Posts Tagged ‘leadership’


Do you care for me?

October 21, 2013

I recently conducted qualitative research for a graduate school thesis…how employees perceive leadership as told through their worst boss stories.

At the heart of looking at worst boss stories is being able to peel back what is hard to articulate in a positive boss relationship.  Worst boss stories allow you to drill down to what is really important when a relationship isn’t what it is supposed to be because what is actually needed is able to come through more clearly.  This research provides a back-to-basics step in clarifying what employees really want from the relationship with their boss.  My research shows there are two overarching themes…employees expressed a need for task support and emotional support.  Now this is not a new revelation but the research provides an additional body of research from a different perspective, one not told in academic research.

So why study leadership and the boss/subordinate relationship?  Some would consider it to be an over-exhaustive subject.  Because we are human and we like to study relationships.  Outside of marriage and raising kids there is not another relationship we focus on more than the boss/subordinate relationship, which is at the heart of leadership.  Let’s face it, when something is a main constant in our lives we have a tendency to obsess about it.  In fact, as a society, we are obsessed with leadership.  A recent search pulled up almost 85,000 books on the topic of leadership.  Which provides another reason for my research – to cut through the enormous amount of styles…situational, country club, charismatic, authentic, and what about being creative…and focus on the relationship.

From the stories told and understanding what task and emotional support is as defined by my research provides a simple, though often overlooked reality of the boss-subordinate relationship.  When you drill down to the heart of what employees are looking for they need three things from the boss subordinate relationship which I call the Leadership Covenant³™.  The tenants of the covenant are:

1. Care about me
2. Guide me
3. Speak up for me

Employees want to know you care about them.  In a recent article in the Fortune magazine Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot talked about the first step to improving customer service is to “start by taking care of the associates.”  Blake goes on to talk about the first question an employee will ask of the company, which isn’t about training, but is “Does the company care about me?”  It is a basic first step in building the relationship.  Companies must care and bosses must care.  I believe when you stop caring about the people you lead you cease to be a leader.

Employees want to be guided.  They want direction, but they don’t want to be controlled or dis-respected.  Academic research shows that one of the three reasons someone stays at a company is direction.  To be engaged and a contributor to the company’s success you have to know what you are doing and what is expected of you.

Employees want a boss to speak up for them.  Be an advocate…look out for employee’s interest, help them develop their skills and career, understand what drives and motivates them. And when you are speaking up for the employee, don’t take credit for what they did.  Simple enough, surprisingly hard for many to execute on.  (Read this article if you have a boss who takes the credit and blames the failures on you.)

The Leadership Covenant³ is simple to understand, but execution seems to provide the most hurdles.  So what do you think?  Take our poll and don’t forget to share your comments.





Bubble-Wrap and Mass Protection – Guest Blog Post

April 18, 2012

I am working on a blog post about Millennials, entrepreneurship and leadership when I read Cathy Maday’s recent post on bubble-wrapping our opinions and thoughts to the determinant of our company’s success, our individual success and our sanity.  I thought my readers would enjoy her thoughts so her blog post is posted below in its entirety and with permission.  Cathy Maday owns Wingspan Coaching and can be reached at  I’ll follow up with my blog post next week.  Happy Reading!

Bubble-wrap and other annoying weapons of mass protection! 

Sadly, many of us have learned to bubble-wrap our opinions/thoughts/ideas/feedback for a number of reasons:

– The first manager you ever had taught you that bubble-wrapping worked because he is uncomfortable with conflict, so he avoided it. And so did you. (Heck, what did you know? You were fresh out of college and just wanted to do well at your first job!)
– Your employee who bursts into tears every time she’s given feedback has taught you to avoid the situation altogether. (Understandable!) So you avert your eyes, keep a healthy distance and bubble-wrap the hell out of everything you say to her. You don’t want to look like the big bad wolf in the office.
– Nearly everyone around you takes things personally, so they favor approval over effective, healthy growth, real conversations, and oh yeah, profit.
– The company you used to work for had a culture of blaming/making-wrong/mistakes-are-bad/stay-under-the-radar, so you learned that bubble-wrapping might help you keep your job.
– Your last boss was a bully who only liked himself, his ideas and his way of doing things. So you learned to bubble-wrap and put up with it because your husband just got riffed from the bank and your family needed the steady paycheck.
– You attended a two-day leadership training that taught you to empower your employees! Give them the good-bad-good feedback sandwich and have a 30-minute conversation about their feelings every time they missed a deadline or performed under par. (I agree, that trainer ought to be shot.)

Yes, many of us have learned to bubble-wrap for reasons that are understandable at the time. The problem is that we’re each incredibly intelligent, creative and resourceful. So, our brains quickly make these communication patterns a habit. Then we’re on auto-pilot. And even though we get different jobs with different companies or we escape Corporate America and start our own business, we often bring along our behavior patterns. And many of them are now outdated and no longer useful.

