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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Giving Real Meaning To Your Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Guide To Diagramming Sentences

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
                           Thornton Wilder

A Note To Readers:
When you reach the end of this blog, I will have an assignment for you.  Now, while I believe the task I’ll be doling out will give you indescribable joy and satisfaction that may last inside you for days, it’s totally ok if you choose to stop reading now in order to dodge the added work.  My deepest hope, of course, is that you’ll hang in there to the end….

A Story Of Regret:
When I was fourteen-years-old, I was transplanted from Long Island, New York to a town three thousand miles away just outside San Diego.  A move like that is inherently stressful, especially when you have to settle in at a new high school in late November, two months after the semester has begun.

On my very first day, and in my very first class, I met a teacher who at first terrified me but who later profoundly changed my life.

Miss Adelma Dale was a no-nonsense women in her early sixties who was teaching sentence diagramming, an arcane method of explaining English grammar rules, that instantly struck me as entirely incomprehensible.

Out of fear, perhaps, and to hide my own confusion, I soon found myself acting out in class.  Within a couple weeks of meeting Miss Dale, she sent me to the Principal’s office twice.  Most days, she forced me to sit in the back of the room, literally behind the piano.

For the next six months, I hated going to this class. I routinely felt lost, and embarrassed by all her efforts to discipline me.  More than anything, I looked forward to the next year when I could change teachers and get out from under her oppression.

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Five Powerful And Purposeful Questions To Ask In Every Job Interview

Posted by on Oct 28, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Frank Sinatra“Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
                                     Rumi, 13th Century

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
                                     Pantajali, 2nd Century B.C

I’m intrigued by the idea that each of us has been put on this planet for a specific purpose.

Virtually all religious traditions, of course, tell us that nature has imbued unique gifts in every person, even a special destiny.

Given the extraordinary number of synchronistic events I’ve experienced throughout my own life, I’m unequivocally convinced that I’m doing the work I was “born to do.”

Think about these people: Frank Sinatra, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill.

Now try to imagine each of them doing something other than what originally made them so remarkable.

If you’re finding this task difficult, it’s simply because their profound talents and impact seem entirely unsuitable to any other conceivable career or job duties.

Now think back on the most productive and engaged employees you’ve ever managed.   Picture one or two of them in your mind.

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Seize Opportunities To Demonstrate You Care

Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Magnetic ResonanceA few years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  While all on it’s own the experience was the most terrifying of my life, the people who were supposed to care about me really didn’t.

Doctors, no less, made the circumstances far worse than they needed to be, and ignored how their indifference could have a rippling and discomforting effect on my entire family.

There will be moments in your life as a leader when your employees will need your thoughtfulness, your generosity – your humanity.   They’ll need you, as their boss, to drop your guard, display your heart, and show people how much they matter.  Blow this with any one person who works for you and you will lose their full engagement forever.

I went to see my “primary” doctor after having fluid remain in one ear for over a week.  I’d had this problem at other times in my life and had come to believe it was a chronic condition.  My doctor seemed to believe the same thing, but nonetheless sent me to a specialist just to be certain.

With water still clogging my one ear, I underwent a hearing test.  Not surprisingly, I heard very few of the repeated beats of varying decibels in the affected ear.  While distressing, it seemed logical to me that sound would be greatly muffled by the fluid, and I successfully raised my hand every time tones were sent to my other ear.

The clinician who administered the exam was unable to reveal the exam results and told me my new doctor would review them with me.  Her secrecy had me on edge, but I was fully unprepared for what came next.

The eye-ear-nose-throat expert was no rapport builder.  With his eyes perusing my report, and after barely saying hello, he asked me a series of rapid-fire questions.  “Was your head ever injured in an accident?  Have you begun having serious headaches?  Have you ever been exposed to a gun shot?”

Even though I answered “no” to all of his leading questions, my doctor with the off-putting bedside manner cut to the chase.  “I’ll need to run more tests, but I’m quite certain you have a brain tumor.”  Very directly, and without any display of concern for my feelings, he told me the Latin name for it, explained that I likely would need brain surgery to remove it, and advised me to go home and “look it up on the internet.”

I walked out of that hospital like a zombie and called my wife just as I was pulling out of the parking lot.  “He said I have a brain tumor; can you look up my condition and tell me what it says?”

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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 |


“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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The Surprising Secret To Making Successful Organizational Change

Posted by on Aug 5, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Leading ChangeNever believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
                                                                     Margaret Mead 

“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”
                                                                     Blaise Paschal

The clock already has begun ticking away toward the day when your organization announces it’s decided to pursue a major change.

In some e-mail, conference call or all-up meeting, you’ll soon learn that your company is about to re-organize reporting structures, significantly alter its strategic and cultural direction, or launch a new product line.

What you should know in advance of this communication is that the far majority of firms fail in their attempts at implementing major changes like these – simply because they’re unaware of the one ingredient that assures its success.  A Harvard professor has discovered what differentiates those who truly succeed when implementing change and his answer may surprise you.

In 1980, at age 33, John Kotter was given tenure and a full professorship at Harvard’s Business School, making him one of the youngest people in the history of the university to be so honored.  Around that same time, he became convinced that the rate of change in business had begun to rapidly accelerate from historic norms (largely because of technological breakthroughs) and wondered if companies would be skilled at responding.

What Kotter discovered is that, “on average, people were terrible at it.”  Through his research, he compiled 100 examples of organizations that had sought to transform themselves in some major way, and discovered 70% were failures.  “If you look at their aspirations and what they said they were going to do,” he told me recently, “it just didn’t happen.”

Grading the remaining firms, Kotter said “25% achieved something – but nothing close to their original aspirations.  Only 5% were really successful at implementing their original vision.”

Gifted at qualitative pattern analysis, Kotter began a deep dive into understanding the practices of the successful.  He later distilled all he learned in his book, Leading Change, named by Time Magazine as one of the “25 Most Influential Business and Management Books of All Time.”  And its in Kotter’s book, published in 1996, that we find what’s perhaps the earliest example of an academic stressing that leadership that ignores the hearts in people cannot possibly succeed.

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