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
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These Days, We’re All Disgruntled Workers

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership |

Unhappy Workers Readying To Quit

The average Goldman Sachs employee earns in excess of $350,000 per year, and we’re assured Greg Smith, who most visibly quit his job there last week, was paid substantially more.

And, in leaving his long-time employer, Smith didn’t abandon just a fat salary. To regain his career freedom, he knowingly forfeited a considerable sum in deferred compensation as well.

Most people in the world, of course, can only dream of being so highly paid for their work, so it’s a good assumption that a very large percentage of the working population has summarily judged Smith’s resignation as an act of complete insanity.

If they could coach him, they would say: “Go back to Goldman, Greg!  You have a terrific deal!  Subordinate your concerns about a declining corporate culture and profit-at-any-cost leadership. You have a penthouse to go home to at night!”

But this scenario is a complete fantasy. Regardless how little or much they are making, U.S. workers have begun to quit their jobs – in droves – to go in search of organizations, and leaders, they feel will better support their needs. As Smith’s actions show us, pay no longer is the driver of engagement or job satisfaction it once was.

Last year, a MetLife study published in USA Today showed that at least one in three U.S. workers was quietly planning their departure and already had begun looking for a new job. Stunningly, the report noted that most bosses were oblivious to how unhappy and inherently disengaged their employees had become, and would be caught flat-footed when their workers walked out.

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Why Leaders Owe Greg Smith A Debt Of Gratitude

Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership | 0 comments


Goldman Sachs' Greg Smith

Goldman Sachs' Greg Smith

There is something in the pang of change.
More than the heart can bear,
Unhappiness remembering happiness.


Just one day after Goldman Sachs’ employee, Greg Smith, quit his job last week, more than three million people had read his über-public resignation letter published as an editorial in the New York Times.

In light of the financial meltdown and all the pain it caused, it’s certain many readers sought to confirm suspicions that Wall Street long has been driven by greed at the expense of the public’s interest.

Smith alleges as much saying that during sales meetings, “not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients.  It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them.”  Pointedly, Smith reveals that his former colleagues routinely and callously discussed ways of “ripping their clients off.”

But there is something in the way the thirty-two-year-old Smith quit his job – and the only organization for which he’d ever worked since becoming a college intern – that appears to be piquing an even greater amount of our interest.

In order to preserve future career options, virtually all workers go to great lengths to make their exits as amicable as possible.  So, how are we to reconcile the wild and seemingly irrational behavior of this intelligent and well-educated Mr. Smith?  He must know what we do – that his career on Wall Street (at thirty-two!) is over.  He’s burned a bridge with every investment bank operating in the world today.

Some are predicting that Smith has a book deal or some other imminent and exploitive way of earning a big payday for quitting so publicly and dramatically.  Time will tell.

I’m not as cynical in my interpretation of Smith’s motivations and believe he’ll soon prove to be an honorable and courageous whistle blower, someone who cares very deeply about Goldman Sachs (even if he can no longer stay) and genuinely wants it to recover the values it once stood for – before it’s too late.

A former long-term and senior Goldman Sachs employee told me last week he also believes his old company is not what it once was.  “The values of caring for customers over profits always ranked highest,” he insisted.

I detected a sense of wistfulness in his remark – an indication that he still carries a deep fondness for his alma mater and wished what Smith had written wasn’t true.

According to my friend, Goldman Sachs once had a truly sterling culture, one that equivalently esteemed all constituencies: clients, employees and the organization’s profit.  “The word ‘employee’ was even seen as a pejorative,” he said.  “Engagement was so high that no one wanted to think of themselves as just an employee.  We were all wedded to the firm.”

What both my friend and Smith were clear on is that Goldman Sachs leadership team somehow has strayed from their original gold-standard values and has inherently changed for the worse.  Smith described the firm as once having the driving ideals of “teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility and always doing right by clients.”  He believed “this culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our client’s trust for 143 years.”

As an explanation for his resignation, he said “I am sad to say I look around and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years.  I no longer have the pride or the belief.”

While Goldman Sachs’ CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, and President, Gary D. Cohn defensively chose to characterize Mr. Smith as “disgruntled” and attempted to further discredit him by referring to him as just one of “12,000 Vice Presidents” amongst the firm’s 30,000 employees, the organization should instead be thanking him.

Goldman Sachs’ profit-at-any-cost mentality has been put under an unflattering spotlight and Smith’s high-octane exit likely will become the catalyst for positive and needed change.  Should Goldman Sachs act swiftly and authentically to this end, in fact, they’re very likely to retain clients and employees – and thrive for the foreseeable future.

