Mark C. Crowley

Transformative Leadership for the 21st Century

If you're focusing on EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
you're aiming WAY TOO LOW!
“Shift your focus to what really matters to your organization:
employee commitment, initiative, and sustainable high performance.”
– Mark C. Crowley
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Five Things Leaders Should Do In December To Ensure Success In The New Year

Posted by on Nov 19, 2016 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

The Month Of December “Fortune favors the bold.”
Virgil (70-19 BC)

There’s a great tendency in the month of December to wind things down.

With the holiday season upon us, and the least amount of sunlight of the year around to energize us, we’re influenced to work in slow motion.  We feel like resting, and to acting upon a conscious or unconscious mindset that tells us things will rev up soon enough – when the new-year arrives on January 1.

But it’s long been my experience that the most successful leaders have an altered state of awareness about December. They see the month as the true start of the new-year, and purposely work very hard to lay the foundation for high achievement way before Auld Lang Syne gets sung. For these highly effective people, the last month of the year is all about winding things up.

If your ambition is to lead your team to spectacular performance in 2017, here are five things you’ll be very wise to accomplish in December:

1.    Share Your Vision
Ideally in person, but alternatively through a well-crafted and thoughtful written communication, use December to inspire your team.  The wonderful effect of sharing your dreams for the coming year – all you’d like to achieve and become – is that it gets the juices flowing in the minds and hearts of every person who works for you.  Weeks before the new-year starts for real, your employees can give thought to how their efforts fit into your aspirations.  And once you plant the seed, they will begin to prepare themselves for the coming challenges.  One word of guidance: make sure to acknowledge all your team did to support you this year, before you re-direct your focus to the year ahead.

2.    Meet One-On-One With All Your Direct Reports
December is a wonderful month to check in with people and to personalize the new-year ahead by discovering new ambitions.  Knowing that the greatest reason people burn out at work is because their jobs lack sufficient variety, ask your employees if there’s a special project they’d like to be involved in.  Is there a cross-training or growth opportunity that inspires them?  The road to high engagement is making people feel valued and cared for.  That’s your essential goal for these meetings.

3.    Assign Next Year’s Goals
The funny thing about goals is that they are almost always higher than those assigned the year before.  We laugh at this, of course, but new and bigger goals very often have the effect of stressing people out and putting them into a disempowered state of fear.  So, one solution is to introduce goals long before they go into effect.  The extra time allows people to get their heads around the higher expectations.  I’ve also found it extremely helpful to ask employees to prepare a high-level plan for how they will go about achieving those new goals.  The exercise typically reveals to people that the mountain isn’t as high as they first imagined.  By the time they submit their plan to you, they know how they’ll reach the summit.

4.    Build A Pipeline
Few things are more exciting for a leader and their team than to have a highly productive month of performance in January (especially important in sales).  Come early February, it simply feels great to know you’ve gotten off to a phenomenal start in the new-year and to have established early momentum.  The best way to ensure this happens is to stack the deck in your favor.   Whatever you traditionally do to drive results, do more of it in December.  Challenge each employee to double down his or her efforts, and to build a pipeline of work that can come to fruition in January.  Yes, your team will work harder in December, but the rewards will be worth it.

5.    Get Organized And Reflect
I love the last two of weeks of December, and have made a habit of using them to get myself organized and emotionally prepared for the coming year.  I clean out files, organize my office, and spend time planning. Like chopping wood and carrying water, there’s an unseen but really powerful reward for doing the mundane and preparing yourself for a brand new start.

While not always possible, I also love taking off the last week of the year and hiking in nature, going for walks – having thinking time.  Late December is an ideal period for personal reflection and for becoming fully re-inspired about the future.  Every year around this time I’m inspired by C. S. Lewis who said, “you are never too old to set another goal and to dream a new dream.”

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Five Magnificent Ways You Can Lead Like Google Without Spending A Dime On Perks

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Uncategorized, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Unknown-2As research for an article I later wrote for Fast Company Magazine, I traveled to Google’s Mountain View, California campus, and spent the day meeting with several of their talent management executives.

