the forefront of your mind

• Pursue the objective as if your life depended on it

Over time, as you rehearse, you should begin to notice that you are communicating your joy in sharing ideas. Always be sure you are communicating: “My message is important for you, so I love being here with you.”

Benefits of Using Objectives:

Pursuing acting objectives holds three powerful benefits for you as a speaker:

Benefit #1: It gives you laser-beam focus and simplifies your process, because it gives you just ONE thing to think about as you speak each beat.

Benefit #2: It galvanizes your energy toward what you are doing with your words. It’s the quickest and most powerful way to project energy, commitment, passion, and poise.

Benefit #3: It’s a completely organic way to make your voice and physical demeanor support your content. It turns your voice, body language, and content into one seamless, unified message.

When you are pitching to clients, making presentations, speaking with senior management, or even delivering an elevator speech, the pursuit of acting objectives will give you maximum power and deliver to your audience maximum impact.

Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development

CEO pov: 5 Insights for Leading Change

The not-too-distant past rewarded CEOs for stable predictability. But as most of us experience, “Market transparency, labor mobility, global capital flows, and instantaneous communications have blown the comfortable, predictable scenario to smithereens.” (10 Principles of Change Management, Harvard Business Review).
The only thing that’s predictable today is that more change is coming. Whether it’s in the form of a re-org, a change in product, strategy, leadership, or a merger/acquisition, the best leaders know how to effectively manage themselves in order to keep people motivated and engaged, re-build or reshape company culture and set a new course.

Similar to individuals, companies that struggle with these types of changes knock themselves out of the market. We see it all the time.

While many factors contribute to how well a company maneuvers change, success heavily depends on how executives prioritize its people and communication in the process. How open, transparent and frequent executives decide to communicate is a solid predictor of how successful the change will be.

During the last CEO Forum, I had the privilege of asking Steve Singh, CEO of Concur, Jean Thompson, CEO of Seattle’s Chocolates and Stan Pavlovsky, president of Allrecipes.com what was most important to them as they maneuvered change.

For context,
• SAP acquired Concur for $8.3 billion in 2014

• Jean Thompson became the majority owner and CEO of Seattle Chocolates in 2002

• Stan Pavlovsky became the new President of the world’s largest food brand, Allrecipes.com, a year after Meredith Corp. purchased it for $175 million in 2013

Here are my top 5 takeaways from the conversation:

1. Create Success. The role of the leader is to create opportunities for others to be successful.

2. Talk Less. Really listen, get feedback and have empathy. Change is hard for most people.

3. Pause. Take time to celebrate the success the team and company is having.

4. Decide. Don’t’ be afraid to make a decision. You can likely fix the bad ones, but being indecisive is the worst thing you can possibly do.

5. Be Bold. Go create the world you want, and empower those around you to do the same.
I’d love to hear your perspective: What’s your best advice on leading change?

Teri Citterman coaches first-time CEOs, seasoned CEOs and high performers. Her latest book “From the CEO’s Perspective” provides a peek into the thinking of some of today’s top CEOs from companies like Alaska Airlines, JP Morgan Chase and Gravity Payments. She is a regular contributor to Forbes, a sought-after speaker and thought cultivator/founder of “From the CEO’s Perspective” leadership forum.

Growth Management Personal Development

Detoxing Corporate America

Organizations are not just names on the side of the building or a stock symbol. Organizations are made up of people, living organisms, and as such Organizations are also living. We have seen the birth of new organizations, their growth, and sometimes their death.

Because Organizations are made up of people and are indeed alive it makes sense that like people, organizations can become toxic. So what does it look like when an organization becomes toxic, why does it matter, and what can be done?

The signs of toxicity for individuals can be pretty apparent; weight gain, digestive issues, cognitive challenges, emotional distress, use of drug, alcohol abuse, and other coping mechanisms.

What about the signs of toxicity for an organization? These are not always obvious. For example I spent several years as a consultant in my previous life for a very large company. Actually this organization was a leader in its industry in terms of size. They spent years on the Fortune top 100 best places to work list so from the outside looking in it seemed like a really great place. Their mission is great and extremely important. Most of the people I worked with were really outstanding individuals. However when you pulled back the covers and became immersed in the culture you started to see toxicity everywhere.

The events that lead to the toxic environments included: inconsistent messages from management regarding expectations or priorities, resource constraints – leaderships goals being out of touch with what the team could support, redundant work effort because teams operated in isolation, management decisions that were made in a vacuum without input from team members that better understood the impact, tasks or assignments that were given to favored individuals, lack of feedback – employees learning about dissatisfaction from side channels and not from their management team, managers and executives who were bullies – yelling behind closed doors, Leadership appointing or hiring individuals into key roles who do not have the qualifications demanded for the role and then not removing them when it becomes obvious, projects that were always behind schedule, and obvious conflicts between departments that felt like they were at war. These were just some signs of corporate toxicity. Others include the fear to speak up, dysfunctional teams, political infighting, falling profits, high turnover, gossip, and low engagement.

It’s quite difficult to get good deliverables complete when management keeps changing their mind and even harder when they don’t remember what they asked for in the first place. When you work in an environment of CYA all the time it’s not a productive or engaging place to work.

When I looked around, one of the biggest problems was that the C-Suite was blinded by the fact that they kept making list after list of great places to work. I don’t believe they could see that there was actually an underlying toxic culture at work and that they were responsible for it. They only saw what they wanted to see, they never got out and asked questions or talked to the workforce, and it seemed that many of the issues plaguing the rank and file employees were systemic in the C-Suite as well.

