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
MARK C. CROWLEY
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Aim High!

Posted by on Feb 27, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

 Goldfish Jumping Into Larger BowlHigh achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
     American inventor, Charles F. Kettering

Occasionally when I’m writing my blog posts, I feel compelled to re-state what may not always be obvious: the idea of Leading From The Heart is anything but a touchy-feely leadership approach.

Instead, the premise is this:  If you are extremely vigilant in selecting the most talented and ideally suited employees, understand and fully support their career and growth ambitions, and routinely honor their efforts and achievements – you will have a highly motivated and capable team on your hands.

Even better, you will have a team of people who are collectively capable of accomplishing extraordinary things.  So when you Lead From The Heart, you inherently prepare your team to aim very high with respect to the goals and expectations you set.

Let me illustrate.

Several years ago when I was a Retail Banking Regional Manager overseeing 26 bank branches, our company used a modified profit and loss statement to measure branch effectiveness. Branches earned revenue for the products they sold (e.g. loans, checking accounts etc.) and were charged for their payroll.  “Net profit” was the bottom-line measure.

One November, the bank informed Regional Managers that the coming year’s monthly net profit goal would be $10,000.  This was a target many branches would struggle to meet.

In December, I took my management team on a retreat and announced the New Year’s target of $10,000 while insisting that we should aim higher.  Now, no one ever wants their goals raised beyond what their company sets for them, but I appealed to my team’s skill and motivation in challenging them to shoot for $14,000 – 40% beyond what the rest of the company was targeting!

I asked them to return to their branches and build a plan (that I would review and approve) that would get each of their teams to at least $14,000 in monthly profit.

To be honest, some of the managers bristled at my higher ambitions.  But every one of them soon returned with a plan – that they believed was achievable – which would result in meeting the higher target.  Several of them told me that once they played with the numbers and saw what it would take to hit $14,000, their own beliefs of what was achievable changed.

Keeping in mind that the managers benefited through pay and other rewards for their higher-than-average performance, they were ecstatic when January’s regional net income average exceeded $17,000.  Comparatively, the company average that month came in well under the $10,000 target.

As the year went on, many of the managers raised their own expectations of themselves and of their own teams, and set increasingly higher goals.  Some branches soon were hitting $20,000 in net profit on a monthly basis – and this region went on to lead the entire bank of nearly 4,000 branches for the next three consecutive years.

I wrote extensively about this team in Lead From The Heart and my experience with them taught me this:

When I cared deeply about them, found every way possible to foster their growth and development and routinely expressed genuine gratitude for the work they did, extraordinary performance was my reward as their leader.

The Lead From The Heart bottom-line: When you as the leader believe in and follow through on the things that help your employees thrive, they will naturally and instinctively excel.

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To Give Is To Get

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 1 comment

Roads Leading To Success And FailureA leadership development consultant my company hired several years back had an interesting theory.

It was her contention that people who hold similar or identical positions tend to be the best judges of our strengths and weaknesses.

She explained that as humans, we’re naturally inclined to attune our behavior with those whom we observe to be more effective.  And since we’re always observing the actions of people who do the same work we do, we become quite effective at identifying the limiting behavior in peers as well.

To test her theory, she assembled 20 people – all senior-level financial services executives – and asked us to express what we perceived to be one another’s greatest managerial skill and most undermining shortcoming.

All of this was accomplished anonymously.   We were handed small pieces of paper and directed to separately write down a plus and a minus for each person.

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The Greatest Recognition I’ve Ever Received

Posted by on Feb 16, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

TriumphEarly in my career, I was asked to conduct a pilot. A consultant recommended that my bank experiment with outbound telemarketing and I was selected to lead the effort.

Neither the bank nor I had any experience in selling bank products by phone and management was skeptical that we could make a venture like this profitable.  Consequently, I was given just three months to demonstrate it could work.

By the end of our test period, we discovered that selling bank products by phone was actually a good idea.  But because outbound telephone solicitation had such low conversion rates, and also proved quite expensive, I suggested we begin promoting a toll-free number and sell to people who were already attracted to our products and promotions.

The idea of building a direct response center was entirely new in our industry at that time, and we were immediately successful.  In rapid succession, we made virtually every bank product available through our center and drove amazing – and profitable – business.

The bank, of course, was thrilled by all we accomplished, and did something extraordinary to reward it.  They sent me on a week-long trip to Switzerland!

This was my first trip to Europe and it was all exquisitely planned.  Along with 29 other managers also being feted, we stayed in a historic hotel, skied in the Alps, traveled into Germany’s Black Forest, feasted on gourmet meals and experienced authentic Swiss culture.  It was a trip of a life-time!

If you’ve already jumped to the conclusion that this was the greatest recognition I’ve ever received, you’ll be surprised by what I have to share with you.  As wonderful as this trip was, all the indulgences of our seven days there don’t hold a candle to a gesture that cost nothing – but affected me so deeply it inspired me to perform at even higher levels when I returned to work.

Here’s the greatest and most powerful recognition I’ve ever received.

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Effectively Responding To Problems Strengthens You As A Leader

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

Woman Executive Pondering Her Problem Solutions

My father set an insane example for how to effectively respond to problems in life.

For starters, he had no scale.  Every setback, minor or major, instantly upended him.  He became visibly and vocally upset whenever he hit a bad golf shot, needed a pair of pliers and couldn’t find them, or when I came home with less than stellar grades.

The expressions “flew off the handle” “gone mad” and “hit the roof” were coined by my siblings to describe his reaction to the smallest of life’s delays, interruptions and obstacles.

While I didn’t realize it at the time, I went into the workforce and leadership very poorly prepared to deal with problems that inevitably surfaced.

My father’s irrationality influenced me to feel embarrassed when problems occurred and drove me to find the quickest (and not necessarily the best) possible resolutions.  I’d been unwittingly conditioned to seek perfection at all times and to take difficulties personally – as if they were all a reflection on me and on my abilities.

Gratefully, it wasn’t long before I realized I’d been badly mentored.

Seeing me anguish over some minor, but to me a seemingly monumental issue, a thoughtful manager told me directly:  “It’s a complete fantasy to believe you won’t have problems from time-to-time.  Most importantly, the leaders who make the best of their challenges are the ones who rise to the top.”

This guidance both relieved me and inspired me.  I understood that I wasn’t on the hook for every problem that came my way.  But I also became motivated to learn more effective ways of responding to the snags, hitches, and complications I would inevitably face.

Through personal experience, and by modeling the performance of other leaders I admired, I came to see that there are five essential steps to problem resolution in the workplace.  Follow this unique process to distinguish yourself as a truly intelligent, mature and thoughtful leader: 

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The Incredible Effects Of Your Handshake

Posted by on Feb 9, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

A Caring Handshake “Touch seems to be as essential as sunshine.”  

Author, Diane Ackerman

If I died tomorrow and could leave society my most valuable insight into 21st Century leadership effectiveness it would have to be this:  Always remember the people you manage are first and foremost human beings. 

The big winners in this new era will be leaders who create a sense of well being in people – resulting in happier, much more engaged and productive employees.

In Lead From The Heart and many previous blogs, I’ve detailed the leadership practices which have the most positive effects on people and therefore on work achievements.  These include building a more personal relationship with employees, proactively developing them, and routinely honoring their achievements.

According to UC Berkeley Psychology Professor, Dacher Keltner, we have an entirely new practice to add to the list – touching.

(If you’re feeling skeptical at this moment, suspend your disbelief  and read on).

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