The Leader’s Influence

4752463128_679877aa3f_zA recent 24/7 Wall Street article shared the top six-figure jobs in the US. Surprising (to me), six of the ten entries were managers of people. Managing people is a big responsibility, with a huge impact on team performance and team member engagement.

Leaders of others have either a positive or negative impact on team member productivity and engagement. A leader’s impact is rarely neutral! My best boss, Jerry Nutter, used to say, “A leader either helps, hinders, or hurts.”

The 24/7 Wall Street report indicates that people managers are paid well. Is the investment in people managers paying off for US companies? Let’s look at two factors – productivity and engagement.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that productivity growth in the US has declined by more than half since 2011. Historically (since 1948), annual US productivity grew at a 2.5% rate. Since 2011, that rate has fallen to only 1.1%.

The article points out a variety of contributing factors. One significant takeaway from this data is that people managers are not inspiring greater productivity in the US workforce.

On the engagement front, Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Research Report found that US engagement grew from 33% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. That’s very good news. However, it means that 60% of employees are not engaged. Team members do not believe their current work environment treats them with trust, dignity, and respect.

This data leads us to an undeniable conclusion: many well-paid people managers have a less-than-stellar impact on team member productivity and engagement.

How can leaders shift this tide? My research and experience tells me that leaders need to reframe their role and responsibilities as that of servant leaders. Their entire “reason for being” is to help team members build the right skills, to help team members apply those skills in service to team goals and team customers, and to create a safe, inspiring work environment for everyone on the team.

Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members. Engaged, talented team members deserve the responsibility and authority to act independently, in the moment. Engaged team members that are learning needed skills aren’t ready for independent action – they need mentoring and guidance to build needed skills.

If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.

Team members, customers, and company stakeholders will all benefit, together.

How have your best bosses created workplace trust, dignity, and respect? How have your servant leaders helped you grow and thrive at work? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine will be published by Wiley on September 29, 2014. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo used under Creative Commons from https://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Don’t Bump The Fishbowl

Gold fish in aquariumI was reminded recently of a Nutterism that really fit the struggles one of my culture clients is experiencing.

A little background is necessary. Jerry Nutter was my best boss ever. I spent 5 of my 15 years in YMCA management under Jerry’s tutelage – and I still reap benefits today.

Jerry had a way of expressing truths about people management that were a bit folksy. Us members of Jerry’s team called these “Nutterisms.”

The Nutterism that came to mind was “don’t bump the fishbowl.” When a goldfish bowl gets bumped, the fish are NOT happy. They scurry behind the fake plants (or the plastic castle) and huddle together in fear. Their world has been shaken (literally). They don’t know what’s coming next. They are unable to go about their business anymore – they can only huddle, and watch, and wait.

Leaders bump their employee’s fishbowls all the time! Leaders may not intend to disrupt employee’s work lives, but actions such as these do “bump the fishbowl”:

  • Announce changes but provide no context and no opportunity for questions
  • Make structural or staffing changes with no context and no opportunity for questions
  • Take credit for team or team members’ ideas, efforts, or accomplishments
  • Micromanage – attempt to control how team members do the work, even if team members are more skilled at the work than the leader is
  • Provide frequent critical and negative feedback; rarely validate team members’ efforts or accomplishments

What happens when team members have their fishbowl bumped? Typically, they scurry around and huddle together in fear. Their world has been shaken. Few are able to go about their business anymore – they huddle, and watch, and wait.

Change is constant. Leaders don’t need to insulate their team from change, but they need to reduce the negative impact of change.

So, how can leaders keep from “bumping the fishbowl?”

Plan. Map out a strategy – then explain the strategy. Be open and honest, consistently. Help team members understand what the issues, problems, or gaps are that need to be addressed. Tell them what you’re thinking of doing to resolve these issues.

Listen. Ask for their ideas and insights. Incorporate their good ideas. Reiterate that these changes are to address identified gaps and problems – and stress how their ideas are being embraced.

