How Leaders Can Enjoy the Ride

How Leaders Can Enjoy the Ride

Enjoy the ride, but be ready to correct when needed.

I spent time with Sage Executive Coaches the other day. They do a lot of their leadership work on the back of a horse. On my ride I re-learned one very important leadership lesson: Enjoy the ride, but be ready to correct when needed. 

For most of the trail ride my horse (Duke) just knew the way to go. My job – enjoy the ride, don’t get in the way, allow Duke to do his work. 

At one point along the ride though, Duke wanted to go in a different direction. I had two choices… A) let the 1,000 lb animal just do what he wants, or B) provide gentle yet forceful and positive leadership to keep Duke heading the way I needed him to go.

I exerted my leadership through controlling the reins, using my legs, and a strong positive voice to coach him to go in the right direction. He quickly responded – Duke’s a great horse. We finished the ride together, accomplishing the mission.

While on my ride I reflected that working with a sports team or a business team can be similar to working with a horse. For the most part, as long as the horse (and team) are heading in the right direction the leader can simply ride along providing encouragement and enjoy the experience. However, when the horse (and team) starts moving in a direction the leader knows isn’t right, the leader must exert leadership to move the horse (and team) in the right direction. 

Some horses (and teams) require just a little adjustment – like Duke… he didn’t need much to keep him moving in the right direction. On the other hand, some horses (and teams) need a strong voice, a strong physical presence of the leader to help make adjustments, hard decisions, and provide the right coaching signals to the horse (and team) so they can have success.

Leaders are important. It’s not a popular thing to tell leaders they do have to exert authority or control at times, and yet, it is a reality. Horses (and teams and organizations) will never reach their full potential or accomplish their mission without guiding leadership. While most of the time leaders of teams simply get to enjoy the ride with a great team, there are times when leading people means you have to be willing to exert authority and direct a change at the right time in order to keep the team on track. 

I am grateful for my friend Taylor Flake who took me on this ride. Taylor is a retired PepsiCo executive and now runs Sage Executive Consulting. He is a world-class executive coach and leadership developer. He provides one of the most innovative and enjoyable approaches to learning how to become a better leader that I’ve seen. Within a short time I had half a dozen new insights and felt a positive energy and strengthened confidence to take to my leadership roles. 

Taylor also writes an amazing blog: You can learn more at


Learn More

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about leading people check out my book, From Semper Fi to Just Do It.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Diversity and Style = Value

Diversity and Style = Value

Diversity helps your team achieve outstanding success

Taking On a Complex Topic

The question that caused me to write this blog post came from a university student who asked, “How do you help a team work together effectively while respecting everyone’s individual style of doing things?”

The question was interesting to me because it held within it three fundamental concepts that are essential to leader and organizational success: (a) Diversity, (b) Individuality, and (c) Team

Diversity and individuality can both be expressed in what we wear and how we act.


The definition of diversity in the context of a team at work is worth exploring. Lapsing into defining diversity by demographic characteristics has become a cultural norm. Experts in the field, however, dive deeper and explain that diversity is not a demographic separator, but the demographic separator is an indicator of diversity.

To say that one person all by themselves is diverse would be an incorrect statement because as a single individual it is impossible to be diverse since there is only one of that person.

Even within a demographic grouping that is considered to be diverse by the modern term, an individual within that demographic alone cannot be diverse. It requires a comparison of at least two in order to have diversity.

Diversity is a way of creating a very positive counter influence against a norm. When people are pulled together there is always at least some level of natural diversity.

Why Diversity Matters

The level of diversity however is a matter of scale. The more the individuals that are assembled have a unique angle of perspective, the higher the scale of diversity will be. Ultimately, diversity is a very internal experience and is more about the perspective of how someone thinks and feels based on experiences, background, education, culture, and a host of other elements that shape a person. Diversity is intensely valuable to an organization. The more diverse, the greater the perspectives brought into the organization.  

Why does this matter? A team assembled that has lower levels of diverse thinking are less likely to have conflict and at the same time, they are less likely to possess a collective highest potential for creativity or uniqueness in approaching a topic because their scale of perspective uniqueness will be low.

Back to the Original Question

Embedded in the question of how to help a team work together while respecting everyone’s individual style is the principle of diversity. The question subconsciously recognizes that the more diverse the group is, the more of a challenge it is to get them to work together while respecting style. In my experience, leaders should relax over that challenge. 

Cyriac Roeding shared thoughts on what constitutes an awesome team in a speech he gave to Stanford MBA students.


Notice the Awesome Team Formula

Cyriac gave four components to awesome teams:

  1. Individual brilliance.
  2. Set of shared values that are very inflexible.
  3. Extreme diversity.
  4. Mission and vision that people believe in.

Cyriac referenced experiential indicators of diversity and not demographic indicators. He talked about how a designer from Vogue would see things very differently than a high-powered software developer. In this concept he captures an essence of diversity that we need to remember. 

In achieving diversity, demographic indicators can and do give us a sense that the team has diversity. At the same time, extreme diversity comes from the unique perspectives, unique experiences, unique thinking styles, and the unique cultural influences that the members of the team bring to the collaboration table. 


Embrace diversity. Build diverse teams. Go beyond traditional diversity metrics and seek the greatest diversity you can find. Do not fear conflict that may occur. Diverse teams have organic conflict, but that conflict creates incredible possibilities. 


What we’ve come to learn is that the best organizations and the best teams have a level of difference among the members that cause people to think, believe, and act in unique ways – individually. 

Often we tell people, “Don’t be an individual, be a team player.” That statement is great for sports, but not for business.

Why the Sports Analogy Doesn’t Fit Business in this Case

It’s not uncommon in a team sport for individuals to curb their individuality in order to make the team better. The dynamics of that condition, however, are somewhat unique to sports and are not, or should not be, as dominant in the social structure of a business organization as one might think.

Here’s why. On a sports team, such as a basketball team, there is one ball and five players on the floor for each team. The offensive aim of each team is to score points by putting the ball through the hoop. With five players on the floor there is a problem. Getting the ball into the hoop means that only one person will ultimately shoot the ball. The other four players have to play a subordinating role in order to help one player (and it can be a different player each time) shoot the ball. By playing the subordinating role to allow one player to shoot, the other players curb (to some extent) their individuality for the sake of the team.

In a business organization this analogy rarely holds true. In business, there is not just one ball or one basket. In the modern organizational world of knowledge-workers there are many balls, many baskets, and a lot going on all at once.

That’s why we want people to be both individually brilliant and to give their fullest capacity. Doing both advances the team faster and farther than if an individual throttled their talent and waited for their moment to “shoot the ball.” Great modern leaders recognize this and they want all of their “players” to be “superstars.”

In other words, strive to get each person’s highest level of individual contribution.

How can leaders encourage individuality?

The most powerful model I’ve seen is called Appreciative Inquiry, which is a theory that says you should recognize and reward the positive, while completely ignoring the negative. The result, according to the theory, is that the positive actions you want to have happen will increase in volume while the negative actions will decrease. 

Coupled with the use of Appreciative Inquiry is the process leaders use to tap into people’s motivation so that the individual can give their best. Leaders who help people want to be awesome and help them tap into their own individual brilliance will increase the impact result of the work their team does.


Encourage individuality. Reward and recognize individual greatness. Help people grow their individual capabilities, talents, and skills. The world of a modern organization has an infinite capacity for participants to score, and to do so all at the same time. Seek to facilitate infinite possibilities of success in your people and encourage people to be great. 


Wise leaders assemble teams of talent and, without giving them step-by-step instructions on how to do the work, they give them objectives to achieve and principles to follow. Leaders will want to give an assignment or a project to a group in such a way that allows the group to draw on both their diversity and individuality. 

The progress might look messy or even chaotic at first.

That’s ok.

In fact, it’s better than ok – it’s great! Margaret Wheatley is the author of Leadership and the New Science. She explores a fascinating metaphor that out of natural evolution we find order, beauty, and success. However, the initial stages of that evolving process look extremely chaotic. 

“New understandings of change and disorder have also emerged from chaos theory. Work in this field has led to a new appreciation of the relationship between order and chaos. These two forces are now understood as mirror images, two states that contain the other. A system can descend into chaos and unpredictability, yet within that state of chaos the system is held within boundaries that are well-ordered and predictable. Without the partnering of these two great forces, no change or progress is possible.”

Organizations and teams are like this. Chaos can create new order and new opportunity because people individually react to each other and to the situation, conditions, and environment, and if allowed, create beautiful outcomes that look orderly and natural. As Margaret Wheately said, “growth appears from disequilibrium, not balance.” 

The key for a leader, then, is to be specific in the outcome objectives they desire from the team – what is it that you want to have happen and why. The “how,” then becomes a matter for the team, mostly, to determine. The best “how” is going to resemble chaos and will emerge from organic engagement among the team.

Don’t let chaos spook you as a leader. Give it some time to evolve and trust the brilliant individuals you have assembled as a team.

Why the Sports Analogy Does Fit Business in this Case

Leading a team in business is in some ways similar to leading a team in sports. The leader sets direction, assembles the right participants, creates conditions for success, and is actively involved in the team’s journey.


The objective is set by the organizational leader. The team pursues that objective by using their collection of talents and individual brilliance. The process may look chaotic and messy to someone looking outside-in. However, the results are what matter. The test of a team’s value is always in the results, not in how it got there.

Diversity and Style = Value

Remember the question:

“How do you help a team work together effectively, while respecting everyone’s individual style of doing things?”