Within just my first hour at Google, I saw firsthand all the reasons why so many people in business consider the tech giant to be an incomparable outlier – an organization whose leadership practices bear little relevance to the real world, and to most other organizations:

  • Staged in the parking lot was a row of luxurious Wi-Fi-outfitted shuttles that transport hundreds of “Googlers” to and from work every day at no cost.
  • At eleven o’clock in the morning, I saw two young employees unabashedly playing a “Dance, Dance Revolution” arcade game – while others were gearing up to play eight-ball on a nearby billiards table.
  • I saw the bowling alleys, the laundry-room, the endless snacks, the gym – and I enjoyed one of the 75,000 gourmet meals Google provides its workers free of charge every month.

IMG_0196To the uninitiated, it’s no wonder that Google has been named Fortune Magazine’s “Best Company To Work For” an unprecedented five times. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like this?

But Google’s methods for inspiring its 50,000 workers to commit themselves to doing amazing work far transcend the generous perks. And this is exactly the point that Google’s head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, makes in his new book, Work Rules! Why Google’s Rules Will Work For You.”

After reading Bock’s book – twice – I’m convinced that his (and Google’s) understanding of what drives human beings to consistently excel in their jobs is nothing short of brilliant.

BFHZzTHCAAAiQwLI’m also quite certain that many business leaders aren’t yet ready to embrace this thinking, simply because it inherently contradicts longstanding management theory and practices.

But if you are courageous, open to new ways – and have the ambition of creating and sustaining a truly high-performance team – I’ll save you the time of reading Bock’s book by sharing five remarkable ideas you can use to make it happen.

Importantly, all five of these are adoptable within any team, company or industry; you just need the will. And based on the fact that Google’s stock appreciated nearly 1300% in its first ten years as a publicly traded company, you have clear incentive to implement them all:

Make Your Hiring Process Intentionally And Overtly Rigorous:

Google believes the single greatest mistake they can make is a bad hire, and has painstakingly created a process that prevents the wrong people from being chosen.

More importantly, they believe that by selecting people who have both high talent and high passion for a particular job, each person they hire will have a very strong chance of quickly becoming high-achieving.

To that end, Google will never make an offer to an otherwise qualified candidate if they cannot demonstrate a true cultural fit. And when I say, “never,” I mean that they will intentionally keep a job open indefinitely rather than ever settle. And just to reinforce the great importance Google places on employee selection, CEO, Larry Page, has the final say on every single candidate – and there’s no rubber stamp.

It’s traditional in business to have a hiring manager interview all the applicants whose resumé matches well to a job description – and to then choose the “best” person on their own.

But Bock asserts, all hiring decisions must be made by groups. Research shows that people tend to like people like themselves – and are therefore inclined to hire people just like themselves. Because of this and other unconscious biases, one-on-one interviews are a complete waste of time.

The single best indicator of whether someone will excel in a job, Bock tells us, is a work sample. If someone’s job will be to write code all day, then have them show you code they’ve already produced. During interviews, Google applicants are often asked to create something right on the spot – and the standards are extremely high.

Google also has discovered that four interviews are enough to predict whether someone should be hired (with 86% confidence), and purposely involves employees who will either work with, or for, the person being considered in the selection process. “You make your better hiring decisions by relying on a crowd of people,” says Bock, “and every person in the interview is given an equal vote on who ultimately gets chosen.”

Perhaps the greatest piece of understanding Bock has to offer is that the top performers are very rare. The cost of building a truly great team, therefore, is that you must interview many people for every open position.

Give Employees Perks – The Ones That Won’t Cost You:

Bock says that Google believes “it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.”

Very clearly, the company knows for a fact that the very extensive offerings of perks they provide all have a direct and positive impact on employee satisfaction – and on the bottom-line.

But while things like food, shuttles and discounted day-care most definitely carry a direct expense to the company, it may surprise you to learn that most of the perks Google makes available actually cost them nothing.

By reaching out to very willing (and vetted) vendors, Google now has ATMs on all its campuses. Without ever leaving work, employees can get their bike repaired, their car washed, their oil changed and their dry-cleaning done. The local library brings a bookmobile on a scheduled basis, as do grocers who deliver organic produce and meats. Even salon treatments like haircuts and manicures can be done while people are still on the job – and Google pays nothing to provide them.

Like any company, Google could just as well not bother providing any of these conveniences – who of us hasn’t planned a weekend around grocery shopping, haircuts and car repairs?

But Google’s deep intelligence is lodged in both their minds and their hearts.