[This happens in our relationships too, btw.]

Bubble-wrapping is a waste of time, money, resources and energy that could be put toward fun, exciting ideas, products and solutions! And greater versions of ourselves!

You can say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean. Plus, you’re so much more interesting and the conversation is more colorful when you don’t bubble-wrap.

Let go of your need for approval, your fear of rejection and your weapons of mass protection!

Take a healthy risk. Entrepreneurship and leadership are not for the weak.


There’s an Employee Appreciation Day?

March 5, 2012

Did you know last Friday, March 2 was Employee Appreciation Day?  Yep, just one day on a random Friday that I guess probably went unnoticed by your boss or at your office.  And thank goodness it did.  Can you imagine celebrating Employee Appreciation Day when your company doesn’t appreciate employees in general – makes for an uncomfortable pizza or cake party?  Reminds me of a client meeting last year when it was mentioned that “Administrative Professionals Day” was coming up and they all quickly grabbed their phones and made a note of it. It’s like grandparents day too.  If it takes a day for you to recognize and thank your employees or assistant (or even your grandparents)…you might be dealing with a bigger problem. 

Why does it take a publicized day to remind you to thank those who make your life better (assuming your employees, assistant and grandparents actually make your life easier)?  In theory we understand the statement that companies don’t function without their employees is true but sometimes theory and practice couldn’t be farther apart.  You, and every boss or leader at your company should be showing your appreciation to employees often and for reasons that matter.   So what are the reasons that matter?  Here’s a bright idea…ask them.  Those employees can be quite clever and they typically know what matters to them in terms being recognized because they are appreciated.  I’ll give you a few ideas to get started when recognition and appreciation is needed…taking on a stretch project no matter the outcome, going above and beyond the “typical” work load, coaching or mentoring another employee, dealing with a  difficult client, trying to stay focused on work when dealing with a personal issue…and there are so many more. 

Also, don’t show appreciation for just showing up – that is hollow and meaningless.  One of the greatest ways to show appreciation is to thank your employees individually for their contribution and explaining how their contribution matters to the company.  Make the connection to how they matter to the work they do, to the company’s clients and the company overall.  When you are able to consistently show your appreciation you’ll never think twice about a throwing an awkward pizza party on some random Friday in March to remind your employees you care and they matter.


Culture vs Strategy…Who Wins

January 16, 2012

So what is more important, culture or strategy?  You know you need both but which is more important? If you’ve ever heard one of my employee engagement or generational diversity presentation you know what the answer is and you know why.  As said best by Peter Drucker: 

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Research abounds regarding how culture impacts the success of a company – its profitability, its ability to innovate, and gain market share.  I recently read Derek Irvine’s blog post on TLNT “4 Reasons Why Culture is More Important than Strategy.” In the post Derek highlights recent research from Booz & Co. which adds more data and statistics to the “culture vs. strategy” debate.  Booz & Co. reports “that companies with unsupportive cultures and poor strategic alignment significantly under perform their competitors…. In fact, companies with both highly aligned cultures and highly aligned innovation strategies have 30% higher enterprise value growth and 17% higher profit growth than companies with low degrees of alignment.” [Read the article, Why Culture is Key in Strategy +Business.] 

I wonder how many business leaders, CFOs and board chairmen and chairwomen read those stats and actually believe them.  Do they think the P&L or expansion plans are the only facets of the business that matter?  I mean matter enough to garner a healthy dose of their attention?  I’m sure some thought is given to the office atmosphere but culture is more than that.

Culture can be defined in many ways (as the research abounds so do the books on the topic). A consultant and friend defined culture once as “…how we treat our co-workers.” But at the heart of it culture sets the tone of how the company operates and functions.  Culture manifests itself in seemingly everyday ways – like how the office is decorated, the stories employees share (especially to new employees), and the informal communication style.  And culture manifests itself in larger ways – like the values (and unwritten rules) the employees embrace and live out and the type of person (a hero) employees look up to.

The research supports it, the management gurus speak to it and past experiences prove it’s worth (ask anyone of the risk taking culture embedded at Enron)…is your leader on board?  Are you?


Employee Engagement Wish

December 15, 2011

My wish this holiday season is not very simple. I wish that every employee enjoyed going to work. That doesn’t mean every day is a holiday but when asked if you enjoy what you do you would be able to honestly answer “Yes.”

Research shows you are engaged to a job, career or the work you do in three ways…

1. To your individual job – the function of your work, having resources and clear direction

2. To your manager – trust in your manager, quality time

3. To the company overall – the direction of the company, how decisions are made, comp & benefits

When one of the three falls out of alignment an employee becomes less engaged, less committed, less satisfied and most importantly…less productive.  The reason I started Randall Research (formerly SBR Consulting, LLC) is to help companies create work environments where employees want to come to work.  We spend a majority of our time working so it should at the very least be enjoyable and fulfilling, right?

