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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Uniting Spirituality And Leadership For The Sake Of Employee Engagement

Posted by on Apr 4, 2013 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

The Human HeartThe word spiritual, not the word religious, is the key.”

                                                      Clarence Clemons

One of my son’s closest friends started following me on Twitter recently, and after reading my tweets for a couple of weeks, sent along an e-mail summarizing his initial observations:

“Your dad is like a Twitter God.  He’s practically a leadership religious leader or something!

Admittedly, when I read the e-mail myself, I thought it was pretty cool that anyone would perceive me as being a “Twitter God!”  But it was the “religious leader” part of the comment that held my attention the longest.  Honestly, I’ve never sought to be seen as a “religious” leader, nor do I have any of the requisite background that would qualify me to be one.

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I’m a recent author, but that I also spent two-plus decades as a senior-level executive in the financial services industry.  I’m a business leader, people!  “How is it possible that anyone could think otherwise?”

Well, it turns out I may be sending mixed messages.  Tweets I send routinely use words like “compassion,” “kindness” and “empathy.”  My book is even called “Lead From The Heart!  I have to admit, to a first time tweet reader, I probably sound more like the Dalai Lama than any well-known Fortune 500 CEO.

But I’m not going soft with these tweets, I can assure you.  What I’ve discovered is that many words traditionally heard in a spiritual context are characteristics of the most successful and influential business leaders today.  You simply can no longer be effective in motivating human beings in any workplace if you lack qualities like thoughtfulness, generosity and sincerity.

We know today that a huge percentage of the American workforce is distressed beyond imagination about their jobs, bosses and organizations.  Revealing just how badly people are being managed and led, one new study showed that at 42% of US companies, the best employees are the least engaged.  This means that in 4 of every 10 organizations, leaders have essentially lost the support of every worker.

A big part of the reason so many people have grown so disconsolate in their jobs, is because they too often feel undervalued and unappreciated.  “No one cares about me or what I contribute here,” summarizes much of distress.  What I know to be true is that the human need to feel significant, and to know one’s work matters, are both deeply spiritual.  And the wisest leaders in business today not only know this, they demonstrate through their presence that people are unequivocally essential to the success of their organization.

My main thesis is that feelings and emotions drive human performance and, therefore, leaders who make people feel – in their core – that their organization would be fully deficient were they not there, will be the big winners in the 21st Century.

Here are three “spiritual” ways you as a leader can ensure employees feel this highly valued:

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How Developing Self-Awareness Will Make You A Fabulous Leader

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Quiet Book Cover“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.
                                                        Carl Jung            

I recently learned that the leadership-training curriculum at Google places a heavy emphasis on self-awareness building.

The thinking, of course, is that managers can only become effective influencers of others once they’re fully mindful of their own strengths and limitations.

Google’s objective is to produce leaders who have profound self-knowledge along with the clear and humble understanding that whatever motivates their performance won’t always match up to the styles and inclinations of every employee.  Self-discovery, therefore, leads to a greater appreciation for people – and a compassion for all their varying personalities, behaviors and approaches to work.

I can spot genius when I see it and Google’s insight is profound.  I’ve known for years that my greatest leaps in leadership effectiveness came after I’d discovered some belief, practice or peccadillo that had unwittingly limited my success.  Too often, and to my regret, these epiphanies occurred only after I’d blown an assignment or an interaction with a colleague.

If your organization hasn’t yet devoted itself to helping you identify the components of your greatness, or the behaviors that might one day derail you, I urge you to find every way possible of discovering them on your own.  In this regard, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you:

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The Unintended Consequences Of A Leader’s Lack Of Trust

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

trust

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
                                                      Peter Drucker

As many of you know, I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of the analytics software giant, SAS Institute.

I spent a day at the company’s North Carolina headquarters, and then returned home to write an article that described many of the key reasons the firm recently was named the “Best Company To Work For” – in the world.

But here I am, less than two weeks later, wanting to tell you more about SAS – and a masterful leadership insight I picked up from Goodnight that many of the greatest minds in business routinely overlook:

If your objective is to build extreme employee engagement, and to inspire your people to contribute to your firm as if they owned it, you must first create – and then vigilantly sustain – a culture of trust.

