Monday, March 15, 2021

Tips to Become the Type of Leader People Respect


Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is Liz Weber, who I met on Twitter in 2011. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Liz's bio.

Liz was named a Top HR Influencer to Watch in 2020 by both BambooHR and HR Exchange Network, and was included in Engagedly’s Top 100 HR Influencers of 2020. She provides strategic and succession planning, executive coaching, and leadership development programs to leadership teams and boards of directors. She is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designations; the highest earned designations in two different professions. Liz has consulted in over 20 countries, supervised business activities in 129 countries, and has written nine books.

QUESTION: Back in 2011, I was inspired by your book Something Needs to Change Around Here: The Five Stages to Leveraging Your Leadership. My take-away nearly ten years ago - and still recalled today due to its relevancy - was this quote: “Being a manager or a leader is a privilege. It’s an honor to have others respect your abilities enough to allow you to lead them. It’s an honor to have others trust you to guide them and support them as you work together.” What does this quote mean to you today?
LIZ WEBER: It's still a privilege and an honor to manage or lead others. However, that privilege doesn't mean you automatically have their respect. Now more than ever, simply having the title isn't enough. And it shouldn't be enough. Now our team members expect us to have the expertise to have earned and to hold the job and title. They expect us to not just 'show up' but to 'be there' and focus on them, their pressures, needs, and roadblocks, and anticipate what's coming next so we can clear a path for them. Now more than ever, our teams expect more of us, and they should.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Now, more than ever, our teams expect more of us (leaders), and they should. ~@LizWeberCMC #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
LIZ WEBER: There are many, but the immediate three I think of given the times we're in are:
(1) Can articulate and maintain a clear purpose.
(2) Focuses on and strengthens the team.
(3) Refines the path forward.

To clarify further:
(1) Can articulate and maintain a clear purpose: With so many businesses struggling for survival, leaders who are able to clarify, articulate, and maintain a clear focus on what core service(s) or product(s) they can best provide now and in the near term, are able to keep their businesses from crashing and burning, or they are able to help their businesses rise like phoenixes from the ashes with revised products or delivery models. We've seen this with the many restaurant, food service, and other hospitality-industry businesses that have been able to survive, if not thrive by moving to creative delivery models, changing products, or redefining space utilization. Also, for those businesses that have experienced no or positive impacts because of COVID, articulating a clear purpose has helped keep overworked teams focused and performing their best. Our healthcare, grocery store, transportation/delivery, and other essential services industries have proven this time and again this past year. Leaders need to remind every team member why they're doing what they're doing and the difference each team member makes every day. Every person matters and the work they do is important and needed now.

(2) Focuses on and strengthens the team: I saw this firsthand last year when the lock downs started. My clients who were actively reaching out to their employees - individually - every few days, then acknowledged and acted upon the stresses work-from-home created for many team members, experienced far fewer intra and inter-team clashes as the new virtual or hybrid work format took hold. Other leaders who didn't actively engage with their teams couldn't keep a pulse-check on stress levels, performance challenges, or home/work scheduling clashes. As a result, they experienced elevated team clashes and performance glitches as the months ground on. Those leaders who chose to spend the time, and the dollars when needed, to ensure they could connect via video with their team members saw greater team commitment and loyalty. Those who didn't invest the time or money, didn't. It's not surprising. What would you think of your employer if they wouldn't spend $50 to buy an external camera for your laptop so you could be seen on screen during team meetings?

(3) Refines the path forward: In typical strategic planning, no one could ever predict exactly what the future would hold. However, we typically didn't have to plan for a pandemic limiting the way our workforce worked, how our customers bought products, racial injustice, or a potential economic or political collapse. We typically worried most about shifting customer desires and our competitors' actions. Ah, the good old days. Things have changed to say the least. Because of that, most strategic plans were tossed out the window with new plans focused on the next 12 to 18 months. Priorities have shifted and rightfully so. Strong leaders now need to clarify and communicate the new priorities and outline how they help keep the purpose in play.

