Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Change Is Inevitable

"We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature." – Edmund Burke

As a leader, you are charged with getting results from your organization, meeting or exceeding your goals and objectives, all while positioning yourself and your organization for future success.

Positioning for the future is about seeing what is coming next and reacting to it. It’s about a vision for the future, not based on the past, but based on what is coming next. It’s about preparing for change before you actually know what the change is.

Being a leader means guiding yourself and your team through constant change. You see, progress is not possible without change. Growth is not possible without change. Improved results are not possible without change. For centuries experts have agreed that the only certainties in life are death, taxes….. and change. (With apologies to Ben Franklin.)

Since everyone agrees that change is inevitable, the only question for you is, “Will you be the one driving the change, or will the change run over you?”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But it is not. One of the fascinating things about working with DISC (see DISC blog entries) is that it helps us to understand not only people's behaviors, but also their goals, motivations, and fears. And within the US population a full 69% of the people have a fear of change.

69% … that’s a lot of people. And guess who they work for?

This means that as you are looking to the future and thinking about next steps, the people who are working for you are thinking about the present and how to keep things going the way they are. They like stability and knowing what is going to happen next. It’s not that their fear of change is an overwhelming, paralyzing fear. Instead it could be described as trepidation over what might go wrong and a desire to make sure that those bad things don’t happen.

For many leaders, they don’t understand this natural fear of change, but they do pick up on the fact that their staff are happy and content with the way things are going and don’t see a need for change. Sometimes this observation leads to a belief that things really are ok the way they are and can sidetrack the leader from doing what needs to be done.

But let us spend a few moments explaining some of the other truisms about change. Because while change is inevitable, and while growth cannot happen without change, that should not imply that ALL change is necessarily good or that change automatically means growth.

It doesn’t.

As the leader, your job is to identify which growth is positive and which is not; which change is necessary and which is not; which change will result in growth and which will not. You must study change, analyze it, and when necessary, embrace it. Making the right decisions on which changes to support and which ones not to support is a delineator between a good leader and a great one.

Making the decisions on change will determine whether you are driving the change and being the leader, or if you will be a bystander and be run over by it.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is Everybody Happy?

As a young leader I was very focused on getting results (see Background and History). Getting results is all that I was focused on because getting results meant getting ahead. Later I realized the value in engaging the people around me because it allowed me to get even more results; all the while improving morale and creating a loyalty that helped me get through some very tough times. In fact, it would be impossible to overestimate the value of the loyalty that was created. My loyal employees not only stopped me from doing some dumb things, but they sacrificed their personal time and put in some Herculean efforts to make things happen to make me look good.

As I got better as a leader and saw my people going above and beyond the call of duty to make things happen, I developed a belief that part of my job was making my employees “happy”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making people happy. I mean, I would not want to take the opposite view and believe that my job was to make people unhappy, but the more I tried to make people happy the more challenging and confusing my role became. I would gather key people together before making a big decision to get their input. And then I would try to incorporate as many of their ideas as possible into a solution. My belief was that as I incorporated their ideas into the final solution that they would buy into the idea and work harder to implement the changes, thereby making everybody happy while solving the problem.

But I was wrong.

You see, as a leader you must realize that you cannot, and should not, try and make everyone happy. “Making everyone happy” is the job description of a comedian, not a leader. The more I tried to make everyone happy, the more confusing the solutions became. And sometimes by melding too many ideas together we lost the impact that could come from a simpler solution. We also lost speed of implementation, and, therefore, created more customer impact then we intended. Instead of analyzing a problem, identifying the best solution, and implementing it, I would dilute a good solution with ideas from others just to show them that I valued their opinion. Or worse, when it came time for something to change (and something always needs to change) I would become more focused on how to make sure that everyone was happy with the change rather than making sure that the change was properly thought out, properly planned, and properly implemented.

All of these troubles were caused by my belief that leadership meant making people happy so that they would work harder.

But people don’t work harder when they are “happy”. They work harder when they are engaged, when they believe in you and the mission, and they believe that you are doing what you believe is best.

Eventually I realized that my employees were smarter than I was giving them credit for. They didn’t need to see THEIR solution implemented. They needed to see the BEST solution implemented. They needed to know that I could analyze the possibilities, identify the direction, and communicate that clearly to the team.

Here is the question for you?

Are you focused on finding the right solutions, or are you focused on making people happy? If you really want to get the most from your team, focus on getting your team engaged by creating and implementing the best solutions, not the most popular ones.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

3 Questions To Ask A Leader

The more you study leadership, the more you realize that leadership has more questions than answers. There are literally thousands of books that you can read about what leadership is, the qualities of a great leader, and even the official “laws of leadership”. And while there are a variety of styles of leadership, most of these books say the same things in slightly different ways. Because there really aren’t any new ideas in leadership, just new presentations of ideas that have been around for thousands of years.

As much as many of us lead, we are also followers. We follow a boss at work or a minister at church. We may even follow a friend in our social life, taking the lead from them as to what music we listen to, what TV shows we watch and what books to read. As a student of leadership I find that I have certain authors or experts that I tend to follow and others that I don’t. Some of this comes down to their style of leadership, or the way they present their thoughts. Some of their material resonates with me, other material sounds contrived and insincere.

This whole process of being a follower got me thinking about the basics of leadership. I thought back to the leaders that I had been associated with in my career. Some of those were exceptional leaders that I took pride in following. In some way these leaders inspired me. Others were leaders in name only. They failed to inspire me. I only followed these leaders because I had to, and frankly did as little as possible to support them. Sometimes I had a choice as to which leader to follow. Other times, I was given an assignment and the leader was already in place.

Why did I follow certain leaders, but not others? Thinking back I found that these exceptional leaders had some traits in common that made me want to follow them. I didn’t recognize these traits so much at the time, but in retrospect it is clear that if I could have asked my potential leaders some questions I would have known up front whether or not they would qualify as exceptional leaders.

Here are the three questions I would have asked:

Where are you going?

How will you get there?

Why should I trust you?

The first question is a question of vision. If you are to lead me, where will you lead me? Do you have a destination in mind? Do you know what you are trying to accomplish? Am I able to buy into this vision as something that I find good and meaningful? How will we know when we have arrived?

That may sound like a lot of questions built into one, and it is. But a good response to the question of “Where are you going?” would not only build confidence in the followers, but serve as guidepost for our decisions.

The second question is much more tactical. “How will you get there?” tells me about your value systems, what you believe is important, and your style of leadership. Do you believe that you will pick us up on your shoulders and carry us to our destination? Or will we work together as a team, utilizing all of the resources available to us to achieve our objectives. If you thought that you could carry us there on your own, I knew that you did not value your team members, would not seek counsel or advice, and would be inclined to make mistakes of omission in the process. To me, the question of “How will you get there?” was as important if not more important than the question of “Where are you going?”

Lastly, I would want to know what this leader is going to do to demonstrate to me that I should trust them. Any discussion about trust always starts with what a person says. But more important than what a person says is what a person does. Trust does not come from your words, but from your actions. Tell me I should trust you and I will pause in thought. Show me I can trust you and I will follow you.

These are the three questions that I would want to ask anyone who might be a potential leader for me. What three questions would you ask?

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Don't More Companies Engage Their Employees?

I’ve written a couple of articles about the importance of Employee Engagement and how it can bring positive results to the bottom line. Many people read the articles and comment about how great it sounds to work for a company like that, but they say that their company doesn’t care about the concept. With all of the bottom line impact from Employee Engagement, it makes one wonder why more companies don’t apply more focus to the concept.

That really is a great question and one that deserves a really good answer.

Unfortunately, I don’t have one.

When I speak with executives at any level about the concept of Employee Engagement, they all seem to understand the concept. They smile; they nod their heads; they make an intelligent comment or two; and then they move the discussion some place else.

