There’s more to business than making money

There’s more to business than making money

money and meaning

Louie was doing his job well, He was actively selling Marie on all the reasons why she needed to list his firm’s talent assessment on her company’s website. His boss would have been proud if he could have heard him.

He mentioned making money three times and improving metrics four times in response to Marie’s questions.

“Louie, thank you for reaching out,” said Marie. “I appreciate you taking the time to go things with me and answer my questions. From where I stand, there isn’t an alignment between our companies’ interests, so a partnership isn’t going to work.”

“If I may ask, what interests aren’t aligned?”

“Metrics and money.”

“Wait a minute, Marie. Aren’t you interested in metrics and making money?”

“I am, just in a different way than you are.”

“What’s different?”

“Money and metrics tell me our business is doing well, but they aren’t the reasons we’re in business.”

Back in the 1950’s, the average lifespan of a business was 61 years; today, it’s around 18. Marie wants to beat both of those metrics. Her moonshot goal is achieving what the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel in Japan has done. The hotel opened in 705 AD and is still operating. Impressive.

Professor Makoto Kanda from Meiji Gakuin University studied the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel and other long-term operating businesses to understand their longevity. His findings? These long-term organizations focus on a central belief, a purpose, that isn’t solely tied to making a profit.

That’s different! An orientation to something more than money and metrics is hard to find in most Wall Street analyses and reporting.

Numbers falls short when measuring success


Quantitative metrics are valuable for tracking and assessing the effectiveness of a specific business process. However, making quantitative metrics the only measure of success creates a number of other issues such as:

  • People learn to game a system’s numbers and play to specific metrics.
  • While many experts promote metrics and AI as the antidote to bias, that’s not really the case. Bias is built into data and algorithms, and that bias can skew greater over time as the algorithms learn.
  • Initiative, innovation, and risk-taking lose out because they tend to harm metrics.
  • The long-term is sacrificed for the short-term.
  • Certain stakeholders are marginalized because of their minimal role in achieving the “right” numbers.
  • People fall into binary, either/or thinking patterns that tend to produce an artificial value hierarchy between business practices. For example, it’s not uncommon for companies to believe that improving the bottom line is more important than employee engagement or development.

Quantitative measurements do help people manage more efficiently. However, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics makes managers both more efficient and effective.

A study by James Zenger found that 14 percent of employees viewed a manager who focused only on results as being a good manager. Twelve percent thought a manager who focused on relationships was good.

What about managers who delivered both results and relationships?

72 percent of employees saw them as a good manager. The really sad study finding? Less than one percent of managers focus on both results and relationships.

85 percent of managers prefer either results or relationships. Emphasizing one preference over another means there’s a counter balancing factor that isn’t being used. Picture the playground teeter-totter with one side up and the other down. A singular focus on metrics (teeter up) results in workplaces where employees aren’t fully engaged (teeter down).

The reverse is true, too. Too much emphasis on relationships and too little on results puts sustained business performance in jeopardy.

Going for both money and meaning


Marie’s business, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel, and the one percent in Zenger’s study focus on actions that aren’t solely tied to making a profit.

These individuals and organizations have mastered “teeter-totter” leadership in that they balance both quantitative and qualitative aspects of managing and leading. They:

  • Get things done and are kind
  • Have high standards and give positive feedback
  • Have a plan and interact with people
  • Speak directly and are encouraging
  • Are decisive and consider impacts on others
  • Are analytical and have good interpersonal skills
  • Provide direction and listen to feedback
  • Are candid and show empathy
  • Think about today and tomorrow
  • Are self-aware and trust others
  • Compete externally and collaborate internally
  • Measure KPIs as well as smiles and laughter
  • Deliver the numbers and make people feel valued

Think about places where you’ve worked. Did you thrive in an environment where you were only as good as your last set of numbers? Or where you felt like you were valued and made a difference and were held accountable for solid work performance?

Now think about your leadership legacy. Do you want people to think of you as the boss who only cared about money and metrics, or as the boss they willingly followed because he/she focused on a central belief that wasn’t solely tied to making a profit?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay




Asking questions is a superpower

Asking questions is a superpower


When I was growing up, I envied the little boy next door. His mom asked him questions. Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or soup for lunch? Will you spend the afternoon reading a book or playing?

