IT’S NOT ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE. IT’S ABOUT SETTING PRIORITIES: 5 Reasons Why Focusing On Priorities Not Balance Makes Life Better

As a kid, I spent summers on my grandparents’ farm in Georgia. At harvest time, all hands were required in the field—everybody from my seven-year-old self to my seventy-year-old grandmother. If rain was coming, we pushed hard, missing meals and getting little sleep. Maintenance on the farm would slide. Personal needs would be set aside. Everybody was focused on the most important thing: getting the job done before the crop was ruined.

The concept of balance never entered our heads. Why would it? My grandparents had an opportunity with a time limit, and it was our highest priority.

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About the Author

Larry WeidelLarry Weidel is the author of Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success (Greenleaf; October 2015). He has spent the past 40 years building a national financial services organization and helping the people on his team achieve the success they want. He helped grow A.L. Williams into the financial services giant Primerica. Today, Larry holds weekly coaching calls for leaders across the United States and Canada. His videos, articles, and other resources on career success, leadership, and sales are widely popular. You can learn more at

What Should Coaches Be Listening For?

A coach’s job is to facilitate potential change, usually by asking questions to identify the components of the problem and decide between solutions while reinforcing the changes and maintaining a trusting relationship. To achieve the excellence that all coaches seek, it’s necessary to avoid the listening filters that could prejudice the interaction, such as:

Bias. By listening for specifically for elements of the stated issues – problems, hopes, missing skills or motivation – a coach will merely hear what she/he recognizes as missing. If there are unspoken or omitted bits, if there are patterns that should be noticed, if there are unstated historic – or subconscious – reasons behind the current situation, the coach may not find them in a timely way, causing the coach to begin in the wrong place, with the wrong timing and potentially creating mistrust with the client.

Assumptions. If a coach has had somewhat similar discussions with other coaches, it’s possible that s/he will make possibly faulty assumptions or guesses that do not take into account the coaches specific, historic, unconscious, and certainly idiosyncratic challenges.

Habits. If a coach has a client base in one area – say, real estate, or leadership – s/he may enter the conversation with many prepared ways of handling similar situations and may miss the unique issues, patterns, and unspoken foundation that may hold the key to success.

As I write in my new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? the problem lie in our brains. Once we listen carefully for ‘something’, we restrict all else that’s possible to hear as our brains interpret the words spoken according to our bias, often missing the client’s real intent, nuance, patterns, and comprehensive contextual framework and implications.

To have choice as to when, whether, or how to avoid filtering out possibility, we must disassociate – go up on the ceiling and look down – and remove ourselves from any personal biases, assumptions, triggers or habits, enabling us to hear all that is meant (spoken or not). In What? I explain how to trigger ourselves the moment there is a potential incongruence. For those unfamiliar with disassociation, try this: during a phone chat, put your legs up on the desk and push your body back against the chair, or stand up. For in-person discussions, stand up and/or walk around. [I have walked around rooms during Board meetings while consulting for Fortune 100 companies. They wanted excellence regardless of my physical comportment.] Both of those physical perspectives offer the physiology of choice and the ability to move outside of our instincts. Try it.

About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]

Measurement Culture & Five Common Traits of High-Performing Organizations

While culture was once perceived as a vague concept, many organizations are recognizing its importance. The position of chief culture officer (CCO), is held at a number of progressive organizations. The CCO’s primary duty is to focus on maintaining the core parts of the culture that contribute to the organization’s success.

While organizational culture is increasingly observed as a critical factor in success, the implications of measurement are also significant. To build a culture of measurement certain steps need to be taken.

High-performing cultures have been associated with strong financial outcomes; however, these cultures also have strong employee motivation and performance. Research has shown that there are specific cultural characteristics directly related to organization effectiveness and outcomes. High-performance organizations tend to have cultures that share five common traits.

  1. Empowering Style Leadership: Leaders communicate with respect and lead by example. Employees are empowered to use their judgment to make decisions and take action in their day-to-day jobs. Employees are not present to serve management or reinforce bureaucracy. Leadership is supportive of employees, with focus on helping to support employees so they can focus on caring for customers.
  2. Collaborative Environment: This type of environment is inclusive; employees have a sense of belonging, with everyone sharing the responsibilities of identifying problems and coming up with solutions. These types of organizations are highly participatory.
  3. Strong Core Values: Values of respect, loyalty, and integrity are embedded in leadership behaviors toward employees, and infuse the organization.
  4. Planning: Employees know what the long-term plans are for the company and how to get there. Strategy is well-defined and priorities are clear. Plans are clearly articulated and there are specific measures to assess a plan’s success. Employees know what is important for the organization and what is required to do their jobs effectively.
  5. Measurement and Feedback: High-performing organizations not only plan and prioritize what is most important for the business, but also provide indicators and measures to know whether they are hitting the mark or not. Data-driven organizations is another way to describe this environment. Employees receive ongoing feedback so performance is collaboratively assessed as it relates to the business.