Said another way, the reason SAS experiences less than three percent annual turnover, and has had 37 consecutive years of record earnings, is because its management fully understands that by giving people its trust, they earn a profound payback. When employees know they are trusted, they take initiative; they put their hearts into their work. They more willingly take the risks that lead to breakthrough innovation.

But here’s the rub. Plenty of otherwise intelligent leaders in business come from an entirely different perspective and believe that employee productivity is better driven by strict rules and internal competition. As you’ll soon see in the following three real-world examples, in the absence of trust, neither employees nor organizations can ever fully flourish:

  1. When James Corcoran was hired as the President of Retail Banking at Washington Mutual Bank (now owned by Chase), he quickly determined that the firm needed greater discipline in how it evaluated business decisions.

    Corcoran soon introduced a tool he called a “four square,” and informed his staff that any time they sought his approval on a proposal going forward, they were required to present their business case on a single sheet of paper – delineated into four equally sized boxes.

    Corcoran was very clear. Each box on the “four square” had a specific purpose and he expected his rules to be followed. A summary of the proposal always went into the top left corner box, and the financial analysis always in the bottom right. Everything had its place.

    But where things went awry was when Corcoran was displeased with the content provided in a “four square.” He very often sent managers away, without rendering a decision, until they returned with a more satisfactory presentation. He did this even when he had sufficient data to make his call.

    To be clear, Corcoran cannot be faulted for instituting a more formal and consistent decision making methodology at WaMu. This decision proved to serve him and the organization well. But by insisting on absolute perfection in every form he reviewed, people began spending disproportionate time producing faultless “four squares.” And in order to avoid hearing Corcoran harshly voice his rejection, some employees grew to fear bringing him new ideas and proposals altogether.

  2. As recently reported in Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine, Dish Network founder and Chairman, Charlie Ergan, may be the single worst executive in America when it comes to establishing and nurturing organizational trust. According to writer, Caleb Hannan, the list of trust-destroying practices Ergan employs is virtually endless. Here are just a few.

    • To ensure people arrive for work on time, he installed fingerprint readers at every entrance. Now, any time a worker comes in after 9:00 am, an e-mail is sent to both Human Resources and the person’s supervisor. Sometimes, Ergan himself is copied.

    • Up until very recently, every check coming out of the company’s headquarters had to be signed by Ergan. Even today, trusting none of his senior managers to act in the best interests of the organization, he still signs all checks over $100,000.

    • Despite having over 100 full-time employees paid to research “reams of customer data” and decide how much to charge for satellite service, Ergan recently dismissed their endless hours of collective work, and unilaterally chose the final price by himself.

    According to Breen, current and past Dish Network employees describe an Ergen-created culture as one of “condescension and distrust.” Turnover at the firm is predictably high.

  3. An August 2012, Vanity Fair Magazine article titled “Microsoft’s Lost Decade,” revealed that CEO, Steve Ballmer, effectively destroyed organizational trust when he introduced an employee evaluation process called “stack ranking.”

    According to writer, Kurt Eichenwald, Ballmer launched a review system predicated on the idea that only a small number of employees should ever be graded highly.

    Imagine you’re a Microsoft worker assigned to a team of nine other highly talented and qualified people. In Ballmer’s bell-curve methodology, only two members on your team could ever receive a great evaluation – no matter how well you and your colleagues perform.

    The system required that seven employees would always receive a mediocre review, and one person a terrible one. People on the bottom often lost their jobs as a result.

    It’s stunning to think that one of the world’s largest companies, one with extreme competition for talent from the likes of Apple and Google, wouldn’t seek to design an evaluation process that inspired every employee to excel and share in the firm’s success. Instead, here are the predictable, albeit unintended, consequences the firm inevitably suffered:

  • Top employees did everything they could to avoid working with other superstars out of fear of getting hurt in the rankings.

  • While employees sought to do a good job, they worked equally hard to sabotage the performance of colleagues. This all but crippled cooperation and collaboration.

  • Because reviews occurred every six months, people focused on short-term performance rather than the long-term innovation that would greatly benefit of the firm.

Conclusion:
I’ve come to be certain that no organization can fully succeed and thrive in the 21st Century without first displaying the highest regard and affection for all of its employees.  Human engagement is greatest, therefore, when people feel valued, important and trusted.

