Monday, March 26, 2018

Add Value & Make a Difference With or Without a Grand Title

Those of us who spend a great deal of time in social media have the opportunity to meet fabulous people. I’ve met many amazing people from all over the world and am honored to learn from them, share content, and engage on a regular basis. Recently, I “met” Janice Kobelsky on Twitter, and based on similar interests, invited her to appear on my blog. Highlights of our conversation follow below her bio and links.

Enriching lives fuels Janice Kobelsky, FCPA, FCMA’s leadership development work. Janice offers custom workshops, online programs, and her 'Think Anew' blog. She is a UCalgary Continuing Education instructor, independent consultant, speaker, and coach; and her focus includes high performance leadership, personal excellence, and building the skills and confidence needed to add value and make a difference. You can connect with Janice on Twitter @JaniceKobelsky and Facebook /JaniceKobelsky.Leaders. Her site is, and she can be found on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
JANICE KOBELSKY: As I think of good leaders I know, they all share a common denominator. It’s the ability to gain the respect and inspired accountability of those who choose – and want – to ‘follow.’ It’s influence that’s earned because of who you are. That applies whether you’re a ‘leader-with-title’/position or a leader who just is, because you need to be.

Here are 3 traits that define a good leader:
From the Latin word ‘cor’ – meaning heart – courage starts with bold willingness. Daring. Desire and commitment so strong that you ‘cannot not.’ It’s an attitude that reminds us not to wait for someone else. To be willing to be the one, take the risk, and rise to the challenge. Courage summons the inner strength to choose action.
#2: CARE
A good leader cares. You care about what happens while you’re there, and what lasts after you’re gone. Because of that, you earn the trust and commitment of those who follow you. When we care, we become purposeful. Deliberate about the effect we have on others, our communities, environment, and workplaces. Our world.
The point of good leadership is not command and control. Our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments demand more. We need to bring people together to explore, discover, create, and collaborate. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes deliberate and genuine curiosity – to embrace diversity and cultivate openness. It’s curiosity that evokes new and fresh solutions and ways forward. Courage. Care. Curiosity. Those are, I believe, three essential traits to bring out our best as leaders. Good leaders, whose leadership matters. Leaders whose presence inspires and whose actions make a difference.

QUESTION: You talk a lot on your social platforms about making a difference. How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference?
JANICE KOBELSKY: Sometimes leaders without titles are in the best position to make a difference. They’re unconstrained by role and responsibility, with more personal freedom to act. They make a difference through their influence, not authority. It’s leading from wherever you are versus from the front.

Entrepreneur. Parent. Teacher. Student. Colleague. Manager. Teammate. Friend. Volunteer. Influencer. A leader/difference-maker is one who sees a need, takes up a cause, or seizes an opportunity. In other words, at different times and in various ways, it could be any, or all, of us.

A colleague of mine years ago called it being able to “push people with a rope.” In other words, there is no push and no pulling, either. There is no visible tether of any kind. Instead, it’s the power of influence.

It’s having the courage, care and curiosity to see potential and possibilities. Then, being willing to lead in a way that you, and those around you, do their best.

It’s also knowing that there is no small act. Nothing too insignificant. Dr. Peter Senge (American systems scientist; leader in the development of ‘learning organizations’) said it best: “Becoming a force of nature doesn’t mean that all our aspirations must be ‘grand.’ First steps are often small. What matters is engagement in the service of a larger purpose rather than lofty aspirations that paralyze action.”

In short, how does a leader-without-title make a difference? By adopting a ‘just do it’ willingness to instigate and create powerful results. Choices; not position. It’s leadership with a focus on purpose. What is the cause, issue, challenge or opportunity? Will you rally the right people to create a sort of collective leadership? Then, create a dynamic where recognition and performance pivot on others. On their deeds. Not on you, the ‘leader.’

