Welcome to “The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective” with your host Bruce Holoubek. Bruce believes that the degree to which leaders invest in the development of their people as a whole has an exponential effect on both the growth of that individual and the growth of the organization in which they work. When done properly, it creates truly mutually meaningful work engagements. Your looking glass into the mechanics of that relationship starts here. - You can learn more about Bruce and the work he does with leaders at http://theapugroup.com
5 Reasons You May Be Promoting The Wrong People And How To Avoid Them
In his book, “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong,” Dr. Laurence J. Peter quipped that “People in a hierarchy rise to their level of incompetence.” By this, he meant that employees are typically promoted based on their success in previous roles under the assumption that they will do well with even greater amounts of responsibility and leadership. Laurence says this formula of “success leads to promotion” often continues until that person reaches a level at which they are no longer competent for the role they've been given, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another.
Though Dr. Peter’s book was released in 1969, we sadly see this dynamic happening still today, and it brings up a much-needed question, “Is there a better way to assess people for leadership roles?” I believe there is. This short episode introduces my ideas so I hope you listen.
Where the promotion process typically goes wrong Beyond the dynamics that happen according to the Peter Principle, there are additional reasons that promoting people within your organization can go awry. I’ve noticed 5 significant concerns in my experience working alongside top decision-makers and teams.
1 - The compensation and reward structure of the organization is inadequate Many organizations only have one way of rewarding team members: by promoting them to a higher position in the organization. When your options are limited to that, you’ve already set yourself up for failure.
Think through creative, meaningful ways that team members can be rewarded for performance and cultural contributions that don’t include promotions or steps up the rung of leadership. You’ll not only contribute to positive company culture, but you’ll also relieve the obligation team members feel to work toward promotions in the first place.
2 - The romantic notion of leadership Most top decision-makers and leaders know that there is nothing at all romantic about leadership. They have the battle scars to prove it. However, many people who are not in leadership don’t know the harsh realities and tend to romanticize leadership.
Clear communication, humility, and transparency from the top down can serve to reveal the realities of leadership to team members. It can also demonstrate the level of commitment leaders need if they are going to do their jobs well, informing those truly interested in leadership roles of the cost they will have to pay to become a leader.
3 - Outside influences impact leadership ambitions We are all influenced, for good and bad, by a variety of sources. If your team members are learning about leadership from outside your organization (not necessarily a bad thing) then they could be influenced to pursue leadership positions for reasons that don’t align with your organization’s values. Again, clear and regular communication that nurtures team member goals and dreams can help you get a bead on the real motivations behind leadership ambitions.
4 - The potential leader simply doesn’t know if they want to be a leader Many people stumble into leadership almost by accident. Once there, many of them discover gifts, abilities, and personality traits they didn’t know they had that are well suited for leadership. Others discover just the opposite. As Laurence J. Peter also said, “A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know.”
You’ll hear me strike a similar chord in my advice on this point: regular and open communication between you as the senior leader and those who work under you will enable you to see untapped or undiscovered leadership potential in team members. You’ll have the opportunity to nurture those latent abilities, equip team members to use them well, and provide opportunities for them to be used and developed. This is one way you can help future leaders discover that they are le
The Winding Road To Greater Purpose, with Max Duckworth
We’ve all heard it said that the shortest path between two points is a straight line. That’s undoubtedly true, but what we often fail to realize is that the BEST path is not always the most direct or straight path. Sometimes it’s the bends and turns in the path that brings the rich experience and learning that we need the most for carrying out our life’s work.
My guest, Max Duckworth has taken his own winding path on his way to filling the important role he does now. It’s one that’s taken him from particle physics to environmental policy, to energy commodity trading, to impact investing. Max is now an impact investor and co-founder of Masa Partners, which in his words, attempts to invest in companies that make a positive impact on the world while making a profit at the same time.
Putting together the varied lessons life has to teach us as we walk our winding paths enables each of us to move into opportunities we didn’t even know existed when we started the journey, and often, the world is better for it. Join me to explore the idea on this episode.
Impact investing from a people perspective Impact investing is focused on making financial investments in companies that are taking on serious problems for the betterment of the world and mankind. It aims to be profitable through investment in companies that are making a difference — not just making money. Max says that his approach to choosing the companies his investment group will fund is focused around four “P”s: Problem — People — Product and Profit, in that order.
