February 11th, 2008

I recently had the pleasure of hearing a wonderful webcast from the AMA featuring the notable management expert Charles A. Handy (author of The Age of Unreason, The Elephant and the Flea, and most recently, Myself and Other More Important Matters just to name a few). This was an extremely thought-provoking presentation from a very insightful man. AMA Edgewise has posted an additional free podcast featuring Handy – you can download it from here.

In his webcast, Handy uses a concept derived from Aristotle – “eudaimonia“, to describe what success in work truly is. In a recent article (Spring 2007) from The Business Strategy Review of the London School of Business, Handy defines the term in this way:

“My definition of success is basically borrowed from Aristotle. He called it “eudaimonia”. I translate it as doing the best at what youíre best at, for the good of others. That sounds trite and easy, but it is very difficult to know what youíre best at.”

You can read more of the interview here. Here’s another quote from Handy regarding leadership found in a short interview he did last year with BBC TV reporter and communications coach Katie Ledger (from Katie’s Blog):

“The secret to great leadership? Itís simple: 1. Know yourself. 2. Know and trust your people. 3. Know what youíre about and make sure your people know what youíre about.Ē

Do yourself a favor…take a little time to get better acquainted with Charles Handy.

Growing Great Employees

January 23rd, 2008

I recently discovered a fine book that aims to provide managers with a simple and straightforward approach to all of the key phases of talent management. Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers by Erika Andersen, utilizes the metaphor of tending a garden to illustrate techniques for effective management and employee development. I found it to be extremely clear and spot-on in its approach, and recommend it very highly.

In addition to being an author, Ms. Andersen is speaker, OD consultant and co-founder of Proteus International, a company that specializes in products and services that help their clients “to build the organization they want”. She also writes an interesting blog called The Simplest Thing That Works. I encourage you to check both the blog and book out!

Built to Serve

January 2nd, 2008

Built To Serve

I recently stumbled across the book Built To Serve: How to Drive the Bottom Line with People-First Practices by the CEO of United Supermarkets, Dan Sanders. United Supermarkets is a Texas-based, family-owned company with 46 stores under three distinct names and formats: United Supermarkets, Market Street, and Amigos United.

Sanders’ contend that it is not the financial economics (profits or ROI) that drive business success, but in fact that these financial returns are simply by-products of both success in the marketplace and the workplace. He defines success in the workplace as possessing “a sustainable, culture-driven, people-centered organization”.

Here’s a short passage from the book:

“Because they see human beings as assets, not expenses, culture-driven. people-centered organizations are different. They remain steadfast in their commitment, focusing foremost on people, not profits. In return, their people find ways to generate the necessary profits to ensure the organization’s sustainability. These are organizations deserving of a legacy worth remembering. this is the spirit worth cultivating because it embraces the truth: intangibles drive tangibles.”

From Built to Serve: How to Drive the Bottom Line with People-First Practices by Dan J. Sanders (2007: McGraw Hill, New York)

The Communication-Engagement Link

December 18th, 2007

Organizational leadership that can clearly communicate their company’s vision, mission, purpose, strategic direction, etc. and can clarify the roles and expectations for each member of the organization tend to more effectively engage their workforce. Strong and consistent communication strengthens organizational trust.

A recent article by Nic Paton, titled “Clarity the Key to Employee Engagement“, found on addresses this topic and provides supporting research from Watson Wyatt. The article points to a WW poll of 14,000 employees across Europe that posits that organizations that provide employees with a clear “line of sight” to company vision and direction tend to have a much more committed, engaged and productive workforce.

The full article can be found by clicking here.

Should Leaders Take the Blame?

December 10th, 2007

Paul Michelman of the Harvard Business Review Online recently posted an entry on his “Conversation Starter” feature titled “Should Leaders Always Take the Blame”. It poses an interesting question, “When do you stand up and take the bullet for a deal or strategy gone wrong and when do you duck your head and let others take the fall?”. The article gives a example of a leader not taking the blame from the recent headlines (Morgan Stanley’s Zoe Cruz). There are some excellent comments from readers that you might find interesting.

What do you think?

PS> Harvard Business Online is a wonderful resource, with lots of relevant articles, podcasts (“Ideacasts”), video and links. Make sure to check it out.


Employee Engagement Around the Globe

December 3rd, 2007

The results of a research study of employee in select Asian Pacific countries, which was sponsored by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, were recently released. The WorkAsia study, an initiative which comprises an analysis of worker attitudes in 11 locations in Asia Pacific (including Australia, China (PRC), India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand) featured more than 115,000 participants from over 500 companies and is one of the most inclusive studies ever conducted on employee attitudes in the region. It is part of an ongoing series of surveys regarding work attitudes and opinions about worker-related practices in the workplace.

