Mark C. Crowley

Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century

What people feel in their hearts has profound influence over their motivation & workplace performance.
“In contrast to longstanding management thinking, the heart is the driving force of human achievement, and employee engagement is a decision of the heart.”
– Mark C. Crowley
MARK C. CROWLEY
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A Quote From Maya Angelou Predicted The Future Of Workplace Leadership

Posted by on Dec 28, 2018 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Late poet, Maya Angelou famously observed that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Her great kernel of truth here is that human beings are far more influenced by feelings than by rational thinking – not at all what most of us have ever believed.

When it comes to motivating employee performance in the workplace, little of Maya Angelou’s wisdom has ever seeped into our leadership practices. We’ve traditionally assumed that workers made up their minds on whether to be loyal, committed and engaged in their jobs, so leaders have intentionally steered clear of their hearts.

But over the course of a long leadership career, my direct experience repeatedly proved this understanding was wrong. Ultimately, I came to this realization:

How I made people feel proved to have the greatest impact on employee decisions to be dedicated, hardworking, and willing to put in discretionary effort to help achieve our goals.

When I intentionally made employees – of every age, education level and job family – feel valued, supported, growing and appreciated, they routinely and instinctively scaled mountains for me. 

Ever since this epiphany, I’ve been calling for a reinvention of workplace leadership. In an era where absurdly low employee engagement and job satisfaction scores prove our traditional methods are failing, I believe the greatest responsibility a manager has today is to ensure employees routinely experience the positive feelings and emotions now known to inspire extraordinary performance. I call this leading from the heart.

Now I’d like to tell you that leaders everywhere have been quick to embrace this new thinking, and immediately trusted it to drive greater productivity. But, as you might have guessed, that’s not what happened. Upon hearing words like “feelings” and “heart,” alarms were triggered. “This could never work in the real world,” is what many managers have instinctively assumed.

But I came from that real world – the sharp-edged financial services industry – and proved at all levels that caring about employees and supporting their emotional needs is the surest way to driving sales, productivity and profit.

Nonetheless, as a realist who fully accepts that some people will always need more convincing than others, I’ve continued to seek more compelling proof. 

To that end, I’ve discovered the work of four extraordinary thought leaders – best selling authors, scientists, researchers and psychologists amongst them. Coming from entirely different disciplines – and working independently – each has made the same remarkable conclusions:

  • Feelings and emotions motivate human behavior
  • Employee engagement is a decision not of the mind, but of the heart.  

In hope that their collective insights will hold great influence over how you go on to lead and manage, here are highlights of their respective research:

ROBERT WRIGHT: Author Of “Why Buddhism Is True: The Science Of Meditation & Enlightenment”

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How We Gain Power And Influence: Science’s Surprising Answer

Posted by on Apr 8, 2018 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Uncategorized, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

In the late 19th Century, British historian, Lord Acton, famously asserted that “power corrupts.” And we surely needn’t look too deeply within business, politics and every day life to find examples that validate this timeless truth.

But new research from U.C. Berkeley social scientist, Dacher Keltner, confirms something few of us may ever have personally acknowledged with regard to Lord Acton’s insight: When we ourselves are given positions of power, we’re no less prone to abuse it.

In the American workplace today, over half of workers admit to quitting jobs in order to flee a power-abusing boss. And, of course, employee job satisfaction and engagement are mired in true crisis levels. What Keltner’s work reveals is that our common ways of applying power in managing people deserves much of the blame for these outcomes.

For the past two decades, Keltner has been studying human emotions and how they influence behavior. Tied to this work, he advised Pixar Studios in the making of their Academy Award-winning animated film, “Inside Out,” and guided Facebook executives in creating their new emoticons. And in his new book, The Power Paradox: How We Gain And Lose Influence, he explains why our traditional beliefs on leadership power must be tossed away if our goal is to succeed in motivating 21st Century workers.

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Here’s Why Bill Gates Calls Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” The Greatest Book He’s Ever Read

Posted by on Mar 3, 2018 in Current Affairs, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

As I started reading Steven Pinker’s new bestseller, Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism And Progress, I must admit I was curious to learn why Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, called it the greatest book he’s ever read.

And after making it through only a few pages of the preface, I thought I had my answer. Harvard psychology professor, Pinker packs more information into his sentences than any mere mortal could ever accomplish. Filled with astonishing erudition, brilliant references, and stunning conclusions, this is a book written by a genius for geniuses! The thought even crossed my mind that only a Mensa member could fully benefit from this book. “No wonder Gates loves this!”

But as I kept reading through its nearly 500 pages, I soon realized my initial assessment was entirely wrong. Gates didn’t herald this book for its style. He lauded it for it’s research – and for Pinker’s perfect timing in urging readers to start embracing optimism instead of the negativity that pervades so much of today’s discourse and thinking.

“Ordinary people think the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” Pinker writes, “and a solid majority of us believe our country is headed in the wrong direction.” And it’s easy to see why people feel this way. “Every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse and oppression. We never see a journalist report live from a country to say ‘war has not broken out here.’”

In response, Pinker fills his book with chapter upon chapter of evidence that proves human life is only getting progressively better. We have fewer wars, less violence, more freedoms – and life expectancy has increased by 10 years in just the past half century. In areas of health, wealth, equality, the environment and overall wellbeing, all of it is ascending.

Consider these compelling examples of how life is actually improving:

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Ancient Chinese Philosophers Teach Harvard Students A Modern Way To Think

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

One of the most popular classes at Harvard University today is a deep dive into the wisdom of the great Chinese philosophers, scholars who lived over 2,000 years ago.

