Monday, August 20, 2018

How Can Leaders Help Employees Exceed Expectations? It’s All About the Culture!

Recently, I saw a memorable tweet in my Twitter stream which read: “The answer to employee happiness is not in the form of bean bags and ping-pong tables…it is the company’s culture and career opportunities.” The name behind the tweet was Katherine Spinney, and upon reading the article associated with the tweet, I began a conversation with Katherine. She and her company provide coaching, mentoring, training, and team building in the Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Baltimore metro areas, and her company tagline is “Manage. Lead. Succeed.” Highlights of our conversation follow below a brief introduction.

To quote Katherine, “From my first job delivering newspapers to my current role as business owner, I have worked in a variety of organizations, roles, and sectors. Despite differences in culture, responsibility, and function, I have learned a very simple lesson: strong leadership creates positive work environments; poor leadership destroys them. It is my mission to help support leaders better support those they lead in order to maximize the value, contribution, and joy in work. We all should have the opportunity to do what we do best and be appreciated for it.” Check out Katherine’s website at, connect on LinkedIn at, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @CoachKat2017 and on Facebook /CoachKat2017.

QUESTION: What are three things a President/CEO can do to establish a corporate culture that all employees will enthusiastically follow?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: There are many components to successful leadership, and different individuals will attribute different levels of importance to each. Generally, though, there are guidelines that all leaders should follow.

For starters, staff want to be led by those who possess the highest levels of integrity and honesty. Trust is essential and the absolute foundation of leadership, and there is no stronger way to lead than through example.

Secondly, today's workforce does not simply want to be told what to do. They want to be included and involved in the process. They want to feel that they are authentically contributing to the company's goals and vision.

Finally, leaders must recognize that there is no organization without their staff and that staff must come first. This entails praise and recognition along with adequate compensation, benefits, and opportunities for growth.

TWEET THIS: Leaders must recognize that there is no organization without their staff and that staff must come first. —@CoachKat2017

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Leaders must be able to articulate and demonstrate why their businesses are deserving of your patronage. Most organizations provide products and services that many other organizations also provide. There must be a reason for consumers to choose you. Often, this reason has more to do with your organization than what it is selling. What are your values? How are you demonstrating corporate responsibility? How are you giving back to the community? How are you embracing diversity? Increasingly, consumers want to feel that the companies they support share similar values and beliefs. This holds true for organizational leaders as well. What values are you demonstrating?

QUESTION: What three traits are most important to be a good leader, and why?

KATHERINE SPINNEY: There are so many components that comprise strong leadership. Some are more important than others, and many will depend on a person’s natural gifts and personality. I often break down these components into three main categories: skills, traits, and values. I ask those I work with to come up with as many items under each category as they possibly can. They generally do so with ease as there are many. I then ask them to choose which ones they deem most important, which ones they are already strong in, and which ones they need to work on. This exercise serves as a reminder of all that goes into strong leadership and begins the planning process of getting there.

As far as traits go, honesty, humility and commitment are among the most important. Honesty is necessary to ensure ethical and effective leadership. Humility is required for personal growth as well as appreciation of those you lead. Commitment encompasses commitment to the vision of the organization as well as the staff who comprise it. 

QUESTION: On your Blog, you write about something you called “Manager's Amnesia.” What are some of the symptoms, and what are some treatment options?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Manager’s Amnesia is a term I use for a phenomenon that is all too common. It happens when someone begins managing others and seems to completely forget what it is like being managed. All the things that drove her crazy about her manager, she suddenly starts doing. All the things she wishes her manager had done, she doesn’t do. She makes being a manager all about her and not those she leads.

The symptoms show up in a number of ways: enforcing policies that don’t make any sense, being inflexible about situations that hurt staff, taking all of the credit and none of the blame, micromanaging, not involving staff in decision making, not investing time into supporting and developing staff. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

Treatment options are to reflect and remember about what it is like to be managed. Listen to your staff. Involve them. Recognize them. Don’t just be open to feedback, seek it. Keep growing and learning. Admit your mistakes. Invest in your staff. Advocate for them. Believe in them. Serve them.

TWEET THIS: There is no one right way to lead effectively, but there are a lot of wrong ways. –@CoachKat2017 

QUESTION: In one of your publications, BEYOND THE TOOLS, A Workbook for Self-Reflection on the Mindset and Values that Affect the Way You Lead, you wrote about something called leadership shields. This is timely and intriguing due to the new coat of arms created by and for the new Duchess of Sussex. Anyhow, you explained that this exercise is an effective way to see a visual representation of a personal leadership journey. Can you explain this further as well as the four quadrants?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Shield exercises are great because they provide a way to reflect and visually capture whatever it is you hope to reflect and capture. You can design the quadrants in any way that best serves your goal.

In the leadership shield in Beyond the Tools, the four quadrants are:
1)    An accomplishment you are proud of as a leader.
2)    The values that inform the way you lead.
3)    The leader you most admire and model yourself after.
4)    The type of leader you strive to be.

These four areas help provide an overview of what informs your role as a leader. The exercise, like all those in the book, highlights the foundational importance of values and how they affect the way you lead. There is no one right way to lead effectively, but there are a lot of wrong ways. If integrity is not at the center of the work you do, there is no way to be a true leader.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: As a leader, it is your great privilege and responsibility to support and develop your team. That is your number one priority. In order to do that, you must invest in them through both time and money. You must develop them, advocate for them, recognize them, and provide opportunities for them.

One of the first things I ask leaders is what their staff’s long-term professional goals are. Very few of them know. How can you support and develop your team members if you don’t even know what motivates them and what they’re working toward?

Investing in your team’s growth includes helping them develop in ways that may not directly connect with their current position. This is still an investment worth making. Staff who feel valued and supported are far more likely to stick around and exceed expectations. Their level of investment in you is directly related to your investment in them.

TWEET THIS: Staff who feel valued and supported are far more likely to stick around and exceed expectations. –@CoachKat2017

My gratitude and appreciation to Katherine for appearing on my Blog and sharing her insights. Check out the interesting links below relating to this Q&A.

Check out the article on Fast Company that resulted in my conversation with Katherine:
“Employers, Your Idea about Employee Happiness Is All Wrong”

Read Katherine’s post about Manager’s Amnesia on her Blog:

Check out Katherine’s workbook, BEYOND THE TOOLS:

Image Credit: Feedback quote thanks to Katherine Spinney with graphic by Debbie Laskey.

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