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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The Greatest Obstacle To Leadership Greatness

Posted by on Sep 30, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Ego“It is the nature of the ego to take, and the nature of the spirit to share.”
                                           Proverbs

What’s the biggest obstacle that gets in the way of people and prevents them from becoming truly effective leaders?

Ken Blanchard, leadership guru and prolific author, is certain the answer is “ego.”
                                                                                                                                                      During a recent discussion he and I had for a magazine article I’m writing, Blanchard told me that there are two ego-related traits that take people out of their hearts and greatly undermine their true potential as leaders.

The first is “False Pride,” characteristic of someone who thinks mostly of themselves and is greatly self-promoting.  The second is “Self Doubt” or fear, where a leader thinks less of themselves than they should and is primarily motivated by self-protection.

According to Blanchard, leaders who are driven by their ego – whether it’s some form of false pride or self-doubt – are doomed to fail.  “Leaders cannot and will not succeed when their primary inclination is to be self-focused,” he says.   Leadership effectiveness is directly tied to one’s generosity of spirit, and to valuing the talents and differences in others.

For the past several years, Blanchard has been helping business students at the University of San Diego and Grand Canyon University (where the school of business bears his name) gain greater insight into their personal values, disposition, and to discover whether, deep-down, they have a true predilection for leading people.   Through numerous exercises of self-investigation, Blanchard’s program purposely leads students to answer this fundamental question: “Are you here to serve, or be served?’”

One of the most thought provoking activities of the curriculum Blanchard conducts is called an “Ego Anonymous” meeting – where students are required to stand up and publicly admit to some ego-driven, and thereby limiting, behavior.  By hearing the confessions of fellow students, it quickly becomes apparent how many ways the human ego can derail a leader in the minds and hearts of employees.

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Are You Prepared To Lead When Disaster Comes?

Posted by on Sep 23, 2012 in Leadership, Life Lessons |

Blowing Dry Flood Damage“It’s not how well you perform in your summers that will define your success in life, it’s how well you do in your winters.”
                                                      Jim Roan

Around 9:00 P.M. on Labor Day night, I headed back to my bedroom with a plan of doing a little reading before going to bed.

As I walked down the long hall, I had no idea that two-to-three hours earlier a connection had burst behind the bathroom toilet and hundreds of gallons of water already had gushed into the back half of the house.

Honestly, the sight of water pouring out of the pipe – imagine the pressure of a wide-open fire hydrant – was instantly stunning.

By this time of night, I already had grown tired; but my sudden change of fate required my sharpest attention and decision making.  At first, I felt entirely overwhelmed.

There’s a knob on the back of most toilets that serves to shut off the water in an emergency.  But once I’d turned it completely, the water continued its ferocious surge.   Greatly alarmed by this, as fast as I could, I ran outside to the front of the house, found the shut-off lever, and ended the flow.

Somehow during all this initial chaos, a thought crossed my mind that I was being tested.  Honestly, a voice inside of me was challenging me: “What’s the best possible way for me to respond to this crisis and leverage all I have learned about life and leadership?”   I’m not kidding.  And also quite truthfully, what that voice had to say was inspiring to me.   With water rapidly seeping through walls, putting antiques and other prized possessions at risk, I found myself determined to respond swiftly and maturely, and to achieve the best possible outcome.

I’d like to share some of the key steps that we followed with the hope they can help you when life’s inevitable disaster comes your way.   Just sixteen days after the pipe burst, our house was fully dried; walls were removed and replaced, and virtually the entire house re-carpeted and re-painted.   That voice in my head played a huge role in getting the crisis resolved.

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Be Direct In Your Communications And Excel As A Leader

Posted by on Sep 16, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Directness

“There is no wisdom like frankness.”
                 Benjamin Disraeli

As an English literature major in college, my professors routinely asked me to write several-pages-long analyses of books they earlier had assigned me to read.  The goal of these assignments, of course, was to discover whether I fully understood the material and could effectively articulate every imbedded nuance.

While my undergraduate training definitely taught me to think analytically (appropriate time for a shout out to my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego), I painfully discovered after graduation that it had rather poorly prepared me to succeed in the business world.

In one of many examples of missteps I made as a young manager, I remember submitting a multi-page, single-spaced business proposal to my organization’s Marketing Director.  To this day, the most direct human being I’ve ever known, he refused to read it even though I’d spent hours working on it and was passionate about its content.

In working for this gentleman over the next several years, I chose to model his direct style in communicating.

I learned to be concise, candid and unambiguous in both my written and spoken word.  Doing this not only ensured my future proposals got read and approved, it helped me become a much more effective leader.  This is because directness not only is prized in the business world, it’s essential.

What I learned about being direct is that people appreciate it.  They know where they stand, understand what’s expected and waste little time trying to read into things you say.  How much time have we all spent worrying about what our boss thinks of us or meant by some offhand comment?

As I grew more experienced as a leader, I realized that by making myself very clear with people, they wasted little energy being concerned like this.  They routinely knew where they stood.  And because my employees far more consistently met or even exceeded my expectations, they very often heard me tell them how much I valued and appreciated them – and was grateful for having them on my team.  I made a point to be very direct in this kind of feedback, too.

