Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders

Tales from a Reluctant CEO

Maxine Harris and her partner Helen Bergman started a business and grew it to $35 million through trial and error and constant change. In her new book, Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, Maxine shares lessons that can benefit all of us starting something new. She shares how they overcame obstacle after obstacle to succeed. I recently spoke with her about the lessons she shares in her new book.

 

When should a start-up start thinking about culture?

Culture is not really something that you think about when you first start a business. You might say, we want to be casual or formal, or we want to maintain an air of professionalism, but short of being doctrinaire, you can’t really control what organizational culture will become.  More than anything, culture evolves from the personalities of the founders. I happen to be very chatty and like to ask a lot of questions.  Some employees see that as friendly; others see it as intrusive.  When I push people to “think smart” and try to do things in better and more creative ways, some people see me as demanding and judgmental, others feel that I am encouraging and stimulating. In both cases, it is the employee who identifies culture based on how they interpret what is going on.

Culture is one of those things that exists in the eye of the beholder.  An employee, an outside consultant or a business colleague takes a step back and sees the unspoken rules and nuances of the organization.  Sometimes people are only aware of the organizational culture when they are asked what they like or don’t like about their jobs. When we asked people who were joining the organization what they were looking for in their selection of a job, we got a glimpse into the kind of culture in which they would feel most comfortable.  And while many said they were looking for an environment in which their opinions were valued and respected, others wanted a cultural milieu in which the boss would tell them what to do and they would have clear guidelines for performance.

Over the years, as Community Connections grew in size and diversified in its programs, culture changed. You could feel the difference. A business with three employees can’t help but be informal and casual.  But as we grew and increased our size to over 400 employees, it became impossible not to have some hierarchical structure. You can remember the names of three people, but when the size gets big, and leaders are rushing from one meeting to the next, it’s hard to be as friendly as you’d like to be.

 

“Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” –Thomas Wolfe

 

You wrote fairy tales for each chapter. That’s unusual in a business book. Why did you decide to do that?

How to Manage to Make a Difference

make a difference

Make a Difference

If you’re a new manager, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory faster than you can imagine. How do you handle the gossiping employee? Or the top performer about to jump ship? How do you develop a high-performance team?

Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage have literally packed numerous tips, strategies, tools and techniques for managers into the pages of their new book, Managing to Make a Difference: How to Engage, Retain, & Develop Talent for Maximum Performance. I recently spoke with Larry about their new work.

 

“We can change the world and make it a better place.” -Nelson Mandela

 

Why Employee Orientation is All Wrong

Your book starts out saying that we have employee orientation all wrong. We too often start with scare tactics and explaining what will result in termination. What does this do to new employees?

Frankly, the gratuitous negativity turns people off. The new employer is building the case for termination on day one! Also, it’s just plain boring. Negative and boring are not strategies to increase engagement and positivity about starting a new job.

You might say that these kinds of statements are necessary in our litigious society. We happen to disagree with that point of view. But even if we were to agree that they are necessary, they diminish your efforts to engage and retain people.

Imagine you’re dating someone, and you start a discussion about being exclusive and moving in together. The other person replies, “I’d love to do that! But first I want to make sure you understand the reasons I might decide to end this relationship.” How would that make you feel?

 

Go Ahead: Get Close to Your Team

I loved your advice on getting close to people. I’ve long advocated this. What are the benefits of getting close to people at work?

When you cultivate close, positive relationships with your employees (and among your employees), every employee spends his day with people he really likes and cares about. This increases job satisfaction, engagement and morale. Teamwork improves because employees are more likely to go the extra mile for people they care about. When problems occur, employees with good relationships will resolve them more easily. A leader who has close relationships with her employees can exert more influence on them without using her power. For instance, when she asks for extra effort, they’re more likely to give it.

 

Leadership Tip: the closer you are to someone, the easier it is to influence that person.

 

Talk about the importance of setting expectations.