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership book and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have a library filled with favorite leadership books. My new favorite is one released in January 2018 by Kimberly Davis (@OnStageKimberly on Twitter) entitled, BRAVE Leadership. The book rolls up the three core traits that define a good leader – courage, care, and curiosity – into one powerful word: BRAVE. Not fearless, but BRAVE. It’s a practical guide to tap into our own potential and get better at leadership. This is true no matter our current position, circumstance, or level of skill. And, Kimberly’s messages strike a chord every time. She reaches out from the page with stories that make sense. Methods that ignite possibilities. It’s an empowering and practical must-read.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership quote and why?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I have so many! A great favorite is this from Jim Gentile: “A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” It reminds us that being a leader is about results. It is about performance and productivity. It is about people. It is about nurturing and energizing their potential. Helping them grow. It is about making a difference: for – with – and through others. For this generation, and those to come. So it is about us – because to be a good leader, you’ve got to be willing to listen and learn, grow, and adapt. But, at the same time, it is not about us. It is not about the titles or positions we hold. It is not hinged on authority. And, it is not for the indifferent or ego. It is about active courage, deep care, and authentic curiosity.

QUESTION: One of your recent blog posts talked about leadership, trust, and arches. Can you explain the highlights of that inspiring post? (Read the full post here:
JANICE KOBELSKY: The Roman arch is one of the most difficult architectural feats. They’re amazing in their strength – and endurance. Many are centuries old. They’re witness to the courage, care and, curiosity it takes to build something so bold and beautiful. Folklore has it that they were even a life-or-death test of commitment and quality. Those who built them had to stand under them as the scaffolding was removed! So they're a powerful and poignant metaphor for leadership and earning trust. They remind us to be all in. Inspired accountability – in ourselves and with and from others. The post is a short read with some meaningful questions. Questions that I hope help us fall in love with our lives and our work by ‘standing under our own arches.’

QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
JANICE KOBELSKY: I think I’ve found a new favorite quote in this one! To me, it sums up this discussion beautifully. Leadership is a gift. It’s a gift that is given to us, when others entrust us with their aspirations. When we facilitate their contribution and possibilities. When they gift us with their work, time, vision, and focus. Their lives, under our arches. That’s a privilege. It’s a responsibility. And, it’s a gift. It’s also a gift that we give to others. When we have the courage, care, and curiosity to do what it takes to energize their potential. It means we’re willing to go to the mat – to “block and tackle” – for others.

As leaders, that doesn’t just mean removing external obstacles. It’s also being fiercely protective of others’ well-being. Willing to do what it takes to help dissolve whatever holds them back from showing up at their best. Helping them see themselves in light of their strengths. Inspiring greatness. Because we realize that everyone we lead has something amazing to contribute. You, a good leader, ease that into fruition. You ignite that possibility. Being a contribution. Making a difference. Thriving. Together.

My gratitude and appreciation to Janice for appearing on my blog and sharing her incredible leadership insights, and thanks, of course, to Twitter for the introduction! 

Image Credit: Janice Kobelsky.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why Are Brand and Culture Aligned?

There is an internal business component that is critical to success. Denise Lee Yohn analyzes how the alignment of branding and culture leads to business success in her new book entitled, FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies. According to Adam Grant, “Leaders everywhere are trying to build great brands, but few realize how powerfully brands are shaped by the cultures of their organizations.” So, leaders everywhere, ask yourselves, how closely aligned are your brands with your corporate cultures?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations. (

According to Yohn, Amazon is a perfect example of what she calls a “brand-culture fusion,” which is the full integration and alignment of external brand identity and internal organization culture.” This is because all employees are singularly focused on one thing: excellence on behalf of the customer. “Amazon’s distinctive organizational culture fosters a performance-driven environment that fires up employees to innovate in pursuit of an outstanding, continuously-improving customer experience.”

TWEET THIS: Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

Yohn explained that “Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations.” When you think of culture, you may think about a mission statement, a vision statement, or corporate ethics statements. But culture is much more. A leader can walk around the office and talk to employees and know everyone’s pets’ names. Employees can wear nametags with their first names. Company-wide meetings can take place monthly. The alternative can also exist: a culture can be totally nonexistent.