Are they afraid of what a discussion about Employee Engagement might reveal about them or their company? Are they concerned that I might move from a discussion into a sales pitch? Or do they really not understand where Employee Engagement fits into their role and into their organization?

The executives that I speak with are generally bright, intelligent people. They understand the complexities of running their own business, the complexities of financial statements that come from their accountants, and they certainly understand the technical aspects of their business. In other words, they understand all of the “things” associated with their business. What they seem to lack is a clear understanding of the impact that people, both ordinary and extraordinary, have on their business.

For most executives, their careers started out much the way mine did (see Background and History on the blog site). They find themselves rewarded for getting results and having success in their jobs. As they progress up the career ladder they get better at doing the things that they already do best. But they don’t get better at the skills that separate average executives from top-notch executives; engaging and inspiring their people.

Sometimes you will find a progressive executive who has done some reading on Employee Engagement, but has never really experienced it firsthand. Since they are anxious to learn new things and apply them to the business, and since they see the value of Employee Engagement they do what comes natural to them.

They delegate it to someone else.

The receiving party is generally the VP of Human Resources. Logical, right? After all, the Human Resources department is focused on people and this is a people issue. He may even ask for reports to measure “how that whole Employee Engagement thing” is coming along. And the VP of HR then sometimes implements something like an Organizational Survey to measure the level of Employee Engagement, thereby furthering the myth that Employee Engagement can be delegated.

Employee Engagement starts at the top of the organization with a strong commitment to delivering world class products and services. With that comes a pledge to ensuring that every employee is dedicated to, and believes in, the same concept. This is how Employee Engagement gets started.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Companies

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” - Charles Dickens

Recently I had a very interesting experience when visiting two companies. Both companies were of similar size, in similar industries, with similar revenues, but different levels of profitability.

When I walked in the door at the first company I was met by a smiling receptionist who asked my name, and who I was there to see. She called back to confirm my appointment and then offered me something to drink while I waited. She continued working while talking with me and answering the phone.

“Are you here for a job interview?” she asked.

“No” I replied. “Are you hiring?”

“I think in some ways we always are” she replied. “We don’t post our job openings any place, but we always seem to have new people here. I think they are always looking for the right people.”

All this time she was completing paperwork at her desk, talking with me, and answering the phone with a smile in her voice.

A few minutes later my appointment came out to greet me and we headed back to her office. The walls of the office were adorned with group photos of the employees in their various endeavors. Some were clearly work related, celebrating the launch of a new product or service. Some were of the groups at play outside of the office.

Later, during a break in my meetings, I bumped into a technical employee who looked like he had been having a very rough day.

“I’ve been here since 2AM” he told me. “I got paged in for a technical issue and have been working it ever since.”

“Does this happen a lot?” I asked.

“It happens” he replied. “I don’t mind. It’s what I do.”

He went on to tell me how much he liked his job, liked the company he was working for, and how calling him in made him feel “special” because he felt needed. Was he getting paid extra for coming in at 2AM? Nope. But he didn’t give that much thought. He liked what he was doing and where he was working and that was what was important to him.

A few weeks later I walked into the other company. At the receptionist desk it was clear that I was bothering the young lady who was trying to read her magazine.

“Sit” she said, and I complied.

I tied to make small talk by asking her how she liked her job.

“No one likes their job” was her response. “I get paid to be here.”

Looking around the office area you could not help but notice the sparseness. Lots of cubes; some occupied, others not. The walls were either bare or they had those silly, framed motivational posters.

“Soar like an eagle” one said. Another one extolled the positive aspects of teamwork.

Once again, I found myself with the opportunity to chat with a couple of the employees. They weren’t very talkative and didn’t have much to say. They were watching the clock, anxious for 5PM to arrive so they could leave.

I asked one employee how long they had been working their. He replied with an expletive.

“Why are you still here?” I asked him.

“It’s a job” was the reply.

I had other conversations with people at both of these companies, but the pattern was very consistent. At the first company the employees were happy and engaged. Being there was more than just work for them, it was part of who they were. They didn’t look for or ask for special privileges or extra pay. Instead they looked at each day as a chance to be with their friends and do things that they liked and enjoyed. They didn’t have jobs. Instead, they were part of something bigger.

At the second company, the people I met did as little as possible, as seldom as possible. They viewed each day as another day in their life that they would never get back. By doing as little work as possible, they hoped to stretch out their jobs as long as they could so they would keep getting paid. I actually heard them use the word “peons” when talking about their role in the company. The people they worked with were not their friends and they couldn’t wait for the day to end so they could leave.


The first company, probably due to the high level of employee dedication and engagement, was profitable and moving forward. Not surprising, the second company was struggling every day with profitability declining.

As an employee, or as a CEO, ask yourself this question.

Which company would you rather work for?

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leaders: Are You Measuring Your ROE?

If you are a business executive you are no doubt familiar with the concept of ROI. ROI stands for Return on Investment and measures the increase in value or profitability on money that is spent. For example, if the company spends $1000 on marketing they expect additional sales in excess of $1000 to cover their costs and provide them with additional profits. Failure to earn back the dollars spent plus additional revenue will likely result in them not investing more on that same plan.

Businesses routinely measure their ROI on all types of expenditures and are constantly looking to maximize their ROI by comparing their various investments against each other. The higher the ROI the happier the company.

So what is ROE?

ROE stands for Return on Employees and measures the value that you are receiving from each employee in comparison to the salaries and benefits that they are paid. The more return you receive from each employee the more you want to continue to invest in them. While those employees who have a small or negative return might find themselves being replaced by new employees with a higher potential.

Why have you never heard of ROE?

Maybe because most companies fail to measure the return from their biggest ongoing investment: their employees.

For most companies, the closest thing they do to measuring their ROE is the annual performance review. The purpose of the annual performance review is to identify where each employee is doing well (providing a positive return) and those areas where the employee is not doing as well (providing no or very little return). Theoretically, the annual performance review is the perfect time to accurately measure the ROE of every employee in the organization and determine who to invest in, where to invest, and how much to invest.

Of course you and I know better. For too many managers the annual performance review is an unpleasant task that is required to be completed, in a limited timeframe, following a rigid format, that doesn’t allow or encourage any real attempt at measuring how valuable each employee really is. Managers often view performance reviews as a chore, required by Human Resources, forced on them when they have the least available time and keeps them from doing the things that are really important, like completing their weekly status reports.

It’s no wonder that most performance reviews are not worth the electrons used to create them.

It’s time for companies to take a whole new view of their employees and start to measure the return each employee brings them. Performance reviews are a possible place to start, but not the way most companies currently do them. It’s time to start looking for a Return on Employee for every employee, and that means providing the same diligence to our employees that we do to all of our other investments.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When is the Right Time to Invest in Leadership Training?

There is an old saying for newbies looking to invest in the stock market.....

Buy low and sell high.

The concept is quite simple. You want to buy a stock when it is low, say $10 a share, and then sell it when it reaches a higher value, allowing you to cash in and collect your profits. It’s such a simple concept that many investors get wrong. They watch a stock that they like and watch it go up. Once it has proven that it will go up, they buy it. Of course, while they were watching the stock, they missed much of the run up in price. Sometimes they wait so long to invest that the stock run up is over and the stock is actually on the way down. This causes the investor to lose money. Of course, they also lost all of the potential earnings while they watched the stock go up.

Ideally an investor would identify a potentially hot stock and buy the shares when they are down in price, someplace near their recent low price. Then, when the stock goes up, they share in those gains and sell the stock when it is near its peak. That’s the way smart investors make money in the market.