5 Roles of Great Change Leaders

change management

Become a Great Change Leader

One of the most important skills of a leader is managing and accelerating change. What makes change stick or fail is a fascinating topic, one that most new leaders struggle to understand. Mastering the art of change is a challenge and yet one that is well worth the investment. Because all great leaders are change agents.

Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio studied change for the last decade and have packed their key takeaways and learnings into their new book, Change the Way You Change! They outline the five roles of great change leaders. If you want to accelerate your leadership and improve your results, this book is a blueprint on how to orchestrate your change efforts.

 

“The only constant is change.” –Heraclitus

 

5 Roles of A Change Leader

In your book, you talk about five roles for change leaders. Is one more commonly a problem for a leader than others?

This is a question leaders ask us a lot, probably because they are so busy running the business that it’s hard to think about improving their leadership. We have found that each role of leadership has its unique challenge. For example, the FOCUS role requires a leader to get everyone on the same page and pull in the same direction. And the ALIGN role requires leaders to ensure that all of the processes, structure, and systems are aligned to the direction of the organization—a daunting task to say the least. But the role of leadership which is probably the hardest, takes the most time, opens up the organization for pushback, and has the most potential if done effectively is the ENGAGE role. Most leaders who put a lot of energy and money into the diagnosis and design of a new organizational solution are so excited to implement the new idea that they take very little time to syndicate that direction with key stakeholders either during design or before execution. True engagement done well holds the key to open the minds, hearts, and hands of employees required to implement by helping them change and adapt to make the new solution a reality.

 

“The world fears a new experience more than it fears anything.” –D.H. Lawrence

 

How is your approach to change different from others?

In all the books we read, the authors (and many change practitioners) argue that change starts one way or another. Some say that change starts with individuals. Others claim that individuals can’t really change until the organization does. But after helping lead transformations for years, we asked ourselves, “How does change really happen? Does change happen from the inside-out or from the outside-in?” In other words, is the most effective way to change an organization accomplished by helping individuals change so they, in turn, can change their teams and the organization (inside out)? Or is the best approach to improve the organizational elements of strategy, processes, and structure, and then expect teams and individual behavior to align with the changes to deliver better results (outside-in)? And we asked, “Does it have to be either/or?” After many years of considering this question and approaching change using one approach or the other, we have found that the answer is “no.” Instead, for change to be sustainable, it requires both an inside-out and an outside-in approach. To change a team or business, a leader must change both the thoughts and beliefs and the structure and systems. And to get it to stick, all levels of the organization (individual, team, and organization) must be focused, aligned, and engaged on the same thing—and that takes leadership!

 

“Nothing is so dear as what you’re about to leave.” –Jessamyn West

 

How the Best Leaders Initiate Change

How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant

How to Hire Right Now

Most of us know that success in business depends on people. From an entrepreneur-led startup to a large organization, we don’t go very far without relying on individuals and teams. Some go so far as to say that the only real competitive differentiation organizations have is people.

But hiring the right talent isn’t easy. We’re often worried we may pick the wrong person.

 

A hiring mistake can cost up to 5x the bad hire’s annual salary. -SHRM

 

As the CEO of a large company, I’m often pushing managers to fill open positions. To me, an opening that drags on too long causes all kinds of other problems. Customer needs not met, employees doing multiple jobs for too long, and milestones delayed.

Scott Wintrip takes on the topic of hiring talent in his new book, High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant. Through his global consultancy, Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott has worked with companies around the world to hire top talent in less than an hour. I recently talked with him about his research and his new book.

 

It’s Taking Too Long!

Why is it taking longer and longer to fill jobs?

Two factors have caused the time it takes to fill a job to reach all-time highs: the skills shortage and an inefficient hiring process.

There’s a persistent talent shortage that’s pervasive across all industries. For example, when you look at middle-skill roles (jobs that require education beyond high-school and below the level of a four-year degree), there’s a gap between the number of jobs and the number of people to fill them. According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill roles account for 53 percent of jobs in the United States. However, only 43 percent of U.S. worker have current skills at the middle-skill level.