Do these eight things:

  • Assemble highly diverse teams.
  • Embrace chaos and conflict.
  • Encourage individuality.
  • Provide clear outcome-based objectives.
  • Don’t worry about efficiency but allow inefficiency and messiness.
  • Show high levels of appreciation for each person. 
  • Show high levels of appreciation for the team as an entity.
  • Be engaged in the journey with your team, don’t let them fly solo or fly blind.

Continue Learning

We address complicated topics like this in our Lead the People series.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His Boy

Be a Student of Leadership – Especially in Difficult Times

Why Become a Student of Leadership

My 7th-grade basketball coach sat us down one day and said, “You need to become students of the game.” He went on to suggest that we attend other basketball games, watch the varsity teams play, watch basketball on TV, and so forth.

I, of course, had no problem obeying that request. I was a sports junkie when I was young and couldn’t get enough. I followed my coach’s advice and watched college, pro, and as much basketball as I could at all levels.

I found to my surprise that I learned things that gave me a competitive edge. I especially found the commentators, many of whom were former coaches, provided tips that were invaluable.

Al McGuire, former head coach at Marquette University, was one of my favorite commentators. I remember he would explain that a good shooter has a soft touch. He suggested that someone with a nice soft touch should aim for the front of the rim, especially on free throws. He explained that a soft touch causes the ball to bounce nicely on the rim and gives it a great chance to go in. I found great success in my basketball life with that piece of advice. In fact, all of the ideas McGuire suggested were important to my game.

I learned that the principle of being a student applies to other things as well, particularly to leadership. There are important leadership lessons all around us – all we have to do is to observe and pay attention. For example, in books we read, plays we watch, movies we see, sports we consume, even in great musical performances, we can find lessons that expose critical leadership experiences.

From The Horse and His Boy

One of my favorite book lessons on leadership comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy.

“For this is what it means to be a king: To be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

I find this particular lesson invaluable. Most good leaders are called to lead their teams through difficult times. If the leader is observed as being sad, concerned, unhappy, or depressed, others will wonder what is wrong and the organization may be filled with a sense of impending doom.

The Lesson

Good leaders put on a brave face during difficult times.

Continue Learning

Becoming a student of leadership doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does require an investment of time. Consider LeaderPods as a way to lead your own leadership development. Our LeaderPods are designed for 15-minute bite-sized consumption.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

Trust and Social Capital

Trust and Social Capital

Do others seek your counsel or advice on things that matter?

When Others Seek You Out for Advice – You are Trusted and have Social Capital

An important way to measure the level of trust others have in you is to assess your social capital. Social capital is a power-currency of influence. Individuals with high degrees of social capital are called on by other leaders, peers, and subordinates to give their advice or to join in on an initiative.

If you wonder how strong your social capital is, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do Others Ask for My Views?
  • Does My Boss Seek My Advice?
  • Am I Invited into New and Exciting Projects?

How to Gain Social Capital and Influence

If you find that your social capital is not as strong as you would like and you want to build levels of trust and influence around you inside of your organization, try these five strategies:

1. Ask

Ask your supervising leader if you can participate in or lead an important initiative. Be specific with him or her. Call out the initiative by name. Be prepared to spend time on the initiative outside of your normal work duties, and of course, give your best effort and help make the initiative outcome successful.

This process will increase your social influence. Others will begin to look at you and say,

“Jane knows what she’s doing, we should ask her opinion.”


“John has the ear of other leaders, let’s engage him on our project.”

2. Give

Give your time to others who are working on challenging opportunities. Show interest and concern. Be respectful of their role – don’t take over. At the same time, engage in and learn about what is happening in that opportunity. Be helpful.

3. Reach-Out

Reach out directly to members of your team. Find out where they are blocked. Then, use your influence to help unblock them. For example, let’s say you have someone working for you who is on a project that requires a leader outside of your organization to commit resources and your person is frustrated because those resources never get committed to the project. This is an opportunity for you to work with your peer leader and collaborate in order to help free up resources.

4. Learn

Actively learn about and be interested in other people’s problems, projects, and processes.

5. Share

Actively share your most important initiatives with your peers and supervising leaders. Let them know what you are working on. This is a courtesy – you’re not asking them for anything, simply sharing. One of the best ways to do this is to go on a roadshow. Schedule 30 minutes with a peer, go to their office, and share a brief presentation showing them what you are working on and why it’s strategic. End by asking for their insight and input.

It Worked for Me at Nike

I used these techniques at Nike and they worked extremely well. My social capital rose rapidly, trust factors were apparent because I was sought out to help on difficult topics, many of which I had no experience with. If you are worried about your social capital and the degree that you are trusted with important work, try the five strategies listed above.

Continue Learning

Explore the factors of trust in more detail with this self-assessment.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Five Hacks to Make Virtual Meetings Awesome

Five Hacks to Make Virtual Meetings Awesome

Be engaging, interesting, effective, interactive, and outstanding.

Every Leader Needs these Hacks

Yikes, we find ourselves in a virtual world almost overnight. Well, some of us that is.

For others, we’ve been toying around with the mechanics of virtual team experiences for years.

The five hacks I cover are:

  1. Start with great content.
  2. Use cool tools.
  3. Use video.
  4. Use breakouts.
  5. Assign roles, follow-up, and record meetings.

I have a bit of experience 

In 1991 I graduated from USMC computer science school as an officer and was quickly thrust into the middle of the war (Desert Storm). We had to quickly cobble together digital networks where chatting and email became mission critical. We did this in harsh desert conditions and in a way that allowed us to be mobile at a moment’s notice. After the Marine Corps experience I led a Nike team that globalized our digital network and worked on tools and teams where effective virtual collaboration was essential. Following Nike, I worked with an international computer manufacturer and some of my team lived outside of London while I lived in Oregon. From the computer company I launched into a series of startups and led in sales using a number of virtual presenting techniques to help close deals. I then led a technology group of about 80 people for a healthcare/tech company – and those 80 people were distributed all across the U.S. I left the corporate world again to build my own brand. My first client, which was a five-year experience, was headquartered in Connecticut, I lived in Utah, and our software development team was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along the way, I’ve been a lecturing professor for Utah Valley University, City University, Broadview University, and Marylhurst University where a significant number of the courses I taught were either online or I developed online components for live courses to make them more interesting.

Key Lessons I’ve Learned

Take Risks. You must take risks and try things you’ve never done before. Sometimes you’ll try something and it won’t go the way you hoped. Sometimes you’ll try something new and it will be awesome. Allow yourself to innovate and ignore the fear of trying new ideas in front of people.

Give People a Voice. Engagement means giving people opportunities to have a voice. When people feel their voice is brought into the important part of a topic, they will be engaged, they will be interested, and they will contribute value.

Multimedia Matters. I learned this at Nike. The best leaders could deliver stunning multimedia presentations as part of their briefs, pitches, etc. It was a cultural norm because Nike is a powerful media and marketing-driven company. Leaders who are skilled with multimedia gain “street cred” with followers, peers, and their bosses because they do things that others are a little afraid to do.

Always Be Looking. Explore the market constantly for new tools. Keep your eyes and ears open for tools and techniques that can help you be new, edgy, and fun.

Five Hacks

Hack #1: Start with Great Content

Don’t enter a virtual meeting without having prepared and thoughtfully considered who the participants are, what you plan or need to accomplish, and how to give voice to those in attendance. Becoming good at creating slides that help foster learning and discussion have gotten easier over the years. Microsoft’s PowerPoint has an embedded “design ideas” feature that can help you make beautiful slides.

For example, here’s a basic slide.

A picture of a basic slide that provides a routine agenda but does not inspire any imagination.

Pretty boring right. 

Now, here’s a slide that draws people in.

A picture of a young man at a table with a large pizza and that inspires communication.

According to the first slide, the agenda for the meeting is to focus on improving communication. In the first slide we see the classic approach to an agenda. In the second slide we see very few words but a picture that will draw people into a collective thinking experience. And that’s what you want, to pull them into an experience. 

You don’t need to list your full agenda on the slide either – just have the 3-points you want to cover on a note card by you and cover them verbally. Most of your slides can be handled in this way – with very few words.

It can take a little effort to create an interesting slide. Consider it an investment. The right slide enhances your communication capabilities because you are opening the receptivity of the person you are trying to communicate with. Most people prefer a visual experience with verbal discussion vs. a reading experience followed by a discussion. Developing great content and finding ways to show that content will help a virtual team engage.

Want a great site for pictures? Unsplash is a solid site for free stock images. 


Bring visually interesting content into the experience as much as possible. Vary the approach. Vary your style. Think about the audience and ask yourself this question, “How does the way I present the content of this meeting help the participants feel they are engaged either in their thoughts or with their words?”

Hack #2: Use Cool Tools and Activities

I’m not just talking about the choice of virtual meeting tool. There are a lot of choices available and no doubt more and more tools will emerge over the next decade as virtual meetings become more prevalent.

The tools I’m referencing in this hack are tools that create interaction and thought.

My go-to polling tool is Mentimeter. I’ve tried other tools, but I like Mentimeter the best right now. There is a free version that you can do a lot with. Because I liked it, I upgraded to their basic plan and it has given me tremendous capability with my in-person and virtual meetings. The use of a tool like this creates engagement and draws people in by giving them a voice.

What I like about Mentimeter is that it has a super clean interface, lots of templates to choose from, the input for participants is easy, and the output produces visually interesting displays.

Mentimeter is an excellent tool that facilitates engagement for online meetings.

One of the excellent parts of Mentimeter is the ability to do do some open-response engagement where you can ask a question and let people respond in an unstructured way. This is incredibly valuable because they are now using their words to paint their ideas in real-time in front of the group.