The same concept is true when it comes to investing in the leadership of your organization. This investment is not in a stock, but in your employees and in their leadership skills. By investing in leadership training for your key employees you make money by having them do their best work for you. Like stocks, you want to identify those employees with the most potential and then invest in their leadership development early in their career, to assure yourself of the highest return. If you wait too long to make that investment, you don’t get the full benefit from their growth. Or worse, they may take the things that they have learned and use them to help your competitors grow. The ideal time to invest in someone is when you have identified their potential but while their greatest growth is still in front of them.

Many companies fail to make the investment in their employees. Like the “stock investor” who watches a lot of stocks but never actually makes an investment, these organizations hire people with good potential but never pull the trigger on their development and, therefore, never receive the appropriate return. Or, they wait for the “right time” for training (meaning a time when business is good) before they invest in their future. Of course, once business is good they can’t afford to pull their employees out for training, and hence they again miss the opportunity.

When should you invest in your employees? As soon as you identify their potential; as soon as you understand how much they can help you; as soon as you realize that their development can mean more profit for your organization.

In other words, to make the most from your investment in your company and your employees, you want to invest as soon as possible. Because the sooner you invest, the sooner you can get the return you deserve.

At ECI Learning Systems, we identify your future leaders and provide leadership training designed to provide a long term impact to your organization.

If you found this message helpful, I would encourage to you pass it along to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to subscribe to the Fusion™ Blog as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honesty or Negativity - It's all a matter of perspective

Recently I was engaged in a discussion in an online workgroup focused on people in the workplace. Someone posted a question concerning why people seemed to be so negative about their jobs and employers. There were several thoughtful comments posted on this topic from people with varying backgrounds and perspectives. Then I saw a response that went like this.

“You can’t be honest in the workplace or it is perceived as negativity. Anytime I make an honest comment or provide honest feedback I’m told that I’m being negative. Sometimes I even try to provide positive comments, but I’m still told they are negative. So I no longer try. I just keep my mouth shut.”

I felt compelled to respond to this person and composed the following response:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for your thoughts on this important topic. We have a very diverse group of people responding here and many comments give me pause for thought. In the work that I do I often find people who present arguments similar to yours. If you don’t object, I’d like to provide you with some honest feedback as well.

Here it is:

What a load of hooeey! Are you really so simple minded that you are unable to discern the difference between honest feedback and negative feedback?

The difference between honest feedback and negative feedback is not a difficult concept to understand. Honest feedback involves truth presented in a way the feedback can be used to improve an idea or performance. Negative feedback also involves truth, but is presented in a way to stifle further discussion and make the person feel that they themselves are not valuable. Most people get this intuitively, but that certainly is not true for you.

Reading through my comments it occurs to me that you might be offended by my views. That’s too bad because I’m just being honest with you. Honesty after all, is what we are really after, isn’t it?



I went to the site to post my comments but found that the original poster had removed them. That’s too bad, because I thought there was a valuable lesson here. Of course, I also wondered if he would have grasped the sarcasm in my reply as I provided him with negative feedback disguised as “honesty.” At ECI Learning Systems the work we do every day involves conflict, often caused by miscommunication. Sometimes the problem comes from the top leaders and sometimes it comes from the team members themselves. In either event, a person confuses “honest feedback” with rude, arrogant, and even condescending comments that deflate the individual and the team. Obviously my comments to Bob were extreme. And they were intended that way. But many individuals present thoughtless, negative feedback to others under the guise of “honesty” or “just telling it like it is.”

My guess is that you know someone who does that routinely and either doesn’t realize it, or doesn’t realize the impact these comments have on the individual or the team. If so, it’s time to help them see themselves as others see them. It’s probably not something that you want to do on your own, but it is something that definitely needs to be done.

I hope that you found this posting helpful. If so, please share it with others who might benefit as well.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Experience the Power of Fusion™ from ECI Learning Systems

ECI Co-founder, Dave Meyer, explains the power of the Fusion™ Program from ECI Learning Systems.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who has the talent?

One of the most difficult, but rewarding, aspects of being a leader lies in the identification and utilization of the talent in the organization. Identifying and utilizing the talent in an organization can be a key separator between a middling organization and a strong one. While some organizations work to identify and cultivate talent, others ignore talent entirely to focus on the development of skills.

Let’s spend a minute differentiating talents and skills. Talent refers to the natural aptitudes and abilities of an individual, while skill is a capability that has been developed through practice. Therefore, talent often refers to a broad view of a person’s abilities (he is a talented musician), while skill is more focused on a specific competency (he is a skilled pianist). This confusion runs rampant in our business world today as we find ourselves looking for the best possible people, but not really knowing what we are looking for. Too often we hire people based on a skill (i.e. how well they use Microsoft Excel) versus a talent (how well they are able to view seemingly random information and put it into a meaningful perspective).

Hiring for skill is easier and more expedient than hiring for talent because the questions are more straightforward. You can easily ask someone how long they have been using Microsoft Excel and combine that response with a few questions on specific features of Excel and have a pretty good idea of their skill level. Identifying a talent can be a lot more difficult, but much more useful to you over the long run. After all, what good is skill in using Excel if the person doesn’t inherently understand what data will be important or how it will be used?

Skills tend to be localized and short term focused, while talents are broader and bring more long term value.

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." – Henry Van Dyke

As a true leader your job is not to hire skilled people. Instead, your job is to hire talented people and then fully utilize the talents of every person you hire to build a value oriented organization. Instead of hiring for skills to fill a specific opening, think in terms of hiring talent that will open brand new doors with new possibilities. Instead of looking for someone with a specific knowledge set, look for someone who views a broader picture with new potential.

Start by looking at your current organization. Are you utilizing the talents of each person in the organization, or have you forced some round pegs into square holes, trying desperately to create a uniform organization? Just like two snowflakes are similar but unique, so it is with your people. When you learn to identify and utilize the unique talent of each person in your organization you will have taken a huge step in creating a work environment where every member of your team loves to come to work and strives to do their very best.

If you enjoyed this article I encourage you to forward it to your friends and co-workers.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 Things Every Leader Should Know About Employee Expectations

One of the most challenging concepts for most leaders to understand is that employees all have different things they want and expect from their jobs. The natural tendency is to assume that everyone wants what we want; an opportunity to excel, be creative, take risks, and lead an organization. The truth is that people all expect very different things from their jobs and have different values. I’m sure that you have seen bright, talented people join an organization, only to have them fail because they didn’t fit in. This is often caused by a mismatch between what they value in a job and what their boss or company expects from them.

Below are 10 key areas that can help define what a particular employee wants and values in their job. Take note that, while there is no right or wrong viewpoint as to what an employee should expect, there may be a mismatch between an employee's expectations and what your company is offering to, and expecting from, their employees.

Look over the list below and see what you value. Then look at what your company values to see if they are in synch. If they are, enjoying your job is much easier. If they are not, you likely struggle to go to work each day.

Here’s the list:

1. Autonomy - Does this employee want the freedom to make decisions about how to do their job? Do they want to work in an environment where they have a lot of input into what their work goals are and how those goals can be met? Or do they prefer an environment where they can just look at the procedures that exist and follow them to the letter? Will a substantial amount of rules and regulations stifle their creativity or make them feel safe and secure?

2. Work/Life Balance – Does this employee place substantial emphasis on their personal time outside of the office? Or is this employee looking to climb the career ladder by sacrificing their personal time for more money, more prestige, or a bigger office? Will the newest challenge you have laid out for them motivate them to new heights or will it send them scurrying to the job boards, anxious to find a job that will allow them to work strictly 9 to 5?

3. Career and Job Growth - What kind of career goals does this employee have? Are they looking for ever-increasing responsibilities with the promise of ongoing promotions through management to “Executive Row”? Or do they want the kind of job where they can go to work each day and not face the pressure to excel? Are they content with what they are doing or are they looking for that next step?