Copyright Scott Wintrip. Used by Permission.

Qualified people also have more employment choices than ever, including the option of doing their own thing by joining the “gig economy” as freelancers. Because of this, an increasing number of people are leaving the traditional workforce. When you combine this with increased globalization, borders will matter less, creating a talent competition unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The old way of hiring—keeping a job open until the right person shows up—doesn’t work when there’s a people shortage. A reactive process keeps a job open for weeks or months. To have the people they need, organizations must permanently change their hiring strategy by engaging in the new way of hiring: actively cultivating top talent and then waiting for the right job to open.

 

“Dating and hiring have a lot in common.” -Scott Wintrip

 

Avoid these Hiring Errors

How to Find and Work With a Mentor

Become a One-Minute Mentor

I’m a big fan of mentoring relationships. A mentor may be a formal relationship with someone or it may be a virtual relationship. In fact, the reason I read so much is that I’m curious and constantly learning from others. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them myself. I’d rather take a shortcut if someone else has already figured out the best way forward.

One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor-and Why You’ll Benefit from Being One is a new book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Ken Blanchard. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, an early employee of Twitter, was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard is the author or coauthor of more than 60 books—including the iconic bestseller The One Minute Manager —with combined sales of more than 21 million copies.

 

Mentoring Tip: a successful meeting with a potential mentor puts the personal before the tactical.

 

Why a book on mentoring?

We believe that behind every successful person, you’ll find a mentor—usually several—who guided their journey. There are many famous mentor/mentee examples out there—Socrates and Plato, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey—the list goes on and on.  With the pace of change today, we believe that mentoring can ground you and guide you in a way that few other activities can. The amazing thing about mentoring is that in many ways it benefits the mentor as much as the mentee.

 

“Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz

 

How to Start

Many people who want a mentor don’t know where to start. You point out that “Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” How do you identify potential mentors? Ones who match your needs?

There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  We’ve found in our own lives that mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.  You might find a mentor in a boss, teacher, neighbor, friend, or colleague. Or you might find one through a professional association, volunteer organization, or online mentoring organization.

That old saying works both ways—when you’re ready to become a teacher/mentor, the student/mentee appears.  We encourage people to step up and become mentors, because you won’t fully discover, appreciate, or leverage what you have until you start giving it away.

As for identifying a potential mentor/mentee, it’s important to think about compatibility. In the book, we show that there are two aspects of working with someone: essence and form. Essence is all about sharing heart-to-heart and finding common values. Form is about structure—how you might work together. For a mentoring relationship to thrive, you need to establish that heart-to-heart connection.

 

 

Success Tip: writing about issues that arise during introspection can help to clarify them.

 

Keep a Journal of Your Journey

Why is it important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey?

One of Ken’s most important mentors, Peter Drucker, taught him that, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey so you can see where you’ve been and stay on track with where you’re going. In the book, the first step in our MENTOR model stands for “Mission”—creating a vision and purpose for the mentorship. Keeping a journal as you engage with your mentor/mentee will reveal the ways you’re fulfilling—or not fulfilling—that mission. For example, if your goal in a mentoring relationship is to create a career you love, you can record in your journal each step you take toward accomplishing that mission.

 

Success Tip: tread lightly on the networks of others. Never use or abuse the connections made for you.

 

“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” How have you seen that in practice in your own lives?

Ken’s earliest mentor was his father, a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Ken’s dad had a brilliant way of guiding Ken without dampening his spirit. For example, when Ken was in junior high, he was elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home all proud of winning the election. Instead of telling Ken he was the greatest thing since sliced bread—or, on the other hand, telling him not to get a big head—Ken’s dad said with tactful honesty, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.”  That One Minute Mentoring taught Ken one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned about leadership.

 

“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz

 

What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?