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Aspiring Leaders Series: Your Path To Accelerated Career Advancement – Topic: Career Branding

Career Branding

What we will cover in this course:

1. Name the 3 types of written resumes styles

2. State the advantages and disadvantages of each style

3. Describe what HR and Hiring Managers are looking for in a strong candidate

4. Identify how you can use LinkedIn for job search purposes and state ways to market self for career transition through LinkedIn

5. Define the basic elements of video resumes as well as the advantage and disadvantages of each

6. Review the challenges of career advancement in the new work from home economy

Cost:  $20

Registration Link:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aspiring-leaders-series-your-path-to-accelerated-career-advancement-topic-career-branding-tickets-113352261666


Ryan McShane, CEO of HR Evolution LLC

This course can be taken as part of the Aspiring Leaders Series or as a stand-alone course. We provide your employer with a certificate of completion.

Leading Maryland’s mission is to feature, develop and recognize those who want to lead in their respective businesses or careers. Through our partnerships with area community networks/associations and businesses, we hope to develop better leaders.

Business Leadership Cornerstones


Leaders who build the best companies utilize ten foundational leadership cornerstone concepts.  These cornerstones help leaders establish the groundwork needed for their company’s future achievements.  They provide a stable basis for the leader’s approach, direction setting, communications, and decision making.  They help set the standards for leadership behaviors, self-awareness, and accountability.  Starting from these foundational cornerstones allows top-level leaders to acquire a competitive edge and therefore accomplish first-class results in moving their companies to the pinnacle of their business niche.

The ten business leadership cornerstones are:

  1. Exhibiting leadership attributes, confidence, and commitment.

 Leaders must know how to:

  • Act like a leader.
  • Communicate like a leader.
  • Connect with people as a leader.
  • Skillfully articulate company mission, goals, objectives, and milestones.
  • Set the stage for success.
  • Produce
  • Acclaim the company’s accomplishments and contributions to society.

A leader’s exhibited behavior needs to inspire employees to not only follow the leader but also enthusiastically contribute to the company at the highest levels.  It is not just a matter of a leader’s ability to influence people.  Proficient leaders find ways to convince employees to change their mindset, their intrinsic motivational factors, and their direction in life to help make the company more competitive.  Leaders inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in their employees in developing a winning “can-do” attitude.

Great leaders:

  • Exhibit a genuine and passionate belief in the mission.
  • Portray confidence, steadfast commitment, and persistence in pursuing the mission.
  • Convince followers to willingly join in the journey.
  • Recognize contributions to the company’s achievements.
  • Utilize the proper focus, mindset, and driving factor.
  • Adjust, adapt, and revise company direction when change is needed.
  • Inspire employees to find and actively exploit a competitive edge for the company within their marketplace.
  • Take actions to develop brand recognition, convince consumers the company’s products are superior to their competitors, and earn and retain customer brand loyalty.

High energy leaders, who are exciting, inspirational, articulate, and charismatic will excel at these tasks.  They will also exhibit confidence in the face of uncertainty and turn setbacks into rallying points.

  1. Harboring an honest self-awareness.

Potential blue-chip leaders, by listening to feedback and through honest self-evaluation, must correctly assess themselves, their direction, what they wish to accomplish, how, and why.  Just as critical, leaders must comprehend how they interrelate to others who will be essential in making the company’s journey successful.  They must understand and appreciate how effectively they communicate, how their personality is viewed by others, and how capable they are at inspiring people by connecting with their internal feelings.

Based upon these types of parameters, leaders must determine what personal adjustments they need to make in their approach to ensure success.  Leaders must be honest with themselves in understanding their strengths and in taking actions to shore up their weaknesses.  They need to willingly adjust their personality, behaviors, and demeanor as well as improve the delivery of their messages to guaranty a bright future for the company.  It is essential leaders surround themselves with great people who compliment the leader’s skills and abilities.  These trusted direct reports need to be chosen specifically for, and allowed to play a crucial role in, the process of backfilling a leader’s known shortcomings.

A self-serving leader who does not understand who they are; cannot adjust their behavior and personality; or will not control an ego, their temper, or bad habits is predisposed to producing subpar results.


  1. Understanding the importance of effective, timely, and inspirational communications.

 A leader’s messages must:

  • Pass their passion, energy, and conviction on to their followers.
  • Inspire employees to step up to the plate, regardless of whether it pertains to the resolution of a current crisis or the long-term implementation of their business plan.
  • Be sincere, honest, authentic, original, and convincing.
  • Articulate the details of each message and effectively convey the importance of actions needed.
  • Connect to their followers in a deeply personal manner which recharges their followers’ batteries, motivates employees to take actions, and convinces those employees to find new resolve in moving forward and accomplishing great things.

Leaders must understand their business environment and set priorities on which issues to take on and when.  Through their messages, leaders need to keep their employees informed and current on key matters, potential concerns, or upcoming changes.  Leaders must articulate the how, when, and most importantly the why of required adjustments in direction.  Leaders have the opportunity with timely communications to reduce rumors, provide details, define objectives, and rally the troops in dealing head-on with potential setbacks or roadblocks.

An eminent leader’s messages will resonate with employees across all divisions of a company.  Their messages will be properly defined, well-thought out, absent of spin and will provide inspiration and motivation to those employees.

 Touting a unified mission focused on delivering a service to customers.

 Leaders must:

  • Constantly strive to keep everyone on the same page, working on the same team, and moving in the same direction to provide products to consumers at the highest possible levels of satisfaction.
  • Believe in the mission 110% and pass this attitude on to their employees.
  • Be the cheerleaders, through crystal-clear messages, as to what is important in terms of the mission, vision, direction, goals, objectives, milestones, and expected outcomes in the context of customer service and product value.
  • Be the catalyst behind building company norms of service, teamwork, sustainability, adaptability, and results.
  • Be a constant advocate for gaining and retaining customer loyalty through the production of superior products and services.
  • Implement and monitor a framework for proactive company decisions focused on the attainment of the company mission.
  • Be responsible for developing a synergy across the whole organization via a unified company mission, held up as the reason for working across boundaries seamlessly.

Leaders must be visionary in understanding how customer demands may evolve.  They need to use their foresight, wisdom, and the encouragement of employee innovation in shaping consumers’ options and choices through new products the company develops and test markets.

  1. Fostering employee growth, development, self-confidence, and commitment.

Five-star leaders evaluate constructively the accomplishments, contributions, habits, effectiveness, abilities, and commitment to the mission of their employees.  From these evaluations, leaders gain the insight they require to mentor, encourage, coach, inspire, and improve work processes, workgroup relationships, and results.

Leaders must:

  • Instill self-confidence, the ability to adapt, and a winning approach into their workforce.
  • Release employee creativity, encourage innovation, and challenge employees to think outside the box to become the leading-edge innovators within their fields.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to increase their skills and knowledge base through training.
  • Allow employees to learn management and leadership skills, be involved in decision making, and improve their problem-solving capabilities.
  • Identify potential or underutilized skills in employees and be capable of mentoring and encouraging those employees to grow in their current role as well as into new roles.
  • Draw out the best in employees, rally those employees to meet adversity head-on, and encourage employees to reach for the highest levels of achievement.
  • Appreciate employee commitment, initiative, teamwork, and results.