QUESTION: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference?
LIZ WEBER: I've said for years, 'Management is a position; leadership is a mindset.' You do not need to be in a management position or have a specific title to be a leader. You simply need to have the courage to take on responsibilities, try things you've never done, admit when you're wrong, try again, and communicate with those who need to know and can help you achieve the results desired. Leaders are deemed leaders by others. They are deemed leaders when they get things done and those with whom they've worked want to work with them again and again.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leaders are deemed leaders by others. ~@LizWeberCMC #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What is one mistake you find that leaders make the most often?
LIZ WEBER: Leaders who face unexpected team failures do so because the leader has typically done a poor job articulating what the expected outcome needed to be. They didn't state the vision, goal, deliverable, objective or whatever you want to call it clearly. Because of this, the team guessed, and they guessed incorrectly. As a result, the team, customers, stakeholders, or others were negatively impacted. All because of a lack of leadership clarity and poor communication.

QUESTION: What is our least favorite leadership buzzword, and why?
LIZ WEBER: Mindfulness. It just doesn't resonate with me. I prefer simple 'Meditation.'

QUESTION: One of Walt Disney’s leadership tips was, “Never stop asking questions.” What are your three timeless leadership tips?
LIZ WEBER: Here are my three:
(1) Follow through and do what you say you were going to do.
(2) Have the courage to do what others know they should do but don't.
(3) Be the type of leader you would want to work with and learn from.

My gratitude and appreciation to Liz for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership insights!

Review of Liz's book on @NewParadigmer Blog referenced in Question #1 above:

Learn more about Liz and connect with her on the following social platforms:
Twitter: @LizWeberCMC
Facebook: /LizWeberCMC

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey featuring Liz Weber's quote.

Monday, March 8, 2021

In Celebration of International Women’s Day


Today is a special day. On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world. 

According to the United Nations, “Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence, a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights, and opportunities for all. To get there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made.”

International Women’s Day grew out of the labor moment to become a recognized annual day by the United Nations. The seeds were planted in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, and the right to vote. 

The idea for the day to become internationally recognized was suggested in 1910 by Clara Zetkin. First celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, the United Nations made the day official in 1975. Each year, the President of the United States issues an official proclamation.

To quote Sheryl Sandberg, “We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted.”

From President Joe Biden's Proclamation dated March 1, 2021, “During Women’s History Month, let us honor the accomplished and visionary women who have helped build our country, including those whose contributions have not been adequately recognized and celebrated. And let us pay tribute to the trailblazers from the recent and distant past for daring to envision a future for which no past precedent existed, and for building a Nation of endless possibilities for all of its women and girls.”

I wish to recognize my great-grandmother on this important day. Bertie Green was a civic leader and philanthropist in New York. She was married for 47 years, raised two children, and enjoyed the antics of her four granddaughters.

But what stands out as inspiring today is that she was an active member of the women’s suffrage movement in the years leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization.

Many people are afraid to speak up and take a stand in today’s era, so this type of bold action a little over a century ago is incredibly impressive. So, today, on International Women’s Day, I applaud my great-grandmother and thank her and those she marched with to make today a little bit easier for women to stand up and make their voices heard.


Read President Joe Biden’s Proclamation in full:

Read “2020 Was the Year of Women!”

Read “That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women” by Kimothy Joy

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey and UN Women.

Friday, March 5, 2021

How Important Is Brand Storytelling?


Last year while the covid pandemic raged, there were other raging fires. The #BlackLivesMatter movement took to the streets to start a dialogue that will not easily be resolved overnight. Thankfully, many brands took notice.

Some brands with lengthy histories had names, product imagery, and taglines that reflected different eras. It was definitely time to change.

The most recent brand that listened to current events and made a change is Quaker Oats. Its “Aunt Jemima” product line of pancake mixes and syrups presented a racist stereotype on its packaging.

According to CNN, “The name Aunt Jemima long criticized as a racist caricature of a Black woman stemming from slavery, will be replaced with the Pearl Milling Company name and logo on the former brand’s new packaging, according to the parent company PepsiCo.”

