What would happen if you trusted your team members enough to give them the freedom to take risks and voice ideas openly?

Some of the ideas you receive will sound crazy. Some will flop. But others will be just what your organization needs to solve an important challenge.

One of the most remarkable examples of what can happen when group members are given autonomy and encouraged to voice their ideas occurred during WWII, as recounted by Stephen Ambrose in his book “Citizen Soldiers.”

A thorny issue

In June of 1944, after American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on D‐Day and moved about 10 miles inland, they approached the Normandy countryside the French refer to as the Bocage. This part of France consisted of plots of land that farmers separated with hedgerows rather than fences. The hedgerows were made of two to three feet of packed soil at their base and topped off with several feet of brush and vines.…

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In the midst of our intense discussion, Dom, a vice president at a financial management firm, told me, “I don’t need great rapport, I just want Karl to show respect by doing what I ask.”

Dom wanted to prepare this smart professional for a more senior role and was very frustrated by repeated failed attempts to help Karl increase his business development abilities. He tried pointing out to Karl where his approach was lacking, giving guidance on better ways to create partnerships and support annual planning with clients. But over time, there was no real improvement. Dom attributed the lack of success to Karl having a real attitude problem. When I asked Dom whether Karl felt comfortable with him, he responded, “What difference does that make?”

The key to unlocking Dom’s challenge lies in unwinding the contention that great rapport with employees is not needed. Having employees comply with directives only takes them so far, and certainly lacks the engagement and developmental factors.…

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This post is sponsored by Drexel University.

 Transitioning from a horizontal world of technical expertise to one of business management is no small feat for engineers. John Via, director of engineering management at Drexel University, outlines why many engineers can become successful business leaders and what they will need in order to successfully make the transition.

Engineers are naturally technical, innovative thinkers and methodical problem solvers. How do these skills enable them to be effective leaders?

 If you look at Harvard Business Review’s Best Performing CEOs, you will see that 24 out of 100 are engineers. In both engineering and non-engineering firms, executives with a background in engineering tend to excel because their creativity and practical, pragmatic approach lends itself well to leadership positions.

What soft skills do engineering leaders need?

 While engineering leaders need the same soft skills as any other leaders, there are subtle differences. First, strong communication is critical in leadership and for engineers; it’s about organization and methodology.…

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Two years ago, bean chips were one of the hottest snack foods at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Now we’re seeing the actual roasted chickpeas, the latest step in the evolution toward healthier, more natural snacks, said Louise Kramer, communications director for the Specialty Food Association.

“Retailers want what’s new and healthy, less-processed and with simple ingredients,” she said. “And people want food with stories behind them. The products have to talk themselves off the shelves.”

U.S. specialty food sales hit a record $109 billion in retail and foodservice channels last year, and there’s no shortage of stories in the new-brand pavilion at the New York City show, which started Sunday and runs through Tuesday, from a pair of nuclear power plant engineers who created an unsweetened carbonated tea brand to a mom with two sets of twins who launched a vegetarian soup business.

Gina Stryker began making vegetarian food 12 years ago for her yoga-instructor husband’s retreats, and eventually the students told Stryker she should bottle and sell her soups.…

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textbooksSmartBlog on Education will highlight summer learning and enrichment for educators during June. In this post, Kenneth Wilson, director of staff development and teacher evaluation for a South Carolina district, shares his district’s model for summer PD.

With a new school year quickly approaching, it’s my job as director of Staff Development and Teacher Evaluation to make sure our staff has the opportunity to continue their professional development throughout the summer months. Our goal is to provide meaningful PD that a large number of staff members find valuable. One of the best ways to ensure that these offerings are effective and successful is to use data and technology to inform your planning strategy. Here are three ways we put data and technology to good use when building our PD programs.

Survey data

Surveys are a great way to get feedback from your staff and learn about the success of your previous PD offerings.…

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