In my 25-plus years as a consultant, I have worked with hundreds of executive teams — leadership teams in multinational organizations, small businesses, for-profits, not-for-profits, government organizations, and everything in between.

What I have found is that 90% of those leadership “teams” are not teams, at all. In fact, most executive “teams” are a group of individual senior leaders who meet on a regular basis to battle each other for limited resources.

They battle for funds, people, time, validation, and more. Every day. These leaders carefully track which battles they won, which they lost, which were a “draw,” etc. The next day, the battle begins anew.

Leadership groups like these do not typically have a formalized team purpose. The team meets because they are “senior leaders.” Meetings are what those leaders “do.” When I ask these leaders what the purpose of their executive “team” is, they don’t know what to say. (read more…)

Sometimes I wonder whether all the leadership advice we put out here at SmartBrief is for naught.

By that, I mean, is it true that empathy, and communication, and striving to serve others as a path to success for all, actually wins out over the selfish and brash? Especially if those selfish and brash people already have power, money, or both? Look around the world and you’ll find plenty to discourage you.

recite-184e8v0Then again, sometimes you come across data — yes, actual data — that suggests hope. Most recently, this was in the form of LRN’s “The HOW Report.” Simply put, LRN’s business is in helping large organizations build a culture of trust, of values and of doing the right thing based on the former — and because doing the right thing is also the right business decision.

The gist of this argument: We’ve collected and examined the data. The best companies pursue excellence, yes, but not without boundaries. (read more…)

Print“What helps people, helps business.” —Leo Burnett

Last week, I got a much-needed haircut. I went to see Rodger, who has been cutting my hair for 13 years. In that time, he has become a great friend and mentor. Rodger has opened a number of high-end salons with his wife, Lisa, and they’ve created the kind of environment that builds loyal customers for life. The energy from his team is awesome, and I constantly reflect on what billion-dollar companies could learn from their small yet meaningful business.

After another great experience, I drove home and pushed myself to articulate why I love getting my haircut with Rodger. Furthermore, I wanted to find words to describe his team and why they’re so unique. It’s funny how experience drives emotion. Instead of finding strategic words my business school professors would be proud of, I kept reflecting on a basic human need. You see, the reason I love my haircuts is simply this: Rodger and his team make me feel like I matter. (read more…)

There is one thing, one talent that matters more than all of the training, titles and corner offices combined could lend to your ability to lead. It doesn’t matter if you’re a top executive or a junior admin – it can lend the same weight.

That skill is influence, and can also be practiced, honed and refined. That’s correct — you can and must increase your influence on your own; no one can bestow it upon you.

People are attracted to leaders they can believe in. Whether you’re just starting out, or managing a team of dozens, people both above and below you want and need to see that you can inspire others and bring about positive change. No matter where you sit within an organization or in your life, you can make an impact.

So what is influence? Influence is your ability to alter or change a situation. Depending on the stage of your career, you may be able to do this by providing a welcome opinion, making certain critical things get done, or by making the final decision on moving forward with a project or initiative. (read more…)

Leaders must be the type who look at the glass as half-full versus half-empty. Why?

People need to be inspired, and they will only feel inspired if their leader is positively disposed — and joyful.

A leader inclined to be positive is one who looks at challenges as opportunities. A leader inclined to pessimism is one who sees challenges as roadblocks. One way to spread joy is let people know two things. One, you care about the work. Two, you care about them as people. That gives people joy.

Caring about them really means talking about the work, having a meaningful conversation about what they are doing, and how they are contributing. You provide them with resources and support, and you recognize them for success.

That is joyful.


John Baldoni is chair of leadership development at N2Growth, is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2014, Trust Across America named him to its list of top 100 most trustworthy business experts. (read more…)