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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I’ll Be Loyal Boss, But You Go First

Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Employee Loyalty“Employee relationships with organizations are getting weaker which is why some people believe that company loyalty is dead.”

Matthew Bidwell
Wharton Management Professor

I believe we’ve reached a clear inflection point in American business.

Recent research from various sources puts us on warning that organizations have lost the strong bonds they’ve historically had with workers.  According to a recent Knowledge@Wharton article, employee loyalty is at risk of becoming a thing of the past.

There’s no question that the last four years of constrictive recession have been especially hard on people.  Spirits have been worn down by long-enduring sacrifices accompanied by limited rewards.  But also greatly eroded through these difficult years is the once thriving sense of connection most employees felt with their firms and, with their respective leaders.

Consider these statistics reported in the article, “Declining Employee Loyalty: A Casualty of the New Workplace” published in Time Magazine this month:

  • According to MetLife’s 10th annual survey of employee benefits, trends and attitudes, employee loyalty has fallen to a seven-year low.
  • A 2011 report revealed that three in every four full-time workers would leave their firm today if the right opportunity came along.
  • Other studies show the average company is experiencing 20% to 50% employee turnover each year.

It’s astonishing to me that there could be organizations entirely unfazed by these trends, and therefore less motivated to reassess their leadership practices and to effectively re-recruit their workers.  But according to Peter Capelli, head of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, the recessionary times actually have led some companies to permanently change their attitude toward workers.  Many now choose to see them as “short-term resources,” and easily replaceable, he said.

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Why We Lie On Our Résumés

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Yahoo CEO Opening“Yahoo hired him for what he’s done in the past five, ten years.  It doesn’t really matter for someone at this point in his career what he did at twenty-two.  He may have felt at some point in his career that he needed an extra something — and then he couldn’t get rid of it.”

                                              John Challenger
CEO, Challenger, Gray And Christmas

Just a few days ago, I got a call from the CEO of a local firm and was asked if I’d be interested in taking on a consulting project.   We set up a meeting the next morning and, after just an hour’s discussion, secured our agreement with a handshake.  It was the easiest job I’d ever won in my life.

As I was leaving, the CEO asked if I could put together a résumé and get it back to him the next day.  While it was clear I’d been hired based upon my professional experience and reputation, I fully understood the desire to properly document my appointment.

Just to emphasize the point, I already had the job before I set out to summarize my career experience and accomplishments.  So why did this activity make me feel in any way vulnerable?  Why did I have any concern at all that how this résumé turned out could in some way put my new deal at risk?

In answering those questions for myself, I concluded that a résumé is effectively an up-to-date report card for our respective work-lives.  We know it will be scrutinized and judged, and fervently want it to represent us in the very best of light. Perhaps at no other time are we so motivated to make ourselves look good.

It’s perhaps because of the pressure we feel in the moment of drafting a résumé that we’re tempted to embellish or outright lie in telling our story.    And this instinct, at all costs, must be resisted.

More directly, if you can envision being asked for your résumé at any time during the remainder of your career, you’d be wise to already have practiced the act of brushing off the devil-on-your-shoulder that would insist your honest achievements don’t otherwise measure up.  Disastrous outcomes almost inevitably befall untruthful applicants.

One highly publicized case in point is Scott Thompson, who last week was forced to resign his briefly held role as CEO of internet giant, Yahoo.  Thompson effectively, and needlessly, blew up his career by posting a computer science degree on his résumé that he had never actually earned.

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A Leadership Lesson From Howard Stern. Yes, that Howard Stern

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Howard Stern On America's Got Talent“Not every contestant can be wonderful.” “You’ve got to be up front with people.”
                                                Howard Stern

Until now, I’d never imagined writing a blog about radio’s shock jock, Howard Stern; nor did I ever expect we all might learn an important leadership lesson from him.

But Stern’s recent behavior while judging a TV talent competition offers a truly compelling example of effective leadership and, dare I say, of leading from the heart.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Howard Stern, he is a long-running talk-radio show host who’s built a reputation for doing very racy sketches and, quite often, saying highly controversial things.

And because Stern typically speaks his mind in a most unvarnished manner, many media pundits have predicted he will be an especially harsh new judge on America’s Got Talent.  Think Simon Cowell on steroids.

In the first show of the season, Stern is almost immediately put to the test.  A seven-year-old rap singer is one of the earliest performers and, let’s just say, he’s not yet all that good.

Stern isn’t quick to react, but inevitably decides he’s heard enough.  He pushes the “X” button in front of him which effectively ends the youngster’s hopes and dreams of going on further on the show.   Not surprisingly, the little guy is crushed by his unexpected dismissal and immediately begins to cry.

It’s in this moment that Stern defies his critics.  Instinctively, and without saying a word, he walks up on stage, gives the boy a hug, and calms him down.

I’ll come back to Stern’s act of admirable compassion in a moment.

Last Wednesday night, I tuned in to see the final four singers perform on American Idol.   At this point in the competition, of course, each of the remaining contestants is very, very good.  Nonetheless, one person will be given the heave-ho until a champion is crowned and only a slight singing imperfection in these final weeks likely will be the reason someone gets booted.

Noting that all three Idol judges, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, are highly experienced music industry experts, I fully expected them to parse out the differences among the four finalists and to help the voting audience discern which three performing artists deserved to survive another week.

But none of them really did.  While one singer truly bombed on one song — and the judges let her know it — generally, all four singers were lauded with what appeared to be equivalent praise.  In my opinion, the judges failed to do their job.

