What an extraordinary opportunity I have every day to see my mom as both my mentor, working side by side at the company she and my dad built and the woman I know who has witnessed all of the ordinary moments of her daughter’s life…the celebrations, the heartbreak, the dreams dashed and realized. And so today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, how easy it was to reflect on who my mom is and what she is to me.

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Graduation is upon us. In so much of the graduation advice I hear, one theme often resonates: Pursue your Passion. I couldn’t agree more, but want to challenge you, Class of 2014, to take it a step further. Pursue your talents.

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Recently, a group of leaders in our company initiated a discussion on the following topic: How can we honor our strength-based, individualized philosophy while maintaining accountability? I love dialogue of this sort. It keeps the culture vibrant, and it presents a growth opportunity for all participants. This post is an example of a live dialogue about what’s right for a particular culture.

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Leaders have to stand for something. We all have fundamental beliefs, values and biases that influence heavily how we see the world, what kinds of decisions we make, and what kinds of strategies we pursue. I believe the best leaders are self-aware. They can say what they stand for.

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This might look like a very straightforward topic at first. “Larry, this isn’t even worthy of discussion. Bad behavior should be punished. End of story.” It turns out to be a much more challenging topic than it might appear. That’s because you, as a leader, have to answer two questions:

Was the behavior undesirable (bad)?
What should the consequences be?

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We tend to focus on the what. What are your goals? What products and services do we offer? What are your expectations? What’s your plan? That’s great, but it’s not enough. The why is about meaning and motive. Understanding the why changes the way we think about the what.

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Jane Williams, Editor, Knowledge Arabia, recently wrote an article entitled, “Can A Team Have Too Much Talent?”. That article was based on the following research paper: Swaab, R. I., Schaerer, M., Anicich, E. M., Ronay, R., & Galinsky, A. D. “The too-much-talent effect: Team interdependence determines when more talent is too much versus not enough.”

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Recently Rick Newman wrote a very interesting article entitled, “”. Newman states that employers who view their employees as expenses typically compete on cost (e.g., Walmart) whereas most companies who view their employees as investments typically compete on quality (e.g., Starbucks).

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and even if you aren’t American I invite you to participate. It’s not about religion, it’s not about patriotism and it’s not about gifts. It’s about thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude.

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I stand for the point of view that human development is best nurtured through the right kind of relationships. Parenting, mentoring and coaching exemplify the kinds of relationships that can help shape a person and can lead to significant growth. So how does self-development fit in?

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The question in the title of this post can be expressed as follows: Who should make what decisions? We see this question constantly in government. For instance, all disputes about states rights vs. federal rights fall into this category. In business, all questions about empowerment fall into this category. What decisions are people in role x empowered to make? I love this question. To see one of my previous posts about empowerment,click here.

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When I use the term “culture” I mean a set of shared values and beliefs that form the basis for: 1) what we actually do, and 2) what we believe we ought to do. As I’ve said before, I think culture has more impact than strategy on the long-term success of an organization. That’s why it’s so important to select people who fit, whose natural values, beliefs and behaviors align with those of the culture. That’s what this post is about.

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This is going to be a short post. There is a qualitative difference between gradually shaping a culture and rapidly changing a culture in fundamental ways. To see a previous post on how to shape an organization culture, click here.

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Oh my goodness. This is a really tough question. It’s a question about relationships. How do you find a best friend? How do you find a life partner? How do you find a mentor? I wish I had an easy answer, or frankly any answer that would work consistently. A mentor is someone for whom you’re significant, who believes in you, who likes you as a person, who enjoys spending time with you, who enjoys helping you grow, both personally and professionally, who is loyal, and who will extend herself to help you succeed. Many more descriptors can be added to that list. But the topic of this post is not, “What is a mentor?” The topic is, “How the heck do you find one?”

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Talent Plus lives in the shadows of positive psychology, or the study of what is inherently good about a person rather than focusing on what is inherently a weakness within a person. For just a moment consider what the world would be like if everyone had a job that they loved and were good at and the flexibility of a culture to balance their work life with their personal life. Utopia, you say? Quite possibly. In fact, that is the goal of Talent Plus every day: To help organizations grow through talented people they select into their organizations. We back this goal with validated research so that we can say with certainty our assessments hold predictive validity to identify talented individuals.

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Yesterday I realized I spend a good deal of time thinking about how to be a better mentor, and how to help others be better mentors. But I don’t invest much time thinking about how to help people become better mentees. So I’m going to give it a stab. For conceptual clarity my thoughts here apply to any sort of relationship in which you’re being coached, advised, mentored or taught by an individual outside a classroom on an ongoing basis. What a mouthful. I’ll use the word “mentor” to stand for any of those types of relationships.

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As you know, where you meet matters. It impacts the mental set of the participants and the dynamics of the interaction. The purpose of this post is to encourage you to have more meetings outside of your everyday office space. It doesn’t have to be at a coffee shop, of course. That’s just an example.

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As first published in The Beryl Institute's "Patient Experience Monthly"

Less than two-thousand volts of electricity can kill a human being on death row. Thirteen-thousand volts didn’t kill me. I’ve had a little experience in the hospital. In September of 1997 I began what was to become five years of rebuilding my life, everything from swallowing to talking and walking to writing. I was fully engaged with a hospital in the Midwest due to a severe electrical accident I suffered while at work as a television reporter. Fourth degree burns covered 12 percent of my body and the most severe injury came to my head, burned to the skull, and right side of my face as it hit the electrified live van that was to carry the story to viewers that night.

