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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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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