That’s not how it worked at my house. My folks, especially mom, told me how it was going to be.

While I don’t think Mom intended for it to turn out this way, her telling style was a good life lesson. How so? It prepared me to deal with command-and-control style bosses who wanted answers straight up.

As I grew older, the questions my dad asked took a different twist. He asked lots of questions that began with “have you thought about,” “how/why,” or “help me understand.” Dad said he wanted to make sure I thought things through.

He prepared me to work for bosses who wanted thoughtful answers and options that demonstrated a command of the issues.

I worked for a boss a few years into my career who asked a whole new style of questions. He tested both the logic and emotion of his employees.

His rational was like that of Socrates, who was “well known for using questioning to probe the validity of an assumption, analyze the logic of an argument, and explore the unknown.”

That boss wanted to know how we were going to achieve both quality and quantity or how we would meet our short-term goals without jeopardizing our long-term position. Answering his questions required deeper thought and analysis of the big picture.

Only years later did it hit me that these individuals had gifted me with a well-rounded repertoire of knowing how to respond to or deal with different types of questions.

The key to wisdom is this: constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth. ~Peter Abelard

Sometimes questions are more important than answers.

Questions matter.

Questions lead to discovery and meaning. They can eliminate confusion or point to hidden agendas. They help us reflect, develop critical thinking skills, or clarify intent and understanding. Questions help us make sense of our surroundings, distinguish fact from fiction, or define our purpose. Questions provoke lively debate, satisfy our curiosity, and prompt us to assess our assumptions.

A good question can disrupt, inspire, show humility, and open closed doors.

Research done by O.C. Tanner Institute showed that “asking the right question increased the odds of someone’s work having a positive affect on others by 4.1 times. It made the outcome 3.1 times more likely to be deemed important, 2.8 times more likely to create passion in the doer, and 2.7 times more likely to make a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.” That’s powerful stuff.

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. ~Chinese proverb

So why do we ask less and less as we get older?

Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas with Mu Sigma polled 200 of their clients on question asking. Clients who had children estimated that 70-80% of their kids’ dialogues with others were comprised of questions.

However, those same clients guessed that only 15-25% of their own interactions consisted of questions. Tom and Neethi attribute the reduction in the number of questions asked by the adults to working in a you-need-to-get-it-done-yesterday business environment.

Their advice?

“Leaders should encourage people to ask more questions, based on the goals they’re trying to achieve, instead of having them rush to deliver answers. In order to make the right decisions, people need to start asking the questions that really matter.”

Asking questions that really matter + actively listening to the answer + critically reviewing what’s been shared = a good thing.

A very good thing.


Image source before quote: Pixabay




Make your employees your secret sauce

Make your employees your secret sauce



Services have become the key to a company’s success. Look at Google, Twitter, or Uber and see how they’re extending their reach and growing their business through new services.

What’s crucial about getting this new shift right is for businesses to understand that a service economy is about people. The people who are key to making success happen are the managers and employees within the business itself.

Employees are the true intellectual capital of the company and that means businesses must invest in their people.

4 ways to make your employees your company’s secret sauce


That investment can take many forms, but I see four ways that a business can turn their employees into their secret sauce for success.

Take a look:

Align employees to a common goal.

No organization works well if everyone is a maverick going off in his or her own direction. It’s important to communicate what the goal is and to make sure everyone is on the same page.

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible. ~Orison Swett Marden

Create a nurturing environment.

Any business should want to motivate its employees to excel. One way this can be done is through rewards and recognition, so that employees know that their hard work and efforts are appreciated.

Today many American corporations spend a great deal of money and time trying to increase the originality of their employees, hoping thereby to get a competitive edge in the marketplace. But such programs make no difference unless management also learns to recognize the valuable ideas among the many novel ones, and then finds ways of implementing them. ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Harness employees’ intellectual horsepower.

It’s important to get the most out of employees, and one way that can be accomplished is through helping them build their skills. Certification programs only not train employees at all levels of the organization but also promote their personal growth.

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. ~Abigail Adams

Drive exceptional thought leadership.

It’s critical to hire the right leaders because so much else hinges on how they perform. Companies should look for people who have:

  • A deep understanding of the business’ mission
  • Stellar reputations
  • The ability to attract new talent, and
  • The potential to grow to the next level of leadership.

