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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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:

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Science Agrees With Obi Wan: Trust Your Feelings

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

brain-heart-intuition-the-b-spotImagine you’re giving a presentation tomorrow to a group of your organization’s top decision makers. Your job will be to persuade them to approve, and invest in, a new initiative you’ve worked over a year to develop.

Heading into the meeting, you’re convinced you have a fantastic business case. You’ve studied the competition, run several lengthy pilots – and developed a keen sense that the venture will become a run-away success.

But if your company operates anything like most traditional businesses, you know you’ll need to stick to the analytics while making your pitch; sharing any of your informed “feelings” about the potential outcome could potentially derail your project and even harm perceptions about your own managerial prowess.

And why is it that one’s feelings can’t be brought into the boardroom without drawing concern? It’s because we remain highly squeamish about the reliability of human intuition.

Nearly 400 years ago, René Descarte famously declared, “I think therefore I am,” and an emphasis on rational thinking has dominated business operations ever since. In the modern era, MBA programs have intentionally focused on developing left-brain, rational abilities – and to teaching future business leaders how to figure everything out. Even the high-compliment of saying that someone has great “business smarts,” inherently means they possess an unusually developed intellect – a good “head” for business.

Intuition: Friend Or Foe?

But curiously, some of the world’s greatest “thinkers” of the past century – a list of acknowledged geniuses that includes Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein – all very consciously leveraged intuition in their work. And so convinced that intuition had profoundly influenced his entire life’s success, Steve Jobs repeatedly said that it wasn’t just potent, it was “more powerful than intellect.”

So there lies the conundrum. Most of men, mere mortals, steer clear of allowing any feelings or intuition to influence their business dealings, while the stunning achievers of society clearly chose to operate from an entirely different manual. Whose lead should we now follow?

For nearly three decades, the Institute of HeartMath has been researching intuition and running numerous experiments for the purpose of better defining what it is and how it works. I recently met with its director of research and co-founder, Dr. Rollin McCraty, and asked him to share some of the key insights he and his colleagues have acquired. As you might suspect, along with other researchers, McCraty has been able to show that folks like Jobs and Tesla figured out something long before the rest of us, and that intuition – when fully understood – can surely help us be more successful in our careers and lives.

Mark C. Crowley & Dr. Rollin Mccraty

Mark C. Crowley & Dr. Rollin McCraty

Here’s what you need to know:

Highly Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Act On Intuition

Over a period of many years, the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship conducted in-depth interviews with repeat entrepreneurs – people who had built businesses multiple times with great success.

Noting that Gallup already had shown that over half of all new enterprises fail in five years, they met with business creators in Great Britain, the US and Australia in hopes of identifying the commonalities of people who repeatedly defied the odds.

And they found two. Most importantly, they discovered that 80 percent of the successful entrepreneurs intentionally relied on their intuition and knowingly integrated it with their cognitive processes in making all final decisions. Contrary to what you might imagine, they were highly practical people who routinely employed a rigorous system of financial analysis and business projections. But in the end, they acted on their hunches, and repeatedly relied on feelings to indicate what choice was best.

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Five Things Leaders Should Do In December To Ensure Success In The New Year

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

The Month Of December “Fortune favors the bold.”
Virgil (70-19 BC)

There’s a great tendency in the month of December to wind things down.

With the holiday season upon us, and the least amount of sunlight of the year around to energize us, we’re influenced to work in slow motion.  We feel like resting, and to acting upon a conscious or unconscious mindset that tells us things will rev up soon enough – when the new-year arrives on January 1.

But it’s long been my experience that the most successful leaders have an altered state of awareness about December. They see the month as the true start of the new-year, and purposely work very hard to lay the foundation for high achievement way before Auld Lang Syne gets sung. For these highly effective people, the last month of the year is all about winding things up.

If your ambition is to lead your team to spectacular performance in 2017, here are five things you’ll be very wise to accomplish in December:

1.    Share Your Vision
Ideally in person, but alternatively through a well-crafted and thoughtful written communication, use December to inspire your team.  The wonderful effect of sharing your dreams for the coming year – all you’d like to achieve and become – is that it gets the juices flowing in the minds and hearts of every person who works for you.  Weeks before the new-year starts for real, your employees can give thought to how their efforts fit into your aspirations.  And once you plant the seed, they will begin to prepare themselves for the coming challenges.  One word of guidance: make sure to acknowledge all your team did to support you this year, before you re-direct your focus to the year ahead.

2.    Meet One-On-One With All Your Direct Reports
December is a wonderful month to check in with people and to personalize the new-year ahead by discovering new ambitions.  Knowing that the greatest reason people burn out at work is because their jobs lack sufficient variety, ask your employees if there’s a special project they’d like to be involved in.  Is there a cross-training or growth opportunity that inspires them?  The road to high engagement is making people feel valued and cared for.  That’s your essential goal for these meetings.