They know their people work very hard and purposely seek to minimize the seemingly trivial pressures of life that have a way of eating up a lot of their time. And who of us wouldn’t feel valued, cared for – even nurtured – by an organization that schedules a “Take Your Parents To Work Day?” Google employees most surely feel the intentional thoughtfulness that goes into experiences like this – and Google execs surely know that making people feel that they matter has a profound influence on loyalty and commitment.

Provide More Experiential Awards:

Ask most people what they would like as an award for doing exceptional work and they will tell you “cash.” No doubt surveys in your own company have you convinced that money is always the best incentive.

But Bock says that cash awards get evaluated on a cognitive level (e.g. “What can I buy?” or “What percentage of my salary does the bonus represent?”) whereas experiences (e.g. trips to Hawaii or Disneyland) trigger a deep emotional response in people.

Because Google analyzes every decision they make, they’ve learned that experiential awards make people happier. They’re perceived to be 28% more fun, 28% more memorable – and 15% more thoughtful.

“The joy of money is fleeting,” says Bock, “but memories last forever.”

Manage With Transparency:

The idea that people should not be trusted with important and “sensitive” information leads many managers in business to keep their knowledge close to the vest – and to share it only on a “need to know” basis.

But since Google’s founding, it has fully subverted this thinking by “assuming that all information can be shared.” As illustration, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, takes employees through the same presentations he delivers to the company’s Board of Directors.

According to Bock, this kind of openness ensures every employee knows what’s going on. And it also clearly demonstrates to people that they’re seen as being both trustworthy and having good judgment. But, once again, Google does nothing without the conviction that it will be good for results: “One of the serendipitous benefits of transparency,” Bock writes, “is that simply by sharing data, performance improves.”

If you’re still queasy about trusting your people this much, Bock says that it’s only about one time per year – company-wide – that an employee makes a major leak. And regardless of the circumstances, they are fired.

But despite this risk, Google prefers to put its faith in the far majority of employees who honor it, and put their intimate company knowledge to great use.

Give Your Employees A Voice – A Real Say In How Things Get Run:

It’s simply easier for organizations to make decisions at the top, and to disseminate them down through the ranks of their workers. But, once again, Google has thrown the old-school rules out the door.

Googlers are routinely asked to contribute their thinking – in myriad ways – to ensure that they’re not merely aware of the direction of the company – but are directly vested in it. They leverage the work of Ethan Burris, professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who found that getting employees to voice ideas has long been a key driver of high-quality decisions and effectiveness.

Bock makes clear that giving workers a voice can be time-consuming inasmuch as they must solicit feedback, consider it and report back on the outcomes. But few things drive employees to act like company owners than knowing their thoughts and feelings can shape its future success.  


In his book, Laszlo Bock tells us that “over the coming decades, the most gifted and hardest working people on the planet will gravitate to places where they can do meaningful work and help shape the destiny of organizations.

Perhaps wanting to extend the huge competitive advantage his company holds on attracting great talent, Bock suggests this date is way out in the future. The truth is that day is already here.

Please know in advance that we greatly appreciate when you share these articles with friends and colleagues via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail.

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Science Agrees With Obi Wan: Trust Your Feelings

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership | 0 comments

brain-heart-intuition-the-b-spotImagine you’re giving a presentation tomorrow to a group of your organization’s top decision makers. Your job will be to persuade them to approve, and invest in, a new initiative you’ve worked over a year to develop.

Heading into the meeting, you’re convinced you have a fantastic business case. You’ve studied the competition, run several lengthy pilots – and developed a keen sense that the venture will become a run-away success.

But if your company operates anything like most traditional businesses, you know you’ll need to stick to the analytics while making your pitch; sharing any of your informed “feelings” about the potential outcome could potentially derail your project and even harm perceptions about your own managerial prowess.

And why is it that one’s feelings can’t be brought into the boardroom without drawing concern? It’s because we remain highly squeamish about the reliability of human intuition.

Nearly 400 years ago, René Descarte famously declared, “I think therefore I am,” and an emphasis on rational thinking has dominated business operations ever since. In the modern era, MBA programs have intentionally focused on developing left-brain, rational abilities – and to teaching future business leaders how to figure everything out. Even the high-compliment of saying that someone has great “business smarts,” inherently means they possess an unusually developed intellect – a good “head” for business.