Because of this, it’s time we all agreed to push the human race forward and change how we manage people in the workplace.  Our ambition now as leaders must be to improve lives, mitigate fears and make people feel strong.  Anything less diminishes us all.

Building a culture of trust remains the road less traveled in business today.  But organizations like SAS are proving it’s the superhighway to organizational excellence.

Know that we’re extremely grateful when you share these blogs with friends and colleagues via all social media.  We want to make a difference and this is how you can help.  If you would like to receive Mark’s articles and updates directly, we invite you to join his tribe (no personal info is ever shared).

PPS: If you haven’t already read my Fast Company Magazine article about SAS and would like to, here’s the link: http://buff.ly/YlC3Vo 

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The Profound Lesson Cows Can Teach Us About Leading People

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Brown CowAfter working out this morning at my gym, I walked into the locker room and overheard one of my friends, Joe, tell another exerciser that he’d grown up on a dairy farm.

Instinctively recalling a New York Times article that reported, “Cows, when given names, produce six percent more milk,” I inserted myself into the conversation and asked Joe if he’d been inclined to name all his cows.

“Yes, I was!” said the seventy-five-year-old urologist.  “As a kid, I had a name for all the animals on the farm, and I tried to make friends with each and every one of them.”

“But my dad had a different opinion on that,” Joe said in an immediate change of tone.  “He attempted at a very early age to teach me to avoid making emotional connections like that with our animals.  One night, he took my pet rabbit, Freddy, and insisted my mother cook it for dinner.  Sitting at the dinner table, I had tears coming down my face as my father insisted how delicious Freddy tasted.”

This brief interchange was startling to me, of course, and it ended as quickly as Joe packed his gear and headed home.  But there was no question in my mind that Joe’s sudden recollection was nearly as painful today as it had been sixty years ago when the experience originally occurred.

While this story is indeed horrifying – and who today wouldn’t judge Joe’s dad as having been an extremely cruel and careless parent? – the lesson he very purposely sought to instill in his young son is much the same as we’ve all long been taught:  Keep your heart out of business.

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4 Simple And Powerful Ways To Build Your Team’s Confidence And Rule The World

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

Confidence“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.  If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.  On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
                                        Mahatma Gandhi

As those of you who have read Lead From The Heart already know, throughout my entire childhood, I had the perverse experience of routinely being told I would end up a failure in life.

Through repeated and profoundly destructive interactions with my father, I was taught to believe that I fundamentally lacked.

My father’s influence, of course, had the effect of deeply undermining my self-confidence.  It made me doubt my capabilities and talents, and fearfully approach most new things.

How I overcame my great deficiency in self-belief had much to do with other people who came into my life – friends, teachers and coaches – who saw things differently and made a distinct point of insisting that I actually had much to offer.   In the context of all I was hearing at home, these words of encouragement gave me far more empowering views of myself, ones that inspired me to reach, to pursue greater challenges and to overcome my feelings of inadequacy.

When I later entered business and first became a manager of people, I made a surprising observation: the far majority of employees working for me had self-defeating doubts about how talented and capable they truly were.   Many consistently underestimated their full human potential.

Guessing that few of them had anything close to the upbringing I had – and that their parents likely did all they could to build up their self-esteem – I soon came to understand that fear and doubt are a part of the human condition.

In a peculiar way, I also realized I’d been groomed to help people transcend their unfounded limitations.  I knew instinctively that if I took on the role of being my teams’ chief confidence builder, great achievements would assuredly follow.  And, they did.

What I know for certain is that people have far greater potential than they often see in themselves.  Leaders who not only understand this, but seek out ways to draw it out, will be the ones who will rule the world.

If you’d like to get started building up the confidence of your team, here are four great ways to get started:

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Ken Blanchard: A Premier Leadership Mind Turns To The Heart

Posted by on Dec 2, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Leadership Sage, Ken Blanchard

Leadership Sage, Ken Blanchard

On a crisp and sunny afternoon at his cabin on Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, internationally-renown business leadership expert, Ken Blanchard, surprises me by taking frequent and sudden breaks in the midst of the interview we’ve just begun.

He affectionately acknowledges his grandkids who randomly pop their heads into the room, patiently calms a barking dog, and fully excuses himself to greet the mail lady who delivers him packages every day by boat.