Skillful leaders will provide an appropriate amount of limited insight (coaching) to help employees find solutions to their problems.  This allows employees to believe in their minds they found the answers by themselves and are thus motivated to buy into the solutions 100%.

Leaders must delegate, provide extrinsic motivation, and develop a teamwork atmosphere.

  1. Setting the bar high by example.

Leaders must exhibit personal core values such as a strong work ethic, honesty, teamwork, initiative, sound decision making, and the ability to produce results if they expect employees to mirror these kinds of positive behaviors.  Leaders must be optimistic, visionary, and yet realistic in their projections.  Leaders must display commitment, passion, energy, and enthusiasm for the company’s products.  They need to set examples in both their actions, as well as their delivery, in “selling” their product, business plan, ideas, concepts, mission, and vision to investors, potential board members, prospective employees, and customers.  Actions speak louder than words.  Necessity requires leaders appreciate and understand the value and importance of leading by example in all settings and circumstances.

If high-level leaders expect their employees to rise to the occasion when required, they need to hold themselves to an even higher standard.

  1. Hiring the best people.

Leaders must find and hire people based upon the needed knowledge and skills required to operate their company successfully.  However, to take a company to the next level, extraordinary leaders will hire individuals who possess attributes such as: superior attitudes, above average ability to focus, adaptability, proven problem-solving skills, or a willingness to reach for the stars.

Companies will be rewarded when the leader is directly involved in setting the standards and expectations for locating and hiring intrinsically motivated employees with untethered potential to grow, innovate, and expand their horizons.

  1. Holding themselves accountable.

 A failure in leadership plays a key role in the demise of any company.  Leaders need to comprehend and embrace their leadership responsibilities and be accountable for actions required to ensure their company’s success.  Leaders are responsible for key decision making, adapting to change, producing results, and focusing the company’s efforts on mission attainment.  Leaders must hold themselves accountable for monitoring adjustments in their market, changes in consumer demands, and the actions of their competitors.  They must provide the direction, rationale, inspiration, and motivation to keep their company heading down the pathway to success.  Leaders must be accountable for sales, the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, employee engagement and productivity, production levels, and customer service and satisfaction.

The responsibility to take actions may be delegated but accountability for the results of those actions still falls back onto the shoulders of the leader.

Recognizing the importance of both the role and contribution of employees, as well as suppliers, subcontractors, board members, investors, stockholders, and customers to the company’s success.

 Leaders must understand the value behind the how, when, and why of showing appreciation for contributions to the company.  Leaders need to signify both their awareness, and the importance, of contributions made by others.

Companies benefit from these contributions.  Consumers purchase goods and services.  Employees are needed to produce, market, and sell those products.  Investors and stockholders provide capital for start-up, operations, expansion, and diversification.  Suppliers, subcontractors, and board members all play important roles.

As examples, leaders need to exhibit their appreciation for the contribution of customers by emphasizing a commitment to their satisfaction, through product reliability, quality of service, product value, and innovation.  A leader’s recognition for the contribution of employees shows both caring and compassion and provides employees with a sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

 Ensuring corporate responsibility related to investors, stockholders, society, customers, employees, environmental concerns, and generally accepted accounting practices.

 Leaders should take the moral high ground in setting a core value for their company to prevent the intentional harm of others, or the environment, while in the process of conducting business.  They need to ensure their company follows accepted accounting practices and is up-front about any known potential risks with investors, stockholders, employees, and society.  Leaders must make sure the company’s actions are moral, legal, and ethical.

Leaders, in their efforts to build and solidify the company’s future, need to focus attention on producing solid balance sheet financial numbers across all due diligence parameters such as: earnings – trends and potential; high operating margins; cash flow per share; favorable asset utilization; and debt and equity capitalization structure.  To be successful over the long-haul, it is essential all company decisions strive to improve the future position of the company in their marketplace, facilitate the attainment of the stated mission, and yield a positive workplace atmosphere capable of adapting, innovating, and developing a competitive edge.

Leaders should take great pause before considering any actions which might “improve” one business parameter while significantly diminishing the values or benefits of others.  Leaders and CEOs must refuse to work under agreements and conditions which bolster self-serving single-issue concepts such as intentionally manipulated stock prices, stock buy backs, or return on investment.  Pursuing these types of single-issue concepts which harm or erode a company’s bottom-line parameters to arbitrarily increase investor dividends and/or their own retirement, bonuses or compensation are totally at odds with building a successful, lasting company.

Conclusions: exhibited leadership attributes must be grounded on business based foundational cornerstone concepts.  Leaders must understand who they are.  They must effectively articulate both the mission and any priority messages to their followers.  They need to hire top-shelf employees, promote employee growth and development, and recognize employee contributions.  They must lead by example, be accountable, and inspirational.  They must be driven, focused, and adaptable.  Leaders need to cultivate a “can-do” culture and build a company framework for effective proactive decision making.

Sensational Leaders who build upon these ten foundational cornerstones will yield stellar results and achievements in leading their companies to the top.




A Driven Leadership Approach Yields Direction and Results


A leader’s approach, vision, exhibited characteristics, and mindset are key factors in the long run success of any organization.

The leader’s approach will normally be based in part upon:

  • The organization they lead.
  • Their personality and characteristics.
  • What they wish to achieve.

However, great leaders will also make critical choices in formulating their approach to successfully steer company direction toward intended end results.  Four questions leaders should ask and answer in making these important approach choices are:

  1. What specific driving factor will best position the company for long run performance and accomplishments?
  2. How should the scope of the company mission be framed?
  3. Which leadership style will yield the best results and outcomes for the company?
  4. What type of culture must be developed and fostered within the company?

To assist leaders in evaluating these four questions this article discusses at a conceptual level:

  • How a leader’s driving factor will impact company outcomes.
  • The value in properly framing the company mission and potential consequences of limits imposed upon the company vision/mission scope either by poor design or omission.
  • Major leadership styles and their potential ramifications on company operations and achievements.
  • The importance of leadership’s role in shaping company culture and thus influencing the potential for long-term company productivity.

The goal of this article is to provide leaders with takeaway concepts and ideas they may utilize in selecting and/or adapting appropriate approach options which will apply to their specific circumstances.  Hopefully, insight gained will aid their selection process and thereby increase their potential for achieving success.

Each business will present a unique set of circumstances.  Therefore, a tailored leadership approach will benefit every company.  The CEO must evaluate and understand their company’s specific situation and select the best leadership approach criteria to produce top-notch results.  When selecting the four criteria, the leader must also consider the potential interactions and outcomes of the four selected criteria when melded together, in creating their leadership approach.  Leaders who fail to embrace the importance of the four criteria selections within their approach may doom their companies to sub-par levels of performance.  At best, if they are dedicated, they might expect to achieve average to good results via mere chance or through trial and error.  Bottom-line: leaders who make informed sound choices and decisions in terms of their leadership approach criteria will significantly increase their odds for success.