4. Cultural and Social Diversity – Is it important to this employee to work with a variety of people with different cultural and social backgrounds? Do they value a wide range of diverse ideas and thoughts? Or do they prefer a safer environment where everyone looks, acts, and believes much the way they do? Will differing viewpoints lead to creativity or conflict?

5. Social and Physical Environment - Is this employee looking for a work environment where they can make friends, personalize their workspace, and enjoy the view from the office? Or would this employee prefer to work alone, viewing their workspace as a place where work is done, separate from any personal thoughts or ideas? Is the job the job, regardless of their physical surroundings?

6. Creative Expression - Does the employee value a place where their creativity and ability to be themselves is encouraged and rewarded? Does the employee prefer to just blend in with their co-workers, following the rules, and limiting their need to change things in the organization?

7. Recognition – Does the employee value public recognition of their work and acknowledgement for their achievements? Or do they prefer not to stand out from the crowd? Will a public acknowledgement of achievement fuel this employee to new heights? Or would they prefer a more personal and thoughtful, private “thank you” for their efforts?

8. Stability - How important is job security and stability to this employee? Would they prefer that their job and work environment be steady and unchanging? Or does this employee value their personal freedom and welcome the challenges and opportunities of new roles?

9. Job Structure – Does this employee require clear instructions on what to do, how to do it, and when it should be done? Or would they prefer a job where the outcome is defined, but the method to get there is not? Do they prefer to be measured on how well they do each step in their job process? Or strictly be measured based on the finished results?

10. Teamwork – Does this employee value a collaborative work environment where many people are involved in working together to create a specific output? Or would they rather work in a job where they, and they alone, are responsible for the final product? Do they prefer to work in an environment that values team achievements and the sharing of new ideas and concepts? Or would they prefer to be measured on their personal efforts, regardless of what others do around them?

The answers to these questions may be obvious to you. In fact, I hope they are obvious to you. But not everyone values the same things, and not everyone works the same way. Placing a person who values structure, team play, and limited responsibility into an environment that is highly results oriented, focuses on individual contribution, and has a high ceiling for growth can cause enormous dysfunction for that individual, regardless of how smart or talented they are.

At ECI Learning Systems, we measure each employee’s expectations with respect to their current work environment. This helps us uncover disparities and improve employee productivity.

If you found this message helpful, I would encourage to you pass it along to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to subscribe to the Fusion™ Blog as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leadership: Vision for Everyone

If you pick up any book on leadership you will no doubt discover at least one chapter dedicated to the concept of “Vision.” Leadership experts are in unanimous agreement that “Vision” is a key ingredient of any leader's success.

But is a vision required only for the top leadership of the organization? Or should a vision be a key ingredient in the makeup of any leader at any level of the organization?

I contend that vision is required of every leader, from the CEO right down to the Team Leader in every department.


To answer that question, let’s look at what it means to have a vision.

John Maxwell, in his seminal book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership covers vision as part of his Law of Navigation. Maxwell writes, “Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

Having a vision is more than steering your ship, it’s charting that destination, that major goal of the organization that allows all members of the team to work together. The problem is that when the vision is set only at the top, only by the CEO, the other members of the organization may have a difficult time in identifying what they can do to contribute to that vision. In fact, they may feel so removed from that vision, that they view the vision as pointless.

That’s why it is important for every leader in the organization to understand where they fit within the big vision and to communicate their role in that scheme by creating a vision for their own team.

Is this the same as having goals and objectives that are in synch with the overall goals and objectives of the company?

Absolutely not. Goals and objectives are specific and measurable and should definitely be consistent with the company’s goals. But the vision is about those things that are not measurable. They reflect the intent and the attitudes of the organization more than just the raw data. In fact, this vision may well go a long way in helping to define what those goals and objectives might be.

In real life, it may look like this.

Company A states their vision to be the “Preferred provider of purple widgets to the housing industry with unsurpassed quality and customer service”. While this vision might serve the company well in the marketplace and inspire both their Manufacturing and Customer Service to create premier organizations, this vision will likely to do nothing to inspire the Legal department, or the Accounting department. But leaders of these areas can create a vision that reflects the company's vision and relate it back to their own responsibilities. This will help inspire their team members and demonstrate clearly how their vision relates to the overall company vision.

For example, the Accounting/Billing department may define their vision as: “To create timely, accurate, and easy to read invoices, encouraging timely payment of all outstanding amounts”. This could easily lead to goals and objectives for timeliness and accuracy that support the company's vision but also create a non-measurable desire on the part of the Billing department to simplify their invoicing and create greater accuracy.

Similar visions can be created at even lower levels of the organization supporting both the company's and the department’s vision. You see, people at every level can't exactly rally around a goal or objective, but they CAN rally around a vision.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would certainly welcome your comments on these ideas. We encourage you to share this blog with your friends and co-workers in hopes they will also find value.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hire and Higher

One of the true measures of the growth of any leader comes from a good, hard look at the people they are hiring. Whole books have been written about how to hire, when to hire, and even who to hire. But not nearly enough has been written about the importance of leaders growing themselves through the people they hire.

When managers are new they are hiring people to work “under them”. And in most cases, they really do mean “under them”. As a new manager they are looking for people they can control and who will do things the way that they, the new manager, want them to. They look at the requirements for the job, and then through the endless stacks of resumes that have been handed to them and try and find the right person to fill the position. In other words, they are looking for the correct person to fill a specific need in their department. What these managers don’t understand is that their personal success as a manager is tied directly to the quality of people they hire. And not just how that person will perform today, but how they will perform in the future as well.

You’re only as good as the people you hire. - Ray Kroc

In the back of their minds, these new managers are often afraid that the person they hire will somehow outshine them and take away some of the luster of the manager's new found success. After all, a new face might mean a new hero, someone that the others in the department will turn to for solutions to their problems. But they are not looking for a new hero. After all, the new manager IS the new hero.

As managers grow and turn into leaders many of them begin to realize the value of having talented people working for them because hiring smart, talented people means less work for the manager. This is a big step in the development of the leader as they begin to look more and more outside of themselves for the answers to key questions.

But there is still a bigger step involved. It happens when the leader starts to look for people who are not just smart and talented, but people who are smarter and more talented than they are. This is a level that many leaders never reach. They are ok hiring smart, talented people, but people who are smarter than they are?

Wow… that’s a stretch.

Insecurities, usually unacknowledged, often stop a leader from making this leap. But the realization that they can take their career and their company to new heights by hiring people who are smarter and more talented than they are can propel them to that next level. Learning to listen to these smart, talented people means that the sky is now the limit.

It’s a tough lesson for most leaders to learn. But it’s a lesson that truly separates the great leader from the average leader.

If you found this message helpful, I would encourage to you pass it along to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to subscribe to the Fusion™ Blog as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lights! Camera! Action!

“Actions speak louder than words.”

I’ll bet you’ve heard that statement a million times before. And while it may be a classic cliché, it also happens to be very true.

Growing up we quickly learned that people’s actions and their words did not always match. People would say one thing to us and then do something entirely different. Perhaps it was a parent telling us to eat our vegetables while theirs sat untouched on their plate. Maybe it was the Little League Coach who would tell us to always use two hands to catch the ball, all while holding a beer in his right hand and fielding ground balls with his left.

We looked to our “teachers” to provide a good example for us, yet so often we found that their words and actions didn’t quite synch up. We want our teachers to model the correct behavior for us, but somehow they often fall short. We expect the dance to match the music, but somehow the dance is slightly off the beat.

Flash forward 25 years and we find ourselves in the business world. We are now the boss, the “teacher” if you will, and we work with those around us to create a successful workplace environment. To do this we create a vision of what we want our employees to do. We communicate this vision to them regularly through stimulating verbal communications, exciting emails, pointed newsletters, and motivational posters with beautiful pictures and pithy sayings like “Soar with the eagles!”

