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
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When Stephen Covey Made Me Really Mad: My Posthumous Apology

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

Dr. Stephen CoveyStephen Covey made me really mad twenty years ago and it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize that he was right, I was wrong, and I owe him an apology.

Covey, of course, passed away a few days ago, and so I clearly missed the opportunity to express my mea culpas while he still was alive.  The good news is he never knew I was upset; I never actually told him.  But, in my heart, I still feel compelled to share the story (maybe he can read this where he is) and (if not) hope very much that it will be of great help to you.

It was 1991.  The 60-year-old bank where I was working had just suffered some massive loan losses, and the future of the firm suddenly was in peril.

It was a peculiar company in the sense that many of the people working there – my wife and best friends included – really had never worked anywhere else.  We’d begun our careers there in our early twenties, and hadn’t yet had enough life experience to know that banks could fail, people could lose jobs, life was inherently uncertain and, despite it all, we would be ok.  So, when news came out that our stock price had plummeted and more big losses were imminent, a lot of us descended into fear.

Our bank had an annual meeting where every manager in the firm was invited.  It was part of my responsibilities to plan and execute this event – and that included the selection of a keynote speaker.  In light of the sudden change-of-fate the bank was experiencing, I decided we needed a presenter who could lift us up.  Someone who would inspire us to believe we could turn things around and to keep our hopes high.

Working with a speaker’s bureau, I hired Stephen Covey to come speak; but there was one caveat to the selection.  I wanted to have a conversation with him prior to the event, and to share my intentions for the meeting and lay out my expectations for his address.  Covey willingly agreed to meet, and we had an almost hour-long chat.  When we were done, I was absolutely certain he knew I wanted the most upbeat speech possible.

Covey didn’t waste a minute of his speech before annoying me.  Acknowledging our bank’s setback, he immediately launched into the story of Victor Frankl, a German Jew imprisoned in Nazi death camps “where he experienced things so repugnant to our sense of decency that we shutter to even repeat them.”  Covey told the audience that Frankl was mercilessly tortured, never knew moment-to-moment what his fate would be, and suffered through the deaths of his parents, brother and wife – most in the gas chambers.

Honestly, I wasn’t mature enough at the time to understand why Covey thought such a distressing story could some how restore our spirits.   In light of our recent conversation, I perceived his tale to be a complete downer, and I think I mostly tuned out the rest of what he had to say.

But here’s what Covey did go on to express, and why it was so relevant to all of us listening.

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Drill Sergeants With Heart? How The Military Is Reinventing Its Leadership For The 21st Century

Posted by on Jul 22, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership |

Fear Inducing Drill SergeantIf I asked you to conjure up an image of an Army (or Navy, Marine Corp, etc.) Drill Sergeant, I’m almost certain what you conceived would match up pretty closely to the photograph on the right.

For generations, Drill Sergeants have been characterized by the intensity of their yelling, screaming, and fear inducing barking of orders.  Quick to both scold and harshly punish, that guy in the photo is no cliché.

With our minds in agreement on how Drill Sergeants have historically sought to train, motivate and even inspire their young recruits, I’d like to now tell you that things have greatly changed in the military.   Out go the feral tyrants; in come leaders with heart.  I’m deadly serious.

It was announced this past week that Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Heilman was named Drill Sergeant of the Year.  Out of 5,400 Drill Sergeants in the active duty ranks and Army Reserves, Heilman was intensely evaluated by the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command before being chosen.   Here are some highlights of the process:

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How 100 Super-Creative People Are About To Change Life As We Know It

Posted by on Jul 8, 2012 in Current Affairs, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Fast Company 100 Most Creative People“Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.”
                                       William James

Fast Company Magazine recently published its annual list of the “100 Most Creative People In Business,” an assemblage of truly remarkable and inspiring human beings.

Honestly, it took me several hours to read through the 50-plus-page digest, a considerable commitment of time I willingly made to gain greater insight into the minds that are changing the world we live in.

Before I’d read any of the 100 mini-biographies, I’d already begun to wonder what common denominators I might find among all these uber-creatives.  I also wanted to discover where the focus of all this brainpower was going.

Gratefully, the list has broad representation in areas really needing man’s ingenuity: politics, education, medicine, design and technology.  And the top-ranked genius, Mah Jun, has committed his life to China’s environmental clean up.