This article is specifically focused upon business leadership but draws insight and contrast from other areas, such as the military, politics, sports, and nonprofits, in discussion of concepts, potential outcomes, and possible consequences.

[Note: the inherent value of a company’s mission and vision is discussed in an earlier article.  The importance of a leader’s mindset and focus is discussed here.  The role of exhibited leadership characteristics is discussed in this piece.]

Major points for consideration in answering the four leadership approach questions.

  1. Driving Factor. What motivates a great leader may, or may not, be directly related to the specific driving factor the leader selects to move their company forward.  Top-tier leaders must choose a driving factor they know will move the company to the top of their business niche, as opposed to one which is self-serving, short-sighted, or may not function effectively with their specific business model.  Entrepreneurial leaders, in their quest to produce highly successful businesses, have several driving factor concept options to select from, depending upon which one will best serve the company’s needs in focusing their efforts.

Here are examples of driving factors, including a few with potentially negative impacts:

  • Pursuing a dream, idea, or a game changing innovation.
  • Solving a certain problem.
  • Producing a specific product, class of products, or service.
  • Providing consumers with superior products they want, need, or desire.
  • Supporting or advancing a specific ideal or concept such as customer service, product quality, individual freedoms, or better public education.
  • Driving a competitor out of business.
  • Constantly seeking to reduce production costs in order to be more competitive.
  • Seeking to supply consumers with the best, most prestigious, status symbol version of a product, such as expensive sports cars or watches.
  • Gaining an edge on potential competition as the first company to implement a new technology or invention.
  • Furnishing an intrinsic value to society in an area such as medicine.
  • Carving out a niche within an established industry.
  • Positioning the company to successfully adapt to change.
  • The pursuit of wealth.
  • The pursuit of power.
  • “Winning” or seeing themselves as winners.
  • Seeking prestige or fulfilling a narcissistic or egotistical goal.
  • Singularly focused on a bottom-line management concept such as meeting or exceeding a specific level of return on investment.

In contrast, military leaders at all levels, are normally charged with a specific task: “Protect this fort”, “Command this aircraft carrier”, or “Accomplish this objective with your platoon of Marines”.  Nonprofit organizations, such as the Red Cross or Mothers Against Drunk Drivers are created to pursue specific objectives.  Respectively, these may be summarized as: maintaining a readiness to assist people after natural disasters or fighting to change the laws and morals of society to reduce the tragedy of innocent people killed and injured by drunk drivers.  Military leaders and CEOs of major nonprofits are not hired to produce a financial return on people’s investments.  They are provided with the goals and objectives of their organizations upon assignment to their positions.  However, as a leader, in seeking success for their organization, they will still benefit from having a guiding force or driving factor behind them.  This driving force should play a key role in determining their mindset and approach, the execution of the organization’s stated mission, and the type of culture they wish to instill.

Behind upper echelon leaders there is either a defined driving factor in place or a focused shortened version of the mission statement which serves the same purpose.  The driving factor, regardless of its origin, sets the compass for the leader every day in defining, and assisting them in articulating, needed company direction and intended end results.  A well-thought-out ad slogan, as outlined in another article, which represents a condensed version of the mission statement, could also function as a driving factor concept, thus serving several purposes at the same time.  As examples, Burger King’s “Have it your way”, BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, or Avis Car Rental’s “We Try Harder” might all work perfectly as a great leader’s driving factor within the context of these companies.  A leader without a clearly defined and appropriate driving factor may be subject to whims, unnecessary course corrections, uncertainty, misdirections, or a lack of focus toward a company’s needed actions, decisions, and required direction.

Clarification point: the leader’s driving factor is a concept.  A solid case could be made for a driving factor potentially containing more than one interrelated element.  However, a multi-faceted driving factor will not change how the concept functions in shaping the leader’s approach.  Therefore, this article has been written from the viewpoint of the leader’s driving factor perceived as a singular dimension concept, regardless of how many nuances a leader might include.

  1. Scope of the mission statement. Leaders in defining and articulating a company’s vision/mission should include criteria such as purpose, scope of operations, direction, goals and objectives, intended end results, and the focus for their companies.  In addition, there is an opportunity to also frame a larger dimension or breadth for the company in executing these important criteria.  This step in the vision/mission development is often overlooked for many reasons.  Human nature focuses a company’s efforts toward defining “specific end results” in terms of the “here and now” over the next few years or within industry specific confines of traditional wisdom and foresight.

A major difference between good leaders and highly effective leaders is their ability to understand a bigger picture potential, longer timeframes, or an alternative universe to operate within.  Top level leaders will incorporate a larger scope or dimension into their visionary wisdom for the company in taking it to the next level.  For example, these leaders may be able to perceive and articulate an intrinsic value of their products, make it a part of the company mission statement, and incorporate it into the company culture.  Or, in the case of a professional sports team, they may frame their mission, goals, and objectives with a stated intent to build and become a sports dynasty over the next 30 years rather than merely focusing on winning that sport’s yearly trophy event.

President John. F. Kennedy’s direction to NASA is an example of an alternative universe concept.  He asked them to move the United States ahead of the Russians in the space race by putting a man on the moon.

  1. Leadership style. Leadership styles include:
  • Autocratic or authoritarian where a single controlling leader makes all decisions with basically zero input from others.
  • Hands-off, or Laissez-Faire which yields autonomy, limited direction from the leader, and freedom for groups to make their own decisions.
  • Transactional which results in a myriad of instructions, clear goals to be met, specific objectives to be attained, requirements to follow rules, and inherent inflexibility.
  • Democratic or participative where shared decisions made by engaged group members promotes creativity.
  • Transformational where leaders are described as passionate, enthusiastic, and highly creative and who motivate, inspire, and support team members in attempting to unleash their company’s full potential.

These types of leadership styles may be subjected to modifications when a crisis arises within a company or when utilized by a charismatic or inspirational leader.  The business model of a company and/or their specific situation may benefit from, or function more effectively under, one specific leadership style over another.  Adept leaders may also employ more than one style, depending upon several different circumstances or factors.  The leadership style selected and used, should yield the greatest potential for the company to reach the pinnacle of their business niche.  In addition, it should exhibit a significant positive influence on the created company culture and thereby maximize the company’s potential productivity.

Great leaders in selecting a leadership style need to evaluate:

  • The mission and vision of their company.
  • The factor driving them.
  • The culture they need to cultivate within the company to be successful and yield a competitive edge in their market.
  • The expected effectiveness or importance of a specific leadership style within their industry or current situation.
  • The business environment the company will be operating in.
  • Their business model.

Strong, autocratic leadership styles have been successfully utilized in business, sports, and military conquests.  Martha Stewart, Tony La Russa, and Attila the Hun are cited as examples.

