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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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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The Wonderous Effects Of Encouragement And Five Great Ways To Give It

Posted by on Jul 15, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Encouragement“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
                                                  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you remember the last time a friend, colleague or a boss gave you an encouraging word – some intentionally thoughtful expression that directly conveyed another person sincerely believed in you and in your ability to achieve?

Assuming you can, I’d like you to recall how this gesture made you feel.

I’m willing to go on record and say that I’ve never outgrown the need for encouragement.  I know for certain that reassuring, hopeful and inherently esteeming words have a profound effect on me.   They act like a booster-charge on my spirit, hearten me to stay the course when I’m confronted with doubt and, quite often, influence me to aim higher.  Almost always, encouragement from others leads me to believe more firmly in my own abilities.

So, am I very different from you – or anyone?

A few years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s wonderful book, “On Writing.”  I remember feeling great surprise after reading the book’s dedication.   King, one of the most prolific and successful writers on the planet, thanked another author, Amy Tan, for giving him the encouragement to write it.  Stephen King needed someone else to reassure him before writing this book?

The lesson here is that no matter how much success we have at any point in our lives, all challenging tasks seem daunting at first.  Supportive words from people who care about us, therefore, have a great effect on emboldening our resolve.

As leaders, we very often take for granted that our employees, especially the most tenured ones, are entirely self-sustaining and get up every morning sufficiently confident in taking on the day’s challenges.  Thinking this way will greatly limit your effectiveness as a leader not to mention the achievements of your people.

Here are five extremely powerful ways you can bolster your employees’ motivations and, quite literally, give them the heart to take on the seemingly impossible.

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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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The Great Rewards From Being An Empathetic Leader

Posted by on Jul 1, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors |

Atticus Finch and Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.  You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
       Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Empathy, the capacity to recognize feelings being experienced by another person, is a critically important and truly essential leadership skill, even though I can’t recall a time when a manager of mine – or a leadership development class facilitator – ever stressed its importance.

I’m certain that the idea of being empathetic in the workplace is entirely misconstrued by many managers, and is perceived to be both weak and soft as a leadership practice.

The truth, however, is that leaders who put empathy to proper use are far more effective in building and sustaining trust with their employees and, most especially, in implementing the toughest of business decisions.

Here’s an example of how a display of empathy helped me not only to successfully introduce a very unpopular new process, but to win over the support of the people most affected by it.

Soon after I was promoted to lead sales management for Washington Mutual’s investment brokerage business, I was directed to make a huge change to the firm’s compensation plan.

Up until I’d arrived, and for many years before, the bank had a very simple way of paying its investments sales representatives – a scheme everyone really liked:

Through the course of every month, the Reps sold investment products (e.g. mutual funds, stocks and bonds) and were paid a percentage of the revenue their sales generated.  That percentage was tiered so the most productive Reps earned the highest monthly “pay out.”

Almost at the same time my promotion was announced, our bank hired a new President of Retail Banking, Mr, Higgins.  Higgins was a transplant from Scotland where they do many things differently than in the U.S.  This point is important to the story because he had effectively just become my new boss.

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