Organizational cultural characteristics play a pivotal role in organization effectiveness. Measurement and feedback is one of the components of a high-performing culture. There are many benefits for creating a measurement-oriented organization culture. The following are just a few at the top of the list:

  1. Measurement cultures lay the foundation for organization learning. Information sharing is leveraged in the organization toward knowledge and growth. Data-driven organizations make this possible.
  2. Measurement cultures provide the way for departments to track their progress. Managers have the ability to track progress toward department goals. What happens if the project that is implemented is a flop? Or if needs are not fully met? Tracking along the way allows for modifications if needed to move outcomes in a favorable direction.
  3. Measurement cultures make data-driven decisions. The use of the hunch takes second place to making decisions based on data. If a project is not going in the direction it needs to go, then the data will validate this point. And collecting the right data should help pinpoint where things broke down.

The Leadership Development Practitioner as a Change Agent

Practitioners often view their role as one who influences an individual, group, or organization toward desired change. The change agent plays a significant role in leading the change effort or collaborating with the team assigned to initiating change. Trying to create an environment that is measurement friendly also involves a change agent— someone to lead this effort and manage the change process within an organization.

It is important to remember that building a measurement culture should be a strategic change. The change agent must set the stage with the ‘why’ behind building a measurement culture, make sure that the change effort is in sync with what’s important for the organization, and include action planning and feedback to keep the momentum building. Involving people who are senior in the organization also helps because they have the clout necessary to pave the way for building a measurement culture.

Identify a System to Routinely Review Measures

Adopting a systematic way to plan, collect, analyze, and report on initiatives in the organization sets in motion the process of communicating and reinforcing what is important to the organization, while sending a clear message to key stakeholders as to what needs to change to improve outcomes. This is particularly true when measurement has been planned in advance to collect data points that will tell the story in a comprehensive way.

When leadership development programs are aligned with results-based initiatives or what’s important to the organization, it becomes more likely that Leadership Development initiatives are easily measured and supported. The old adage rings true in this context: What gets measured gets done.

Adapted from Measuring the Success of Leadership Development: A Step-By-Step Guide for Measuring Impact and Calculating ROI (ATD Press, 2015) by Patti Phillips PhD, Jack Phillips, PhD, CEO/President and Chairman of ROI Institute respectively, and co-author Rebecca Ray, PhD., EVP of The The Conference Board.

About the Authors

Jack PhillipsPatti PhillipsPatti Phillips PhD is president and CEO of ROI Institute, Inc. and renowned expert in measurement and evaluation. She helps organizations in over 60 countries demonstrate the value of investing in programs of all types. Phillips serves on the faculty of the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy. She is Distinguished Principal Research Fellow for The Conference Board and an ATD Certification Institute CPLP Fellow. An author or editor of more than 50 books, Phillips’ work has been has been featured on CNBC, EuroNews, and over a dozen business journals.

Jack Phillips PhD is a world-renowned expert on accountability, measurement, and evaluation. With expertise based on more than 27 years of corporate experience, Phillips has served as training and development manager at two Fortune 500 firms, as senior human resources officer, as a bank president, and as management professor at a major university. He is the author or editor of more than 75 books. SHRM has recognized Phillips for his publications and contribution to the human resources industry. ATD awarded Phillips its highest honor, Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Development. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Fortune.

Rebecca Ray PhD is executive vice president, knowledge organization and human capital practice lead for The Conference Board. In this role, she has oversight of the research planning and dissemination process for three practice areas: corporate leadership, economics and business development, and human capital. She is the leader of the global human capital practice.

How to Employ Leadership Fundamentals… or Falter

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership ArticleReddit, the on-line bulletin board system that posts entertainment, social networking and news content, gained a high profile, attracted Rock Star investors and a $500 million valuation. Then, it executed several strategic moves with seemingly little communication and proceeded to churn its executive ranks through a revolving door.

In the process, Reddit upset nearly everyone; investors, employees and its fanatical community of users alike. Those users architected, for all intents and purposes, a coup de ‘tat that resulted in Interim CEO Ellen Pao’s departure.

There has been no shortage of prognosticators who have offered their own diagnosis and cure on this self-policed and user-directed site. The sacred cow has been Reddit’s free speech and privacy policies. How can the organization create guidelines for socially responsible submissions when some negative offshoots of free speech-extremism, sexism, hate mongering and vigilantism—threaten Reddit’s integrity?

While addressing the sacred cow, the company failed miserably to articulate its strategy and gain support for its direction. Confusion reigned. There appeared to be a thrash-about in several simultaneous directions. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

There’s been plenty of unsolicited advice on what to do. Here’s a piece of advice about how to do it. Advance your organization while leading from the front. Employ some leadership fundamentals. Your team and your user community will follow you up the hill, help you capture the enemy flag and celebrate victory with you. I look forward to the party.