Implement and Adapt. Put plans into place and engage team members to learn if there is any unintentional “bumping” going on. Adapt the plan to gain the most benefit for everyone – team members, company, and customers.

How have past leaders of yours “bumped the fishbowl”? What team member reactions have you seen that I missed? What did your great bosses do to reduce the negative “bumps”? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

I feature a number of Nutterisms in my next book, The Culture Engine. It will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/bloodua. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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5 Tips from Lee Sklar

10308554_10152120369101430_3067860134782587280_nI’m a working musician on the side. I’m blessed to be a part of a talented, values aligned band that loves making music that makes people dance and smile!

I see (and have written about) a lot of parallels between music teams and business teams. A recent MusicRadar interview by one of the finest musicians on the planet, Leland Sklar, really rang true for me.

Lee has played bass on over 2500 albums for artists as varied as BB King, Phil Collins, James Taylor, Hall & Oates, and Lyle Lovett. He’s a sought-after studio and tour musician. And, he’s a genuinely nice guy. His world view is interesting & entertaining, and he engages willingly with fans on social media.

What’s Lee’s approach? What does he do – to get hired again and again – that countless other musicians don’t do? Lee says, “It’s not about bringing your chops (skills) to the date – it’s what kind of energy and professionalism you bring with you and how you improve the creative process.”

By tweaking Lee’s language a little for business application (with his permission – thank you, Lee), let’s apply his insights to the question, “How do you make yourself a valuable, sought-after business team member?”

Learn As Much As You Can
“It behooves you to bring as much facility and versatility” to your work opportunities as you can. Refine your skills constantly. Toss rusty, less valuable skills while building needed skills nimbly. Be proactive – don’t wait to be asked.

Learn The Language & The Tools
In the music world, musicians that can sight-read sheet music have a huge advantage over musicians that can’t. Every business has frameworks, systems, and approaches that it prefers. Be adept at your company’s language and tools. Study. Speak up with suggestions. Inquire why. Be skilled at your company’s foundational methodologies.

Personality Counts
“Be somebody that people get along with.” Be nice. Be a positive person in every interaction. Be engaged – if the team is reviewing progress and performance, don’t text or email; be present & offer insights. Be enthusiastic! Be the person that moves things forward, nicely. “Be the person you’d hire if it was your business.”

Stay Healthy
You can’t effectively serve anyone else if you’re not 100% healthy – spiritually, mentally, and physically. Take good care of yourself so you can contribute genuinely, happily, and consistently. Drugs and alcohol incapacitate you. “If you go on stage and you’re messed up, you’re disrespecting your fellow musicians and audience members.” Eat right. Sleep right. Exercise. Repeat daily!

See the World
“Anything you can do that makes you a better person will be reflected” in the work you do. Don’t sequester yourself! Take advantage of opportunities to see different companies. Go to customer sites to learn how they use your company’s products and services. Talk with people. What you learn, see, and hear can help you see the world from their eyes . . . and adapt to serve better.

What is your experience? What tips would you add to this list? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © Courtesy of Leland Sklar. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Tied for First

Business Finish LineQuick – note down your top four personal values, the desired principles that guide your day-to-day plans, decisions, and actions.

If you’ve formalized your personal values, this exercise took mere seconds. If you’ve not formalized them, it probably took a bit longer.

You can’t consistently act on your values unless you understand them. Formalizing them is a really good thing. You’ve just done the first step, which is identifying desired values. Then, add your definition for each value. Finally, include three or four behaviors for each value, behaviors that ensure you’re effectively living that value day to day.