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Time management is getting more and more difficult, because attention management is getting more difficult, because more things demand our attention, which eats up our time. The principles and practices of effective time management are well known, but people still seem to suffer from stress related to not having enough time. The purpose of this post is to serve as a reminder.

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I had the good fortune to attend the Great Place To Work (GPTW) Small and Medium Business Conference in Washington, D.C.. This year Talent Plus was honored to receive the number 4 ranking on this annual list published in Fortune Magazine. To see this year’s top fifty companies to work for, Click Here. The purpose of this post is to share some valuable takeaways. I could not attend every breakout session, but I can share lessons learned from the sessions I did attend.

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It was with great pride and pleasure that Talent Plus accepted the award for our company as the # 4 Great Place to Work for 2014 in the small business category published in Fortune Magazine! As we celebrate our 25th year in business, it is wonderful to know that we have been recognized for the culture we strive to embrace every day.

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Most of us (probably all of us) care where a new idea comes from. If it comes from someone we see as a respected authority on the topic, we immediately believe the idea is worthy of serious consideration. If it comes from a 21 year-old, brand-new employee we might not give it as much weight. Or, God forbid, it comes from a new-hire who just joined us from a competitor. In that case we might even be very defensive. So the subject of this post is: To what extent should the “where” or the “who” influence how we respond to an idea?

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In a company filled with highly talented candidates chosen specifically for their positivity and work ethic, relationship lies at the core of our business model. As recently mentioned in a webinar entitled “Talent 2020: Rising to the Top,” if we were to highlight two things we consistently obsess over at Talent Plus, they would include our clients and our culture.

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This morning I’m thinking about drama. It’s distracting, it’s time consuming, and it involves a lot of negativity. We’re certainly not going to get rid of it. Because we’re human. We have moods, we make mistakes, we mistreat each other, we judge each other, we make mountains out of mole hills, we catastrophize, and we worry. As leaders, we must be aware of how much drama we’re causing directly or enabling.

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Last week my post was entitled, “Do You Owe Someone An Apology?” We looked at the benefits of seeking forgiveness. This week we look at the benefits of giving forgiveness. I’ve worked with leaders who have a very hard time with this.

The opportunity to forgive can only arise when an employee has screwed up. He’s done something perceived by the leader to be wrong or unacceptable. And let’s assume that this screw up was not trivial; it caused a problem. Here are a couple of real-life examples.

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If celebration is the joy of life and nearly one third of most people’s lives are at work, doesn’t it make sense that work would be enjoyable? Honestly, if you want people to be productive within your organization, work hard to develop relationships that last and stay for a long time, there is simply no substitute for having fun along the way. That’s why Talent Plus is all about celebration. We select people who are fun and bring joy to everything they do.

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I’ve worked with plenty of leaders who just can’t bring themselves to admit when they’ve screwed up in some way. And because they’re in a position of power, everyone who reports to them adjusts to it because they have no choice. These leaders just can’t say, “I’m sorry.”

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Development is crucial. Once you have identified someone’s talent and ability to perform at a high level, giving them opportunities to grow and really allow those talents to shine serves a dual purpose. First, your organization enjoys great performance time and time again at a higher level. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you create a platform for that individual to feel significant and emotionally rehire them by investing time and energy with them.

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Persuasion is an important element of leadership. Leaders in business, politics, and community service organizations are constantly persuading people (including employees) to get behind their ideas for creating a better future. Rational arguments fall short because our decisions and behavior are heavily influenced by emotions. This is why negative political campaigning is so pervasive. Fear is a very powerful motivator. It often overrides rational behavior. It might be distasteful, but it works.

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The current workforce is rapidly aging – we have all seen the statistics: 10,000 employees are reaching the age of 65 – every. single. day. How long is this expected to continue? 20 years, folks. As these baby boomers retire, it will generate a massive reduction in the talent pool. Your company is going to need to fight hard just to fill positions – getting someone who’s really good? That battle is not for the faint of heart. The war for talent is here.

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Much has been written about the importance of alignment. But lately I’ve noticed that attaining alignment is more nuanced than we usually acknowledge. It’s more art than science. Too much alignment diminishes both commitment and creativity. In the extreme, you’ll get a dictatorship. Too little alignment diminishes focus and wastes productive energy. In the extreme you’ll get anarchy. Dictatorships can at least function. Anarchies cannot. So where’s the Goldilocks Zone? And how does a leader get people into that zone? That’s the art. As usual, I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts.

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Unfortunately, most people invest a great deal of time and energy studying their areas of weakness and attempting to fix those deficiencies. Counter intuitively there is a difference between room for improvement (weakness focused) and true potential for improvement (strength focused). Weakness focused efforts rarely result in material improvements. Yet we continue to do it.

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“Let me get my supervisor.” How many times have you heard that when you expressed dissatisfaction with a product or service? Or perhaps you heard it when you requested an exception to stated procedures. The customer often is required to repeat their story numerous times as the complaint or request escalates to someone who has the authority to make a decision. Lack of empowerment results in terrible customer service, and it has a considerable negative impact on job satisfaction and retention.

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