Intuition: Friend Or Foe?

But curiously, some of the world’s greatest “thinkers” of the past century – a list of acknowledged geniuses that includes Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein – all very consciously leveraged intuition in their work. And so convinced that intuition had profoundly influenced his entire life’s success, Steve Jobs repeatedly said that it wasn’t just potent, it was “more powerful than intellect.”

So there lies the conundrum. Most of men, mere mortals, steer clear of allowing any feelings or intuition to influence their business dealings, while the stunning achievers of society clearly chose to operate from an entirely different manual. Whose lead should we now follow?

For nearly three decades, the Institute of HeartMath has been researching intuition and running numerous experiments for the purpose of better defining what it is and how it works. I recently met with its director of research and co-founder, Dr. Rollin McCraty, and asked him to share some of the key insights he and his colleagues have acquired. As you might suspect, along with other researchers, McCraty has been able to show that folks like Jobs and Tesla figured out something long before the rest of us, and that intuition – when fully understood – can surely help us be more successful in our careers and lives.

Mark C. Crowley & Dr. Rollin Mccraty

Mark C. Crowley & Dr. Rollin McCraty

Here’s what you need to know:

Highly Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Act On Intuition

Over a period of many years, the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship conducted in-depth interviews with repeat entrepreneurs – people who had built businesses multiple times with great success.

Noting that Gallup already had shown that over half of all new enterprises fail in five years, they met with business creators in Great Britain, the US and Australia in hopes of identifying the commonalities of people who repeatedly defied the odds.

And they found two. Most importantly, they discovered that 80 percent of the successful entrepreneurs intentionally relied on their intuition and knowingly integrated it with their cognitive processes in making all final decisions. Contrary to what you might imagine, they were highly practical people who routinely employed a rigorous system of financial analysis and business projections. But in the end, they acted on their hunches, and repeatedly relied on feelings to indicate what choice was best.

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These 5 Books Predict The Future Of Workplace Leadership

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Boos Stack“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

 – William Gibson

A close friend and former colleague of mine recently advised me to “go easy” on my use of the expression “lead from the heart.”  Fully aware that I’d written a book with that title, he nevertheless sought to warn me that many people in business continue to believe this is a particularly weak idea.

My friend was, of course, looking out for my best interests, and the truth is, I knew he was right.  I’ve met with with many senior executives who gave me their polite attention – but conveyed through invisible signals their deep resistance to bringing any amount of heart into workplace management.

You see, for as long as most of us have been alive, business has believed it best to lead with our minds – and never the heart.

But I’ve just finished reading five new books that collectively prove our views of leadership are undergoing a profound change.

Insight from a Stanford University professor, the all-time winningest NBA coach, two geniuses of innovation and design, a Pulitzer Prize recipient and best-selling author – and one of Wall Street’s most respected CEOs – all provide a clear view of the future.  What they unequivocally show is that the way to excel in managing human beings in the 21st Century requires breaking away from traditional beliefs.

Drawing upon extraordinary personal success in addition to unimpeachable new research, they prove that authentically caring about the growth and well-being of workers – and ensuring they’re consistently made to feel heard, valued, supported and appreciated – already have become the truly differentiated practices of our best leaders.  The bottom-line conclusion from this collection of thought: having a great mind alone no longer can make you an effective leader; you also need an active and engaged heart:


The traditional view in business is that people are born with a fixed amount of intelligence and talent; individual capabilities are firmly set in stone.

This idea, what Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, calls a “fixed mindset,” influences workplace managers to leverage employees who quickly display natural ability – and to invest little time and resources seeking to develop all the others.

Benjamin Bloom, eminent educational researcher, studied 120 outstanding achievers in numerous fields – world-class athletes, mathematicians, concert pianists, et al – and discovered few of them were remarkable as children. They only revealed their capabilities once their training began in earnest.

Predicated on this and other remarkable research, Dweck blows up the long-enduring paradigm of human limitation.  She proves that a person’s potential is “unknown and unknowable.”  Regardless of talent, aptitude and IQ – people can greatly expand their abilities through effort, thoughtful coaching, and experience.

Dweck’s work represents a hugely expansive idea in business.  She shows that leaders who possess a fixed mindset greatly limit employee (and, therefore, organizational) performance.  Alternatively, when managers foster a “growth mindset,” they intentionally challenge, mentor, and nurture the development of their people knowing their future contributions will expand as they sprout new competencies.