Why does this matter? I mean for a global organization with over 13,000 employees, the biggest in their industry, and financially sound, why does it matter that under the covers things are toxic? It sounds like things are good enough doesn’t it?

I don’t think “good enough” is good enough. This organization could not only be creating more profits enabling them to do more for their customers, employees, and community, but they could also create an environment that lifts people up rather than tearing them down.

When employees are engaged, empowered, and inspired they do more, they go the extra mile, they provide more ideas, work together, see opportunities, create safer environments, solve problems faster, bring products and services to market faster while also creating more joy and ultimately more success for everyone. This is very powerful and not only is good for each employee, but creates an organization of unparalleled excellence that has a natural competitive advantage.

So how does an organization begin to detox and start to thrive?

When you hear someone say, “I’m doing a detox” most people don’t think much about it. We have all heard of a detox and some associate it with a cleanse around the food that goes into the body, some around removing drugs and alcohol from the body, and for others a detox can be one of emotional and mental cleansing.

A detox for an organization is not all that different except that it addresses more than one person and usually involves a close look at the company culture and the habits that make up the culture. It could be the entire organization that needs a detox or it could be a team of people, a specific department or location.

It starts with the acknowledgement from the top that something might need to change. While things appear okay, maybe a closer look is in order, especially if trends like failing projects, overrun budgets, high turnover, low engagement, or decreased worker safety have been seen. Sometimes the detox can be accomplished without external help, but often an expert is needed, at least for an initial consult.

A corporate detox will also take longer than an individual detox because more people are involved so this is not something that will be done in a week and it will take fortitude to complete. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it. Because when people love what they do, how they do it, who they do it with, and who they do it for, they will be the biggest advocates for the organization. They will do more, expect less in return, bring in more business, be more efficient, stick around longer, and be a catalyst for the organization. That means reduced turnover, better engagement, greater customer satisfaction, new customers, returning customers, more employee engagement, and higher profits.

While many companies say that employee satisfaction is their goal or even go as far as to say it is a non-negotiable component of their workplace, how many are really walking the talk?

How well are your employees engaged? Are you doing better than the 32% engagement that Gallup reports? How much is low employee engagement costing you? Are you retaining your top talent or losing them to organizations that offer the connection that your employees are missing?

I know I’ve posed a lot of questions and by giving them some real heartfelt thought you may just realize that your organization is due for a corporate detox.

Leadership Marketing Personal Development

Your Company’s Secret Asset

Assets are critical to a company’s success with their purpose being to increase the value of the organization. So how else can you add value to your organization without dipping into the bottom line? The answer: Personal Branding.

Companies spend thousands of dollars on corporate branding elements such as logo, website, and marketing collateral, but many overlook the fact that every employee is a branding asset. When one thinks of gauging value back from what they put into something, they typically think in terms of ROI. Instead of a return on investment, think of it in terms of Return on Image®. An employee’s personal brand creates real value. Personal brands can elevate individuals to meet their goals and the goals of the company, while also growing influence for both. Influence is power, which, in turn, cultivates trust and builds your reputation as a leader in your space. It’s been said over and over that people do business with people, not companies.

Here are 5 ways your employees can influence a corporate brand to ensure:

1. Create Content.

This is vital (my definition of vital: without it you die) in establishing expertise. It’s the first place one should start. Allow employees to blog, be guest editors in publications, or even publish case studies that are relevant to your market. Let their personality come through in their writings. Then leverage that content every chance you get such as reposting portions of it as social media posts. Having them create content helps establish them, and you, as a leader or expert in their field. People want to hire authorities.

2. Speaking Events.

In today’s world we are so connected, that we are, at times, starving for human connection. This is a great way to humanize a brand. Employees can be guest speakers at associations, clubs, industry events, or be a guest on a podcast. If possible, get photos of them speaking or better yet, get it recorded on video, and, again, leverage that as much as you can.

3. Community Involvement.

A great place to be seen is in our own communities sharing our gifts and kindness to others. Consider paying for employees to join a service club or be on a non-profit board. They may even take on leadership roles within these organizations, which helps build both their personal brand and your corporate brand.

4. LinkedIn Profile.

We all know LinkedIn is a place to grow connections and attract new business clients. In many ways, LinkedIn has become the new CV. It’s one of the first places we all go to find out about each other. We look at a person’s accomplishments, what others say about working with them, and how they can add value. In fact, we tend to go there before we have any human interaction with each other. First of all, we want to know what a person looks like. A profile picture can have some personality, but remember this is a professional site, after all. After we look at the photo, we want to see what their title is. In fact, here is where you can be creative. It doesn’t have to be a title, but rather how you help someone. This appears by the photo every time a person posts, so it is a very important element. And be sure your company has a company page your employees can be part of.

5. Company Website.

The second most visited page on most websites is the About Us page. Here is where you can showcase your staff with a bio and links to their personal social media sites as well as listing any published content or videos they have created. The purpose is for visitors to have no doubt in their minds that you employ the best.

There is a lot of noise out there. We are all fighting to be seen. By incorporating the steps above, you will gain strategic visibility through personal branding.

I help executives create a powerful image and brand so they look and feel confident wherever they are. Contact me at sheila@imagepowerplay.com to schedule a 20-minute call to discuss how we can work together to grow your visibility through my return on image® services.