  1. Company Culture. Company culture is a created characteristic.  A positive culture is a crucial component in positioning a company for long-term achievements via an inherent provided competitive edge in the market.  Examples leaders set, their personality and characteristics, their driving factor, their leadership style, and the scope of the mission statement will all directly influence and help determine the company’s working atmosphere or culture.  The company culture will be a clear indicator of company adaptability and potential performance in a constantly changing business environment.  The longer the tenure of a leader, the more emphasis on building a highly effective culture, the more likely this culture will become deeply engrained.  A culture emphasizing ideals such as customer service, innovation, sustainability, adaptability, corporate responsibility, and/or fulfilling intrinsic social values will produce better results over time.  In contrast, a culture fixated on building one specific product, singly focused on return on investment, or constrained by the fulfillment of an egotistical motivation harbored by a leader is more likely to encounter an abbreviated existence.  Company boards and stockholders who understand the value of a positive company culture, face better odds in finding a worthy replacement for retiring CEOs who have positioned their companies with bright futures.  Boards and stockholders who dismiss the importance of company culture as a key component, risk future uncertain or unexpected results and outcomes.

Lego, Netflix, and BMW have been cited as companies with positive internal cultures.

How will a leader’s selected approach from the four question areas, alone and in combination, influence potential opportunities, create positive or negative consequences, and produce intended end results? 

  1. Driving Factor. The leader’s driving factor most likely to succeed for a company will be influenced by the norms of an industry, service, or product area; the business model; stated goals and objectives; and the mission statement.  A myriad of driving factors exist within the real world, including those examples provided above.  They function by driving leaders in their pursuit of both entrepreneurial and not-for-profit organizational end results.  As examples, the single most important driving factor in leading a military unit into a battle, at that moment, is most likely winning the battle.  The driving factor, in leading St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, should focus on finding new treatments to combat childhood cancer through research and development and in raising the required funds to make this research and development possible.

The driving factor will:

  • Motivate, help determine the mindset of, and focus the leader.
  • Play an important role in all company decisions.
  • Be pivotal in developing, and critical in executing, the mission statement and scope.
  • Assist in determining the logical leadership style for a company or organization.
  • Be a significant agent in fostering company culture.
  • Help in formulating company direction.
  • Aid in defining employee focus.
  • Shape potential end results, achievements, and accomplishments.

The driving factor, like the mission statement in most cases, will be selected early on by the leader and will most likely stay relatively unchanged over time.  However, there are at least three scenarios which might require an adjustment in the driving factor:

  • The leader of an established company realizes the driving factor employed by them is not adequately meeting goals, objectives, and directional needs for the company and therefore must be adjusted.
  • There is a significant change in the business environment a company is operating within, which requires the company to make a major correction in direction and concurrently spells out the need for a change in the driving factor.
  • An immediate crisis or situation which requires an interim or, “in the moment”, adjustment in the driving factor and potentially the leadership style.

A leader harboring a driving factor misaligned with the actual needs of their company is a recipe for disaster.  Consider the consequences of a CEO specifically driven to constantly make new predictions, in order to keep themselves in the limelight, regardless of those prediction’s potential for success or their company’s capability to make those predictions come to fruition.  Over the long run, no matter how charismatic a leader might be, sooner or later, as their spouted milestones are consistently missed, the leader’s credibility and effectiveness as a visionary will come into question and venture capital will begin to dry up.

  1. Scope of the mission statement. A properly developed and fully evaluated mission statement should set the direction for the company.  It will also position sideboards for the other three outlined leadership approach areas in terms of how best to meet the mission.  When the mission statement is developed, questions must be asked and answered to ensure the full potential scope of the mission has been reviewed, evaluated, and factored in, appropriately.  From the earlier example, it may not be adequate to set the mission at building the best football team in the United States in order to win the Super Bowl next year.  A leader seeking an edge in this highly competitive market might wish to focus the whole organization’s efforts on building a football dynasty over the next 30 years with the expressed intent of winning significantly more Super Bowls than other teams during this timeframe.  In addition, the bar could be elevated even further by setting a goal of three consecutive wins in the Super Bowl, which has never been done.  Seven teams have won the Super Bowl in back to back seasons with only one team accomplishing this feat twice.  Sustainable and adequately defined mission statements must be long-term, flexible, lofty, and potentially outside accepted business niche norms.  A leader’s well-defined enhancement to a mission statement will provide purpose to the mission, self-esteem to the employees, and a unifying focused direction for the company.  President Kennedy’s requests of NASA to land men on the moon, and return them safely to earth, provided all three – purpose, self-esteem, and a unified direction.

Consider as diverse examples, the differences in scope of working for a small car dealership in rural Oklahoma with a defined mission to serve the local community, in comparison to the scope of mission statements for mega companies such as Amazon or Alibaba.  The larger companies possess vastly different potentials to expand into new customer service areas, find ways to reduce the costs of product delivery, or reduce delivery times.  Or consider, the potential for negative consequences to occur when an oil refinery mission statement is solely focused on producing profits and revenue, rather than doing so in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.  As a company centerpiece, an enhanced, fully scoped out mission statement must articulate unified direction, anticipated end results, goals, objectives, scope, and purpose which will yield top-tier levels of achievement.

  1. Leadership style. The leadership style selected by a leader, in conjunction with their personality, is critical to results, morale, adaptability, sustainability, retention of staff, atmosphere, and opportunities.  The selected style will influence how the organization operates, the norms of the company, the company culture, the structure and effectiveness of management, and both communications and information flow.  The chosen leadership style will determine the level of involvement of employees in decision making.  One leadership style may be more productive than another, based upon different personality types, different situations, different business environments, different companies, and/or differing objectives.  A clear picture running through articles and books on exceptional leaders suggests many of them used different leadership styles successfully, under different situations, based upon the circumstances.

Contrast the leadership styles of a heavy-handed dictatorial, industrial era railroad magnet, to a current day participative CEO charged with providing top quality health care across a huge regional based hospital system.  The railroad magnet was initially in a race, almost singly focused on laying tracks for a transcontinental railroad, utilizing hundreds of non-skilled workers spread across the United States.  This race conceptually was in direct competition with ruthless competitors trying to beat him to the punch, in creating the ability to generate revenue via a completed transcontinental rail link.  The health care CEO, however, has dozens of highly skilled hospital administrators and thousands of highly trained doctors, nurses, and staff dedicated to providing compassionate health care at reasonable prices over potentially several generations of patients.  To meet the full potential of their companies, far different leadership styles would be beneficial to the CEOs in these two contrasting situations.

A strong, autocratic leadership style may produce high levels of results and accomplishments in certain circumstances.  However, strong leaders, driven by the pursuit of wealth, using autocratic leadership styles, are far less likely to build adaptable and innovative company cultures which will outlast them at the helm.  In contrast, leaders with participative styles who engrain intrinsic values into their company cultures will help to build sustainable companies, capable of maintaining top performance levels beyond their stint as the person in charge.

  1. Company culture. The created company atmosphere or culture will have a direct impact on the company’s success, their ultimate level of achievement, and their potential sustainability.  The fostered culture will influence employee self-esteem, morale, commitment, productivity, and longevity with the company.  Cultural norms are developed and engrained through intentional or unintentional actions, by example, via communication channels or lack thereof, and/or actual omissions on the part of the leader.  If a leader does not “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” every day, why should the employees be willing to buy into the leader’s expected cultural norms.  A leader’s actions may produce both positive and negative impacts within the workplace.  Positive cultural norms contribute directly to a workforce exhibiting characteristics such as: a can-do attitude, adaptable to change, constantly seeking innovative, inspired, providing an intrinsic value back to society, teamwork oriented, mission oriented, people oriented, and customer service oriented.  However, make no mistake, a negative or toxic culture allowed to creep into a company for whatever reason, has the potential to significantly impact both a company’s bottom-line and growth opportunities in numerous ways.