It’s the people part of that progression that was especially intriguing to me, so I asked Max to elaborate on that piece. He says that he spends a significant amount of time assessing the founders and team of the company he’s considering an investment with. In his mind, he’s asking, “Is the group capable from a business standpoint and from an execution standpoint?” In other words, are they the kind of people who have both the skill and drive to get their product made and marketed well?
While it’s admittedly a subjective call, some of the things that go into answering those questions have to do with whether or not the team members have a personal connection to the mission. If they do, through life experience or history with the problem, they are more likely to be all in and will see the project through, and thus, create a profitable outcome.
This assessment step is something savvy leaders could adapt and tweak it to help them create mutually meaningful work engagements for their teams. Hiring and retaining people who are personally connected to the projects you’re working on could dramatically impact the meaning your team members derive from their work and fuel your organization’s forward momentum over the long haul.
When COVID hit, impact companies took the lead in caring for their people Though small and struggling to use their limited resources well, many early-stage companies that Max works with made what I’d consider the right choice when the COVID pandemic hit.
These mostly young leaders, by and large, considered the well-being and overall happiness of their employees as one of the essentials they must maintain during the pandemic. In my mind, this is an example of leadership done right. Perhaps it’s the focus on “impact” these founders already possess that enables them to see human capital as the primary consideration for the longevity of their companies. No matter the reason, I couldn’t help but say, “Well done” when I heard this news.
Hiring is one of the most significant growth pains of early-stage companies As early-stage companies start to gain traction it can seem like a thousand things require attention all at the same time. One of the most crucial of the puzzle pieces that have to be sorted is hiring. Finding and hiring the right people
Work Engagements Can’t Be Mutually Meaningful Without This
“The obscure we see eventually, the completely obvious, it seems takes longer.” ~ Edward R. Murrow.
Edward R. Murrow was a broadcast journalist and war correspondent who gained prominence during World War II. His statement points out something we all know, the obvious things don’t always get our attention right away. It happens to all of us.
It even happens at work. We're busy, we're preoccupied, and mistakes are made. Sometimes we are lucky to have someone witness our fumbled actions or statements and we can get a good laugh from it. Other times it bites us squarely on the ass. One of the things which may seem obvious to you once you hear it is how to create meaningful connection with those you lead in the workplace.
That’s the topic of this episode.
Before you can create a mutually meaningful work engagement, you must do this Again, it sounds obvious but before you can engage in a mutually meaningful relationship with a team member, you have to understand what would make that connection meaningful for them. For people to willingly share with you what makes a work engagement meaningful for them, there first must be trust. Many of you already have that level of trust with your employees, but what about the new person? How do you develop a higher sense of trust with them straight out of the gate? In this episode I give you a number of quick tips on how to it, so be sure you listen all the way through.
To build trust with your team, learn to say, “I don’t know.” During your first conversations with a new employee, there will likely be something they ask to which you are reasonably sure of the answer. But resist the temptation to feel that you have to give a definite answer. Say, “I don't know,” if you must, and follow it up with, “but I will find out and get you the answer by X time.”
Why is this important? Because conveying that you are reasonably sure puts the trust factor at risk. To them, “reasonably sure” might be perceived as the real deal and you’re then on the hook if it turns out not to be the case.
Leaders must learn how to appropriately ask personal questions of their team members I always get hate mail with this one, but nevertheless, I stand by my experience. I’ve discovered that it is important for the employee to know that as a leader, you're interested in their success and development as more than just an employee. The way to do that is to ask questions about things not related to work. This too is rather obvious, but not everyone agrees. You can ask about their non-work goals and objectives and how you can help them attain those.
I’ll write more on this at a later date, but leaders these days feel like they walk a tightrope when it comes to determining what they can and cannot ask their employees about their lives outside of work. I suggest you use common sense, be compassionate, and you'll be just fine.
Do your team members understand your plan for their development? It’s important that every employee knows that you are intentional about your role in helping them develop and grow. Show them a general 10,000-foot plan for how they will be developed, challenged, and grow. It’s a matter of giving them evidence that you are invested in their growth and that it will bring mutual rewards for them and the organization. Use this time to also show them the high-level plan of the organization. They will appreciate being in the loop.
If you are a top decision-maker experiencing challenges relating to this topic or any developmental topic, then give me a call and I will give you 20 minutes to confidentially discuss your situation and help you come up with a path to move you forward. My phone number is (715) 661-0364.