But as we look into the mirror of leadership we must ask ourselves the question, “Are we modeling the behaviors that we want to see from our team? Is the dance we are doing in time with the music?"

When there is a consistency between our words and our actions we strengthen the impact of our message. Going beyond the words, we are able to demonstrate clearly for all around us that we truly believe in the message we are delivering. And just as we were able to discern the mismatches between people's words and actions as kids, so it is today with our employees.

Our employees are tuned in with laser-like focus on our actions and how they match our words. When we preach creativity but stifle differences, they know that variances are not welcomed. When we advocate customer satisfaction but focus on our own needs first, they clearly get the message that the business, not the customer, is king. And when we urge our employees to develop themselves but give them no outlet for doing so, they get the message that they are really not that important to the business.

The surprising thing here is that most of us are all too aware of the inconsistencies of others around us. But we sometimes look right past our own challenges.

When our actions match our words and we use those actions to advance our company or organizational mission, we create a synergy that our employees acknowledge and can work towards. This synergy then translates into a consistency of words and actions in their daily activities and advances your mission and your profitability.

Actions speak louder than words!

And a few simple actions will advance your organization much faster than thousands of words.

If you found this article helpful, I would encourage you to forward it on to friends and co-workers as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Empathy and Accountability – Can They Co-exist?

The issue of empathy versus accountability has been on my mind a lot lately. You see, my natural behavioral style (my DISC style) is that of a High D – Driver. That means that I have a heavy task orientation, driven to get results with little thought to the impact on the people around me. So empathy is not all that natural to me. Accountability though is something that I am very familiar with and was a huge component of my management style.

As a side note, this profile is fairly common among leaders, which is one explanation for the number of “bosses” out there that don’t seem to care about their people, push their teams for results without regard to the impact on their people, and generally burn out their staff shortly before they wear out their own welcome in their organizations.

But a number of years ago I figured out that I could “catch more flies with honey than I could with vinegar” and began to develop more meaningful relationships with my employees and coworkers. The impact of this change was better personal relationships with both my peers and my team members and more productivity from my department. Oh, it wasn’t instantaneous, but I saw that when I needed my staff to go the extra mile, they willingly did it. When I needed that extra 20% to get us over a hump, I could count on them to come through.

Clearly my empathy for my employees had a dramatic payoff both personally and professionally. This directly impacted the company’s bottom line and helped catapult my career as well.

But the question that keeps coming up for me has to do with being too empathetic; with being too understanding. Where is the balance between being understanding and allowing others to shirk their responsibility? Is it possible that when we are too empathetic we undercut the need for responsibility and accountability?

Here is the question.

When Should Empathy Stop and Accountability Start?

In the past few weeks I have been hearing about situation after situation where people just seemed to blow off their commitments, missing deadlines, and skipping meetings, knowing that the other person would “understand” their situation. Sometimes they would get a cursory “sorry” but nothing sincere and no sense that the person involved felt any sense of responsibility for missing their commitment. It appears as though people have adjusted to the concept of empathy from those around them, and are taking full advantage of it to shirk their responsibilities.

If this pattern were to continue, we could well end up with a society of people who lack the belief in both accountability and responsibility for their actions. And that would mean a society where our word was no longer our bond, but rather a meaningless gesture.

But does that mean that empathy is bad?

Of course not.

But we cannot let empathy overtake the need for personal responsibility. And empathy must stop where the lack of personal commitment begins. If things happen that are out of someone’s immediate control, I believe empathy is appropriate. But let’s draw the line where people use empathy as a way to avoid personal responsibility.

What will this look like for you? How will you continue to show empathy but draw a clear line for personal responsibility?

I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share them here.

If you enjoyed this entry, please forward it on to your friends and co-workers.

Until next time …..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, September 7, 2009

Leadership for the New Guy (or Girl)

I recently met with a client who was very nervous because he was moving into a management role in a brand new company. He had been a manager in his previous company, but had been promoted from within. This was going to be different and he knew it.

His goals for the session were pretty simple. He wanted to make a good impression, get off to a quick start and most importantly, not stick his foot in his mouth in his first week on the job.

This is actually a much more common concern than you might realize. In fact, there have been whole books written about what to do in your first 30 days on the job. Of course, most people don’t spend the time preparing for a new job, and they especially don’t go to the library to get a book on what to do. Instead, they just show up and wing it.

It is surprising how many managers and leaders in organizations make a whole series of mistakes in those first few weeks on the job, especially when they are young. They come in and try and make a big splash. They change things that may or may not need changing. They make decisions without understanding the consequences. And they alienate some of the very same people that they will later come to discover that they desperately need.

Sometimes these decisions haunt them for a long time. In some cases, the damage is so severe that the “long time” never happens. They end up with a short, but colorful career before heading off to a new organization. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Joining a new organization can be a tremendous experience for all involved. And when you do it right, it can set your career off on a very positive setting.

With my client's permission, I'd like to share a few of the things we discussed. I’m also interested to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you have either been that new manager or have been the employee with that brand new manager.

1. Don’t talk about your old company and how they did things. No one cares how XYZ Corp did things, and trying to draw comparisons is not going to help things.
2. Spend your first week listening. While it is always good advice to listen more than you talk, for the first week it is absolutely critical that you listen without judgment to everything being said.
3. Meet your new team. They are going to be as nervous as you are about a new boss. This is a good place to practice that listening I mentioned above. Don’t make commitments to fix whatever they say is wrong because you are likely to hear a lot of contradictory information in that first week.
4. Show that you care. When it comes to following a new leader, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The reality is that you won’t know very much in those first few weeks on the job, so this is a great time to let them know how much you care. You are more likely to be forgiven for not knowing the details if they know that you are sincere.
5. Learn the basics of what your new department does and how it fits into the big picture. You want to get this knowledge from a variety of sources. Ask your people, ask your boss, ask your customers whether they be internal or external. Once again, listen more than you talk.
6. Meet your customers. Understand what they really need from your new department. Ask them what they like about how your department performs. Ask them what they don’t like. Promise to meet with them on a regular basis and then keep that promise.

There you have it. Our quick list of things to do when you first take over a new organization. Feel free to comment about those things that you think should definitely be done, or not be done. We’d love to hear about your experiences and what you discovered the hard way.

I hope that you enjoyed this posting. If you did, please feel free to forward it to a friend, or twenty.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Leadership: What's Generation Got To Do With It....

If you are like many of today’s leaders, you’re tired. First, you had all of the management fads from the last 20 years to deal with, and now you're dealing with the worst recession since The Great Depression of the 1920’s. Many leaders are looking at a calendar today and asking “When will it all end? When will things get back to normal?”

Here’s the good news. All indicators show that the recession is coming to an end.

Here’s the bad news. Things will never be “normal” again.

At least normal in the vernacular that most of us long for; the normal where things were predictable, where your customers were steady, and where your employees could be counted on to produce quality results.

The new “normal” is going to look very different than that and a lot of it has to do with the generations in the workplace. This is especially true for the two biggest generations in the workplace today, the Baby Boomers and Generation Y.

Here’s some more good news, while the two generations could not be more dissimilar in the way they approached their career, they do have a lot in common in what they are looking for in a career today.

The Baby Boomers are the sons and daughters of the WWII generation, sometimes referred to as “The Greatest Generation”. Many of these Boomers were children of the ‘60’s, where they defied their parents, challenged authority, and changed the world around them. They weren’t content to just stand still and watch the world go by. Instead they took an active role and worked to change it. In the 1960’s they changed it through protests, civil unrest, and that danged rock 'n' roll music.

And, while they defied authority and worked for change, they also became a significant part of American Business success. They not only reshaped the workforce, but also became the backbone of American growth through their spending habits and work ethic. Their size and passion combined to spur the greatest growth and technological change in the history of the world.