Remembering that the hearts in people are sensitive, I’ve always had to remember that being direct can also destroy feelings.  On the day my boss refused to read my proposal, he could have chosen to acknowledge my effort, initiative and inexperience, and taken the time to show me how he’d like to see the next version.  I most definitely was dispirited by his terse response, and made a point thereafter to make sure my own directness never was perceived as being jerky or even disrespectful.  Being concerned about employee feelings, I’m absolutely certain, is what distinguishes a great boss from a merely good one.

In his own way, my former boss did try to teach me and, many years ago gave the following advice from some anonymous author who understood the value of keeping communication simple.   It’s worth remembering:

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Four Great Examples Of How Starbuck’s Howard Schultz Leads From The Heart

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

Starbucks' Howard Schultz“Some people say, ‘Come on, markets are not about morals, they’re about profits.” I say that is old thinking.  That’s a false choice.  The great companies will be the ones that find a way to have and hold on to their values while chasing profits, and brand value will converge to create a new business model that unites commerce and compassion.  The heart and the wallet… The great companies will be sharp to success and at the same time sensitive to the idea that you can’t measure the true success of a company on a spreadsheet.”
                                                 U2 Lead Singer, Bono

Few leaders in business inspire me as much as Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz.

As the head of a forty-year-old iconic organization he’s grown to nearly 18,000 worldwide stores and 150,000 employees, he not only demonstrates what it means to lead from the heart – he personifies it.

By intentionally managing with both his mind and heart, Shultz most certainly remains an anomaly amongst business CEOs.  That most leaders continue to let the mind alone do their bidding has everything to do with the way they likely were taught.   Virtually all of us have been imbued with the idea that the mind is the highest form of intelligence possible – especially when it comes to managing in a business environment.  We’ve been groomed to be intellectual, to subordinate feeling and to purposely marginalize our hearts.

In light of this, I’d like to give you four great examples of how Schultz thinks differently, acts differently and achieves differently.  His beliefs about the heart in leadership offer a profound contrast to standard operating procedures.  And the remarkable and sustained performance he’s attained, I believe, soon will usher in emulators – people in leadership roles who will seek to maximize their own employees’ engagement and productivity by adopting his inspired managerial practices.

1.    Poisoned Like Chiron

As a teenager, Schultz came home one day to find his father laid-up on the couch.  While delivering diapers on a cold Brooklyn day, he’d slipped on the ice and broken his hip and leg.  Without being given any severance or shown any genuine concern or support by his employer, Schultz’s father was fired on the spot.

In Greek mythology, there’s the story of Chiron, a centaur who was deeply wounded by a poisoned arrow and needed healing.  We learn from the tale that the toxins Chiron carried with him for the rest of his life served as a stimulant to make him more sensitive, tolerant, and understanding to the experience of others.  According to author, Paul Pearsall, almost every great leader in history has his own Chironic poisoning that contributed to their extraordinary accomplishments.

It’s clear that by seeing how his own father had been treated by his boss that Schultz was influenced to regard his own workers far differently and more compassionately.   As a result of this experience, expressing his concern for the well-being of his employees became a life long practice.  That inclination to care for people, and to give sincere consideration to how all managerial decisions and actions affect them, comes directly from the man’s heart.

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Help Another To The Top Of The Mountain And You Arrive There Too.

Posted by on Sep 3, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Giving A Hand To Someone Climbing Up A Mountain

“When you have a wit of your own, it’s a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.”
                                                Criss Jami

Very recently, I learned that content from my book had been plagiarized.

In a blog ironically titled, Lead From The Heart, a well-known leadership consultant in the Twittersphere – someone with a very large following – liberally and literally cited my work.  The only problem was that the ideas weren’t attributed to me.

I’ll be honest; it felt like a punch in the gut to see original concepts and expressions I worked several years to produce be purloined by a peer.  As you might imagine, I was immediately filled with anger and I also had enormous feelings of disbelief.

Via back-and-forth e-mailing, the blogger quickly agreed to remove the post.   While I was very grateful for this action, I requested that the piece be revised so that my work could be properly credited.  I wasn’t seeking a mea culpa or any kind of public shaming.  But noting that the blog already had been sent out to hundreds of thousands of people, I felt it fair that the wrong be made right.  Because enough time now has gone by, however, it now seems entirely unlikely my request will be fulfilled.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks on vacation where I had lots of time to think about this.  The big question I kept asking myself was, “Why would someone in a leadership role be so reluctant to give credit to someone else, especially when the ideas were inherently supportive of her own?”

I think I have a big part of the answer and it offers great insight to anyone who aspires to becoming a truly exceptional leader.

Poverty Consciousness

As I wrote in my book, it’s been my experience throughout my twenty-five-year career that too many leaders “go to work every day fearing for their jobs and influenced to neglect or even disregard the needs of others.  It’s an underlying type of energy and rhetoric that pervades a lot of companies and influences leaders to compete – and not to support the success of the very people they lead.  In it’s worst manifestation, these leaders become cut-throat and entirely self-serving because they have a feeling of lack that says, ‘I have to be this way to survive.’  At the root of this fear is the pervasive belief that we live in world where everything is limited – a world where if another person’s light grows brighter, theirs must naturally and equivalently grow dimmer.  It’s a feeling of scarcity – an entrenched conviction that there is never enough to go around – and it leads people to concluding, ‘Every man for himself.’”

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