Each of the other three parameters, leader’s driving factor, leadership style, and scope of the mission will work alone, and in unison, to help develop and foster company culture.  Each of these parameters, as discussed, have various potential options and nuances.  The options selected, and how they are executed, will contribute to the evolution of company culture concepts and norms.  Based upon only these three factors, the possible permutations are significant for any given company, punctuating the importance of wise choices on the part of the leader related to the four approach questions.

Contrasting examples of the three parameters upon a company’s created cultural:

  • Legendary sports teams driven by profound leaders with an apparent “driving factor” focused 110% on winning, are well recorded. These leaders impart upon their organizations a winning attitude and approach and therefore a winning culture in playing a game for entertainment and revenue production.  Contrast this to the leader’s driving factor required for a nonprofit, dedicated to increasing the habitat for a threatened and endangered species.  This leader must produce results via the innovative and resourceful culture they create in their efforts to improve the status of the threatened species.  Touting of these produced results is one critical factor in the enticement of needed contributions to continue the organization’s work.
  • A transactional “leadership style” fits many government agencies. They are often bogged down with laws, administrative direction and manuals, created regulations, and reams of paperwork which create inefficient and inflexible organizations.  This results in a culture which involves learning to follow rules, lacks incentives for thinking outside the box, produces low self-esteem, and yields low productivity.  Contrast this if you will, with a transformational leadership style in terms of the culture which might develop in a company pushing the exciting cutting edge of a new technology.
  • If a successful “company’s mission” is to find cures for cancer or disease and the leader is an inspirational and charismatic researcher with a clear vision, a developed culture which yields self-esteem via each individual employee’s contribution, would be easy to understand. However, in contrast, consider the job of slinging hamburgers for eight hours a day, five days a week, for a fast food chain.  Regardless of what the company mission statement claims, the concept of a positive internal culture may ring hollow for those cooks working over a hot grill for minimum wage.

Leaders, when company culture is critical, must fully understand and appreciate how their choices regarding driving factor, leadership style, and scope of the mission statement will contribute to the development and embodiment of a competitive edge producing culture.

Conclusion: every company will face multiple path options in their quest for success.  Therefore, great leaders must make important choices in selecting an appropriate driving factor.  This driving factor must be melded together with an enhanced unifying mission statement, a leadership style applicable to the company, and an intentionally developed positive company culture.  The use of this four-pronged leadership approach will focus leaders in defining direction and intended end results, yielding long-term top-tier accomplishment levels for their company.












Featured Image by ar130405 from Pixabay


The Source of Corporate Sabotage may Surprise You!


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Allow me to ask you a seemingly simple question: Would you spend the extra money to buy a color copier and only use black and white prints? Of course, you wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a poor investment of money. The same is true for employees. If employees do not obtain results and contribute at their highest levels, we do not receive a proper return on a company’s single largest investment, employee salaries.

Yet what is holding employees back may be the bigger surprise in some cases.  Leaders, could you be sabotaging the return on your greatest investment?

3 Types of Leadership that shut down employee performance:

Ego-driven Leadership: It’s the epidemic no one talks about across ranks, but you can bet employees are talking amongst themselves. You see, if you disagree or even propose another approach some leaders see this as a direct challenge to their authority. In fact, you’re labeled a troublemaker, a dissenter and nuisance.

In these cases there is likely one of two things happening, either the ego is in the way or these leaders are not in fact leaders, but figure heads placed to maintain status quo.

The ego scenario is more common and leaves employees with the sense that, if the idea wasn’t the leaders, it’s likely to be rejected. This “leader” wears their authority on their sleeve and any perceived threat to that authority (real or imagined) is reason to “put that employee in his/her place.” These leaders are performance killers!

Status Quo Leaders: The less common, placeholder leadership position is likely to reject anything new or different, because “this is how we’ve always done it.”

They will seek to avoid conflict at all costs and even resort to non-responsiveness or passive aggressive behavior toward the employee(s) viewed as challenging the status quo.

Will top talent and especially the next generation of millennial talent put up with a culture of compliance over creativity and impact?  We know better.  Now it’s time to do better.

One-way Leaders: Consider for a moment we currently have 4 generations in the workforce: Seniors, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

The Senior demographic were dutiful and loyal. Boomers shared some of these characteristics, yet, later, went through a phase of questioning the corporate establishment only to have their questioning quelled by the enchantment of material items obtained through positions of authority and prestige. Next, we have the stereo-typically defined “question everything group” Generation X, who saw their parents downsized and became jaded with the corporate institution. Finally, we have the Millennials who grew up doing everything in teams, often referred to as entitled and received trophies just for participating and, yet has a far superior understanding of digital technology. Millennials are most aptly referred to as the “digital natives”.

One can see the very values typical of each generation creates a variety of perspectives about the world around them. The perspectives if considered equally across generations would provide the value of thought diversity leading to adaptability to proactively meet, ever-changing client business demands across a new digital landscape.

What happens if multiple stakeholder perspectives are not given equal consideration and influence, as is the case in many authoritarian-dominant structures?

When this occurs we are limited to operate through the lens of that one structure as defined by the current leader(s). In other words the “how” is pre-scripted to past experiences and we hear things like, “we’ve always done it this way”, a common perspective of the status quo “leaders” mentioned before. Additionally, the authoritarian style implies anything outside the prescribed is non-conformity and rightly punishable.

It comes down to this folks, where a dominant perspective is maintained in positions of authority which do not necessarily represent the views of the entire workforce, employee engagement is unlikely. When employees are not permitted opportunities to question, to grow and to seek new ways of doing then they effectively begin to shut down.

Now is the time to examine how to avoid and eliminate employee performance shutdown.

3 Steps to Avoid and Eliminate Employee Performance Shutdown:

  1. Assess, examine and reflect on whether leaders’ behaviors are creating outcomes consistent with company purpose or mission as it relates to stimulating employee performance.


  1. Create and clearly articulate a culture of openness, supported by policy. For example, promote and recognize creative thinking and innovation leading to greater efficiency and service.


  1. Model dialogue. Be the example and demonstrate a willingness to have the “tough talks”.

Very simply, if you are in a leadership position and you cannot accept another opinion or viewpoint from employees without viewing it as dissent, then you are hurting the people under your stewardship and the organization’s revenue. You are not a leader in this case but a manager; controlling the environment, not empowering employees.

It pays to know whether current practice (while once effective) could be sabotaging your employees’ performance and your company’s profit.

By: Ryan McShane

HR Evolution is evolving the why and way business is done by through a people-centered leadership approach. The next generation requires a new type of leader to accomplish corporate goals. Update your leadership approach and together we can Evolve the Why and Way We Work!