So how can a brand shine as a result of an inspiring culture? Think of Southwest Airlines, the low-cost, no-frills airline. Founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher explained what made Southwest stand apart, “Our competitors can get all the hardware. I mean, Boeing will sell them the planes. But it’s the software, so to speak – the people – that’s hard to imitate.” Southwest’s employees wear colorful uniforms, feature smiles as an important piece of their uniforms, and make every effort to make flying a fun experience. It doesn’t hurt that Southwest’s ads are funny too, “Bags fly free.” Can every airline brand be Southwest? The answer is a resounding NO.

According to Yohn, there are five strategies for aligning brand and culture:
(1) Organize and Operate On-Brand.
(2) Create Culture-Changing Employee Experiences.
(3) Sweat the Small Stuff.
(4) Ignite Your Transformation.
(5) Build Your Brand from the Inside Out.

If those five strategies are implemented, you will have a culture that:
(1) Creates continuity and consistency.
(2) Reduces uncertainty and confusion.
(3) Creates social meaning and order.
(4) Builds a collective identity and commitment that binds employees together.
(5) Produces the capability for customer experience excellence.
(6) Makes possible your vision for the future by energizing your organization and moving it toward your goals.

Since many business experts talk about the customer experience as the key differentiator for the future, an aligned brand and culture will help to improve the overall customer experience. This will lead to an overall positive brand experience.

TWEET THIS: Employee brand engagement is achieved when employees are aligned and involved with the organization’s brand. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

So, “Do you want to align your organization with a single goal so that it is not just productive and efficient but operates with excellence? Do you want to have a truly authentic brand?” If yes, embrace the concept of brand-culture fusion and make alignment your key priority!

Click to take Denise Lee Yohn’s Brand Culture Fusion Assessment:

Click to read more about corporate culture from Inc:

Click to read six components of a great corporate culture from Harvard Business Review:

Friday, March 2, 2018

One Secret to Employee Engagement: The Stay Interview

There's an old saying in business that people don't leave companies, they leave managers or bosses. So how does a company keep quality people? How do you motivate and inspire employees when they tune out or mentally check out? Author and business retention expert Richard P. Finnegan believes the answer is the stay interview, a periodic meeting with individual employees to shed light on any problems while there's still time to address them.

In Finnegan's book entitled, THE STAY INTERVIEW, A MANAGER'S GUIDE TO KEEPING THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST, Finnegan explained, "As one-on-one meetings between leaders and both newly hired and continuing employees, stay interviews reinforce good relationships, forge new ones, and help repair those that are strained. On that small foundation, great companies are built."

What are stay interviews? They are NOT the following:
(1) Team meetings.
(2) Focus groups.
(3) Meetings led by human resources staff.
(4) Annual job performance review meetings.
(5) Haphazardly-scheduled meetings.

"As managers, we get only so many positions, so many "chairs" to fill with people, including ourselves, to produce all the assignments that constitute our jobs. Great managers place total value on all chairs and the people who occupy them to ensure that they perform at their very best...Stay interviews provide the insight to know rather than have to assume if each employee fits correctly, is motivated to give 100 percent, and has intentions to stick around."
Intrigued by the concept of stay interviews? If yes, keep reading. Here are the five questions to ask when conducting stay interviews:

(1) When you come to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
(2) What are you learning here? What would you like to learn?
(3) Why do you stay here?
(4) When was the last time you thought about leaving? What prompted it?
(5) What can I do (as your boss, manager, leader) to make your experience at work better?

There's one more thing you can add to the stay interview template. As a leader, can you make the following request at the end of each stay interview? If yes, you'll have happy, satisfied, long-term employees:

"(Add name of employee here), you're going to have some tough days here because I might be difficult, our team will have conflicts, or management will run us in circles. When those days happen, you might decide to look for another job. So here is my offer. If you ever decide to start looking, I want you to promise that you will come tell me on that day. And my promise to you is I will make every effort to make our company a place where you want to stay. But if you ever place an envelope on my desk that tells me you're leaving and we haven't talked about it before, you've broken the deal."
Employees will always search for new horizons, but wouldn't you like to decrease the number of employees that leave? Especially the really great ones? Try using the stay interview, and you'll see a difference.

Image Credit: Scotland's National Center for Languages/Bigstock