We all know their names – Confucius, Mencius, Zhangzi and Lao Tzu – Eastern sages who devoted their lives to exploring what it takes to flourish in life, and who often landed on counter-intuitive conclusions that stand in stark contrast to traditional Western thinking.

“Your lives are about to be profoundly changed,” Michael Puett tells his students on the first day of class. The professor begins every new semester knowing that the time-tested and spiritually informed ideas of the Chinese scholars will likely fully transform how his students go on to operate in the world.

After taking Puett’s class as a Ph.D. student, Christine Gross-Loh astutely realized that far more people than Ivy League students needed an introduction to classical Chinese philosophy. And she urged Puett to collaborate with her on a book – and to effectively make his research available to us all.

Just recently, the pair published, “The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About The Good Life,“ and it’s become a New York Times best seller.

While nowhere is it clear in the title, many of the book’s most provocative ideas also have direct application to workplace leadership. After fully digesting The Path – and then spending considerable time discussing it with Gross-Loh, I’ve spotlighted three pieces of ancient wisdom that are not only likely to challenge your personal views on how best to excel in the world, they might just send your own life into a positive new trajectory:

1.   The World Is A Messy, Fragmented Place Filled With Messy, Fragmented People

Most of us see the world as a harmonious whole – stable and mostly under our control. But in the view of the ancients, this is pure illusion and entirely wishful thinking.

Instead of being cohesive and reliable, they saw the cosmos as fragmented, chaotic and very often messy. “Our lives are messy, our actions are messy and our personalities are certainly messy,” Gross-Loh told me. “We tend to behave as if the world is fully coherent and this assumption affects all our decisions. Consequently, we’re often taken by surprise whenever things don’t work out as we expected.”

Importantly, the Chinese philosophers weren’t offering a doom-and-gloom projection of things; they were simply realists. In their view, once we accept that nothing is ever stable, we’re able to live far more expansive lives.

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Leadership’s 4 Year Failure To Engage

Posted by on Jan 30, 2017 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership | 0 comments

If American companies were given a report card today for their progress in improving employee
engagement over the past four years, most would receive a failing grade.

Surely, many leaders will scowl at the notion that they could be seen as failing at a time when elevating engagement scores has been one of their organization’s highest expressed priorities. But since the Summer of 2013 when Gallup announced workplace engagement had reached rock bottom, the truth is that scores aren’t meaningfully better.

“How is it possible that the needle hasn’t substantially moved in 4 years?”

“Since our company’s internal numbers look good, aren’t we being lumped in with all the low performers?”

“How can a committed organization jump-start their engagement performance?”

I recently reconnected with Gallup’s long-time research director, Dr. Jim Harter, to discuss these inevitable questions. And if you hope to earn an “A” in engagement when the next grading period comes, the following insights will be helpful.

There Has Been Some Improvement

At the start of October, 34% of American workers were fully engaged in their jobs. That’s an increase from 30% in 2013, which means an additional 7.2 million workers are now willing to put in discretionary effort in order to help their bosses and organizations succeed.

“I recognize this is a positive change,” says Harter, “but we’re not satisfied. Too many workplaces remain indifferent to committing to supporting employee’s basic needs and to leveraging that for higher performance.

Compared to the best practice organizations in the US – ones that have now reached 70% or higher engagement – I’m pretty critical of overall leadership.”

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Tethered To Our Devices, We Never Get The Break We Need

Posted by on Jan 29, 2017 in Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

It wasn’t until late September that I was able to take any vacation this year, and going that long without a
break had left me feeling exhausted – and needing real time away from all my day-to-day activities including all email, texts and social media.

But who can do that today? Most of us routinely respond to email during vacation. Some of us go so far as to call into the office and “check in,” or dial into conference calls out of obligation. Throughout my entire career, I did all of this. But this time, I genuinely wondered, “Can I get away and truly detach?”

With a large social media presence, I initially worried I’d disappoint my followers by going AWOL. But as I thought this through, I realized they’d likely be a far more supportive than many of my past bosses would have been.

To be honest, I was also terrified by the idea of putting my phone in the drawer for seven straight days. Apple’s data shows we check our devices at least 80 times a day, and I know I bring up the average. Irresistible author, Adam Alter, says we’ve grown so addicted to technology that the average email is now answered in just six seconds! In light of all this manic dependency, my private worry was that I lacked the discipline to take the break I really needed.

Nevertheless convinced that this experiment was worthwhile – and would prove highly fulfilling if I pulled it off – I sent a message to all my clients, friends and followers, and told them I was going full monty: “With your support, I’m heading to Lake Tahoe for some R & R, and you won’t hear from me for a week.”

I was encouraged that those who chose to respond were especially positive. No one sought to persuade me that I was breaking a social contract, or that my professional reputation would take a hit. In gratitude, I set off on my trip.

As you might imagine, it was beyond torturous to not check my phone the first morning I awoke at the lake. Pacing the cabin, I started fantasizing about the bounty of overnight tweets, news and messages I was missing out on. Had my wife not securely hidden my phone, there’s no question I would have buckled. At her insistence, however, I went out for a very long bike ride, and celebrated that evening for having successfully endured day one of my “vacation.”

You might think the second morning would have been easier, but it felt like Groundhog Day when I got up. I was surely feeling all the signs of having an addiction. But on this day, it would be nature – and not my wife – that would provide the distraction I needed to keep the seduction of my iPhone in check.

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