Ryan McShane, President/CEO HR Evolution, www.hrevolutionllc.com, 410-688-5054

Characteristics of Great Leaders

Elon Musk

Positive characteristics exhibited by great leaders are important keys to their success.  These characteristics arise from several overlapping and interrelated general areas.  The characteristics leaders select to utilize and portray from within these areas, in conjunction with their personality type, will help define who they are, how effective they will be, and how successful their companies will become.  These general areas of characteristics include each leader’s:

  • Viewpoint. (The “position” from which the leader perceives and approaches the future.)
  • Knowledge.
  • Wisdom.
  • Skill set.
  • Abilities.
  • Beliefs.
  • Emotional intelligence.

They also include how leaders:

  • Are perceived by others.
  • Interact with employees.
  • Deal with situations.
  • Approach their work.

Many leaders employ and master only a subset of the possible characteristics from within these general areas.  Therefore, great leaders, who own an understanding of their inherent strengths and weaknesses, will take steps to hire direct staff members based upon a need to complement their capabilities and leadership characteristics.  Great leaders will also seek to enhance their leadership proficiency over time by improving upon or incorporating additional positive characteristics from within these areas. (A discussion on how leaders may adjust their personality, characteristics, and approach is presented in Focused Leadership, A Mindset on Execution, Results, and the Future.)

This article is specifically limited to exploring the positive characteristics displayed by great leaders.  The discussion of poor, and even toxic, leadership characteristics and personalities has intentionally been excluded.  However, the impacts of negative leadership characteristics are important to point out in passing.  They are potentially catastrophic to everything from employee morale, to product sales, and ultimately to the success of a company.  A leader, harboring toxic characteristics, must either change their demeanor or be prepared to suffer a significant reduction in their effectiveness at bringing their dreams to fruition.

The following is a list of leadership characteristics, by general areas, which great leaders may draw upon in accomplishing their dreams and aspirations.  The article also briefly touches upon why each of these general areas is important to their company.

The viewpoint of great leaders:

  • Dictates “winning is everything” (for the correct reasons).
  • Shapes their mindset.
  • Is directly intertwined with their vision and mission and the perspective required to attain them.
  • Is based in a concept which balances the long-term success of the company, the return to investors, and the well-being of employees on an equal par.
  • Is based upon their personality type.
  • Positions their company to achieve something larger than themselves.
  • Is focused on the future.
  • Positions the company to grow successfully into the future, after the leader is no longer at the helm.
  • Takes into consideration the needs of support entities such as suppliers, distributers, subcontractors, or logistics required for their company’s success.
  • Helps to inspire others.
  • Assists in setting direction.
  • Provides a platform to portray their dreams from.
  • Defines their approach.
  • Delineates tangible results and expected milestones.
  • Aids in setting goals and objectives.
  • Yields the potential to learn from mistakes, build upon successes, and seize opportunities.

The viewpoint of great leaders sets the direction for their company’s journey in reaching their desired future position within their business niche while properly balancing between return on investment, the company’s future, and employee well-being.  Their personality, approach, mindset, and exhibited characteristics will shape how inspirational, rewarding, and successful that journey will become for others who join in.

Knowledge great leaders command:

  • An intimate understanding of their vision and mission.
  • An understanding of their role in the company.
  • An understanding of their personality type and the related leadership pluses and minuses associated with said personality type.
  • Aids in their understanding of human nature.
  • Provides an understanding of what customers want, need, or will fall in love with instantly, once it is on the market.
  • Shapes their strategy and approach toward marketing and sales.
  • Includes details about their product, their company, and their niche.
  • Includes an understanding that employees and organizations do the work while leadership and management only set the tone and direction.
  • Includes a solid understanding of adaptive leadership and management. (Because change is a constant in the business world.)
  • Furnishes insight into the process of financing their vision.

Knowledge and understanding helps great leaders frame how their company’s work will be accomplished.  These characteristics aid in determining the sideboards for the company’s journey toward their desired future position and in adapting to change as needed.

 Wisdom great leaders draw upon:

  • Allows learning from their experiences.
  • Provides the opportunity to learn from other leaders and businesses.
  • Is derived by listening to advice from those who have been successful in the past.
  • Is gained by evaluating what is occurring within their business environment.
  • Is the result of constantly seeking insight, knowledge, and information.
  • Aids in reviewing their position on issues and adjusting said position when needed.
  • Arises from a solid understanding of human nature.
  • Includes their ability to measure and evaluate the inner qualities of others.
  • Improves their ability to size up and evaluate situations faced.
  • Is rooted in common sense and good judgement.
  • Is based upon deeply held personal direction or beliefs.

The wisdom of great leaders yields better decisions, and therefore better results, in moving their company successfully into the future.

The skill set of great leaders includes:

  • A business acumen.
  • Their technical and professional training and background within their industry.
  • Sound, objective interpretation of data, trends, and statistics.
  • The capacity:
    • To facilitate the development of a promising, yet flexible, strategic plan.
    • To evaluate the company’s niche, where it is going, and in predicting the future wishes and needs of consumers.
    • To evaluate risks.
    • To review and comprehend financial options and make financial decisions.
    • To make sound operational decisions.
    • To hire great employees.
    • To tell their company’s story and thus convince potential investors and employees to join up for the journey.
    • To market and sell their product.
    • To coach.
    • To adjust their personality type, if needed, to improve their leadership effectiveness.

The skill set held by great leaders assists in setting direction, goals, and objectives for employees, telling their story to potential investors, and in selling their products to customers.  Their skill set should be grounded in the technical, mechanical, or business management nuances of their company and augmented by their capability to make great decisions.

 Abilities great leaders hold or develop include:

  • To communicate and articulate.
  • To sell themselves, their end products, and the company mission.
  • To utilize an appropriate perspective in their quest to meet their specific vision. (Insight.)
  • To comprehend implicit issues in accomplishing their vision, based upon the size, scope, and complexity of this perspective.
  • To execute their strategic plan.
  • To make sound decisions.
  • To think issues through.
  • To prioritize.
  • To inspire and motivate employees, across the full spectrum of the company, representing differing backgrounds, cultures, and internally held personal motives.
  • To focus themselves and others.
  • To stay on task, on track, and on message.
  • To delegate.
  • To instill confidence in others.
  • To facilitate discussions leading to outstanding concepts, ideas, and solutions.
  • To adapt to change and lead others through the process.
  • To generate a winning, can-do, optimistic culture within the organization.
  • To create a teamwork environment and approach.
  • To listen.
  • To process information quickly.
  • To bring out the best in people.
  • To set the bar higher.
  • To develop and take on a leadership role, attitude, and approach.
  • To transform their personality, i.e., the ability to learn, evolve, change, and improve.
  • To ask the right questions at the correct time.
  • To keep track of the niche their business model resides in.
  • To remain positive, optimistic, and steadfast in the face of setbacks.

Great leaders must possess the ability to: motivate investors, customers, and employees; stay focused; adapt to change; execute and obtain results; and prioritize.

Internally held beliefs of great leaders include:

  • Their core values. (Including transparency.)
  • Their principles. (Winning is everything.)
  • Confidence.
  • Positive outlook.
  • Holding themselves accountable.
  • Accepting responsibility.
  • Holding high standards for themselves and for the company.
  • Good habits.
  • Humility.
  • The “reasons” behind why they provide direction and how they provide that direction.
  • A corporate moral responsibility.
  • Respect for others.
  • Understanding confidence, attitude, and approach are everything in the moment and honesty and integrity are everything in the long run.

