Is your workplace dull and frustrating, or is it engaging and inspiring?

This is a question I pose to leaders frequently. Most leaders pay more attention to the way their team is performing than to the way their team is operating.

A reader asked me recently about the nature of the “yes or no” answer I was forcing to this question. “What if your company culture is somewhere in the middle?”

My experience and research leads me to believe that most teams, departments, divisions, companies, etc., are somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Your experiences probably mirror mine — you probably see your team somewhere between those “extremes.”

What my experience and research also leads me to believe is that if your team (or department, etc.) culture is at any stage on that continuum that is less than engaging and inspiring, it’s costing you money, eroding team-member engagement and creating lousy customer experiences. (read more…)

A warm late December evening in Miami awaited the 163 passengers who traveled on Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 from New York to Florida. During the otherwise uneventful trip, marriage proposals were made, a young couple looked forward to introducing their newborn baby to awaiting grandparents, and college students headed back to school after the holidays. But in a few hours, over 100 of the passengers and crewmembers would be dead. The tragically simple cause of their death will not only shock you, but as the leader of your organization, will also provide a fair warning lesson in the problem of over-focusing on one issue or problem at the expense of other risks.

On Dec. 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 left New York’s JFK Airport and was approaching Miami International Airport at approximately midnight, when the nose landing gear indicator did not illuminate. The pilots had to identify whether the landing gear had indeed failed to extend, or more likely, if the indicator bulb in the cockpit had simply burned out. (read more…)

CEO’s are normally quick to hop on ideas, products, services, etc., that can and do yield favorable economic results. Yet, despite encouraging statistics showing its beneficial bottom line impacts, there has been little movement in most organizations to include diversity and inclusion as a strategic business priority.

A Harvard Business Review analysis of top-performing CEOs found a mere 5% of CEO’s whose organizations excel at both year over year financial performance and social and environmental dimensions. Study authors note that performing well on both elements is a rare but possible achievement.

The type of diversity these organizations practice — transcending both visible (race, age, gender, etc.) and invisible (thinking styles, values, beliefs, etc.) differences in pursuit of inclusive excellence — is wicked hard work. Work that requires a healthy appetite for disrupting the status quo.

CEOs and academics offer valuable insights into areas where organizations must change if they are to gain the positive benefits of diversity. (read more…)

Succession_300This post is an excerpt from “Succession: Mastering the Make-Or-Break Process of Leadership Transition,” by Noel Tichy, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright (c) Noel Tichy, 2014.

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In March 2014, James Hackett, who had served as CEO of office furniture manufacturer Steelcase for twenty years, turned over the leadership of the leading company in his industry to his successor, James Keane. Over the prior two decades, Hackett had spearheaded a fundamental transformation of his organization to make it much more than just an office furniture maker, but a full-fledged, highly innovative workplace design company that created total work environments, integrating furniture with high-tech applications, work space design and learning environments.

The company’s award-winning leadership development center, transformed from an old warehouse on the corporate campus, is a model for high-touch and high-tech learning environments that Jim Hackett consciously used as a critical component of his overarching strategy to construct a new creative culture at Steelcase. (read more…)

I am continually amazed by people who take a vision and attempt to turn it into a business reality. Of course, this requires passion, intelligence, insight, and commitment. However, it also requires something else – the realization that the effort is an experiment.

As Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble teach us in “The Other Side of Innovation,” “… the innovator’s job cannot be to deliver a proven result; it must be to discover what is possible, that is, to learn by converting assumptions into knowledge as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

One such innovator who is in the throes of running an innovation experiment is 34-year-old Ashley Poulin, CEO of SharpHeels. Ashley’s vision with the website is to provide professional women a forum to learn, share and obtain knowledge and services that will help them enjoy, as well as advance in, their careers. She started this as a hobby while working as a marketing leader at a leading computer-hardware company and now dedicates herself full-time to the effort. (read more…)