I’ll often follow-up a structured poll question with an open-response type of question. I want to hear what people are thinking. You can then use comments to shape the conversation. I like to invite people to comment on the comments – it creates a discussion. Again, that process brings voice into the experience, which means people will engage. 

Open question polling is a key feature of a good polling engagement tool like Mentimeter

Most virtual meeting tools have their own polling-type of solutions and I’ve found them to be adequate. I like to use a specialized polling solution because there is more flexibility and it gets us outside of the meeting tool – that also requires additional engagement.

Mentimeter has a nice blog where they provide lots of ideas on how to improve in-person or virtual meetings. Here are few of their blog posts to help with virtual meetings:

How to use Zoom and Mentimeter for remote working and online teaching.

How to encourage participation in online meetings.

How to host a remote quiz.

Icebreakers to kick-start creative thinking.

How remote teams can promote inclusion.


Engagement in a virtual world is really similar to engagement in an in-person world. You have to create ways for people to participate. The participation must be about meaningful subjects. The participation has to have a way to be seen by the group. There are other tools worth exploring, we featured Mentimeter.

Other tools we think are interesting:




Hack #3: Use Video (and Humor if It fits)

Video is important and it’s fun. Use selected videos that are relevant to the topic of your meeting. You can use humor in your videos. It depends on the purpose of the meeting and what you want the video to accomplish. You do need to be careful with humor – what’s funny to one person may be insulting to another so be cautious here.

I’ve used videos like this before to discuss planning processes, agile workflow, fairness, ethics, and other topics.

The Expert


The next video comes from the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA). They produce outstanding content in short segments that can be used in a variety of ways to generate engagement.

I’ve used the video below to help get team members talking.


We watch the video as a group, then either in a breakout or altogether, we discuss which type of tendency we each think we have. We might even use Mentimeter to show those tendencies with a four-bar chart poll. Then, I have us go to the site where Gretchen Rubin allows you to take her assessment for free. It takes only a few minutes. People discover their tendency and we have a discussion on what they learned about themselves and their peers in the process (Tendency Assessment).

Here are three other great sources for high quality videos on a variety of business subjects that we use frequently, and they can all work in a virtual meeting.

Stanford’s eCorner

HBR’s Explainer Videos

TED Talks

BOTTOM-LINE for Hack#3

Video is important. Try to use short videos where possible. Make sure your use of humor will be appreciated and not offend someone. Leverage the video to drive home a learning or discussion point by using a polling tool like Mentimeter. Allow time for discussion around what people learned or noticed in the video.

Hack #4: Use breakouts

This hack gets more complicated, but it is very doable. Some of the online meeting tools do a better job of this than others. Zoom, for example, has a breakout group process that works really well. If you use Zoom, go to your account settings enable breakout groups.

I’ve used breakout groups in my meetings very successfully. When everyone has joined the meeting I use the breakout group feature to dynamically create breakout rooms and populate them. 

Picture that shows an example of a breakout group meeting setup process in online tools.

I set it up so that when I end the breakout group, each group will receive a 60 second warning that their breakout room will close. As people exit their room, they automatically pop back into your main meeting. It’s really cool.

You can configure the rooms to populate randomly or assign people. I normally use a random process. However, there are situations when a planned breakout structure is useful. You follow the same process that you would use when planning team breakout events in an in-person meeting.

Before sending breakout groups away, it is important to give them a specific task to accomplish. I generally allocate 5 minutes to do whatever I’ve asked.

When people come back into the room, I have one person from each group brief what they discussed. I will capture their comments at a high-level in a notepad, electronic whiteboard, or a powerpoint slide. I display my note taking on the screen so everyone can see what I’m writing.


Caution #1: The first time you try a virtual breakout meeting people will not know exactly what to expect. Let them know you are trying something new and that the process will get better as we learn together. Recognize that the first time through a virtual breakout process it will take people a little while to warm up and adjust. I don’t give them extra time in the first try, but I do make the question light and easy. Then, after we reconvene, I post a more complicated topic for them and have them breakout a second time. This time they are skilled at the process.

Caution #2: Not all tools have a breakout feature. If your tool doesn’t use breakout groups you can still do this exercise. You can ask the teams to go offline for a brief period of time by setting up separate calls for them in advance that they can join. This takes a little more coordination, but it’s worth doing.


The first time you do an online breakout, the event may be awkward. However, the more you use breakout features, the more rapidly you will increase the engagement and the quality of the meeting. Always harvest the value of the breakout process by documenting what gets reported back to you. Always integrate breakout inputs back into the meeting or into a future meeting so that people will want to continue to engage.

Hack #5: Assign, Follow-up, Record

Assign Roles in Advance. One of the best ways to drive up engagement is to give people opportunity. It is important to note that generally people are not at their best when you surprise them, especially in front of their peers. Be planful and ask one or two members of the meeting to come prepared to share thoughts or findings on a specific topic. Give them a named spot on the agenda and give them time to present. 

Use Asynchronous Tools to Follow-Up. Synchronous communication is what happens when everyone is together either in person or in a virtual setting. An idea can be discussed in real-time. Asynchronous communication happens when there is a delay in responding to someone because you are not together in real-time.

Asynchronous communication techniques are important to retain engagement after the meeting is over. Tools that facilitate asynchronous communication are discussion boards, email groups, and text groups. Of the three, discussion boards are the best for retaining long-term information and having a longer discussion. Text groups are actually the best for having fast asynchronous communication and retaining the highest level of engagement.

Make sure to have after-the-meeting follow-ups. Not every meeting requires follow-ups, but some do. When a follow-up is required use a discussion forum or a team site to help facilitate the ongoing discussion. 

Record Your Meetings. Not everyone can join every meeting. Recording meetings and then publishing those recordings to the group allows people who didn’t participate to have an opportunity to engage at the next possible level and to participate in any asynchronous follow-up. 


The way you plan for engagement directly affects the quality of the engagement you get. Avoid last-minute planning. Every meeting you have, whether virtual or in-person, should be important. Schedule time in your calendar to prepare for your meeting. Then, give people a role and allow them to contribute. Find ways to stay engaged in between meetings on important topics. Be considerate of those who can’t make it and make sure they are also engaged by giving them the ability to catch-up. 

Continue Learning

We know that leading people in the modern, and often virtual, world is complicated and challenging. Our tools help leaders zero in on what’s most important. If you are interested in learning more high-impact communication and engagement techniques, check out our LeaderPod on Communication and Other Soft Skills.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

What Makes a Leader Memorable?

What Makes a Leader Memorable?

They believe in you. They care about your success.

Memorable Leaders Have Common Attributes

To answer the question, “What Makes a Leader Memorable?” think back in your own life to a leader you’ve had whom you loved – someone who made a huge impact in your life. 

Maybe it was a teacher, maybe a coach, maybe a mentor, maybe an Uncle or an Aunt, or maybe a teammate. The list could go on.

Think back and envision this person and think about the one attribute this person had that makes you feel the way you do about them?

My Answer

My answer to that question is my sixth-grade teacher – Miss Sybil Seward.

It was a cold wet Oregon Saturday morning, October 1, 2005. I wore a thick waterproof coat. I hunkered under two blankets and an umbrella while sitting in my lawn chair and watching my ten-year-old daughter play soccer.

A friend of mine approached me and informed me that Miss Sybil Seward had passed away and that her memorial service had been held earlier that morning. My eyes began to mist, as they do now at this writing, over the memory of the greatest sixth grade teacher the world has ever known. I began to wish that somehow there was more room in my busy life to observe when the truly important things were happening. This was one of those. My heart sank that I had not been aware of her condition, of her battle with cancer, or of her recent passing. I felt a strong reminder come into my mind that what really matters in life is people.

I may very well have learned that principle from Miss Seward. She came along in my life at just the right time. I do not know how the others felt, but as one of her many students in her 1973 sixth grade class, she made me feel like I was a superstar. Well, actually, that is what she called all of her students. We were Seward’s Superstars.

Miss Seward built others with a positive appreciation for the greatness in them. She was never cross or angry. She celebrated every good thing, small or large, and her exuberance made you want to celebrate right along with her. She pulled you into her high-energy delight, which she had for every person’s success.

It was from Miss Seward that I first had the notion that I could be somebody. Up to that point in my inconsistent academic career I was at best a very average student. Yet, somehow my first report card from Miss Seward was all A’s. Straight A’s…can you imagine? I sure couldn’t. I had never dreamed of such a thing. I am quite confident that I earned those A’s, though I don’t remember how. I know I earned them because she would never have given them to me otherwise. Miss Seward had integrity. I believe it was her approach as a teacher and a leader that coaxed all of those A’s out of me. In that first report card period she sat down with my mother and told her that I would be the President of my class. That also was something that was outside of my ability to even dream about. But to show that she could see what others couldn’t, and because of her confidence and encouragement, six years later I was, in fact, the Senior Class President.

Miss Seward had simple ways to make people feel special and to reinforce her teachings. Her model helped her students love learning and caused us to be excited to show her what we learned. Miss Seward kept a jar of chocolates on her desk and the jar never seemed to go empty. By the way, “Four score and seven years ago, our Father’s brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” is something we memorized in her class. Her method for recognizing achievement for great work, such as memorizing and reciting the entire Gettysburg address, created a strong incentive for us all to increase our personal performance.

I mentioned Miss Seward’s unending supply of chocolates. She knew just when to use those so that they remained special. She understood the value of praise in front of one’s peers and she found ways to praise her students in front of other leaders. I remember seeing the disbelief in the eyes of one of my former teachers as Miss Seward made a point to tell him about something I recently did that was outstanding.