Now, those people are retiring; or at least thinking about retiring. And in that process, they are leaving a void in the American workforce.

The replacement for the Baby Boomers is not Generation X. Gen X is relatively small in size. Instead, the Baby Boomers will be replaced by Generation Y. Generation Y is generally considered to be those born in the late 1970’s through the early 1990’s. And, while it’s size is comparable to the Baby Boomers, that’s where the similarities generally end. While the Baby Boomers were into social change, Gen Y is into X Box. While the Baby Boomers were shaped by Vietnam, Gen Y has been shaped Monica and Bill. And, while the Baby Boomers brought us the Beatles, Gen Y brought us Brittany Spears.

Here is the good news for American Business. In today's workplace, both the Baby Boomers and Generation Y are looking for similar things; things like flexible work schedules, opportunities to learn new things, and chances to give back to their communities. That means you can create a new workplace that will appeal to your 2 biggest members of the workforce. And in that process, you can begin to smooth the transition from the retiring of the Baby Boomer to the inclusion of Generation Y.

And that should finally bring a smile to your face.

If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to forward it to your friends.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leading at the Speed of Trust

The Harvard Business Journal reports that trust in American companies is at an all time low. It cites not only trust between businesses and consumers, but also trust between businesses and their employees. The cost of lost trust is high. From a sales standpoint, a loss of trust means that each transaction will be scrutinized more closely by the consumer before they actually make the purchase. This translates directly into higher sales costs, higher transaction costs, and reduced profitability.

But what about the lack of trust between employees and management?

First, this is hardly a new phenomenon. Trust between management and employees has been waning for years. The economic meltdown that started in late 2008 merely accelerated the process and has taken us to new lows. Second, the cost of this loss of trust is also very high. A lack of trust can easily hurt employee productivity, but it also impacts the cost of attracting and hiring good employees. And, of course, there are the training costs. Whether you have a formal training program for new employees or have your current employees train new ones, the fact remains that there is a high cost of training that is often overlooked.

The lack of trust is costing American businesses a lot of money, and most of them don’t even realize it.

The funny thing is, when trust is high in an organization, it’s not just a happier place to work. After all, American businesses have never striven to make employees “happy”. But it is a more productive, more creative, and more engaged workplace.

Employees work harder, without thinking about it.

Employees are more creative, without thinking about it.

Employees serve the customers better, without thinking about it.

With the high costs associated with the lack of trust and the dramatic benefits associated with creating a trust based organization, why aren’t more companies exerting the effort to build trust?

There are really two reasons.

1. Most organizations don’t realize they have a trust problem. It’s not that they are ignoring it, they just have no idea of the importance of trust. They don’t know what they don’t know.

2. Those that realize there is a trust issue have no idea how to go about rebuilding trust in their organization. After all, it’s not like you can follow a cook book and suddenly build trust in your organization. In other words, they know that they don’t know.

The concept of building trust based organizations is coming to the forefront as American leaders look for ways to restore profitability and growth in their organizations. These companies are realizing that the intersection of their company's vision, their corporate values (how that vision is implemented), and their employees' expectations can create a new source of energy that can propel their organization to new heights of engagement and profitability. And, the sooner they address these issues, the sooner they will get results.

The question is, do your employees trust you? Is their a clear intersection of your company's vision, the corporate values, and your employees' expectations?

If you have to think for more than one second, then the answer is likely “no.” The sooner you get started on building trust, the sooner your company will rise again.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog and will take a few minutes to provide us with feedback and perhaps share it with a friend.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leadership: To Get Up, One Must First Fall Down!

I spent this past weekend at the Rocky Mountain District Convention for Kiwanis, in Gering, NE. It was a great convention and a real learning experience on a number of levels. But I was really inspired by our Keynote Speaker on Saturday, Jerry Traylor.

Jerry Traylor was born with Cerebral Palsy. He has pictures from when he was a baby with casts on his legs, as his parents and the doctors tried to help him. But Jerry never let his condition deter him. Jerry knew that while he could not impact the challenge that life had given him, he could impact how he would react to the challenge.

As you might suspect, his childhood was very challenging as his condition impacted everything he could or would do. But Jerry persevered and did things that no one ever thought possible. Jerry shared with us his story of tragedy and triumph and told us how hard he had fought to ensure that his condition would not define his life. At one point, Jerry decided to run a marathon. He set out to train and eventually completed a 26 mile marathon in somewhat over 7 hours, all while on crutches. Of course, that was just the start. Since then Jerry has completed 35 marathons.

But that is not Jerry’s biggest accomplishment. You see, once Jerry knew that he could run a marathon with his crutches, he set his sights even higher. In 1985 Jerry Traylor, using his crutches, jogged across the United States from San Francisco to New York City.

Absolutely inspirational.

When Jerry spoke with us this weekend, he talked about how winners get up while others stay down. Winners don’t quit when things get tough. Winners find ways to conquer problems that many of us would let overwhelm us.

And while I was truly inspired by Jerry’s story and what he had overcome and accomplished, I was struck by a simple fact that many of us overlook. You see, while Jerry had figured out that being a winner means getting up, most of us think being a winner means never falling down. Somehow we have taken the perspective that winners routinely win, while others of us struggle. The reality is far different than that. The reality is that we all fall down from time to time. We all struggle with different types of challenges and we all fail from time to time. But winners consider any setback to be temporary in nature, something that teaches them what not to do, and as guidance for future efforts. Winners understand that mistakes are part of the game of life and accept them as natural. They don’t dwell on mistakes because they understand that never making a mistake means that they have never tried anything new.

You see, it’s not just that winners get up while others stay down. Winners know that, in order to get up, you have to have fallen down. And everyone falls down from time to time.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog and will take a few minutes to provide us with feedback and perhaps share it with a friend.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leadership and Management - Read to Succeed

A month or so ago I was approached by a young lady who was thinking about going into management. She asked me for some recommended reading that would help prepare her for her possible new role. Below is the list I gave her of my favorite management and leadership books, as well as why I think these books are valuable. I’d love to hear input on your favorite books as well.

1. First, Break All The Rules - Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

This is a must read book for anyone who is going into management. The title refers to the fact that the research performed by the Gallup organization clearly shows that some of the most common “rules” of management are, in fact, incorrect. By focusing on the top performing organizations Buckingham and Coffman make a clear case for a different style of management.

2. Dig Your Well BEFORE You're Thirsty - Harvey MacKay

A common sense approach to people and your career, Harvey MacKay provides us with practical, easy to read advice about ourselves and our careers. This is just one of several excellent books by Mr. MacKay.

3. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - Revised Edition - John Maxwell

John Maxwell is the leader’s leader. His “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” takes leadership to levels that most of us don’t even think about. This book is excellent for experienced leaders as well as emerging leaders.

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

Told in narrative style, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” is the story of a typical business team and what is holding them back. Patrick Lencioni weaves a tale of dysfunction that applies to many teams and then clearly shows how one can overcome these challenges.

5. Working With Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman

Every leader needs to understand emotional intelligence, and Daniel Goleman is the master at explaining what emotional intelligence is and how it applies in the workplace. Complex theories are explained in simple terms and then related back to every human being. Those leaders who don’t understand the concept of emotional intelligence are not leaders for very long.

6. Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill

Originally published in 1937 this book is as relevant today as it was then. This is a dynamic personal development book that defines personal development. The mind is a powerful tool and Napoleon Hill demonstrates how to harness your mind for your personal success.

7. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey

This book is an all time classic and a must read for anyone who wants to be successful in their own life. Take my advice and read this book slowly. Savor the ideas presented by Covey and enjoy the new perspective that he provides.