We have it in our minds that criticism stings and, as leaders, this makes us reluctant to give much of it.  But we’re missing a wonderful opportunity to help someone grow and to become more every time we avoid calling out a legitimate performance limitation.

It’s been my personal experience that leaders who identified my shortcomings did me an enormous favor.  Like you and most human beings alive, I’m a sensitive person who winces when my work is less favorably judged.  I honestly can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed hearing my boss tell me I could do better.  But knowing where to give one’s attention is the fastest route to self-improvement and mastery.

When my son was a high school freshman, he had an important paper to write – one which would have great weight in his final class grade.  After taking his first stab at the report, he asked me to review it for him.   It wasn’t good enough to submit and I told him directly.  But I also assured him I would help him write the best paper of his life if he would let me coach him.

It might surprise you that he re-worked that paper at least a dozen times before he turned it in.  Yes, he was exasperated by all the additional work, and I’m most certain he believed in the moment that I was setting the bar way too high.

But when he got the paper back, he learned the truth.  His teacher gave him an “A” and specifically told him that his quality of work wasn’t just what she expected, but also required in order to excel.  He learned a valuable lesson about life.

Here’s what I admire about Howard Stern and what I hope you’ll take away from all this.  Once he determined the young singer’s performance wasn’t yet at the level it needed to be, he chose to be very direct and honest.  But by demonstrating that he genuinely cared about the boy and his feelings, he left the kid’s spirit in tact.   Consequently, don’t be surprised to see this little guy back on the show next year – singing better than ever.    And he’ll have Howard Stern of all people to thank.

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7 Books That Will Change Your Life And Leadership

Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Several Books Stacked For ReacingSince the publication of my book, Lead From The Heart, last fall, I have written 49 blog posts.  This therefore, is number 50.

Since that number represents something special to me, I’ve been noodling over what would be a compelling topic for this milestone.  In the spirit of wanting to help you become even more exceptional as leaders, I’ve decided to share a list of seven books that fundamentally changed my life.  I pass on this list in the hopes and expectations that they will have a profound impact on your professional and personal lives as well.  If you choose to read any of these, I urge you to take notes and to commit yourself to integrating the key ideas into your daily life.  Each of these books is transformational.

The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Dr. Steven R. Covey
One of the most successful leadership books ever written, the Seven Habits is exceptional for it’s focus on personal success.   Expressions now hard-wired into our vernacular: “emotional bank account,” “private victories precede public victories”  “begin with the end in mind,” “think win-win” (and so many more) all were conceived by Covey.  Since I read this book in 1989, I’ve diligently followed his guidance for time management and task prioritization.  And Covey’s ideas around cooperation, seeking to understand others and synergizing, all are well aligned to the idea of leading others with a certain degree of heart.  Every leader alive should read this book.

How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb.
Arguably the greatest genius in man’s history, da Vinci is the “archetype of human potential.”   In the 16th Century, Giorgio Vasari wrote of Leonardo, “Heaven sometimes sends us beings who represent not humanity alone but divinity itself, so that taking them as our models and imitating them, our minds and the best of our intelligence may approach the highest celestial spheres. “ Gelb artfully lays out seven da Vincian life principles.  We’re inspired to adopt them all.

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The Sharp Drop-Off In Worker Happiness — And What Your Company Can Do About It

Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Worker Unhappy On The JobNote: This article was first published by Fast Company Magazine on April 30th, 2012.  It was the most read story on their website for the next entire week.

A friend of mine resigned his long-time bank management job this week to take early retirement. I learned about it on Facebook.

As I began reading his announcement, I fully expected it to be an animated recounting of all the new hobbies he planned to pursue and exotic trips he intended to take. But it quickly became clear that this was no ordinary farewell note. He was truly upset about ending his career prematurely and wanted everyone close to him to understand why.

It was painful to discover that my former colleague had grown profoundly disheartened by the way his organization’s leadership had been treating him. With over two decades of service behind him, he called it quits simply because he couldn’t take it anymore.

“I felt like no one cared about me as a person there, and finally decided to extricate myself from the grind. I know many of you feel the same way now in your jobs…trapped and unappreciated.”

There was a sense of relief in his words, as if I was reading about someone who had been imprisoned, found an escape route, and wanted to show others the way to freedom.

“You may not be able to retire quite yet like me, but please do yourself a favor and look for something more satisfying. It might take a while (it took me eight months once I made the decision), but it’s been so worth it. If you’re old like me, then think about early retirement. If you’re young, look for a more satisfying, fulfilling career path. Don’t let these companies drain off your sense of worth, pride, health, energy, honesty and ethics. Are you listening [XYZ Bank]*? Of course you’re not.”

I share his words as another illustration that our common approach to workplace leadership is failing. And experts have been trying to tell us this for years.

New York’s Conference Board, a century-old research firm, began studying employee satisfaction and engagement 25 years ago. Their work shows that worker happiness has fallen every year since–in good economic times and bad. Today, over half of American workers effectively hate their jobs.

But it’s the past four years that have brought employee discontent to new and highly charged levels.

“People were already unhappy, but the recession years have made things much worse,” says John Gibbons, formerly of the Conference Board and now Vice President of Research and Development at the Institute For Corporate Productivity. “Whether we realize it or not, workers have been under constant duress. Because of scarce resources, few opportunities for development and promotions–not to mention the fact that people often have been required to do the work of more than one person–a lot of our workforce is burnt out. Employees across the country feel overworked, under-rewarded and greatly unappreciated.”

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