Leadership is a Relationship

Joanne B. Ciulla said that leadership is “a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”

Miss Seward intuitively understood the magic of that kind of leadership.

I know many special teachers and they all have a place in my heart; but, somehow, a big part of who I am is because of a sixth grade teacher who saw in me what I had not yet seen in myself. She saw in me someone who could become something.

What Makes a Leader Memorable to You?

We would love to hear what makes a leader memorable to you? It would be fun for us to all compare answers. Feel free to share your answer in the comments section of this post.

Become a Memorable Leader

Leaders who care about our success become memorable to us. Being able to care for others is a quality needed in our modern world. Take the time to be a memorable leader to someone in your life.

Continue Learning

Learn more about this topic in our LeaderPod series.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Why Leaders Fail

Why Leaders Fail

There is really only one reason.

It’s Worth Learning About – Why Leaders Fail?

This question came from a university student of mine who sincerely wanted to know because he didn’t want to make those same mistakes – he didn’t want to fail.

There is really only one condition where leaders fail. It’s a simple condition. They fail when they stop thinking about those they lead.

That’s it. 

I can illustrate with many cases, but I want to share this story from my past at Nike to help us understand what it means when a leader stops thinking about those they lead.

Nike – No Failing There (Ok, maybe Sometimes)

Nike is an amazing place to work. High energy, intense creativity, and people have a passion for getting the work done. Nike is full of great leaders. However, like all companies, even Nike has leaders who struggle.

The leader who hired me to work at Nike was really excited to have me on his team. He told me many times that I was the answer to his prayer. At first it seemed like it was a heavenly match.

This particular manager led a team of talented systems engineers. In fact, he had been a successful engineer himself, and that’s one of the reasons he was promoted into management.

I Was a Substitute Leader

I was hired because the leader found that he was having some difficulty leading the group. He began to look for someone to be a team lead who could relate to both the technical and business side, as well as understand the softer art of leadership. His vision was to have a team lead who would help take care of all of the issues that he was having with the team. That’s when he hired me. He put me in between himself and his team. The idea sounded good to both of us… at first.

Lesson 1 – Never Forget, Problems are Good for Teams

Team issues are a natural part of team growth and as a leader you want to engage those issues rather than move away from them or hope they go away. Putting someone in between you and your team in hopes that issues get resolved in a better way will result in you distancing yourself from your team. One set of problems may appear to have gone away. At the same time, another set of problems will develop.

The Story Continues

I was excited both to work at Nike and to be a team lead. My manager was excited to have me on board. He took advantage (in a good way) of my technical, business, and soft leadership skills. He was able to focus all of his time on working with his peers and giving quality time to important business projects. I understood clearly what my boss was looking for from me, so I invested heavily in building relationships with team members. As a result of his distancing and my drawing closer, the team collectively and individually gained confidence in me and saw me as their leader.

Lesson 2 – Subordinate Leaders Risk the Wrath of the Boss

When a subordinate leader gains the confidence and loyalty of the team in greater measure than the team gives to the senior leader, the subordinate leader is at risk if the senior leader has too much ego. On the other hand, if the senior leader understands that it is natural for those who are closest to each other on a day-to-day basis to be most loyal to each other, then the subordinate leader and the team can be successful.

Success Sometimes Breeds Contempt

I was a little too successful, the team’s loyalties began to shift towards me. I became the epicenter of what leadership at Nike meant for them. I invested heavily in creating a true team experience and we quickly became both unique (uniqueness is highly valued at Nike) and high-performing. We extended our social capital as a team into other areas of the business. Our capability, capacity, and reputation became such that leaders of other parts of the organization began to by-pass our boss and come directly to me and members of the team to help solve their problem. Our social capital had grown more powerful than our boss’s. That created resentment on his part.

My leader noticed our social influence and also noticed that he was not always invited to key meetings, though we were careful to keep him updated before and after. The model he was used to was one where all business engagement funneled through him. This made him a constraint of sorts. The model that the Nike business leaders naturally gravitated towards was a direct-relationship model and they had little patience for a constraining leader.

Our leader saw us in meetings where he couldn’t be because we were meeting with business leaders of one area while he met with business leaders in another area on projects that he was focused on. It was impossible to coordinate all calendars so that he could be at every meeting.

Nevertheless, he grew to resent us (his own team) for extending the groups success without his presence. He ultimately insisted that he attend any meeting we attended by forbidding us to meet with business leaders without him. This was a very un-Nike like thing to do. 

Lesson 3 – People Want the Business to Succeed, and Fast

If a leader consciously constrains the team so that the business is impacted and has to slow progress, the team will resent the leader and find organic work-arounds. The leader will ultimately be left out of more meetings than ever before and will have less information about what’s going on. On the other hand, the leader who empowers the team to create corporate good will increase loyalty and trust.

A Nightmare Ending

The practical problems were immediate. Because we had a team of 7, that meant he was in meetings all day everyday. Because he was the constraining factor that meant we could not meet as fast as the business wanted. The team began to resent him for holding them back, and they especially resented him for making the business go slower. Additionally, the business began to resent him as well. Few successful organizations will tolerate a constraining leader once identified.

Our leader noticed the social distancing that was happening in his world. He began to get defensive. He worked harder than ever. He easily worked 16 hours a day each week in an attempt to be at everything and not be a constraint. His technique wore out his team, however. He began to use the night to do his regular work, and that meant that each day the team would show up at our job with a pile of emails and voice messages from him asking for immediate updates. His technique created a bad energy.

Lesson 4 – Don’t Pile on People First Thing in the Morning

People do not like to come into the office first thing in the morning to a barrage of bad news day-in and day-out. Leaders need to be sensitive to their messaging over night and understand people’s morning temperatures. Give people some warm-up time.

The Organization Solved the Problem

This particular manager became ultra consumed with what he didn’t know. Fear drove his behavior. His techniques for dealing with what he couldn’t control accelerated his team’s dislike for him. He sensed that and instead of solving the problem, he intensified the problem. In good companies with good leadership, these types of sub-organizational issues eventually get snuffed out. The typical solution is to either fire the leader, move the leader to another organization, or the employees abandon the leader by going to other teams. In this case, two of the three happened. Employees started abandoning him by going to other groups and the leader ultimately was reassigned to another group with less significant projects.  

Lesson 5 – Fear is a Bad Thing

Fear drives really bad behavior as a leader. Fear also means you are spending more time thinking about yourself than you are thinking about those you lead. When you do that, you make a series of mistakes that drive your team away from you. The story I shared is just one example of how that could happen.

Signs to pay attention to

If you see yourself doing any of these things, STOP

  • Your trust in your people is waning.
  • You don’t delegate with a process that keeps you connected and empowers your people.
  • You feel jealous, or even a little anxious over the success of your team or team members.
  • You don’t assign work that has meaning to the business and to the employee.
  • You don’t find ways to continuously help people feel like their contribution is valuable and making an impact.
  • You don’t see yourself as a leader whose core (most important) job is to help your team members be successful.
  • Your vision of what your team should be doing doesn’t match the views of those on your team.

The bottom-line

Let your team be successful. Put all of your leadership focus on thinking about the people you lead and how they can be successful. Loop them into as much as you can. Let them flourish, even if that means they will be doing things you can’t directly control or be a part of. 

Continue Learning

Check out our Lead the People series to gain deeper insights into principles of empowerment and what that can do for you as a leader.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

The Delicate Art of Leveraging a Mentor

The Delicate Art of Leveraging a Mentor

Growing your career is NOT a chance event.

Growing Your Career

Growing a career is not a chance event. If you are leaving your future career opportunities up to others, then you are making a mistake. You MUST take charge of your own career and chart your course. Part of charting your course requires you to figure out where you want to be and who can help you get there. A good mentor provides a valuable service by sharing experience-based ideas to help you achieve your potential.

According to Ken Perlman’s article in Forbes,The Often Overlooked but Invaluable Benefits of Mentorship,” an important part of developing strong leadership skills comes from a close association with strong mentors who help show the way to lead. Younger professionals or junior executives can especially gain value from a mentor who can help you focus on your goals. A good mentor provides seasoned perspective and relevant advice uniquely adapted to your situation.

One of the most valuable mentoring experiences I had was when a very senior officer pulled me aside and told me to carefully plan where I wanted to be in 20 years and then plot the steps it takes to get there. The first step in that process was to observe the careers of those who had achieved what I was after and then apply their model to my plan.

Transparency and Focus Leads to Value

There is a traditional method of mentoring, which has a hierarchical feel to it. Without question, hierarchical mentors (those who are senior to you) have tremendous value to add. They can help you spot opportunities to grow your network and expand your vision for what you really offer.

There is a second type of mentoring, which is called accountability partnership – it is more like peer-to-peer mentoring. An Inc. Magazine article by Jessica Stillman, “Why Accountability Partners Beat Mentors,”  explains the concept nicely. This second type of mentoring uses peer pressure to leverage self-improvement.

Another Inc. Magazine article by Nicolas Cole, “3 Ways To Attract The Mentor You Truly Want,” enlightens us on three critical steps we should take in order to attract the right mentor and receive value from that mentor. 

Step 1: Mentor Yourself First

Assess yourself and look for ways to figure out how you can improve. I recommend an excellent short book by Peter Drucker entitled, Managing Oneself. The fact is, if you are not committed to self-mentoring you are probably not going to be able to appreciate the mentoring that someone else could give you.