The beliefs great leaders display and follow, will convince investors, connect with customers, and gain the trust of employees.  The beliefs, principles, and core values of great leaders will be a driving force in establishing the culture, goals, and objectives for the company and thus setting it up for success.

Emotional intelligence of great leaders includes:

  • Their level of personal emotional and intellectual awareness.
  • Self-understanding, self-evaluation and critique, self-monitoring, self-motivated, and self-controlled.
  • Understanding when their personality type or exhibited characteristics need modification.
  • Knowing how to build confidence within their employees.
  • Understanding trust is earned.
  • An understanding of, and appreciation for, other people’s feelings.
  • Knowing when to appeal to the feelings and emotions of people as part of their approach.
  • Compassion.
  • Nurturing.
  • Mentoring.
  • Understands strengths and weaknesses of both themselves and others.
  • Creating an atmosphere where employees’ strengths and weaknesses become complementary to each other and thus benefiting the company.
  • Understanding CEO leadership is a responsibility and not a right.
  • Understanding the need to keep the company moving forward, to maintain morale, and to remain optimistic.
  • Understanding when they have been wrong on a subject and willing to own up to said error.
  • Understanding wars are not won by strategy and words alone. Sometimes to stay connected, leaders must be hands-on, out in the field, working in the trenches, or getting dirty alongside of their employees.
  • Understanding the increased productivity resulting from employee self-esteem which may be generated through intrinsic values the company adds to society. These values must be engrained as important within the company culture and touted as benefits of the products produced for consumers.

A great leader’s emotional intelligence will assist in communicating with employees, marketing their products, and taking their company to the next level.  It is centered upon a self-understanding of the leader’s personality and their ability to adjust said personality in order to become a more effective leader.

How great leaders are perceived by others:

  • As visionary.
  • Based upon their actions. (Actions speak louder than words.)
  • Based upon the justifications presented for decisions made and actions taken.
  • With a positive and optimistic attitude and approach.
  • As winners.
  • As a result of their persona.
  • As the result of their charisma.
  • As vibrant.
  • As bright.
  • As competent.
  • As outgoing and upbeat.
  • As flexible and adaptive.
  • Because of their ability to connect to people.
  • Because of how they make people feel.
  • As bigger than life.
  • By exhibiting sincerity.
  • As polite.
  • As respectful.
  • As objective.
  • As consistent.
  • As fair.
  • As logical.
  • As inspirational.
  • As open.
  • As approachable.
  • As relentless and determined in reaching their goals.

How a leader is perceived will be directly correlated to how they connect, inspire, motivate, and/or captivate the imagination of employees, investors, and customers.

How great leaders interact with employees centers upon:

  • Their ability to motivate, influence, and persuade in unleashing people’s full potential.
  • Their ability to successfully challenge people to rise to the occasion.
  • Their ability to align the internally held motives of employees with the mission of the company.
  • Presenting ideas, concepts, and direction in a distinct, understandable manner which is comprehended, appreciated, and then implemented successfully by others.
  • How they deal with difficult people.
  • How they deal with conflict.
  • How they deal with mistakes and failures.
  • How they accomplish their oversight. (Do they allow people to do their jobs with suggestions or do they micro-manage?)
  • Providing constructive feedback.
  • Abhorring groupthink.
  • Empowering employees.
  • Treating others with dignity.
  • Coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Focused on developing managerial and leadership skills within their employees for the future.
  • Listening, and then acknowledging or summarizing, to show they care about what others are saying.
  • Their openness to employee generated ideas, innovation, feedback, and dissenting points of view on issues, in their efforts to reach the best decisions for the company.

How leaders deal with employees will directly influence the level of productivity, engagement, and commitment they obtain from those employees.

How great leaders deal with situations by:

  • Willingly accepting challenges.
  • Embracing the need for change, and in the process, searching for and capturing potential opportunities.
  • Maintaining a deliberate, focused, optimistic approach.
  • Systematically evaluating situations as they arise and developing measured and calculated responses.
  • Making informed decisions.
  • Facilitating the generation of resolutions (strategy) and then leading the implementation of those resolutions.
  • Acting in a timely fashion.
  • Staying ahead of the curve whenever possible rather than operating in a crisis mode.

Great leaders realize every second lost in dealing with issues, allows their competition an opportunity to gain traction on them.  Dealing with foreseen and unforeseen issues is an important role of great leaders.  The faster they identify, evaluate, and resolve issues, protects the company’s bottom-line and their potential for future success.

Great leaders accomplish work through:

  • Focusing on execution and results.
  • A driven attitude and approach.
  • A profound passion.
  • Seeking exceptional solutions.
  • Persistence in solving problems quickly.
  • Remaining mindful of the examples they set.
  • Encouraging and rewarding new ideas and innovation.
  • Tirelessly setting milestones, reaching goals, accomplishing objectives, and pursuing the company mission and vision.
  • Constantly moving forward.
  • Setting priorities.
  • Taking decisive actions.
  • Reaching difficult decisions in a timely manner.
  • Taking calculated risks.
  • Remaining flexible.
  • Announcing, celebrating, and rewarding important accomplishments.
  • Discipline.
  • Dedication.
  • Determination.
  • Approaching issues, and the need for change, proactively rather than reactively.
  • Exhibiting common sense.
  • A focused mindset.
  • Attention to details, data, and analytics.
  • Utilizing feelings and emotions as part of their approach.
  • Finding the good within bad situations.
  • Giving credit where due.
  • Holding people accountable by tying back to the company’s mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Encouraging teamwork.
  • Constantly evaluating opportunities.
  • Turning setbacks into rallying points.

How great leaders work will set the tone and the standards followed by their employees. The approach of great leaders toward their work will also provide the company with a competitive edge within their business environment.  These two factors when combined, will help the company in accomplishing their shared mission, goals, and objectives in staying ahead of the competition.

Conclusions: Great leaders, in moving their companies successfully into the future, exhibit overlapping positive characteristics from several interrelated areas.  A leader’s internal drive, a balanced approach, and a winning viewpoint, coupled with the ability to lead, execute, and adapt to change, will yield exceptional results over the long term.  This is accomplished through fostering teamwork, empowering employees, setting the bar higher, effective communications, and a shared dedication to a strongly held vision/mission.  Great leaders, via their characteristics, create vibrant, optimistic, can-do organizations which build upon their own success and internal culture while standing the test of time.

Feature Image by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA.  This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Leadership’s Role In Fostering Teamwork


This article outlines the importance of a leadership inspired teamwork culture in positioning a company for success.  Leadership must be directly engaged in:

  • Implementing the company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives.
  • Delivering services to customers.
  • Providing for their employees.
  • Being a responsible business owner/CEO.
  • Monitoring the company bottom-line.

Leadership must also be focused on creating a culture which produces exceptional teamwork, across all departments, divisions, and locations, to accomplish required tasks within these five areas.