Outline of This Episode [0:45] The painful truth of the obvious things missing our notice [1:58] What makes a mutually meaningful work engagement mean
Authentic Leadership Breeds An Authentic Company Culture, with Carl Atwell
These days the word “authentic” is bandied about quite a bit, almost so much that it’s lost its meaning. That’s why it’s refreshing when you get the opportunity to chat with a leader who truly embodies the meaning of the word. Carl Atwell is an individual with whom I had that sort of conversation recently. He’s an “all-in” guy, which is one of the main reasons he’s so authentic. Carl doesn’t believe there’s any reason or point to playing games or allowing organizational culture to go sideways. So he talks straight and with incredible authenticity, and he does so for the sake of making his organization of better service to customers and more meaningful for his team members. Now THAT is a mutually meaningful work engagement!
Carl is the owner and President of Gempler’s, a farm and home company that he says is an “81-year-old ecommerce company.” During our conversation, we discussed how Carl made the decision to purchase Gempler’s, the experience that prepared him for the opportunity, the challenges and successes he’s experienced at the helm so far, and why customer service and company culture are such important things to him.
What the leader of an 81-year-old company can teach us about organizational culture The people who buy products from Gempler’s are those salt-of-the-earth individuals who know what it means to work hard to produce actual fruit from their labors. They are farmers, ranchers, landscapers, and other outdoor workers who do honest work for an honest wage. It’s these customers who motivate Carl to make Gempler’s the very best it can be. Though his company is not growing the food or raising the cattle, Carl is proud to serve those who are in ways that make it possible. It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly.
That attitude is one he diligently strives to pass to his employees. He wants them to see how their work matters, why the things they do are not only supporting themselves but also those who fuel the food supply of a nation. It’s an admirable ambition and one that demonstrates how good leadership is essential to the attitudes and behaviors of those within an organization. When modeled well, meaning and purpose through work can be caught as well as taught.
How small to midsize companies can out-Amazon, Amazon Shortly after Carl took the reins at Gempler’s he led the organization through one of the most far-reaching and significant pivots the company had ever made, moving from a long-standing, catalog-sales model to an e-commerce brand. With their primary competition being Amazon and Wal-Mart, Carl knew he had his work cut out for him. Not only did he have to get past the barrier that the company’s long-standing catalog-only sales model represented, he had to do so in a way that not only retained customers but also made Gempler’s an attractive alternative to Amazon.
His approach to the issue was ingenious: Gempler’s could do all the things Amazon does well — great customer service, free shipping, quality products — but also do something Amazon can’t do well, be a company that people want to support by applying an authentic, real-people approach. That would make customers truly enjoy engaging with them. His approach paid off. Gempler’s made the transition to e-commerce quickly and without losing many customers. And top-down customer service is one of their largest areas of focus.
Top-down customer service sets the tone for an authentic company culture Companies can say anything they want about themselves on their own web properties. Whether the claims made are to be believed depends on either the gullibility or diligence of the visitor. But when I visited the Gempler’s website I noticed something that told me it was an organization that was doing more than talking a big talk. The President himself posts his private email address on the website and
Professional Development & Personal Development Through Great Leadership
When you hear the phrase “change the world,” which seems to be prevalent these days, do you tend to think of grand things, things that move the needle in big ways? Perhaps the type of things that come to mind are finding a cure for cancer or establishing a context in which world peace can be attained. If that’s how you think of world change, you’re not alone.
But let me challenge you to think of it differently. You and I can change the world through smaller but no less significant actions, such as positively contributing to the development of the individuals around us. If you’re an organizational leader or top decision-maker, you have an especially fertile field in which to plant that type of seed and the harvest you might reap could be incredible over the course of your career.
This episode introduces the concept of the Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement — a method by which organizational leaders can work toward the positive development of the people within their organizations, and increase the profitability and success of the organization at the same time.
Working as a paramedic opened my eyes to the need for Mutually Meaningful Work Engagements I still remember my very first call as a paramedic. The call came in and I responded, driving to a rural location to find the victim’s son in the front yard raking leaves. It seemed odd, even out of place, but I had a job to do. I assessed the situation and went inside, making my way through piles of trash and filth to find the woman in need of assistance on the bathroom floor, lying in a pool of mixed liquids. It was a disturbing experience, but I was able to compose myself, focus on the task at hand, and stabilize the woman for transport to a local care facility.
At home that evening, I wondered, “What was the point?” The woman seemed to live in pitiful conditions and with people who appeared not to care about her well being at all. Was it even worth it to save her life if that’s all she had to look forward to? But upon hearing that she made a full recovery and was doing well, I experienced a feeling I’ll never forget. I had helped someone in a significant way, and it felt very good.