Position doesn’t make anybody a leader. Being in charge doesn’t make the wrong person right. ~Tim Berry

When products are a company’s focus, it’s important to invest in research and development, and product innovation. However, when services are what drives a company’s success, then the investment must be in people.

Get your employees inspired because inspired people make the difference.



Today’s guest contributor is Dushyant Sukhija, author of The Cisco Way: Leadership Lessons Learned from One of the World’s Greatest Technology Services Companies and a former executive with Cisco Systems.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay





Invest in your employees…and mean it

Invest in your employees…and mean it

leadership development

One question from clients that makes me happy is “We want to invest in our employees through leadership development. What should we keep in mind as we put the program together?”

3 characteristics

First, I tell them there are three characteristics that distinguish the best leadership development programs from the least effective ones—commitment, alignment, and accountability.

Commitment. Active, authentic support from all levels of the organization, especially senior management, creates meaningful and impactful programs. When leaders know that senior management endorses, supports, and believes in what they’re learning, the two-way loop of commitment is completed—senior management believes in me; I believe in the value of the development. Employees are quick to recognize window dressing training programs.

Alignment. The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be hired, promoted, and execute organization vision, strategies, and goals must be what’s taught. Assure direct relevancy between course content and how leadership is practiced within your organization. If not, why are you wasting everyone’s time?

Accountability. Employees have to know that their boss is watching for a learning transfer from development session to practical on-the-job application. Research from McKinsey shows that employers with the most successful leadership development program are four times more likely to require development program participants to apply what they’ve learned on the job.

3 resources

Next, I tell them they have to be prepared to make three resources available to program attendees—time, role models, and accountability partners.

Time. Development programs take lots of forms: formal offsite sessions, classroom, workplace developmental assignments, coaching from inhouse or external experts, etc. Regardless of the method, allow attendees to be fully present. Don’t expect them to continue managing their jobs while taking in new skills.

Role models. Leadership skills are learnable, so connecting those in development programs with those who exemplify the best and brightest of your organization hones the attendee’s ability to think, understand, and do.

Accountability partners. In the best leadership development programs, the boss is always an accountability partner; and participants also partner up with someone who is going through the same program. Together, these people can reinforce learning, follow-up on learning transfer, and be a safe place to try on new skills.

3 attitudes

Lastly, I tell clients to adopt three attitudes toward both their leadership development programs as well as those participating in them—look for potential not only past performance, leave room for individuality and curiosity, and give permission for people to learn from their failure.

Look for potential. How an employee thinks, feels, and acts—are they flexible, self-directed, open to change, able to think critically and make a quality decision, interact well with others, and the like—says more about their leadership future than many quantitative metrics.

Leave room for individuality and curiosity. A team of cookie-cutter leaders isn’t going to be successful in today’s fast-paced, inter-connected business environment. Leave plenty of room for meaningful diversity of thought, opinion, perspective, and experience.

Make room for failure. Learning from failure is the absolute best teacher. Give your leadership development program participants space to bot try out what they learn and have a do-over if things didn’t go well the first time.

What else would you add to this list?


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay








Use clarity, honesty, and empathy to overcome an organizational crisis

Use clarity, honesty, and empathy to overcome an organizational crisis

organizational clarity

Lately, it seems like there is one new corporate crisis after another in the headlines. Some of the largest, most visible, and successful companies are being forced to publicly apologize while feverishly attempting to convince their customers that these unfortunate incidents are only isolated blips that don’t imply the presence of any systemic organizational issues.

What’s going on here?

Is it arrogance, weak leadership, corporate greed, human error, or bureaucracy? Or is it simply the newfound social media cautionary tale?

Make no mistake—systemic issues are at play and there is a connection among all of these communications crises.

While evolving technology has increased the number of brand touchpoints available for instantaneous distribution of damaging content to millions of people, technology is not the root cause of this dysfunction. The corporate dysfunction isn’t new either. In reality, organizations and people haven’t changed; there has always been corporate dysfunction.

The very DNA of an organization is revealed through each and every touchpoint. When interactions reveal weakness, deeper problems within the organization are exposed. In an interconnected world where companies can fall from grace in hours, it has never been more important for leaders to address the common thread that creates corporate crises: a lack of clarity that originates at the very core of the organization.