3.    Assign Next Year’s Goals
The funny thing about goals is that they are almost always higher than those assigned the year before.  We laugh at this, of course, but new and bigger goals very often have the effect of stressing people out and putting them into a disempowered state of fear.  So, one solution is to introduce goals long before they go into effect.  The extra time allows people to get their heads around the higher expectations.  I’ve also found it extremely helpful to ask employees to prepare a high-level plan for how they will go about achieving those new goals.  The exercise typically reveals to people that the mountain isn’t as high as they first imagined.  By the time they submit their plan to you, they know how they’ll reach the summit.

4.    Build A Pipeline
Few things are more exciting for a leader and their team than to have a highly productive month of performance in January (especially important in sales).  Come early February, it simply feels great to know you’ve gotten off to a phenomenal start in the new-year and to have established early momentum.  The best way to ensure this happens is to stack the deck in your favor.   Whatever you traditionally do to drive results, do more of it in December.  Challenge each employee to double down his or her efforts, and to build a pipeline of work that can come to fruition in January.  Yes, your team will work harder in December, but the rewards will be worth it.

5.    Get Organized And Reflect
I love the last two of weeks of December, and have made a habit of using them to get myself organized and emotionally prepared for the coming year.  I clean out files, organize my office, and spend time planning. Like chopping wood and carrying water, there’s an unseen but really powerful reward for doing the mundane and preparing yourself for a brand new start.

While not always possible, I also love taking off the last week of the year and hiking in nature, going for walks – having thinking time.  Late December is an ideal period for personal reflection and for becoming fully re-inspired about the future.  Every year around this time I’m inspired by C. S. Lewis who said, “you are never too old to set another goal and to dream a new dream.”

Please know in advance that we’re especially grateful whenever you share these blogs with friends and colleagues.  If you’d like to receive them directly, please sign up here. 

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What My Near-Death Experience Taught Me About Life And Leadership

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

aaeaaqaaaaaaaacaaaaajgzhyzdhogrjltriywitngjioc1izdezlwjlnjrizwfjngnkmwEarly one morning just a few weeks ago, I woke up with the intention of starting my day at the gym.  But before I ever made it out of the house, I completely blacked out, fell on a cold travertine floor and broke my ribs.

The pain from that fall was excruciating; and it immediately restored me to consciousness.  But the sheer terror of the moment instantly grew worse; I thought I was suffocating.

Hearing my moans, my wife found me splayed on the ground and largely incoherent.  Stunned and petrified, she kept asking me what had happened. But by this point, indescribable fear had set in, and all I could do was cry the words, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

Despite my grave condition, I resisted my wife’s pleas to call an ambulance.  In disbelief over my characteristic male stubbornness, she figured out a way to get me in the car and transported to the emergency room at Scripps Clinic, La Jolla. And this is when a team of brilliant doctors and nurses mobilized with the purpose of saving my life.

I could immediately see in my doctor’s face that he was highly alarmed by my condition.  Consistently – as he hurriedly worked to check my vital signs and make a diagnosis – he took time to scold me for not calling 911.

Even in my diminished state, it was obvious to me that every nurse on this triage team had a unique role to play.  As if I was watching a movie of someone else’s experience and not my own, I marveled at how brilliantly orchestrated everything was.

But a sobering reality instantly set in when my doctor told me he was rushing me into the operating room and that I’d be going under anesthesia.  It was at this moment that a nurse called my name.  Looking me straight in the eye, she pierced me with the words, “You’re going to be alright, Mark.  We’re all going to make sure of it.”

Hours later, when I came out of sedation, I learned that my left lung had collapsed in the fall, and that my heart had endured tremendous stress.  But far more disconcerting to my doctors was their discovery of a “pulmonary embolism,” a blood clot in my lungs similar to the one that recently took the life of PBS radio anchor, Craig Windham.

When I was told I was being moved into the Intensive Care Unit, only then did I fully acknowledge that my life was indeed in great danger.  I found out later that it was at this same time when nurses asked my wife if I had signed a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order.

But here’s the truth.  From that moment on, I never really feared for my life.  And it wasn’t because I was inordinately brave – or even exceptionally delusional.  My conviction that I’d fully recover had everything to do with how my doctors and nurses treated me – how they made me feel.

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Three Stunning Leadership Trends That Should Give Hope To Workers Everywhere

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 1 comment

Heart & Mind“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

 – Yogi Berra

Directly or indirectly, the common theme expressed in everything I write is that our traditional ways of leading people in the workplace are failing.

We’ve seen employee engagement fall precipitously over a generation, and now have irrefutable evidence that it cannot and will not recover until we collectively adopt leadership practices that intentionally support the higher needs of workers – human beings.

My goal for each new article has been to further explain why leadership must change, and how some enlightened organizations and visionaries already are contributing to the creation of an entirely new, and far more effective model.

As we approach the New Year, I see it filled with promise.  It’s clear that our collective view on how best to inspire employee performance is fundamentally and irrevocably shifting.  What’s stunning to me is that it’s happening so fast.

To give you a new glimpse into the future of leadership, I want to share three profound trends that are building wave-like momentum in business.  A major transformation is underway and it’s largely being influenced by some noteworthy reversals in our thinking.

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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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