But it deserves our attention that the highest percentage of our greatest innovators and creative thinkers have devoted their gifts to advancing the causes of social media and e-commerce.  And by the time I was done reading about all these wunderkinds, I was certain that their ideas were about to have a profound influence on our personal and professional lives for years to come.

You should know what trends these 100 geniuses are creating.  With that in mind, I want to share the three most prominent ones in hope that the information will help you more effectively lead your people and enterprise in the months ahead. 

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3 Reasons Why We Care So Much About A Bullied Bus Monitor And Why It Matters To Leaders Everywhere

Posted by on Jun 25, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Disrespected Buss Monitor Karen Klein

Note: This blog also was published by on June 26, 2012.

“Happiness does not lie in happiness, but in the achievement of it.”
                                                     Fyodor Dostoevsky

Karen Klein, a 68-year-old school bus monitor, was verbally abused and bullied by a group of seventh-grade students a few days ago, and her story quickly has become a sensation across the country.

In a matter of days, 5 million people have viewed a You-Tube video that documents her mistreatment, and television news shows have replayed it for many millions more.

The situation is painful to watch.  An upstate New York grandmother who earns $15,000 per year ensuring student safety is incessantly tormented and derided by several of the kids she works everyday to protect.  The teenagers make extremely cruel remarks, often profanity laced, and insult her long enough to bring Mrs. Klein to tears.  Before it’s over, one boy physically taunts her by poking her in the stomach with a textbook.

Remarkably, Mrs. Klein’s demeaning experience hasn’t just earned our human interest; it’s earned an astonishing outpouring of our money.

A campaign that initially sought to generate enough donations to send the beleaguered widow on a well-deserved vacation has ballooned into an account that’s now quickly approaching $1 million!  Monies sent in support of Mrs. Klein already exceed $650,000 and at least 16,000 people have contributed.

The question of why so many of us care about Mrs. Klein so deeply that we feel compelled to send her supportive cards along with generous checks deserves our attention.

I believe there are three main reasons why we’re all reacting so viscerally to what happened to Mrs. Klein and, essentially, all of them relate to the fact that many of us feel disrespected and under-appreciated for the work we do everyday.   Consciously or unconsciously, we’re projecting our feelings about our own jobs onto the experience of Mrs. Klein.   We’re hurting at work and are suffering Mrs. Klein’s pain as that of our own:

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Have Workers Become Bored, Or Disheartened?

Posted by on Jun 11, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Disheartened Employee

“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.”
                           Arthur Schopenhauer

Last week, Forbes Magazine published an article titled, “Bored In The Office: Is It The New Productivity Killer?” 

Honestly, when I first saw this headline I thought to myself, “Man, we really do have big problems in leadership if we’re now allowing people to become bored in their jobs.”

But after reading the piece, I realize that Jenna Goudreau, the Forbes staffer who wrote it, actually has identified the symptoms of a very serious issue affecting employee engagement and productivity – I think she’s just poorly diagnosed it.

Just in case you haven’t yet seen or read the article, here’s how Goudreau effectively summarizes the problem of employee boredom:

  • When people get bored they become disengaged.
  • Workplace boredom can strike anyone from low-level service workers to well-paid corporate executives.  According to Arizona State University professor, Angelo Kinicki, “most often it stems from the inability to find meaning in their jobs and too little variety in their daily tasks.  It’s the [job] repetitiveness that’s the culprit.”
  • Kinicki says employees become demotivated and uninspired when they don’t have much control over their jobs or input on important decisions, are not getting enough feedback or positive recognition to feel competent in their work, and don’t feel like they are developing or making progress towards something important.
  • Boredom may be commonly understood as not having enough to do, but it’s really about not being challenged enough.  When employees aren’t being challenged and developed, they inevitably disengage or exit.
  • And the boredom problem is serious.  According to research by consulting firm, Gallup, 71% of American workers today are either not engaged or are actively disengaged from their jobs.
  • Boredom, therefore, is quite expensive to employers who likely will lose valuable contributions, and talent, in the long run.

To the credit of my subconscious mind, which apparently gave this article more thought during my sleeping hours, I woke up this morning with an epiphany.  

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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 [email protected] 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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