Category Archives: High Performance Teams

Leadership Style?

In a crisis, we look to a firefighter to lead us. In a process or profit maximization, we look for a steady analytic type. Which are you? For your organization, do you have the right leadership style?– It depends on the challenges you are facing. >

Reevaluating Priorities

How often do you throw all your cards up in the air and re-sort them in a new order? I’m going through that right now. Due to a much increased work load (all good) I’m rethinking where I put my time and attention. Obligations, burdens, previously fun stuff, the “of course I’ll do that” responses, are all being put under the microscope as part of reevaluating priorities.

How often do you go through this exercise? I’m hearing a lot of discussion about this from friends and colleagues who are struggling with children’s needs, having their last kid leave for college, coping with their health or a loved one’s health….. It seems that when big things change in our lives, we are forced to reevaluate priorities. I’m also hearing this in subtler ways. Whispers about the amount of stress, the traffic, the joy in living becoming strained, no time for little moments, spouses being neglected.

In a business, this comes up most often as too many meetings, too many emails, hours that are too long and not creative or productive. We don’t get out of this without some rethinking.

In order to rethink, I have to start from the big picture: What do I want? Where do I want to be in 3 years? What will I have to give up to get to the big goals? What do I have to put in place especially new habits, better processes, clearer focus to get what I want.

Barbara Bush was quoted this week as saying: “You have two choices in life; you can either like what you do or dislike what you do. I have chosen to like what I do.” It may not be that easy for most of us. But it is worth considering.

How can you set yourself up for a great week? What activities do you need to delegate or push off to stay focused on the big picture?


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Risk tolerant?

In his book The Growth Dilemma, Ami Kassar has a series of questions to evaluate how risk tolerant you are in your business. If he gave you $1 million, would you invest it in your company or put it in mutual funds? >


A term for confusing communication that tries to sound smart, yet has obscure meaning, was just introduced to me. The term is biz-blab. I immediately was captivated. >

30% women

When does the business culture change such that women feel they have a powerful voice? I would suggest that happens when top leadership is above 30% women.

The baby-boomer women who became the first and only women in so many industries fought their way through overtly hostile environments. I went to work for City Government because Civil Service required hiring women and minorities and the private sector did not. Over the next 2 decades, women moved up into mid-level management and then executive jobs. Not just women, but working mothers at a rate that was not happening in the private sector. Not only did the City of Los Angeles make it friendly to be a working mother, they were acknowledged and promoted for their efficiency. I believe that it was the percentage of women in high level jobs that made for a different environment and encouraged women to apply for promotions.

When I moved to the private sector, I was shocked at the discriminatory attitude towards women and especially towards working mothers. This was a loss for the employers who didn’t understand the quality and capabilities of the workforce they were ignoring. Although the negative bias towards women loosened up over time in many industries, we have seen in recent days that a very unhealthy power imbalance marginalizes women and drives them away. How many good women have we lost?

We can look at fields like government, non-profits, teaching and healthcare for best practices as to how to create an inclusive environment. Where there are women in high level positions, it is possible to talk safely about an incident or an environment that feels uncomfortable. A mentor can suggest strategies for bringing the issue up in a way that is safe. Environments are more balanced so hostile behavior is not as common, and is more likely to be taken seriously and addressed as a problem of the instigator, instead of the survivor.

I’ve been asked why women have not brought things up in the past. Really? Because it was a no win situation for them. At the least, a woman risked being branded as a whiner, weak, or trouble. They paid a heavy price for daring to challenge the culture and the powerful men who got away with it. If they couldn’t learn how to “deal”, how to protect themselves and get along, they were the problem.

As long as there is only, at most, one woman on the board, when the only Sr. VP in the room is in charge of HR, when engineering and technology “bro” culture is acceptable, we will not see an end to sexually hostile work environments.

If you want to change the culture, change the culture.  Get at least 30% women in leadership. Hold everyone on your team responsible for making the organization a safe place to work. Finally, challenge your own assumptions about who best to promote. Women shouldn’t have to dance backwards, in heels, to be counted as good as a man.



Jobs and skills not matching

Jobs are going vacant and skilled/educated people are unemployed. Whatttt? Or should I say, why?Are jobs and skills not matching? Who is supposed to address this?

We say that you must have a college degree to get a good job and when the young people amass a mountain of student debt to get them, they discover they aren’t trained for the available jobs. No surprise that there are few good jobs for the high school graduates where they used to get them – in  the manufacturing sector. The only jobs around for those without college experience are in the retail or service sector at or near minimum wage.

Why is there a mismatch in manufacturing? Low skill manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and taken a lot of the auxiliary jobs with them. That would be the tool-makers, the machine makers and repairers, and  the packaging designers and manufacturers.

Manufacturing jobs that remained in the US are higher skilled. Automation has driven productivity increase and today’s manufacturing employee has to program the computer to operate the machinery. They can run 1 to 3 lines by themselves. These jobs now pay an average of $26.75 nationwide* and they go unfilled because applicants don’t have the computer skills to run the machines.

Doesn’t it seem obvious that companies will have to hire differently? Test applicants for aptitude and the right attitude. Don’t just interview. Then, do the training yourself.

Here are other steps I have seen companies make: partner with local community colleges and trade schools to get training for your people..Post jobs at the technical schools. Get to know the guidance counselor at your local high school.The state of California will reimburse a lot of that training.

If you are looking for people who can analyze and write well, who have complex reasoning abilities, look for college graduates and then, yes, you will have to train them.

This week, assess what training your workforce needs. What can you teach internally to improve the skills of the people you have? Long term employees know a lot that could be part of “How we do things around here training”. In addition, many Vistage Members have regular “lunch and learn”s where the staff picks the topic. Sometimes it is a TED talk or a youtube video. All it costs you is the food for lunch.

*ITR On the road blog

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Taking apart the Ideal Team Player- Pt. III. Are you smart?

As we discussed the last 2 weeks, Patrick Lencioni believes that ideal team players are humble, hungry, and smart.

What does he mean by smart? In the context of a team, smart refers to your common sense about people: being interpersonally appropriate and aware. “Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way.” >

Taking apart the Ideal Team Player-Pt. 1 Are you hungry?

Last month I described The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni and challenged you to use your values as part of your hiring process. Lencioni states that there are 3 important characteristics of an Ideal Team Player: that you be humble, hungry and smart. I skipped lunch today so hungry jumps out at me. >