My journey over the years has led me to see that we all desire to feel that way, it’s part of why we work in the first place. We not only need to provide for ourselves we also want to contribute to things that make a difference for other people. Keep listening to hear how my experiences led me to envision and champion the concept I refer to as the Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement.
Professional development and personal development merge within MMEs I believe that organizational leaders should be setting their sites higher than just professional development. Don’t get me wrong, professional development is great and organizations that intentionally contribute to the PD of their team members are doing a great thing. But even more powerful are organizations and leaders that take seriously the very real opportunity to help their organization’s leaders grow personally as they grow professionally — even if that means the person outgrows the organization in time.
A Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement is beneficial on both sides of the relationship exactly because of this broader perspective. The individual receives coaching that could rival that of any professional life coach, while at the same time receiving true on-the-job training and development on a professional level. When the two are integrated, amazing things happen for both the individual and the organization they serve. It only makes sense… when the team members feel supported and empowered, they contribute to the organization’s goals at a higher level.
The scale and scope of a Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement is bigger Stepping past the boundaries of professional development alone enables an organizat
Healthy Team Culture Begins With Caring Leadership, with Jason Adamany
As a top decision-maker, you know the difficult balance between caring for team members in a personal way and maintaining proper professionalism with your team. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to this difficult issue, but I do believe there are guidelines that can serve to maintain the balance in effective and fruitful ways.
My guest on this episode of the podcast is Jason Adamany, CEO and Founder of IT Service provider, Adesys, a company he started while he was still in college. Naturally, coming right out of college Jason was anything but a seasoned leader, but by applying a growth mindset to his leadership as well as to his company he's gleaned a wealth of personal experience that is ripe with takeaways on this topic.
Modern business challenges brought on by COVID-19 Imagine this scenario: Your company’s workforce includes individuals who have worked for the company for many years and for the entire company’s existence, those team members have worked together, face to face, in the same facility. Then comes COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that has forced companies to do business differently, by going entirely remote. Most of you don’t have to imagine the scenario because you’re living it. COVID-19 is no-doubt putting your leadership skills to the test, forcing you to learn new ways of cultivating and maintaining team culture in spite of the "new normal" of remote work.
Jason Adamany says his entire staff is working remotely now. He’s finding it difficult to foster the team environment in the ways he's used to, especially as new team members come on. He hopes that most of his team will come back on-site before long, but the unknown and ongoing aspects of the current situation place more demands on team members and as a result, the company. He's learning to stay flexible and seek to understand.
As team members juggle the situations COVID-19 has thrust upon them, such as their children being participants in digital classrooms while staying home, company leaders have to be able to flex with the changing needs of their employees while still turning a profit. One of the primary tools leaders must employ in a situation like this clear and compassionate communication.
Listening empowers leadership and encourages the team When top leaders care for their teams effectively, team members are then able to care for clients in unprecedented ways. That’s the philosophy Jason Adamany has about the type of relationship leaders need to develop with team members. It’s a difficult balance that has no cookie-cutter solutions, however, there are many ways leaders can move in this direction, and all of them begin with effective listening:
Solicit feedback from your team Make sure your team can contribute in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals Keep in mind that each team member will define that differently Work diligently to create an environment team members want to be in Do the work needed to create happy team members Communicate clearly that you value and understand that they have a life outside of work The line between professionalism and entering into team member’s lives How involved should a leader be in the lives of their team members? Many would say that it’s inappropriate and potentially improper for leaders to ask too many questions about the private lives of their team members. Others feel they can’t lead their team members effectively if they don’t know what those individuals are experiencing in life outside of work hours.
Jason Adamany says that his approach is to take the issue on a case by case basis.
Each individual on a team will have a unique comfort level when it comes to their leaders knowing the details of their private lives. So take it slow and easy. While the best way to be there for employees is to seek to understand what’s going on outside of work, you
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Thank you Bruce for being the kind of lighthouse we need! Great guests, great questions, great vibes. And all that in an easily digestible format.
I was lucky enough to be on Bruce’s show as guest. I think you will find Bruce to be as thoughtful and insightful as I did. Great show and free chance to learn from Bruce and other great guests that are in the trenches. Keep up the great work Bruce!
I had a blast being on Bruce’s show. He is down to earth, fun to chat with and asks great questions. In addition to being a guest I’ve listened to many of his other shows - they are great!!