But leaders across American business should also thank Greg Smith for resigning in such a visible way.  That’s because Smith has called attention to a major shift in what people need in order to thrive and be fully engaged in their jobs.  Pay alone – even very high pay like Smith earned – no longer can be counted on to drive employee commitment and loyalty.

What many leaders haven’t noticed is that the needs of all workers have radically changed.  The evidence of this is that millions of people have begun to walk away from their jobs, even though 12 million people still are unemployed and jobs remain scarce, because those needs are not being met.

The payroll company, ADP, reported that more people quit jobs in February than in any month since the Great Recession began.  And numerous studies predict that at least one-in-three US workers are actively seeking a new job.  Most of this discontent is because people have lost faith in the leaders for whom they work.

Employee engagement research produced by New York’s Conference Board shows that workers (human beings) now have five critical needs that must be met before they can fully put their hearts into work.  People want to contribute to the success of an organization they respect, work for a trustworthy, caring and empowering boss, have opportunities to grow and develop, be given reasonable job variety, and have their efforts recognized and valued.

And, all across the world, these matter more to people than pay.

In a highly public way, Greg Smith has shown that what people require in order to be inspired and fully committed in their jobs has irreversibly changed.  Pay, in all of its forms, no longer will inspire commitment and engagement as it once had.  Twenty-first century employees are seeking to find fulfillment and purpose through their work – a truly monumental shift in values.

For leaders to succeed, therefore, they must change (and rapidly) by adopting practices that support these higher human needs – in every employee they manage.

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Digital Pats On The Back Can’t Replace Authentic Recognition

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership | 0 comments

Rypple's pledge to be the best way of extending employee recognitionA recent CNN Money article titled, “A digital pat on the back from the boss: What’s it worth? “ is a great reminder that organizations across America continue to lead from their heads without fully consulting their hearts.

Let’s start with the problem business is trying to solve: A year-end 2011 study conducted by employment agency, Randstad revealed that 47% of all US workers plan to test the job market in 2012.  Other surveys have shown the number to be as high as 70%.

The prospects of losing half or more of their staff has business leaders fearful, especially given their conviction that the employees most likely to bolt will be their most valuable, high-achieving “go-getters,” rather than more “complacent employees” expected to “sit tight.”   (That business leaders spend their time handicapping which workers will leave is definitely part of the problem here).

Companies have gotten smart and have implemented employee surveys to diagnose the primary reasons anyone would be influenced to seek greener pastures.  In response to all they learned, many firms have chosen to double-down on recognition efforts.  “Often, feeling valued and recognized is considered more valuable than raises on staff satisfaction polls,” said one researcher.

This last sentence is, indeed, spot on, and organizations that authentically choose to do more to honor and acknowledge workers most certainly will limit their turnover.

But according to the article, many companies see themselves – and their leaders – as being “too busy for face-to-face recognition” and have turned to using recognition software to valdidate, encourage and retain the best workers.

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Employees Know Your Leadership Shortcomings

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

Identifying A Leader's ShortcomingsWhenever I’m speaking to a large business group, I ask everyone to play a made-up game we call, “We Know That Boss!”

In my most exaggerated game-show announcer voice, (think Family Feud) I call out a few characteristics of a particularly onerous manager, and then quiz the audience to see if they ‘ve ever worked for someone like that (and, therefore, “know that boss”).

Here’s a sample:

“I enforce routines.”

“I can’t delegate responsibility.”

“I monitor everything you do.” 

“I’m a                             Manager.”

If you quickly guessed the word “Micro” as the answer to this one, you’re like every single person ever to have played the game.

Here’s another:

“I need to control you and your work.”

“I constantly intimidate you and keep the pressure high.”

“I manage by (a) Love (b) Fear (c) Hugs?”

I’ll give you automatic credit for the correct answer to this one, too.

What amazes me every time we play this game is that the audience never sees these descriptions as being overly dramatized or cliché.   Instead, many people are desperate to tell me during and after each speech that they work for someone exactly like that right now.

I saw a close friend recently and asked her how she enjoyed working for her boss.  Yikes!  She described her manager as someone who never delegates meatier assignments and projects – and takes them on herself in order to receive the direct praise from her boss.  Call that one a “glory hog!”

I asked my friend if her manager’s boss was any better.   She described him – someone very senior in her organization – as one who kept his subordinates under constant pressure to perform.  She said his attempts at employee recognition always rings hollow because he can’t resist reminding workers what challenges and goals await them next.  He won’t allow people a single moment to truly savor an accomplishment and re-charge their batteries.

There are a few things to draw from all this.

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