This is the second in a series of articles by Alaina Love that examine the evolution in leaderships thinking necessary for success in the next decade. Read the first article.

“No kicking, no biting, no scratching!” I admonished, as I watched six senior leaders (all men) duke it out during a three-day strategy session held in a secluded hotel conference room far from their corporate offices.

Things were getting pretty heated and the exchanges were progressively brutal during a meeting in which these top leaders were supposed to be defining the steps that their company needed to take to regain dominance in the industry.

“We can’t do what you’re suggesting,” the head of sales shouted at one of his colleagues. “Product development will never deliver on time and we will be stuck with a financial target that there is no way we can meet! They screwed us over last year and we’ve been racing to close the gap for the last 10 months. (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…)

Imagine having your team go from five people to 80 in an instant. That’s what happened to Mike Calihan, a senior executive with Aldridge Electric Inc., a national infrastructure construction company based in Chicago.

He had been a project manager, managing relatively small electrical projects. He had been involved in crafting a response to a bid put out by the Illinois Department of Transportation. As he tells it, “It was a longshot, because we hadn’t managed a project for this type of work at the scale specified in the bid.” Calihan had a big-gulp moment when the bid was opened and he saw that Aldridge had won the contract. He was tapped to lead the behemoth project, which meant leading a team that was 16 times larger than he had ever led before.

As he explains it, “At first, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was in way over my head, and scared as hell.” When asked how he went from being a manager of five people to a leader of eighty, he replied, “Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. (read more…)

The ability to see a bold future, build a compelling vision and define a strategy to achieve it is core to leadership. Making that vision happen almost always requires change. And, successfully navigating others through change requires leaders who are skilled in the “Cs of Change:”

Clarity: Defining clear vision, structure and actions to achieve the goals. Unlike the fictional character who “flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions,” after a team understands and is on board with the vision and strategy, it needs to agree on the steps needed, the priority and who best can take on particular tasks. And, a timetable for getting them done. Defined responsibilities and accountability breed teamwork and achievement.

Communications: Verbally and visually sell the dream of the future both externally and internally so that people can begin to see the possibilities and build the desire for change. Moving others out of their comfort zones is difficult. (read more…)

An employee-engagement plan isn’t something you can create once and follow, to the letter, forever. As business goals and employee demographics change, engagement initiatives need periodic tweaks and improvements.

I’ve seen many business leaders get stuck and frustrated because their engagement initiative slowly veers off course. They may not realize that something is starting to run a little less smoothly, and end up throwing out the whole plan because they think it’s a bust. If you feel like your engagement plan isn’t working, chances are it just needs a quick fix.

Here are five ways to tweak your engagement plan and keep improving engagement at your organization.

Communicate — and keep communicating

Engagement is like any other business activity — you need to be transparent about it so employees understand what’s going on and can get on board. Clear communication creates a foundation for a strong engagement initiative, but you have to keep communicating throughout the cycle to keep people informed. (read more…)