8. How To Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

Don’t read this book once. Read it again and again. This is another oldie (1936), but in reality it is a timeless classic. Its lessons are as applicable today as they were in 1936 and will help you understand yourself and others as well.

9. True North - Bill George

This is a newer book that will someday be considered a classic. In this book Bill George makes the case for discovering what you are all about, to create a leadership style that is 100% authentic and effective. Until you understand yourself, you can’t truly create a vision of where you want to go.

10. What Got You Here, Won't Get You There - Marshall Goldsmith

Considered by many to be the “bible of executive coaching.” Marshal Goldsmith clearly demonstrates that to succeed, we need to learn, grow, and do things differently. After being rewarded for our behavior, it can be difficult to adapt and change. But change we must. To succeed as a leader means understanding what new skills must be learned and mastered.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on these books, as well as add to this list of great leadership reads.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 3, 2009

Manager to Leader Or When You Come To The Fork In The Road, Take It

No doubt that many of you have heard the euphemism “Managers manage process while leaders lead people.” And, while that may be a cliché, it has its roots in truth. At the lowest levels of management it is all about the process:

- how to do things better
- how to be more efficient
- how to be more accurate
- how to produce more widgets

As you climb the leadership ladder, this begins to change for you. And this has been the theme of our last few blog entries.

How do you make the shift from manager to leader?

Or more importantly, WHEN do you make the shift from manager to leader?
The shift from thinking about process to thinking about people is a shift that happens subtly for most managers. In your first managerial job you will likely think little about the people and a lot about the process. This is especially true if you were promoted from inside your current department, as most new managers are. You are a technical expert with a substantial amount of detailed process knowledge and you got your promotion because you consistently demonstrated your knowledge of the subject matter.

When you take your second managerial job you don’t know nearly as much about the detail because this is a new department for you and you’ve never worked on the front line. Never the less, having again been rewarded for your detailed knowledge of the process, you tend to dig into the details and try your best to become a technical expert again. But this time you find that a number of people in your new department are much more technically adept than you are.

Although it goes against your nature, this is actually your first clue that you need to focus more on people and less on process.


Because the people who are now working for you are much smarter about the process than you are and, try as you might, you will never understand the detail as well as they do, because they do this work every day. At this point, the most effective use of your time is actually understanding the process at a little higher level, and understanding the people at a little deeper level.

As you begin this experiment, you discover the inherent strengths and weaknesses of all of the people who work for you. And you discover that by using their strengths effectively you can get more accomplished than ever before. You will also understand what motivates them, what they enjoy doing, and what they fear in their job and in their life. When you understand these things, you begin to understand the real person.

And that is when you begin to transition from being just a manager to starting down the path of leadership.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, July 27, 2009

Leadership: "Hard Hats" Not Required Here

In our last couple of entries, we have been talking about the relationship between leadership and emotional intelligence. In our last blog we noted this rather shocking statistic:

95% of your long term success at the executive level will not be the result of how smart you are, but rather of how well you manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you.

I state that this statistic is shocking because, for many of you, your career development has been the direct result of your "technical" talent and skills, or hard skills. The more you know, the more you have succeeded. As you face challenges, you have used your own technical knowledge and skills to overcome these problems. As a result, this idea of your success being tied to managing emotions (your own and those of other people) seems completely foreign to everything you have experienced in your career.

Take a look at the graph below. This graph represents the type of skills required (technical vs. people) to be successful at the various levels of leadership. As you can see, the higher you go up the leadership ladder, the less technical (or hard) skills you require and the more people (or soft) skills you require. This is a lesson that many young leaders (including yours truly) don’t pick up on right away. After some thought it might become more obvious, but when you are constantly rewarded for your performance, the tendency is to do more of the same.
Let’s ponder this concept for a few minutes. Could the VP of your organization do some of the technical things that you or your staff do day in and day out? For that matter, would you want your VP even trying to do some of these tasks?

Probably not.

You want your VP focused on strategic concepts, focusing on the future and preparing your organization for its newest challenges. This type of work is not done in a vacuum, but rather in conjunction with other leaders both inside and outside of the company. For your VP, building relationships and getting along well with others is the key to their success. That doesn’t mean that they have to like everyone that they deal with, but they must learn to deal with disagreements and conflict in a way that builds teamwork and does not damage it. And while they certainly have to understand the technical concepts of the business, they won’t be applying them on a day to day basis.

The metamorphosis from technical expert to expert in human behavior is the critical point in the development of any executive. It starts when you begin to use your knowledge of human behavior to get the most from your team. That means:

  • understanding what your team members do best
  • knowing that everyone is motivated by different things
  • figuring out what motivates those team members
  • communicating beyond the facts to touch each person
  • not trying to teach a pig to sing (i.e. enhancing team members' strengths, not trying to develop their weaknesses)

And the more you progress up the leadership ladder, the bigger the role these elements play in your success.

We will have more on this next week.

Until next time......

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

In last week’s blog (The Single Most Important Leadership Lesson Ever) I introduced you to the concept of Emotional Intelligence. In short, I demonstrated that those bosses who had the most positive impact on your life were usually not the most technically brilliant or even technically competent bosses, but those that touched you in an emotionally positive way.

When I introduce the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) to executives in workshops, I’m often met with a series of chuckles and guffaws. “I never thought I’d see the words emotional and intelligence used together in the same sentence” they say. “Aren’t those a contradiction in terms?” is another common retort.

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

In short, Emotional Intelligence is your ability to understand and manage yourself and others around you, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, identifying what you do well and don’t do well, and relating to the world around you through your emotions.

In other words, how well do you know yourself? How well do you manage yourself? How well do you understand others? How well do you manage the emotions of others?

Here is a rather shocking statistic: 95% of your long term success at the executive level will not be the result of how smart you are, but rather of how well you manage the emotions of those around you.

The primary reason for careers stalling on the way up, or for executives failing in their roles, are directly related to Emotional Intelligence. When an executive possesses these skills (knowingly or unknowingly) they are taking full advantage of themselves and the talented people around them. When they don’t possess these skills, they are limited by their own intelligence. And while they may be highly intelligent, none of us is as smart as all of us.

Let’s take a brief look at how and why this happens.

As you start your career you are an individual contributor. As an individual contributor, you have a certain amount of control over your destiny. The smarter you are, the better you perform your job. The better you perform your job the sooner you are promoted to a higher level position, including that of a supervisor.

As a supervisor, you are somewhat dependent on those around you to accomplish their tasks and complete their assignments on time and with the appropriate level of accuracy. But should they fail, you have the personal expertise to understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and you can even fix the problem yourself. So even as a supervisor you have a lot of control over your future. If your team performs poorly, you can often make up for it through your personal efforts. Ideas for improvements and changes may come from the team members, but more often than not, they come from the supervisors themselves. Hence your ability to control your fate is still largely in your own hands. And, if you do well, you can and will be promoted to manager.

This is where things begin to change.

More on this next time.....

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Single Most Important Leadership Lesson Ever

When it comes to leadership, there are basically two kinds of people in the world. Those that study leadership and work constantly to improve their leadership skills, and those that think leadership is a given. For this second group of people, if you are the boss, you are the leader. It’s really that simple.

Of course, the truth is far different from that. As many eventually discover, being the boss has nothing to do with real leadership because the title of “boss” is given to you by someone higher in the organization, while the role of “leader” is bestowed on you by your followers. As John Maxwell says, “If you think you are a leader but no one is following, you are just out taking a walk.”

Those people who study leadership and spend a lot of time reading about leadership concepts and techniques, often focus on such things as Vision, Intelligence, Risk Taking, etc. And while these are certainly important concepts, they overlook the key quality of a leader that creates followers.

Take a few minutes now and think back to the one person in your life that you personally experienced and believed to be a great leader. It may have been a boss from one of your jobs, or maybe it was a scout leader from your youth, a minister from your church, or even a sports coach or teacher from high school. But my guess is that there is someone tha you looked up to and admired as a leader and who you would, if you could, model yourself after.