Clarity is what happens when leaders take a holistic view of their strategy, people, and story—and ensure that there is alignment with each.

An outcome of alignment is a sustainable, positive culture with strong leadership. With clarity, employees at every level know how to live out the vision, mission, and purpose of the organization. They understand the behaviors expected of them every day. This clarity guides the people who work for the company and provides the reason for everyone to come together and serve.

It is this DNA that is the soul of an organization and drives decision-making, profits, and improves performance. Finding and leveraging that clarity is the difference between:

  • A spokesperson communicating a difficult decision or creating an entirely new crisis.
  • Customers believing the firm does care about their privacy or that everyone is management is a liar.
  • A passenger walking off an airplane or being dragged off; a pet arriving at its destination alive or dead.
  • Being seen as being committed to doing more to solve domestic and sexual violence issues or seen a being more interested in damage control.
  • Being revered for your role as one of the leading technology disruptors in the world or being reviled for the way you treat your employees and customers.

The digital economy has forced leaders to prioritize trust, transparency, and authenticity. It is no longer possible to explain our way out of crises or dysfunction. We must understand that the most contrite apology statements, countless refunds, or discounts will not fix crises that reveal systemic dysfunction.

Many examples of great companies that have successfully overcome public relations crises with openness, honesty, and empathy exist. The company names may not be at as memorable. But thanks to the clarity within their organizations, their customers forgave them, and in many cases, the connection with those brands actually improved.

The key to successfully managing any public relations challenge today is to find organizational clarity before the crisis happens.

Have you found organizational clarity?


Today’s guest contributor is Brad Deutser, president of Deutser LLC , a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth or crisis.

Image source before quote: Pixabay






4 tricks for creating a winning corporate culture

4 tricks for creating a winning corporate culture


Are you looking to foster the right workplace culture, so your employees are engaged, loyal, and productive? If so, that’s good! The best way to ensure a driven team is to create a culture that fosters the results you want.

While the competition may try to copy your product or services, there are two things they can’t copy— your people and your culture.

Some companies like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and the Virgin Group are outpacing their competition because of their culture. If you’re interested in doing the same for your organization, I have four tips for growing a business culture that inspires loyalty, engagement, and the high performance those qualities produce.

  • Start new hires on a Friday—and make them feel welcome.

Many managers think new employees should start on Monday. But think about it. That’s the day when their new co-workers are facing a long to-do list for the week. Be different and consider starting new hires on Friday when the office is a bit looser. Another option is to throw a little party for the new hire. Many offices hold going away parties for departing employees, but doesn’t it make more sense to put this enthusiasm toward the person with whom you’re making a commitment rather than the person who’s no longer working for you?

  • Recognize accomplishments by putting them in writing and I mean handwriting.

Typing emails and instant messaging is clearly much more convenient, which is why an employee who deserves special attention will recognize the extra effort behind a hand-written note. A hand-written note or letter has such a personal touch. The recipient knows that the manager or CEO has taken the time and effort to create a special communication just for him or her. If you make people feel special, they’ll feel good about both the organization and themselves.

  • Provide lunch and make it a free one.

One of my clients started with only ten employees, and each day one employee would bring in lunch for everyone. As the company grew to several hundred employees, the CEO found that free lunches were so beneficial that the company now hires a caterer to maintain the boost in culture the lunches provide. While many leaders may cringe at the expense, employee appreciation outweighs the cost. An added benefit for those who can’t get past the cost is that providing the inhouse lunch keeps people engaged within the office, rather than having them leave for lunch and maybe return a little bit late.

  • Flatten the privilege structure.

It’s not a good idea to create anything resembling a class system. One over-looked way companies create separation by creating special parking arrangements for upper management. At one point in my career, I was the No.1 salesmen at one company, but I always preferred to park with the others. I’d come in at 5 a.m. and notice that those with reserved parking weren’t there yet. They arrived significantly later than those who parked in the unreserved spots. Provide parking on a first-come, first-serve basis. That way upper management doesn’t feel too entitled or privileged above other employees.

Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur. ~David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot


Today’s guest contributor is Jack Daly, author, former CEO, and an expert in sales and sales management with more than 20 years of business experience. Jack has both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA, and he was a captain in U.S. Army.

Image source (before quote added): Pixabay