Here are my life values:

  • Integrity – Definition: Do what I say I will do. Behaviors: Formalize my commitments with clear agreements. Keep my commitments. Live my values and behaviors.
  • Learning – Definition: Actively seek out information that builds new knowledge and skills. Behaviors: Scan the environment for current research and discoveries that enlighten me. Refine my skills often; toss antiquated approaches for improved approaches. Proactively share my learning so others benefit.
  • Joy – Definition: Celebrate the pleasure derived from doing things I’m good at and which serve others well. Behaviors: Be happy; if I’m not happy, change it up so happiness is present. Surround myself with happy people who see the good in others. Engage in the grace I feel when serving others well.
  • Perfection – Definition: Deliver excellence. Behaviors: Deliver what I promise, on time and under budget. Exceed standards or expectations where possible. Consistently WOW my partners and customers.

Have you prioritized your values so you know which ones are more important than the others? Or, are all of your personal values “tied for first?”

There is a school of thought that says prioritizing values is the best way to act on them, especially under pressure. For example, if you had “safety” as your top value and “service” as your number two value, safety would take precedence over service. A safety issue would demand action even if it meant service would be negatively impacted that day (or hour).

Another school of thought says that all of your values are of equal, top priority. If you’ve outlined your values, why would you make one more important than another?

I believe the best approach lies somewhere in between. Start with the belief that your values are all tied for first, and understand that your values are in “dynamic tension.” Reality, time constraints, emergencies, etc. will require you to act on only one or two values at a time! Acting on certain values while setting other values aside, even for a moment, will require you to circle back and apply any valued behaviors that were “passed over” in that instance.

So, if you acted on your “safety” value and inhibited “service” for a time, you would follow up with the player (or players) that you missed the service value on to explain what happened and make amends as soon as possible.

How do you manage competing values? What suggestions would you add to address values in “dynamic tension”? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/petesaloutos. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Choose Your Play

Good dogAre you doing what you’re great at? And what you love to do? And you’re paid a living wage to do it?

And – a hugely important consideration – you’re serving others well while you’re doing it?

I believe that’s the ultimate sweet spot for each of us. Yet sometimes we settle for less than all four of those important elements.

When we settle, we may put a cap on our own joy – and on our ability to contribute to our company, family, and community.

If we find a career doing something we’re good at and are paid fairly for, but aren’t doing what we love and aren’t serving others well, we’re not going to be happy in the long run. Nor are we likely able to be our best every moment.

If we finds outlets – volunteering in your community or YMCA, for example – that let us engage in activities we’re good at, love to do, and serve others well but get little compensation for, that’s a good thing! Activities like these may be a small portion of our week or month (several hours, maybe), but they feed our soul. We’re grateful for these inspiring hours.

What, though, if these inspiring, engaging activities don’t offset the many more hours you spend in an unfulfilling career? What then?

We can choose a different play, a different stage, and a different role – one that does fulfill us daily.

The path won’t be easy. But it may be worth the time, energy, and risks to find that inspiring sweet spot.

Two acquaintances shared with me recently the stories of their spouses who embarked on very similar mid-life transitions.

One was an architect. She’d earned an architecture degree, gained her license, and joined the AIA. She found a well-paying job. She was successful. But she didn’t love it; she didn’t feel she was serving others as well as she could.

After fifteen years in the field, she quit. She went back to school to study to be a registered nurse. She earned her nursing degree and has found a great job. She loves what she’s doing. She feels she’s serving people beautifully. She’s found her sweet spot.

Another friend’s spouse was a successful sales person and sales team leader. She was well-paid and successful over a twenty-year career. And, she didn’t love her work. She couldn’t tolerate going through the motions so she applied at veterinary school. She was accepted and quit her sales job. She headed off to school this month.

She’s so excited she can hardly stand it. She can’t wait to finish her doctoral program and serve animals (and their owners) in a veterinary hospital.

You may not be in a position to quit your job and go back to school for your “perfect,” inspiring job. But you may have a good idea of activities that could be a source of inspiration for you.

If your job isn’t in your sweet spot, engage in activities that nourish your soul and serve others well. Pay it forward – those you serve will be inspired by your actions.

What job or activities fall into your unique sweet spot? In what ways do you nourish your soul and serve others? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/andresrimaging. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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