According to PepsiCo, “The Pearl Milling Company was the 19th century business that created the original ready-made pancake mix. It was founded in 1888 by Chris L. Rutt. He named the original company after “Old Aunt Jemima,” an 1875 song from a minstral show that featured performers in blackface who wore aprons and bandana headbands. The new Pearl Milling Company brand logo replaces the Aunt Jemima image with what appears to be a 19th century watermill, where flour was ground at the time. The new logo’s red, white, and yellow color scheme matches the colors that were used on Aunt Jemima’s packaging.”

According to Laura Holloway, Founder and Chief of The Storyteller Agency, “Storytelling is our obligation to the next generation. If all we are doing is marketing, we are doing a disservice, and not only to our profession, but to our children, and their children. Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling.”

While brand history is important, brand legacies and cultural sensitivity are also critical to long-term brand success. The brands that listen to cultural shifts and integrate those shifts into their storytelling are the ones that will survive.

TWEET THIS: Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling. ~@StorytellerAgcy #brandtip #brandstorytelling

Image Credit: Quaker Oats/PepsiCo.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Leadership Secret: Be "Other-Centered"

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a variety of inspiring leadership experts. One of these experts is Linda Fisher Thornton, the CEO of Leading in Context LLC, in Richmond, Virginia. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Linda’s bio.

Linda has been in the leadership field for 25 years and can be found online at and on Twitter @leadingincontxt. She has a passion for ethical leadership and her book, 7 Lenses (in its second printing), introduces a practical 7-Lens model and 14 Guiding Principles for learning ethical leadership. She teaches global leadership and applied ethics as an adjunct associate professor for the University of Richmond.

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began a year ago, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: The most obvious leadership challenge during the pandemic has been managing the risks to customer and employee health and safety, but leaders must also deal with the psychological impact of working remotely, and the medical and financial challenges employees are experiencing.

Organizations with good leadership and positive cultures will be ready to navigate these pandemic challenges with a high degree of concern for people’s mental and physical well-being. Because health and safety are so important and so much is at stake, organizations without positive cultures will likely need to move toward creating a caring culture during the pandemic if they want to stay in business.

QUESTION: What book should every leader read, and why?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: My recommendation would be my book: 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Many leaders seek a more meaningful kind of leadership than what they see in the news. I feel the need to share this book even though I wrote it, because it offers practical guidance for leaders on how to apply ethically aware thinking and leadership. It includes seven lenses for ethical decision making and a four-quadrant model of leadership with the ethical values built in.

QUESTION: What are some key elements that a leadership team can do to create and maintain a positive corporate culture?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: Leading with values is the way to create a positive culture, and it needs to be consistent. Leaders need to find out what employees need and find ways to meet those needs; demonstrate respect and care in all interactions; and talk about, guide, and support ethical decision-making.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leaders need to find out what employees need and find ways to meet those needs.  –@leadingincontxt #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What are the best ways to motivate employees?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: What motivates people best? It’s the trust we build with them. It’s how we show respect and care for them. It’s the relational investments we make in them.

What people want most is for leaders to build a positive human relationship with them. To listen to them. To include them. To find out what their aspirations are and help them reach their potential. To recognize their talents and nurture them. To use their suggestions and give them credit.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: Job seekers and prospective customers often check out an organization’s reputation so that they know who they’re dealing with. They want to see the CEO living out the stated values and consistently making responsible decisions. Ethical CEOs invest time in building trust, transparency, and positive relationships – which translates into great customer and employee experiences all the way down the line.

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 this quote mean to you?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: I love it! This quote drives home the point that leaders need to be “other-centered,” focusing their time and attention on how to make others smarter, better, and more successful. That requires setting aside ego and embracing the true role of leadership, which is about nurturing the success of others. It also means accepting that some of the roadblocks to employee success we uncover may be of our own creation.

Leaders should consider and ask team members to respond to these questions: What am I not noticing that you think is important? What are the biggest challenges that are getting in the way of your success? What am I doing that is making it harder for you to do your job? Leadership doesn’t require power moves. It requires humility, service, and vision. Authentic leaders see the possibilities in people and teams and find ways to help them bring those possibilities to life.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leadership doesn’t require power moves. It requires humility, service, and vision. –@leadingincontxt #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Linda for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her leadership insights!

About the book referenced in Question #2:

Tools for readers of the book referenced in Question #2:

Image Credit: GR Stocks via Unsplash app.