For one example, in this week’s Manila Times, there was an article on the survey results with a particular focus on Filipino worker’s responses. The survey identified the top three drivers of employee engagement for workers in the Philippines as customer focus, compensation and benefits; and strategic leadership and direction. It’s an interesting article and can be read in its entirety here.

More information on the key findings of the WorkAsia study can be found here. Its exciting to see the issue of employee engagement getting global attention.

Cultivating Creativity

November 25th, 2007

Dr. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, is currently teaching at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He recently authored an interesting column published in the Canada’s “The Globe and Mail”. Here is a short excerpt from the full article found here at

“…I had my hair cut in Toronto. It turned out that the hairdresser, a stylish young man in his late 20s or early 30s, was once a resident of Birmingham, an upscale suburb of Detroit that I knew well because my wife lived there when we met.

Without thinking, I said, “My wife used to get her hair done in Birmingham; what salon did you work in?”

“I wasn’t a hairstylist then, man. I worked for General Motors,” he said. “Really?” I said, trying to dig myself out of a hole. “What plant did you work at?” “Plant?” came his reply. “I didn’t work in a factory ó I’m a mechanical engineer and I worked on new product development.”

My jaw dropped. This man had quit a high-paying job in a good company so he could cut people’s hair. He had left the creative class because it wasn’t creative enough for him and had gone into a service industry to express his creativity.

The point of retelling this story is not that his current line of work is better than his old one; it’s that we need to expand our view of what good jobs can be and how to create them.

From The Globe and Mail Update on 11/24/07

I found this column interesting and insightful, but I would be interested in your opinion. Having a great deal of familiarity with Florida’s books, I would consider myself a “fan” of his work and his ideas. But the readers of The Globe and Mail seem to be polarized (the majority are not favorable) by the article and by Florida himself (see their comments here). I’ve looked at the article a few times and am not quite sure I read the same thing as some of the commenting readers!

What do you think?

UPDATE: Read Dr. Florida’s response regarding the reader commentaries (including a nice shout out for TMIE here!

Is The Customer Always Right?

November 18th, 2007

In a recent interview with Smart Business, the president of Ka Architecture, James B. Heller, pointed out that there are clearly times when the company needs be loyal and side with its employees during a customer-related issue. During the interview, Heller reflected on one particular situation in which an architect had a customer was extremely unhappy with him and was disgruntled. Instead of disciplining the employee, Heller supported the architect’s view of the situation and personally helped him to work out the conflict with the client, thus strengthening both the customer’s and the employee’s loyalty at the same time.

Here is how Heller recommends how organizations should consider approaching this type of scenario:

“Typically, I might get a call from a client who identifies a concern. They say, “This is happening on this particular project.” There’s a problem there, whatever it might be. One pitfall is to too quickly jump on that particular project manager and always side with the client. The typical comment, “The client is always right” — well, don’t fall into that trap. Have a face-to-face conversation with that staff person. Understand there are always two sides to every story, and work with that person to solve the problem. Don’t jump down on that person.”

What do you think of this approach. Can you think of an example in which the company applied a similar approach in order to strengthen engagement?

Employee Engagement in “Human Sigma”

November 12th, 2007

Human Sigma
Here is an interesting thought on the topic of employee engagement from a brand new book, Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter by John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund (2007, Gallup Press).

“Too many organizations build management models on the assumption that managers and leaders have the power in the company/employee relationship, but thatís no longer always the case. The answer is employee engagement or the ability to capture the heads, hearts, and souls of your employees to instill an intrinsic desire and passion for excellence. Engaged employees want their organization to succeed because they feel connected emotionally, socially, and even spiritually to its mission, vision, and purpose.”

Rules For Renegades

November 7th, 2007

Rules For Renegades

I recently purchased the book Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality by Christine Comaford-Lynch, which is a fresh and irreverent guide to individual entrepreneurship and career management. I was first exposed to this work after attending the most recent First Friday Book Club, a Dallas-based monthly event that aims to introduce current business bestselling books to the local business community by presenting interesting and entertaining synopses (The folks who run the FFBC, Karl Krayer and Randy Mayeux of the Creative Communication Network, also have an interesting blog.

Ms. Comaford-Lynch colorfully describes her journey of “ups and downs” in the world of business, from high school drop out to millionaire entrepreneur. In addition to sharing her varied experiences (from working with major organizations such as Microsoft to consulting on technology for the Clinton administration), Ms. Comaford-Lynch provides readers with a ton of practical tools to support their own efforts. It is an truly engaging read and I’ve found the passion, candor, and energy displayed in her writing to be extremely inspiring and motivating.

I noted one small passage that particularly resonated with me regarding the subject of employee engagement:

“Remember that true leaders are always elevating the status of others. Think of all the ways you can elevate the status of your team. Then do it.”

From Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality by Christine Comaford-Lynch (2007: McGraw-Hill, New York)