First, to hatch a credible plan that has a daylight of a chance to succeed, gain the support of the people who must execute that plan. Collaborate with your people AND your user community. Team meetings, user advisory boards and a consensus approach might take a little time, but a plan concocted in a closet and then jammed down everyone’s throat didn’t work, did it? Share the vision and create a collective energy. You can’t do it alone.

Second, to kick off that game plan, a team must be completely aligned. With that collaborative effort behind you to hatch the plan, you’ve got a much better chance to get everyone on the boat rowing in the same direction. Get your team behind a few tangible goals. Common goals make for an aligned team. An aligned team makes for a focused, bold, impassioned execution.

Third, as you execute that plan, communicate like crazy. Heck, over-communicate. The world of social media is transparent. Make highly visible what you’re trying to accomplish and publicize your score card, what’s working and where you need help. Then pass the credit to those who made the contributions.

Reddit is now in the hands of CEO and returning co-founder Steve Huffman. Here’s the deal, Steve. You’re in a jam. You need to practice some leadership fundamentals. They’ll get you out of that jam. They might keep you out of a future jam to boot.

About the Author

Peter J. BoniPeter J. Boni is Managing Principal at Kedgeway, Inc and author of ALL HANDS ON DECK: Navigating Your Team Through Crises, Getting Your Organization Unstuck and Emerging Victorious (Career Press, 2015).

What’s Your Organization’s Attitude?

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures ArticleWhat’s your organization’s attitude? How is it impacting your culture? How is it impacting how you’re viewed externally? How is it impacting your results?

What are your employee’s attitudes about your company? What are their attitudes about your customers? How do they feel about the work they do?

Why is your organizational attitude important? Your attitude is everything.

We take it for granted that an individual’s attitude, to a large degree, drives their results. We’ve all known people who have the skills and experience necessary to do the job, but their disempowering attitudes and beliefs kill any chance for success. So why do we think it’s any different for an organization?

Your organization’s attitude drives how your company is perceived internally and externally. It drives how hard people are willing to work, how collaborative people will be and the level of ‘wow’ service you provide your customers.

The biggest driver of your organization’s attitude is your core values. Core values define your personality as an organization. They’re a small set (3 to 6) of nonnegotiable rules that you live by. Most organizations have core values that have evolved over time, without any attempt to proactively define them. Core values like ‘don’t admit to your mistakes’, ‘whoever screams the loudest wins’ or ‘me first, company second’ can become prevalent if you’re not careful.

Your key job as a leader is to create, communicate and hold your organization accountable to a set of core values that define what’s best, what’s right, what’s most noble about your culture. What are the characteristics you admire most in your employees? What do your clients value most? If you had to pick five members of your team that best exemplify what’s great about your culture, who would you pick? What behaviors or attitudes do they exhibit that made you pick them? These characteristics are the seeds your core values are created from.

To make sure your core values are not just a plaque on the wall, each core value should pass 3 tests:

  1. Are you committed to firing anyone who blatantly and repeatedly violates the core value? Regardless of an employee’s level of productivity, if they’re not living your core values, they are a cancer in your organization. If you’re not willing to fire them for violating a core value, it’s not really a core value. Remember, core values are non-negotiable.
  2. Are you willing to take a financial hit to uphold the core value? For example, let’s say one of your core values is ‘Respect, in everything we do’. Your largest client screams and curses at your customer service representatives and refuses to change their behavior. Do you fire the client and lose their significant revenue? If not, it’s not really a core value. Remember, core values are non-negotiable.
  3. Is this core value alive in your organization today? Can you tell recent stories about how employees have demonstrated the core value? If not, you may aspire to that core value, but it’s not a core value.

The right set of your core values should guide your key decisions, such as:

  • Hiring – Only hire people that have shown that they live your core values. You can help someone develop new skills, but it’s almost impossible to coach an employee to become someone they’re not.
  • Evaluating Employee Performance – Regardless of productivity, if someone is not living the core values, they’re a C-player and you should send them off to work for the competition.
  • Promoting – Promote people that exemplify your core values. Leaders that live your core values will set the example for others and drive a phenomenal culture.
  • Prospecting – When qualifying new customer/client prospects, evaluate whether their core values conflict with your own.

New products and business strategies come and go, but your culture is the foundation of your organization. What are you doing to create an incredible culture of passion, excellence and accountability? How will you impact your organization’s attitude today?

About the Author

Mike GoldmanMike Goldman is a nationally recognized speaker, consultant and author of the book Performance Breakthrough: The 4 Secrets of Passionate Organizations. He has over 25 years consulting and coaching companies from the local entrepreneur to the Fortune 500.

Throughout his career at Accenture and Deloitte Consulting, he helped companies like Verizon, Disney, Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Kmart, Dillard’s, Liz Claiborne and Levi Strauss. In 2007, Mike founded Performance Breakthrough to help mid-sized companies achieve dramatic business growth. He does this by working with leadership teams to ensure they have the right people, strategies and execution habits for growth.