To judge him in this moment, unmistakably relaxed and easy-going, the 73 year-old author, thought leader, and management sage appears to be knee deep in retirement.

And Blanchard certainly has earned some R & R.  He’s written 55 books – selling a remarkable 20 million copies – and for the past three decades, has been the spiritual head of an eponymous training and consulting firm that serves clients in over 30 countries around the globe.  Along the way, he co-created Situational Leadership® theory and co-authored The One-Minute Manager – a modern day classic that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

But winding down his career is the last thing on his mind.  Inspired by his friends, Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking author who worked well into his nineties, and motivational legend, Zig Ziglar, who told him directly to “re-fire, not retire,” Blanchard has no interest in calling it quits.  Instead, he’s on a two-month sabbatical for the explicit purpose of gearing up for the next chapter of his life.

Clearly vibrant in both heart and mind, Blanchard remains passionate about making a difference in the world – most especially in business.  Tied to his conviction that there remains a “desperate need for positive leadership role modeling” today, he’s eager to write more, speak more, and essentially live the brand of management and stewardship he’s grown to believe is requisite for the 21st Century workplace.

Downplaying an already luminous resume, Blanchard intentionally skirts away from questions related to his personal legacy.  Emphatically life affirming, he’s hired a nutritionist, a physical trainer – and has lost 35 pounds – all to ensure his body holds up as long as his spirit does.  After five decades of dedicated study, he’s now absolutely certain he’s acquired the wisdom about how to most successfully manage and inspire people in their jobs; and he appears unwilling to leave the planet until he’s shared it with all of us.

Character Building At An Early Age
Blanchard grew up in Westchester County, New York with parents who instinctively seemed to know they were grooming a future philosopher and teacher.

His mother, daughter of German emigrants and the only one of five children to earn a high school diploma, met her future husband – a Naval Academy and Harvard Business School graduate – on a commuter train heading into New York City.  According to Blanchard, their wide difference in educational backgrounds mattered little to his father.  “He’d never met anyone with such incredible energy and positive views on life,” and immediately was swept away.

Radiant positivity is characteristic of Blanchard’s own personality, apparently imbued in his DNA.  And his mother’s lessons on the importance of being a generous person would establish the foundation for his life’s philosophy.  “She taught me to give and be charitable with people insisting I never expect anything in return.  But she also told me to never be surprised by all the good that inevitably would come my way.”

Blanchard’s father graduated from Annapolis right after World War I.  With a reduced need for officers, the Navy released him to pursue an MBA and begin a career on Wall Street.  But when the prospects of a second world war later became imminent, he eagerly re-upped.

When Blanchard was just seven-years-old, his dad took him to the old Polo Grounds to see his first major league baseball game.  The St. Louis Cardinals were playing the hometown New York Giants, and the trip to the stadium was motivated by much more than introducing his young boy to the national pastime.  “There are two guys on the Cardinals who have values I think it would be good you looked at,” he told his son.

Vividly and nostalgically recalling the experience, Blanchard said one of the players was Enos Slaughter, who “ran to first on every hit as if his life depended on it.  After we saw Slaughter play, Dad told me ‘if you’re going to do anything in life, hustle.’”  The other player was Stan Musial, a 24-time All-Star considered one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.  “That Musial could hit well wasn’t really the point.  Musial was a perfect gentleman and my father was always focused on teaching me values.”

Synchronicity And The Evolution Of His Career
Blanchard’s greatest accomplishments seem to almost always be tied to chance meetings or other serendipitous events – and to his seizing these moments.

After graduating from Cornell with an undergraduate degree in Government and Philosophy, he applied to the best graduate schools in the country and was accepted at none of them.  A self-confessed average student, he struggled to matriculate anywhere until Colgate University admitted him provisionally.

With plans of becoming a college administrator, Blanchard enrolled in the school’s education program, a curriculum he quickly found both tedious and boring.

While having a beer at the Colgate Inn one afternoon, he struck up a conversation with a bar mate, someone who happened to be a new Sociology professor just joining the faculty.  Revealing a sober distress, Blanchard told his new friend how unhappy he was with his course work and how dispassionate he’d become about pursuing it.  Who knows what motivated the professor, but he not only persuaded his drinking companion to instantly change his major to Sociology – where Blanchard would first study Leadership – he personally ensured the transfer.

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