Research shows that engaged employees outperform their disengaged co-workers by as much as 200% and are more productive by 43% in revenue generation.  What does 43% more revenue generation mean for your company’s bottom line?

Think back to a time when you enjoyed your job (maybe that time is now for you).  How productive were you? Were you willing to go above and beyond for your team or to meet organizational goals? I believe that a small team of engaged employees can outperform, out-maneuver and out-smart a big team of partially engaged or dis-engaged employees.

I explain engagement this way…engaged employees stay for what they contribute and dis-engaged employees stay for what they get.  Which do you prefer on your team?

So my wish for 2012 is for companies to get serious about understanding what engagement means for their employees and commit to making progress.  Start with an employee engagement survey, share the results with your employees, together create a roadmap for change and hold the company accountable through metrics for moving the needle. 

Here’s to a successful and engaging 2012!


A Generational Leadership Vacuum?

May 6, 2011

Recently I co-presented at an event with a Dean of a Liberal Arts program on how colleges and universities are teaching students differently today and the impact that has on companies regarding development, training and work performance.  Keep in mind, for the most part, when we discuss traditional college students we are talking about the Millennial generation (born 1980 to 2000). 

But what our presentation was about is not nearly as important as the question I was asked by another academia at the end of the program.  The question was about the leadership vacuum being created within the Millennial generation.  Specifically the attendee wanted to know my thoughts on how the Millennial generation would lead one day and if we have a generation that will not be able to lead well. 

I’m not exactly sure how I answered because to be honest I think the question may be premature.  Isn’t it natural for an older generation to wonder and question – out loud – if the generation younger than them will be able to take their place one day?  When Generation X entered the workforce didn’t the Baby Boomers and Traditionalist question if we would have the work ethic to show up on time, day in and day out (remember they did call us ‘slackers’).  Now the Xers can’t wait for the Baby Boomers to hurry up and get out of the way so it can finally be their time to be in charge. 

And when in your 20s don’t you naturally make mistakes when it comes to leading or even working with your co-workers, typically your peers, and begin to develop your leadership style in the early part of your career?  Is there an expectation being set today that the Millennials should be able to graduate one day and shortly after assume the helm of a team, project or division and be successful at it?

When we discuss a leadership vacuum, is there really one?  If you look around your company how many people do you think would like to move into a leadership role? Could you make an accurate assessment that is not solely based on your subjective opinion?  And of those ready for a leadership role which ones have been trained, coached, mentored and held accountable for developing their leadership skills?  How many have received accurate and timely feedback on their behaviors and abilities?    

How many Millennials are receiving this kind of training and development now?  If you want them to lead for some future “tomorrow” don’t you need to invest in them now?


No Lights at Wrigley Field

October 19, 2010

October 19, 2010:  My husband and I are big baseball fans (my husband is stat and player focused, I just love the game).  We spent our birthdays one year stuffed on a bus with 30 other folks hitting five stadiums in six days that took us from Pittsburgh to Toronto with a few stops in between.  Our goal is to see games in all 30 stadiums.  We have 11 down and 19 more to go.  He prefers the NY Yankees and I am a Boston Red Sox fan.  (Yes we have heard a million times “well I’m sure that makes for an interesting marriage”…and yes, it does.) 

As the baseball season ends and we head into the playoffs I just finished an interesting book that relates how companies can learn to win from a “cursed” team’s errors.  For baseball fans you know that team is the Chicago Cubs.  John Charles Kunich, co-author of “Cubs Fans’ Leadership Secrets” hits on a few of the cursed highlights and how to take the lessons and apply them to creating and growing strong, healthy companies. One of my favorites is the Cubs refusing to allow night baseball at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs were the last team in the major league to put up lights so the game could be played at dark.  They held out till 1988.  As Kunich writes, “Some critics have suggested that the long delay in adding lights had more to do with penny-pinching than tradition-hugging on the part of the team owners.  There may be elements of truth to both views.”  He continues, “The lights-out crusade became emblematic of the Cubs emphasis, or over-emphasis, on their glorious past and their gorgeous, venerable, green cathedral of baseball.” 

This had me thinking about how many companies settle on the reason of not trying something or taking a risk because tradition or “the way we’ve always done it” gets in the way.  How many of you work for or have worked for companies that fail to realize their true potential – in the Cubs’ situation a financial potential – because they don’t embrace taking risks or bucking tradition.  If there is one upside to the recession it is forcing companies to realize they can’t do what they have always done and get the to next level or even survive the next couple of years. 

What are your thoughts?  The first two people to leave a meaningful comment about companies taking or not taking risks or embracing change will win a free, autographed copy of Kunich’s book “Cubs Fans’ Leadership Secrets.”  Once you leave your comment please email me at with your name and shipping address.  *I reserve the right to deny any winner that claims to be a Yankee fan.  Just kidding.  But I do reserve the right to determine if your comment is meaningful and worthy of the book prize.

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