Widely considered the greatest coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson won a record 11 championships – 6 with the Chicago Bulls and 5 with the Los Angeles Lakers – and led his teams to victory in over 70% of the games they played.

Jackson was a standout college player, and won two “rings” as a player with the New York Knicks.  But once he was given his own teams to lead, he broke all the traditions of coaching professional athletes.

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Gallup’s Profound Discovery: Engagement Is Driven By Good Managers With Rare Talents

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Searching For Talent “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

 – Schopenhauer

It’s been nearly a year since Gallup announced its stunning finding that engagement in the American workplace had fallen to crisis levels.

In what became the shot heard ‘round the world in business, the research firm revealed that 70% of the nation’s working population now admits to being disengaged in their jobs (i.e., content with collecting a paycheck while investing little of their hearts in their work) – and that nearly 1 in every 5 workers is so discontent that they’re perversely motivated to undermine the effectiveness of their bosses and organizations.

All of this profound unhappiness has a primary source, of course, and organizations across the land have scurried to create taskforces, introduce employee satisfaction metrics and experiment with innumerable strategies in their efforts at finding it.  Like any problem decades-long in the making, however, no new programs or organization-wide themes are likely to prove effective at creating a sustainable solution.

I’ve always believed, of course, that our shared engagement problem is the direct result of ineffective – even destructive – leadership.  More specifically, I’ve shown that human beings have greatly evolved what they need and want in exchange for their committed efforts at work, while our traditional managerial practices have failed to keep up.

Last fall, Gallup helped confirm this assessment when their research revealed that too many people in supervisory roles today, across all industries, lack the requisite ability to manage.  Their important revelation was that employee engagement in the 21st Century is largely dependent upon having a good manager.

In a series of discussions I’ve since had with Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Research Scientist, I learned how he and his research team arrived at their conclusion – in addition to five specific talents they now believe characterize the most effective and influential workplace leaders.

The direct and immediate take-away is that some people are naturally imbued with qualities and talents that virtually preordain their leadership success.  The surest way of restoring high engagement, therefore, is to only select people with these traits into all future managerial roles.

Managers, Not Organizations, Drive Engagement

“We’ve long had the understanding in business,” Harter told me, “that organizations have an overriding culture – one that’s either highly engaged or not.  But when we mapped engagement data down to the team level, we started noticing that engagement – and all performance metrics – varied widely.  Our discovery was that culture varies by team.  When we got under the hood a little bit, it became more obvious that whatever was happening with a team was directly related to its manager and to the tone they were setting.”

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Why Your Personal Influence Is Far Greater Than You Ever Knew

Posted by on Feb 8, 2014 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

images“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.

Albert Schweitzer


Through a series of fascinating studies, Harvard-trained social scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, have shown that human beings are profoundly influenced by the behavior of the people closest to them in their lives.

When we learn a colleague has voted, for example, we’re far more likely to vote ourselves.  When someone in our social circle quits smoking, eats too much in a restaurant, or is characteristically studious, we’re unconsciously persuaded to copy those same behaviors.

While the research proves something we may long ago have intuitively surmised – that we directly influence our friends and they influence us – Christakis and Fowler discovered that the true nature of that impact is far greater – and wider – than any of us may have imagined.

What you’re about to learn is groundbreaking information (not to mention incredibly interesting).  But it’s very possible that your behavior as a leader will be permanently and positively changed once you discover the full power of your own personal example.

Human Behavior Is Wildly Contagious

In what’s perhaps their most revealing study on influence, the two researchers sought to determine whether having an obese friend made people any more susceptible to becoming obese themselves.

To get their answer, Christakis and Fowler directed a team that painstakingly analyzed three decades of data collected from the famous, and still ongoing, Framingham Heart Study.  Dating back more than 50 years, 15,000 study participants – the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts – have visited their doctors every four years to have their key health indicators, including their weight, measured and recorded.  And before every check-up was finished, participants updated their list of family members, co-workers and friends.

By the time all the analysis was completed, the research team identified how 5,124 of the Framingham residents were connected, and linked them to over 50,000 friends, family and co-workers.

The study results were then published in the New York Times.  In a front-page article titled, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat?” the paper reported that the behavior of loading on pounds is highly contagious:

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