Step 2: Be Teachable

Develop your teachability skills. How likely are you to be able to listen to critical feedback about you, or about your work and be able to change? If you are resistant to feedback-driven change, some of which can be personally painful, you’re not likely to be successful with a mentor.

Step 3: Be Appreciative

Gratitude is a key to enduring relationships. Great leaders are busy people. When they take the time to work with you, even briefly, do two things: (1) Be grateful and show appreciation, and (2) Work on the things they tell you to work on – that’s an important form of showing appreciation.

For Career Growth – Be Mentored

A Forbes article by Lisa Quast onHow Becoming a Mentor Can Boost Your Career,” revealed an important finding about the careers of those who are mentored. Sun Microsystems examined the careers of 1,000 of their employees and found that when a person received mentoring they were 20% more likely to get a raise and 5 times more likely to be promoted.

Why such a difference? Two reasons.

Promotion Invitation: Being mentored gives you access to wise counsel and information to help you strategically identify opportunities and position yourself to be invited into those opportunities. The difference is that you go from asking to be promoted to being invited into the promotion.

Authentic Advocate: Leaders who mentor you develop an authentic interest in your success. They look for ways to help doors to open in your behalf. It’s like having an advocate in the boardroom.

Look in the Mirror

We cannot achieve our ultimate potential without understanding ourselves thoroughly. The process of coming to that complete and ultimate personal understanding is often a life-time journey. Each experience leads to another finding, another self-discovery. We want to use those self-discoveries to improve ourselves and enhance our abilities and prepare ourselves for the next self-discovery opportunity.

Mentoring is one of the many excellent tools for accelerating self-discovery. Molly Petrilla wrote an article in Fast Company’s online magazine, “How to be Someone People Really Want to Mentor,” explaining the importance of presenting the real you to your mentor. When that happens, the mentor sees the strengths and the weaknesses and now has some valuable content to work with to coach you. If you withhold and are not transparent you will give your mentor an imposter, not an authentic mentee.

Use your mentor’s valuable time to help you leverage strengths and improve weaknesses. The authentic transparent approach will give you a true professional look in the mirror.

Solving Problems

We commonly think of getting a coach as a way to help us with personal growth, and that is an incredibly valuable component of the mentoring process. Another strong reason for having trusted coaches is the ability to help solve problems.

Problems range in complexity. There is plenty of formal training on leadership available, but some of the thorny questions are better answered in private 1-1 type of settings with someone who knows you and someone who can provide reflective insight into a problem you are dealing with.

For example, some leaders wrestle with making decisions in the face of a culture that encourages high degrees of collaboration. They confuse collaboration with the responsibility of the leader to make clear and concise decisions. This is a perfect problem to discuss with a seasoned mentor.

Even the most accomplished leaders seek mentors to help solve thorny problems. Paul Yock is a professor in the school of medicine at Stanford and a prominent cardiovascular researcher and inventor. In this video segment he shares how “Mentoring Changed My Life.

Paul, as accomplished as he is, sought the peer-mentoring help of three other leaders to help solve the problem of visualizing inside the blood vessel during surgery.

The Bottom-Line

Having a mentor or two will benefit your career in many ways. That said, don’t forget the ultimate responsibility lies with you. Take charge of your career. When you work with a mentor remember these key points: (A) be planful, (B) respect your mentor’s time, (C) be professional, (D) don’t just take – make sure you give as well, and (E) focus your time with your mentor on high-value content.

Continue Learning

If you like this article you will probably enjoy our podcast. We feature top leaders such as the former CFO of Apple, a Nike leader, and other leaders from companies ranging from Fortune 50 to startups. We designed our podcast specifically to help future leaders. 

Another Way to Continue Learning

We published a book that may interest you entitled, “Growing Your Career is Not a Chance Event.”

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Delegating Must be a Two-Way Street

Delegating Must be a Two-Way Street

Delegating seems to be a difficult skill to master.

The Most Common Leadership Issue

As a leadership consultant the most common leadership issue I hear about is delegation. It seems to be a difficult skill for many leaders to master.

The skill I teach leaders is that they need to create an environment where they can be clear about priorities, importance, and making sure the person being delegated to has both the capacity and skill needed. It requires a conversation that is bi-directional.

Typical Bad Approach

Here’s an example of a typical delegation conversation that I hear. In this scenario Ralph is the leader and John is the person receiving the assignment. See if you can spot the errors and challenge yourself to think about what you would do differently.

“Hello John, good morning.”

“Good morning Ralph.”

John, I have something I need you to do – we have this new product hitting the market as you know. Marketing is pushing us to get the customer support documents in place so they can be published at the same time as the product’s release. I know you have a lot going on, but could you get the XYZ product customer support documents organized and published onto our intranet page for marketing to pick up by Dec 5th?”

“Ok Ralph, I’ll sure give that my best shot.”

“Thanks John, I knew I could count on you.”

Analyzing the Conversation

Result for Ralph

Ralph heads back to the office pretty pleased with himself thinking something like this:

“I see that the micro-course on delegation I took really works. John understood exactly what I wanted to have happen and now we’ll get the XYZ product customer support docs ready and we’ll beat the release schedule. This is going to be a great win for our department.”

Impact on John

John heads back to his office stewing, thinking something like this:

“The XYZ product is not as important as the five other products I support. How could Ralph dump on me like this? I simply don’t know how I could possibly get this done on time and I’m sick of working extra hours to do more and more. I’m going to prioritize as best I can and just see what happens, but I’m not going to sweat it if I can’t get to it.”

The final outcome is predictable. Ralph thinks John’s on track, and John’s not happy with Ralph or the company.

Fast Forward

Let’s fast forward in this “fictional” scenario to December 6, the day after the project was due and we can imagine the following conversation.

“John, I logged into the intranet portal this morning and didn’t see the XYZ doc there? What happened?” 

“Ralph, I know you wanted this done by December 5th. I’ve been working extra hours all month to get it done, but with the 5 other key products I support, all having new releases coming in January, and all having a strong existing customer base and revenues, I simply couldn’t get to the XYZ document.”

John tries hard to hold back his emotion, but he blurts out something like, “Are you serious? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Ralph, not completely happy either says something like, “You didn’t ask.”

Rewind to the Right Way

Here’s the way the conversation could have gone, which would have produced a very different outcome. Challenge yourself to identify what is different between the first scenario and the rewind.

“Hello John, good morning.”

“Good morning Ralph.”

“John, I have something I need you to do – we have this new product hitting the market as you know. Marketing is pushing us to get the customer support documents in place so they can be published at the same time as the product’s release. I know you have a lot going on, but could you get the XYZ product customer support documents organized and published onto our intranet page for marketing to pickup by Dec 5th?”

“Ok Ralph, I’ll sure give that my best shot. But, I think we should discuss my priorities. I know you are aware of the 5 other products I support and that each of them has a new release in January. As I forecast my work, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to get those done and do the XYZ product at the same time. I mean, I want to, the XYZ looks really cool and interesting. But, I feel obligated to support existing revenue streams. How do you want me to re-prioritize?”

“Thanks John for telling me this – I totally did not connect those dots. Wow, we need to really think this through. Here’s what we’ll do, I’ll schedule a time for us to get together this week for a micro-planning/prioritizing session and we’ll tease out the details of the priorities together. Whatever falls below the cut-line we’ll have to then figure out what should happen to it. I have a feeling that the XYZ product is important enough that we might outsource the support for some existing product lines so we can focus your creativity on XYZ – but let’s prioritize first and I’ll then get a read on it from the executives.”

Result for Ralph

Ralph heads back to his office thinking,

“What are my options for freeing up more of John’s time? He’s my best person for new product support and the XYZ product has the potential to be a major revenue producer. We’d better get this right. Before I meet with John, I’m going to check in with Clara [boss] to see what budget latitude we have for outsourcing some existing support stuff.”

Impact on John

John heads back to his office feeling good about working at this company. He thinks to himself,

“I really want to work on the XYZ product and I’m glad we are going to have this prioritizing session. I’d love to move some of these existing requirements off of my plate… Ralph’s a pretty good boss.”

Reverse Transparency Makes All the Difference

The difference between these two scenarios was the level of mutual engagement and reverse transparency. We often expect the leader to be transparent and to be thorough in explaining assignments, deadlines, and expectations. But what really makes the delegation in the rewind scenario effective is the reverse transparency that occurs by John (the employee). Mutual engagement and proper delegation cannot happen without reverse transparency.

Reverse Transparency Defined

The person receiving delegation is completely open and honest about their capacity, skill, timing, or other constraints.

Without the reverse transparency offered by the employee in the above case, the leader makes a huge mistake because he does not understand the employee’s priorities and work commitments in adequate detail.

There is a second benefit of reverse transparency, and that is an opportunity for the leader to see the assignment through the eyes of the employee and to gain their perspective. In other words, it’s a real-life application of empathy in the working world and it produces mutual understanding. 

Notice that in order for that understanding to occur, however, the person being delegated to must be equally transparent in their communication when they receive an assignment. This is hard for people to do.

Why People Don’t Push Back

An essential part of delegating effectively is creating an environment where people can be transparent without worrying about being negatively judged. Let’s face it, when an employee pushes back it requires boldness on their part and there is a significant risk for them.

Personal Risk

The first big reason people don’t push back in order to force a prioritization discussion of their workload is out of fear. They are afraid that they may be fired or let go, they are afraid that they may not get the raise they want, or they are afraid that they will not be seen in a favorable light for promotion, or they may simply be afraid that they will be seen in lesser light and not be given future opportunity. These fears are all a very real risk for people as they navigate the working world of assignments given to them.

