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…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: Have you ever had what you would consider a major ethical lapse?

  • Yes — I’ve made a big mistake at least once: 48.59%
  • No — I’ve never had an ethical lapse: 51.41%

To err is human. We all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty. Sometimes we find ourselves in that gray area. The most critical thing we can do at that moment is stop, call the foul, make amends, and seek to put in place safeguards to prevent the issue from recurring. Owning up to an error can be scary and painful. But pointing out when bad things happen or might happen can be a powerful relationship builder. The stronger the guardrails you put in place to keep bad things from happening, the stronger your relationships can end up being. (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…)

“Are you a tough boss?” asked an interviewer of John L. Weinberg, senior partner and de facto CEO of Goldman Sachs. A former Marine, Weinberg was a blunt-speaking, unabashed, and self-driven man who knew that most of Goldman’s employees sought to work as hard and as wisely as he himself did. During the period of his leadership, Goldman furthered and consolidated its rapid ascent as a global banking powerhouse.

Weinberg answered the question without hesitation. “Oh, tough is easy. Anyone can be tough.” What is really difficult, he explained, was getting a group of workers to perform to their absolute utmost and in coordination with one another. He was right, of course. The challenge facing Weinberg, and many managers, involves establishing an environment in which an already ambitious crew can deliver their best efforts and have those best efforts most advantageously applied. In my years at Goldman, that was our focus — seeking out the most able and appropriate resources within the firm to find solutions for clients and opportunities in the markets. (read more…)

Let’s talk taxes, and you needn’t flinch. The subject doesn’t have to be all bad news, and isn’t.

There were some changes for the 2014 tax year that you should be aware of as you undertake your small business’ tax prep, some of which may well be to your advantage.

Here’s the good news:

  • The Affordable Care Act and the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. This credit is now available to you if have 25 or fewer full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees, pay an average wage of less than $50,000 and cover at least half the cost of your employees’ health insurance premiums.
  • Last year, the maximum credit was 35% of any premiums you paid; it’s now 50%. The IRS provides plenty of information on the particulars, and here’s more about the ACA and your business.
  • Another piece of good news: the standard business mileage rate changed in the 2014 tax year to 56 cents a mile.
  • (read more…)