Visualize this person in your mind’s eye and immerse yourself in the thoughts you had when this person was such a huge influence in your life. Go as deep as possible in recreating the feelings and thoughts from that time period.

Now, get out a piece of paper and quickly write down the first 5 attributes that come to your mind about this person.

Let’s take a look at your list and mark each item on that list with the following codes:

1. If the attribute had something to do with their technical skills, knowledge of the subject matter or expertise, or quick decision making, mark those items with a “T”.

2. If the attribute has something to do with the “softer skills” of leadership (like the way you felt listened to or appreciated by this person, or maybe the way they inspired you with their vision and made you feel included), mark those items with an “E”.

3. If the item doesn’t fit into either of these two categories, mark them with an “O”.

If you are like 98% of the adult population of this country, at least 3 of the 5 items on your list are now labeled with an “E”. For many of you, all 5 will be labeled with an “E”.

What is the message here?

Those people who we view as outstanding influences in our lives, those people we look up to and admire, are held in that esteem not because of how “smart” they were, but because of the way they made us feel about ourselves, our jobs, and the world around us. The same will be true of you. It’s not how smart you are that will make you a great leader, but how you invest in others and how they invest in you.

This concept is called Emotional Intelligence. We will talk about this more next week.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, July 5, 2009

If Leadership is Easy, Why Aren't There More Great Leaders?

A few weeks ago I posted my “10 Things Every Leader Should Know” (http://ecilearning.blogspot.com/2010/02/10-things-every-leader-should-know.html) and as I mentioned, that list generated a lot of interesting off line discussion. In one such discussion a reader made the following observation.

“This really is a simple list. The things on here are important, but there’s nothing here that really is rocket science. So if leadership is this easy, why aren’t there more great leaders?”

That really is a great question, especially in a society that really seems to be screaming for leadership in business and in politics. As a result, we spent quite a bit of time discussing this issue, dissecting various leaders that we knew and trying to determine if they were great leaders, good leaders, or even bad leaders.

She brought up her current boss as an example and described him as someone who was not nearly as good a leader as he seemed to believe he was. What was he missing? “Trust” she replied “and listening; he pretends to listen but he really doesn’t.” Those were the two things that really jumped out at her. The other items on the list were things he did really well, but without these two key ingredients he was someone that she only followed because he was the boss.

We discussed other examples of people that seemed to miss the mark on leadership.

One cared only about results and not about the people, another person wanted to be the smartest person on the team and hired people that would never challenge her or make her stretch and think. Another boss tended to horde information and left most of the team in the dark.

There were more examples, but you get the idea.

The point is that leadership is not complex or complicated, but it does require a variety of skills and ALL of these skills have to be present or the leader may fall short, far short of the kind of leader that they want to be. If you can't do all of these things, then you aren't a good leader, much less a great one. And so many leaders fall short in one or more of these areas.

Here’s the worst part. Most leaders who fall short don’t realize that they are falling short. Like most people, leaders do not see their own blind spots. And since they can't see what they are missing they assume that they really are doing what needs to be done.

How does this happen?

One example would be a leader who has a vision and believes that he/she is communicating that vision to the team. But for a variety of reasons, the team is not getting the message. And since the team is not receiving the message, it is not really communicated. Hence the leader is falling short without realizing it.

What are some ways for leaders to discover their blind spots?

There are a number of ways. Ideally someone can point out theblind spots to them. But that requires that the leader be open to honest feedback and has someone in their inner circle who is willing and able to communicate with them. If not, coaching can be a great way to uncover weaknesses. But even then the leader must be in contact with the coach and be determined to uncover any blind spots. Another alternative is a professionally administered 360 degree assessment. Done by a professional, 360 degree assessments are a powerful tool. Done by someone who is untrained or unqualified, a 360 can lead to false results and a loss of trust in the organization.

If you are interested in taking the next step in developing yourself and becoming the leader that you truly want to be, contact ECI Learning Systems today.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, June 29, 2009

Leaders With Attitudes

I got some very interesting reactions to my list of “10 Things Every Leader Should Know.” It was a simple little list, yet, for many of you, it seems that the list really resonated. A few people posted comments on the blog site, a few posted comments to me on Facebook, a few emailed me, and I even got a couple of phone calls.

Why did this simple list create such a reaction?

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, in spite of its simplicity, the list acknowledged that the leader has to do more than one thing to be effective. It seems that many of you believe that your leaders, at whatever level of the organization, believe they must only do one thing well to be a successful leader.

Obviously that is just not true.

Others focused on specific items on the list as being something really lacking in their leader. One person put it this way.

“I agree, Dave. Leadership is simple. So why do so many leaders get it wrong?”

I will write about some of the responses I got in future blogs, but this week I wanted to focus on several comments I received about the way attitude plays into leadership.

Attitude is an issue with leaders. Several people commented that I hinted at the importance of the leader's attitude, but they wished I had been more direct. “Don’t leaders realize that the employees adapt the attitude of the leader? When the leader has a bad attitude, so do the employees.”

This is true. When the leader has an attitude of hope and presents hope to the employees, they follow with hope in their heart.

When the leader's attitude about customers is concerned and caring and they demonstrate that through policies and procedures, the employees work hard to take care of the customers.

But when the leader's attitude is negative, the employees also adopt that same attitude. If the leader is depressed about the prospects for the future, the employees are as well. If the leader is worried about the revenue stream, the employees sense this and become worried as well. And when the leader is just in a crappy mood for an extended period, that mood becomes the mood around the entire office.

This is not a suggestion for leaders to apply a fake smile and pretend to be happy when they are not. After all, employees can always sense a fake. But rather, this is an acknowledgement that what you do, how you act , and even how you feel have a much bigger impact on those around you when you are a leader.

All leaders have an attitude. If you are not projecting the right attitude, you are most certainly projecting the wrong one.

Until next time......

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, June 22, 2009

10 Things Every Leader Should Know

Whether you are a new or an experienced leader, there are some key things that every leader should know and understand to ensure their success. While some people are natural born leaders, others learn through trial and error. But whether you are a natural leader or someone who has learned leadership the hard way, there are a few things every leader should know. Below are 10 items that you should apply every day to ensure your success as a leader.

1. Vision - Your team is looking to you for hope. As a leader it is your responsibility to tell the truth, but to also provide a clear vision and hope for the future.

2. Communication - It’s not enough to have a clear vision for the future if no one knows what that vision is. Communicate that vision continually to all levels of your organization.

3. Action - People will follow what they see more quickly than what they hear. Don’t just communicate your vision but live it through your actions.

4. People - The best way to show how smart you are is to hire people that are even smarter than you are. Your success will be defined by those around you. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find at all levels of your organization.

5. Listen - All around you there are wonderful ideas floating around. But you can’t hear them if you are too busy talking. You hired those smart people, now listen to them.

6. Motivation - You can’t motivate anyone because motivation comes from within. But you can provide an environment that encourages people and allows them to stretch to their limits and beyond.

7. Talent - Everyone has talent; something they can do better than almost anyone else. Identifying people’s talents and utilizing those talents in an organization means that you can get the best from every employee.

8. Trust – Great teams are built on the foundation of great leadership. Great leadership is built on the foundation of great trust. Start building trust on day one and never let up.

9. Development – In good times and bad you want to be able to do more with less. That means spending the time and the money to develop the talent on your team. It’s this development that will help your team survive and thrive when you need them most.

10. Energy - Workplace energy means that your team is fully engaged at all levels of the organization. Workplace energy happens when the company’s culture, the management's style and the employees' expectations overlap and create a synergy that propels the entire organization forward.

Until next time......

ECI Learning Systems, LLC