Business Risk

The second major reason people don’t push back is because they have a strong commitment to their clients. This may sound odd. The truth is that people are more loyal to those closest to them, and if a person has an existing customer base (internal or external) they will often guard that base by serving it first, even at the expense of a new and exciting project.

Perception Risk

A third reason people don’t push back is that they feel an obligation to pull their weight in the organization. They want to do the work that comes their way. They understand the organization has resource constraints and that everyone has to sacrifice. They then unwittingly accept assignments without pushing back out of a sense of duty to the greater good. Unfortunately, the result is almost always negative.

What a Leader Must Do

Create an environment where reverse transparency can flourish.

If a leader has not created an environment where the employee can be equally honest and transparent about the real work they are doing and how much of their capacity it consumes, the leader has no way of understanding the employee’s true priorities or their true capacity for work and will routinely make bad assumptions. Those bad assumptions will lead to a piling on of additional work that probably will not get done. The result is deflated morale and lowered motivation.

The bottom-line

Leaders and followers both need to strive for openness and transparency in their relationships and make delegating a bi-directional relationship that is mutually engaging.

Regardless of the delegation technique used, giving someone something that they have no capacity to do is in effect dumping and not delegating. It leaves a bad feeling for the person receiving the assignment and it sets false hope for the person giving the assignment.

Continue Learning

I invite you to look at our Lead the People series to gain deeper insights into delegation and other common leadership problems. In this program you’ll find a specific LeaderPod on the topic of Empowering and Delegating.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Building Social Capital with Peers

Building Social Capital with Peers

Do your peers ask for your input and perspective?

The Importance of Working with Peers

We start by watching this 3-minute management tip from Harvard Business Review by Lynda Gratton.

Lynda Gratton is a London Business School professor and co-author ofThe 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.” She also has an interesting article published with the Harvard Business Review entitled,The Third Wave of Virtual Work.”

We feel her research is important and helps underscore our feelings on the importance of working with peers. In this post we discuss mechanics of working directly with peers.

Responding to Peer Requests

If your social capital is building across your peer network you’ll know because peers will begin to ask you for your point of view and for your help. New leaders may be tempted to see those requests as an annoying imposition on their own time given the that they are busy with their own problems. However, that point of view can be short-sighted. The more people, especially your peers, engage you the more you are gaining social power in the organization.

Rise by Collaborating

The more you “rise” in an organization the more you are expected to collaborate with peers. The reason for this is simple. The more senior you become the more complicated and multi-dimensional the leadership and organizational business problems become. There are two important reasons why we collaborate with peers.

Your Strategic Projects are at Risk

Frequently, senior leaders deal with problems that require cross-divisional collaboration, or at the very least, cross-divisional consultation. Research shows that one of the most significant blockers to achieving strategic objectives is the way priorities across divisions differ [1]. A strategic objective in one division may need support from resources in another division. If your social capital is low, that division may under-value your project and prioritize low the work they do that is important to you. This puts your strategic projects at risk.

Collaborating is an Executive Skill

Additionally, top executive teams constantly work on problems together. Top executive teams surround themselves with peers who they feel will help contribute to the success of their mutual objectives. Learning how to carve time out of your schedule to be supportive of peer-based projects or peer concerns is an important part of the executive leadership journey. Great leadership teams are comprised of great people who care about each other.

Asking for Peer Help

Sometimes new leaders are hesitant to engage their peers in their own problems because they feel that might reveal weakness or a lack of competence. The truth is there are many organizational situations where the only way a problem can get solved is if the peer network is engaged. Organizational problems are complex and cut across matrices and silos of competing interests and agendas. Asking a peer for their insight is not an admission of weakness. On the contrary, asking a peer for insight shows maturity and organizational savvy.

Naturally, there is an important balance that needs to be struck. Be careful not to overwhelm a peer with your problems. Focus on those areas where there are potential intersections between you and your peer, or on areas where there are opportunities to help the overall organization/company. 

As you build your peer network you will find trusted relationships that develop over time. All leaders experience times when it is valuable to be able to share ideas or collaborate with other leaders. The collaborative relationships that you develop today between your peer leaders benefit you in your current role. The stronger your peer relationships, the more work you and your organization can get done.

Developing quality peer relationships serves a future purpose. As leaders grow in responsibility and mature in their career, the early-stage foundation of peer relationships evolve into a strong base of strategic influence. This is true whether you have a long career with your current organization, or you seek future senior leadership roles elsewhere. Today’s peer relationships become tomorrow’s industry connections.

What a Leader Must Do

Developing New Peer Relationships

One of the most important things a leader can do in an organization is to periodically spend time with their peers. The following techniques work well:

  • Invite a peer to come to your team meeting and present their strategic focus or their most important initiatives.
  • Share with your peers your most important areas of focus, and particularly, talk with them about mutually inclusive projects or themes.

Are You a Trusted Leader by Your Peers

Continually developing our leadership capability requires insight into ourselves that is sometimes painful. You might consider taking our micro-assessment Are You a Trusted Leader? 

The bottom-line

Building peer-to-peer relationships is a mutual endeavor. Always give more than you receive. Strive to become someone your peers look to for input.

Continue Learning

Check out our Lead the People series LeaderPod on communication and other soft skills. 

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Three Strategies to Become a Good Leader

Three Strategies to Become a Good Leader

Leadership is all about relationships.

A Relationship Approach that Includes You

“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”

Joanne B. Ciulla

Leadership is not just about getting someone to do what we want them to do. And, it certainly isn’t just about being an example for others to follow. Yet those are the first two principles that most people talk about when they think of leadership. 

I like what Joanne Ciulla said – leadership is about relationships. To be a good leader, you have to understand how to tap into the relationships you have with others and find ways to achieve great results together. Because leadership is a relationship-based concept, you might want to consider three strategies to not only be a good leader, but a healthy leader. Those three strategies are: (1) Care about yourself, (2) Care about others, and (3) Be competent in both people and business skills. 

1. Care About Yourself

Care about yourself. Care enough to do the things that will build you as a person and as a leader. Leaders get busy and they forget that they are important. You need to take care of ourself. Schedule time to do the things that are important to you. Schedule time to work on your own projects. Schedule time to invest in yourself.


The most important technique for taking care of yourself is to use your calendar. Block out time in your calendar for specific things you want and need to do. This includes reading a book, taking a course, working out, having lunch, working on a project, etc.

If you look at my personal calendar you’ll see major sections of time blocked out for me to use for me. On the surface that may sound selfish – but the truth is if you don’t create time in your calendar for yourself others will overrun your calendar and consume all of your time on them. The result will be frustration, burnout, and resentment.

The race of a leader is more like a marathon than a sprint – so be wise and adjust the pace accordingly.

2. Care About Others

Care enough about the people you work with to want the best for them. This means you will frequently put their interests above your own, and at times, above the interests of the company. This may sound like strange advice – aren’t workers there to further the aims of the company? Yes – but if you treat them like nothing more than a resource to further the aim of the company, you’ll never have a great team or people who will give their best – they’ll just do their job. You want more than that – you want to unlock the potential and power of the talent that works for you.


The best way for me to explain the how is to share a story about a great leader I had at Nike. This particular leader took the time to get to know me and understand my personal as well as professional goals. He knew about my background, my education, my extra-curricular passions such as coaching sports, and he knew about my family.

I was being recruited from Nike to a hi-tech company nearby. The hi-tech company was offering me a lucrative salary, options, and bonuses, and an overall package that Nike could never have matched in that day at my position. I didn’t really want to leave Nike, but I wanted that compensation.

I scheduled time with my leader and we talked about the opportunity. The conversation was less like a boss to subordinate and more like a mentor to a young talent. He set aside the interests of Nike and gave me advice on how to proceed to get an even more lucrative package. He told me exactly what to ask for (25% more than they were offering). He said, “There’s your test – if they take it, that’s a number you can’t refuse. If they don’t, then you know to stay at Nike.”

I followed his advice. The person I negotiated with at the other company was unhappy about my counter offer and said there was no way they could meet that. We closed the conversation amicably and parted ways. I thought that was the end of it. A week later he called me back and said, “Ok, we’ll meet your counter, when can you start?”

Resigning from Nike was tough – but what I found was that leader that coached me was a friend. In fact, he’s been a life-long friend. He taught me a valuable lesson – do more for your people than you do for yourself and look out for their interests.

By the way, I’ve been a huge Nike fan all of my life, purchased lots of gear, and sent them a number of talented individuals who have made their company even greater. That leader at Nike, by doing the right thing for me, did the right thing for Nike.

3. Be Competent in People and Business Skills

Recognize that there are two core groupings of leadership competencies: People-based competencies and business-based competencies.

People-based competencies include things like:

  • Trust
  • Motivating and Inspiring
  • Transparency
  • Humility
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Developing People

Business-based competencies include things like:

  • Vision
  • Strategic Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Supply-Chain and Value-Chain
  • Operating Excellence
  • Business Savvy
  • Product Knowledge

You need to be balanced and be good at both types of competencies. Leaders must be good at leading people. By leading people you accelerate business objectives. At the same time, leaders must be good at leading the business. In order to lead the business you have to understand the business and the fundamentals of business that go into your particular business focus.


Take charge of your education strategy. Make sure you research, study, and apply principles that help you lead people and organizations. Invest in soft skill development. Also, make sure you continue to advance your understanding and capabilities in business. All businesses have a value-chain, customers, products, and need to make money. Understand the value you deliver – invest in yourself to expand your knowledge of how that value-chain operates and where you can enhance it. Some of this education will be formal, but a great deal of your education will be experiential and engaged by connecting with people and projects inside of your organization that advance your business-based competence.

Continue Learning

Leadership learning is a life-long endeavor. That’s why we focus on tools that help leaders. But we know you’re busy. Check out our Lead the People courses, they are designed for you to use in 15-minutes a day. Learn a little. Apply a lot. Grow exponentially. You’ll do it in your own environment with your own business problems. If this sounds interesting, check out our Lead the People series.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Are You a Trusted Leader?

Are You a Trusted Leader?

Find out with this short self-assessment.

Self-Assess Yourself as a Trusted leader

At Leaders247 we build micro-assessments that leaders can quickly use to self-assess and to engage their team on topics that are proven to accelerate organizational performance and increase leadership influence. Our assessments are based on research and applied experience. At the end of this assessment you will receive your trusted leader score and have access to additional materials on building your leadership trust platform.

Continue Learning

Looking to develop more leadership skills in the area of developing trust? Check out our ebook on Trusted Leadership. 

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

15-Minutes of Power

15-Minutes of Power

Personal Productivity is All About Focus

How to Get Your Most Important Work Done

If you are like me it takes too long to get focused on the work that really matters, or almost as bad, once you do get started you are very easily side-tracked. For those of us who are bursting with ideas that never get done, try the technique that I call the 15 Minutes of Power.

Step 1

Pick the task you really, really want to do – the high value activity that needs your focus.

Step 2

Pull out your smart phone and set the timer function for 15 minutes.

Step 3

Work, work, work… and, do not let anything get in your way. This is your sacred time. These 15 minutes are yours, guard them.

You will be amazed at how much gets done in 15 minutes. You will also be surprised that once the timer rings you won’t want to quit, which is a nice unintended consequence.

Use the 15 Minutes of Power 4 times a day – Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Night.

About the 15 Minutes of Power

I learned this technique from a sharp software development team leader from Atomic Object who used a timer to force us to finish our ideas in preparation for a collaboration session. He handed us blank paper, colored pencils and crayons, and then he set an old fashioned egg timer for 15 minutes. When the timer rang we stopped and briefed our ideas to each other. That experience was one of the most entertaining and productive collaborative experiences I’ve ever had.

I now use that same process to get my most important work done. In any single day I can identify 15-20 activities that I feel are important and I would like to work on. They range from business to personal to family to volunteer… We are a busy society. By adopting this technique my focus has changed and my productivity has gone through the roof. I now pick one thing from that large list – one thing that I know will move the dial in my success. Then, I apply the 15 Minutes of Power to it and viola – results flow almost faster than I can absorb.

Without the 15 Minutes of Power I have found myself mired in emails that don’t matter, my Dilbert calendar, looking for a snack, consuming social media, searching for something to listen to…almost anything but the work that makes a difference.

The next time you want to truly get something done, whether it is writing a blog post, designing a new landing page, framing a planning process, outlining a project, writing a performance review, or scheduling a great retreat for your family, use the 15 Minutes of Power and watch your success soar.

Continue Learning

Leadership learning is a life-long endeavor. That’s why we focus on tools that help leaders. But we know you’re busy. Check out our Lead the People courses, they are designed for you to use in 15-minutes a day. Learn a little. Apply a lot. Grow exponentially. You’ll do it in your own environment with your own business problems. If this sounds interesting, check out our Lead the People series.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Your Leadership Time is Critical

Your Leadership Time is Critical

Introducing an Agile Prioritization Model that Works for Leaders

Does this Feel Familiar?

You wake up.

You try to get the day started in a healthy way.

Maybe that means drinking a glass of water, eating a good breakfast, spending some time meditating, or studying. Then, hopefully getting a workout.

Maybe you accomplish that. Maybe you get interrupted.

Then you head into the office. Your calendar is full. Lots of meetings. Feeling pressure to get to the really important things you want to do. Feeling stress about the things you must do.

It feels like you have very little time open to you. 

You attempt to block out time on your calendar but it gets overridden by a colleague or a supervising leader who really needs to meet with you. 

You find yourself with only 30 minutes here and there to work on your valuable priorities.

As you finally sit down at your desk with a tight window of time to be productive, you’re so overwhelmed or exhausted with all of the busyness of your day that you just sit there. Your mind is flooded with all of the work you should do, as well as the work you really want to do. You feel slightly paralyzed. 

So, what do you do?

You begin to answer a few emails. After a few minutes you try to work on something important.

You put a less than half-hearted effort on starting to work on your important stuff. You browse the internet for research, make a few notes, but really, you kind of just poke at the most important work you have to do. Your effort suddenly reminds you of a little child at supper time moving their vegetables around their plate, hoping somehow that they will disappear, but knowing the reality that nothing much is going to change.

Depressed. You end up wasting the rest of your open time.

You go to your next meeting.

At the end of the day you go home with a few more things added to your plate, some that are kind of important, and some that are kind of exciting. But, you feel no closer to being able to get work done than you are to win the lottery. 


Everyone Has Had Those Kind of Days 

We’ve all had days like that. Knowledge workers, those who work with information, regularly get overloaded and lose hope of being able to ever get to the really good stuff, the really important stuff, or the highest value stuff. The reason is they are flooded on a regular basis with the noise, meetings, tasks, mixed-priorities, and the latest-greatest idea that needs their attention.

How do you deal with this? How can a leader not only survive, but get more of the important work done throughout their day?

Agile Models Work

The key is to take a lesson from the agile programming model. In my technology career I had the opportunity to lead a software project. We outsourced the development work to a high quality software development company, Atomic Object. The lead developers on the project taught me the art of creating and grooming a backlog of priorities so that we were always working on the most important things.

I have successfully used that model in my personal life now for nearly a decade. The idea is really simple and you don’t even need a tool, though I prefer to use THINGS.


I follow this process every day.

I take the first few minutes of my work day, prior to opening emails or anything else, to do this process.

Then, periodically throughout the day I do this process again. The process is called “grooming your backlog,” and It will challenge your priorities and make sure you get to work on the best stuff even in tight windows of time.

Step 1 Make a list of what I HAVE to do.
Step 2 Drag the most important thing I WANT to do to the top of the list.
Step 3 Drag the next most important thing that I WANT to do and put it in second place. 
Step 4 Drag the next next most important thing that I WANT to do and put it in third place. 
Step 5 Is there anything else on that list that probably should get done… most likely it’s a HAVE to item, like scheduling a trip, paying a bill, or the like. If it is time sensitive, I have to move it to the top – sorry. But, I also have to be careful, sometimes we all get stuck in the trap of thinking things are time sensitive when they are not and we let them run our life. Many routine things that are not high-value will wait another day just like everything else. Don’t let routine things destroy your time for opportunity to accomplish value things.
Step 6 I work on the thing right at the top. I frequently use the 15-Minutes of Power, which forces me to focus (in a guilt-free way) on the number one priority that will bring me the most satisfaction and joy.  


The Bottom-Line

The point of this method is to force those things that can wait another day to do just that – wait another day. At the same time, to get to the best work, drag something really valuable, important, or fun to the top. A tool is not necessary, but can be useful. Take control of your time by knowing the most valuable things to work on when you have time that can be productive. Finally, remember powerful productivity can occur within 15-Minutes-of-Power.

Continue Learning

Looking to develop more leadership skills in this area? Check out our Lead the People series. We recommend a LeaderPod like Prioritizing, Planning, and Executing.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

If you haven’t already, we’d love it if you would consider subscribing to our blog.

Lead the People – Weber Human Services

The Problem

Globally, corporations spend over $360 billion on employee-related development and, in particular, U.S. companies spend over $14 billion a year on leadership training [1]. Most of that investment has no tangible return [2].

Our client wanted a leadership development program that could give them a visible impact. We gave Weber Human Services exactly what they wanted.

Our Approach

Our passion is to help leaders and influencers make an immediate impact on their business.

Our experience has taught us that leaders in the trenches want micro-training in small doses of 15-30 minutes a day, they want that training to be immediately applicable to what they do, and they want to have a way to experience a learned concept in real-time.

We developed a micro-learning product called Lead the People and placed it on a sleek learning system that functioned the same way over the web or on their phones.

By insisting on a talent development program that would be relevant to their business, we were able to connect the hearts and minds of people to a grander purpose. One of the most powerful incentives that motivate people to contribute their best work is to see and feel a connection to the big opportunity and to belong to a great culture. We used those principles to create collaborative micro-learning with a social twist.

Our customized product took their leaders through 8 action-oriented modules over a 16 week period by using a drip-feed micro-learning technique coupled with live webinars and workshops.

Value Delivered

The Big Result

Here’s what the Director of HR said:

“The impact that you’ve had on our supervisors has been incredible… If you are just reading articles and watching videos and not putting things into action then you are not really learning. The feedback I got from my managers is that the micro-learn and then apply model was one of the best things for them and made a difference immediately.”


Here are samples of what participants said:

“Motivated me to make a very difficult change.”

“Learned a lot in such a short time.”

“Micro-learning is stress-free.”

“Able to use what I learned immediately.”

“Direct approach, 15-minutes a day.”


By the way, we now offer this as a regular product – Check it out Here.

Innovation and Leadership Development

The Problem

Due to our contractual agreement we are not allowed to share the name of this company. However, we can describe the general case and results.

This particular company is a Fortune 50 level international firm. They were looking for training for a group of their leaders that could transform those leader’s outlook on leadership.

Our Approach

We developed a counter-intuitive concept for them around the idea that when leaders invest in reading powerful non-business books and literature it stimulates creative thought and strengthens their ability to lead in their business.

We hand-selected a custom reading program to match advanced leadership fundamentals. Our reading list included:

Leadership Is an Art by Max De Pree

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor K. Frankl

Emotional Agility by Susan David

Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie

Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner

Not a Book Club

This was not “just a book club.” Our literature selections were simply a creative catalyst to cause innovative thinking and stimulate leadership action. In a Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Educating the Next Generation of Leaders,” researchers surfaced the importance of leaders who can deal with “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments, they need leadership skills and organizational capabilities different from those in the past” [1]. The evidence suggests that a liberal arts approach to education and development is more important than technical knowledge. We used that theory to create a power-packed learning and development stream for the selected participants. 

We met with the participating leaders twice a month for 5 months. The purpose of these meetings was three-fold:

  1. Stimulate innovative and out-of-the-box thinking about the business, the organization, the leadership processes, and the people.
  2. We were able to transfer fundamental leadership knowledge in a new way because our facilitators helped the participants draw critical connections from the literature to their practice.
  3. Participants created their own actions that were specific towards solving a problem, enhancing a relationship, or helping their direct-reports achieve greater success.

Our facilitators used TED talks, HBR videos, and personal experience to create a fun interactive workshop session that was full of relevant self-reflective comments. The process led to localized leadership actions that enhanced the culture with their direct organizations and with their peer-to-peer relationships. The outcomes showed that when leaders are able to step back and view their world through metaphors, analogies, and abstract scenes, they have a stronger capacity to affect the right change inside their own sphere of influence. They see things through a different lens that opens an innovative conduit inside their group. 

Value Delivered

The Big Result

At the conclusion of the program we received comments from participants that said their competence in areas of people leadership, team development, trust-building, innovation, planning, and executing increased sharply.

“As a 30-year information technology professional who has worked for Fortune 50 most of my career, I have to say that this is the absolute best course I have taken. The big difference is the course concepts were not ‘flavor of the day’, they allowed me to enhance my leadership.”


Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors by Tom Perrault:

Educating the Next Generation of Leaders by Mihnea Moldoveanu and Das Narayandas:

How to Education Leaders? Liberal Arts by Patrick Awuah:

Liberal Arts in the Data Age by J.M. Olejarz:

The Radicalism of the Liberal Arts Tradition by Jackson Lears:

Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities by Tony Golsby-Smith:

Leadership Coaching

The Problem

Due to our contractual agreement we are not allowed to share the name of this company. However, we can describe the general case and results.

This particular company is a high-tech Fortune 500 company in the defense sector. They were looking for a way to help a key executive be more effective and that executive’s team to increase social capital and influence across other sectors of the company.

Our Approach

We recognized the most important solution was going to involve a customized 360 feedback loop coupled with micro-coaching sessions. We developed a 360 process specifically for this organization by taking into consideration their unique issues and the business strategies they wanted to see executed more quickly.

In the first round of the 360 process we noted a troubling trend in morale where leaders saw morale in a much more favorable light than the workforce.

We harvested the 360 themes and used a positive appreciative inquiry model to incorporate strengths into the process of helping them focus on change.


Value Delivered

The Big Result

Within six months we were able to measure significant improvement. Morale increased by a factor of 50%.

One example of a comment from a leader in another division in the company was:

“I have seen changes – positive changes! Thank you for the work you’ve done… it helps the company and it helps the executive team function better. There is a significant cascading impact when a leader improves – it not only helps them, it helps the company in tangible ways.”

The result was a team and their leader increasing their impact first by leadership and teamwork, and second by stretching their social capital across traditional boundaries. These changes enabled the business to grow. The group we coached became capable of accepting a $300m uptick in quota – and they hit it.

Organic Leadership Development

The Problem

O.C. TANNER wanted to create a dynamic development program to increase business impact, accelerate talent growth, and connect leaders to each other in an engaging experience.

Our Approach

We started by helping O.C. TANNER organize their leadership competencies into two categories: Business-Impact and People-Impact. We helped them create an internal brand identity called Influence. We implemented a Leader Equity(TM) video repository of short video segments from interviews with their executive team. We then worked with a vertically integrated leadership team to build an organic and sustainable leader development model where Leader Equity(TM) clips were featured and O.C. TANNER business issues were center-stage as leadership competencies were addressed.


Our organic model leveraged the talent of existing leaders to teach future leaders. Our organic implementation triggered action-learning where executives trained high potentials, and high potentials trained emerging leaders.



The heart of the program included a LEARN-DO-TEACH structure embedded with micro-learning techniques.


Executive Direction. The executive team identifies a cluster and specific competencies to focus on for each quarter.

Power Start. All tracks attend a 90-minute PowerStart to introduce the cluster focus and identify action-learning to initiate.

Workshop. A 2-3 hour workshop, customized by track, to dive into more detail about the competencies. The goal is to provide an applied strategy to integrate skills in that competency into a leaders current work/environment.

Reassemble and Alignment. Coming out of a workshop there will be application – things to do. In the strategy example the “do” would be to implement a strategic plan. Prior to implementing, the workshop participant has to work with their leader to validate what they are going to do. After a period of time leaders reassemble to discuss successes, challenges, and next steps toward deepening their implementation.


Put into Practice. The leader puts into practice the specific objective that came out of the workshop. To put an idea into practice and make it relevant the individual identifies the tasks and resources and then creates a schedule to implement.

Peer Accountability. We have found the most successful way to keep progress happening is to have participants identify a peer accountability partner, schedule 1-1s with that partner, and relate their progress to each other.


Teach Your Team. Teach your team about what you’ve discovered through the process, the lessons you’ve learned, the results of implementation, and the principles behind this leadership cluster.

Develop Your People. Help your people learn how to use the skill you just implemented as part of the workshop.

Re-Assemble. The track will reassemble to discuss lessons learned, the applications made, and share insights.

Certification. Completion of the cycle will trigger a certification for the cluster training. Once a person has worked through all of the clusters they receive certification for that track.

Value Delivered

The Big Result

The result was strategic acceleration in business and a tight connection between people-impact skills and business-impact skills. The incorporation of business leaders to facilitate and deliver content assured a perpetuating alignment between leader skill development and business purpose.

Here is what O.C. TANNER people said about what we delivered:

“Immediately impactful, useful.”

“I’ve been wanting something like this for 20 years.”


The Director of People and Talent said this:

“The most fun I’ve ever had in my career, we are working on things that are revolutionary … Leaders247 is the first to take into account what leadership is at OC TANNER and incorporate the best articles and logic and put it into use for us.”

One More Big Benefit

We left behind a sustainable Leader EquityTM product and infrastructure. Leader Equity is one of our showcase innovations that allows leaders at all levels in the organization to leverage a virtual mentorship from top company leaders.

Participants can listen to what O.C. TANNER leaders think about topics on business, leadership, strategy, or how to thrive during the long exhilarating journey of leading people. They simply select a topic tag and listen to micro-segments or they can listen to the entire interview with their favorite executive.

The most visible benefits of this program at O.C. TANNER are:

  • Authenticity and transparency with top leaders who genuinely share the lessons of their journey. They show themselves as real people and as being interested in the development and success of others in the organization.
  • A virtual one-to-many mentoring experience.
  • Participants have a more personable experience with top executives. When given opportunities to present or engage with that executive, the process is more effective because people know their leaders.

When to Critique

For many years I coached my Grandson – Jackson in soccer. Unfortunately, I was not able to coach him this particular season. The other day I watched anxiously from the sideline while he played. He is a natural athlete and was having a great game. However, the coach inside of me started to emerge and I found that there was something really important I wanted to tell him that would help him gain a significant competitive advantage.

At half-time, he came over to where we sat on the sideline. He first went to his father, who lovingly gave him a number of things to work on. He then went to his mother, who also very lovingly gave him an idea or two to help him.

After that, I called him over to me and I intended to tell him my observations, all to help him of course. However, as he came towards me something happened. I suddenly changed my mind and refrained from giving any advice or criticism. I simply gave a high five and said, “I wanted to say great job.”

He smiled and he ran back onto the field with energy.

There are times when we need to give constructive advice. Then again, there are times when we simply need to be encouraging. The thing I had to tell him could wait. What was more important was that he felt my support, approval, and love.

Positive Energizers

“Grandpa, it was a great day.”

Marie Diane Hansen


One of the most powerful highlights on being positive came from my Granddaughter. She was so excited about her first day of school yesterday that she face timed me and said, “Grandpa, it was a great day.” [Pause] “It’s going to be better tomorrow.”[Pause] “I’m going to draw on colorful paper tomorrow.”

Marie is in 1st grade. Her pure excitement about what she is experiencing exudes the principles of positive leadership for me. On top of that, she is excited about the next day, the day after, and so on. Each new day has a new opportunity that she just looks forward to.

I could have been a cold blanket and said, “Just wait until you get into algebra or college…” or offered some other dose of my negative reality. But as I resisted that temptation and simply enjoyed her pure positive energy, Marie taught me an important lesson – there is excitement in today and there is excitement in tomorrow, and there are great things on the horizon.

A leader’s note: When our people catch onto that attitude, great things happen.

I’ve included a link to three excellent books on this topic below.

Pitch Anything

Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal  

The 100-Year Life

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity


Ethics, The Heart of Leadership


FMFM 1: Warfighting


FYI: For Your Improvement

Competencies at Work

Competencies at Work: Providing a Common Language for Talent Management


Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

The Essential Drucker

The Essential Drucker: Selections from the Management Works of Peter F. Drucker

The Logic of Failure

The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations

Failure is Not an Option

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond 

The Happiness Advantage

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life

Emotional Agility

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

XLR8 – Accelerate

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

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