No matter what foundations you wish to instill within your company culture, the approach starts at the top!  For example, if upper management is not focused on safety, the company will not be focused on safety.  If upper management is not focused on innovation, the company will not be focused on innovation.  If the CEO does not live, breath, exhibit, and promote a teamwork culture, the company will not develop a teamwork environment.

It is not a complex concept.  It is a way of life, a direction, and a consciously set keystone priority.  It does not make any difference how you look at it: sport franchises which function as a team produce better results; military units which function as a team accomplish more; and businesses which operate within a teamwork culture are more successful.

Teamwork becomes a part of an organization because leadership holds it as a core value.  Leaders must be totally dedicated to making teamwork a part of their company’s culture.  They must display a commitment to teamwork in:

  • The direction they provide.
  • The goals, objectives, and milestones they set.
  • The actions they take.
  • The principles they expound.

Leadership must understand and appreciate the importance of teamwork to their employees’ productivity, attitude, and approach.  They must also focus in on seeking new hires with a proven commitment to teamwork.

Leaders build teamwork centered organizations in order to:

  • Improve the bottom-line.
  • Increase productivity.
  • Enhance innovation.
  • Facilitate problem solving.
  • Adapt to change and seek silver linings in the process.
  • Encourage optimism about the future.
  • Inspire greatness.
  • Successfully face challenges.
  • Stay ahead of the competition.
  • Motivate employees.

What are the trademarks of a leader created teamwork environment?

  • Positive results and outcomes.
  • Buy-in from everyone.
  • Working for the common good.
  • Working together to solve problems.
  • Open, respectful discussions which yield new ideas and solutions.
  • Encouragement and mentoring.
  • The feeling of excitement or exhilaration from vital accomplishments.
  • Selfless motives exhibited by employees, who are focused upon what is best for the organization.
  • Working easily across artificial organizational barriers.
  • Outstanding working relationships between people and departments.
  • Motivated, engaged, committed, and productive employees.
  • Winning attitudes and a “can-do” spirit.
  • Ability to adapt to change.
  • Using setbacks as a rallying point and motivator. (Refuse to lose.)
  • Successes are shared company wide.
  • Leadership and management accept responsibility for failures.

How does a teamwork centered organization function and succeed? 

  • Leadership’s commitment to teamwork, fosters an environment where each employee, regardless of their specific contribution to the company, is 110% dedicated to meeting the same goals, objectives, and mission of the company as everyone else.
  • Each employee must fully understand that working in concert with every other employee within the company, requires they put aside their personal, professional, or departmental agendas for the greater good of the organization.
  • Employees must focus their time, energy, and priorities on contributing to the company’s success and bottom-line, in a coordinated effort.
  • If the company requires products, services, or materials from other companies, leadership, management, and employees must also work to promote the same type of teamwork approach with these critical assets to their company’s success.

Bottom-line: Building a successful teamwork environment begins with the leader’s core values, priorities, approach, and dedication.  It results in a win-win for the company and the employees.


Damon Foreman Music Academy Joins Leading Maryland

Damon Foreman

We are excited to have one of the best music schools in Howard County as a member of Leading Maryland.

Music as well as education has been a lifelong passion for Damon Foreman, owner of the Damon Foreman Music Academy.  Through music, he has been able to travel worldwide and perform at some the worlds best venues.   Damon studied music performance at Rutgers University and has a BA in Guitar Performance.  He has created seven music albums, some of which can be purchased on CD Baby.

See the Damon Foreman Music Academy listing here.



Hunt Valley Business Forum Partners With Leading Maryland



We are excited to announce that Hunt Valley Business Forum has partnered with Leading Maryland.  Our team of business executives and educators will collaborate with Hunt Valley Business Forum to provide additional business and leadership resources for their members.

Our members may want to expand their networking and business knowledgebase and learn more about becoming a member of the Hunt Valley Business Forum here.

Leadership’s Goals In Asking Pertinent Questions


The value derived by leadership, from asking well-thought-out questions, is found in two areas:

  • Constantly reaching better solutions to problems and issues confronting a company.
  • Building for the future of a company through leadership-initiated employee development.

Leaders wear many hats within successful companies.  They inspire, point the way, make decisions, and set milestones.  They should also play a key role in the company by asking meaningful questions.

There are four distinct reasons why leaders should ask questions:

  • To engage their staff and employees in the process of making the company successful and thus involving them as an integral part of that success. This promotes employee self-esteem, dedication to the company, and buy-in with decisions made.
  • To encourage their staff and employees to be critical and creative thinkers.
  • To foster a culture where employee generated problem solving, new ideas, and innovations are encouraged at every level of the company to stay ahead of the competition and improve the bottom-line.
  • To stay in touch with important day to day operational details within the company.

Dynamic leaders have insight, a dream, a vision, and/or the drive to be successful.  They are constantly involved in answering key questions, making decisions, and moving the company forward.  Leaders also have a responsibility to develop their employees in the process of building their companies: to make the company more competitive, to help solve problems, to encourage innovatively, and to be able to adapt to change.  Therefore, great leaders must spend time, energy, and their own personal capital in asking measured questions which will help in developing skills, abilities, and the self-confidence of their staff and employees.  Investments by leaders in these areas will help staff and employees perform their current jobs better, prepare them for higher-level positions, and contribute to the overall success of the company.

Leaders can enhance the skills and abilities of their employees by:

  • Asking the employee to present “possible answers” to appropriate questions they have posed to the leader, rather than answering them outright.
  • Anticipating when a question will need to be answered and then asking said question of key employees at the correct time.
  • Understanding when an issue or concern is not being fully evaluated and asking questions of the employee(s) which will broaden their viewpoint or perspective on that issue.
  • Asking questions which will help employees unlock ideas and solutions based upon their own experiences and background, allowing them to buy into those solutions, and helping them to build their confidence in the process.
  • Asking questions which will help employees prioritize their actions.
  • Asking questions which will help employees view a problem from the standpoint of other divisions of the company or other employees impacted by the problem.
  • Asking subordinates to justify their statements or stance with facts and numbers rather than feelings and beliefs.
  • Asking employees to help find solutions to complicated and/or difficult situations the company is facing.

In understanding what questions might need to be asked, leaders must know what their business niche is, where it is going, and how their business model fits into the larger market scheme.  They need to anticipate when changes might be on the horizon within their industry.  They must stay in touch with potential changes in consumer demands.  They should keep track of national economic trends and how they might impact their bottom-line situation.  They must also stay in touch with what is happening on the sales room floor, in the factory, or at the warehouse.

The goal of asking questions may include trying to focus employees on:

Company mission, goals, and objectives.

Customer service and satisfaction.

Product quality and/or price.

Current priorities and away from distractions.

Problem solving.

Seeking innovations.

Finding the root cause of their issue.

Fostering teamwork.

Strengthening company culture.

Improving the company bottom-line.

Building buy-in on decisions needed.

Building the future of the company.

Dealing with change.

Dealing with conflict.

Unlocking their ability to find their own solutions to problems.

Developing their self-esteem and sense of self-worth (value) within the company.

Growing within their position and potential future positions.

To gain the greatest value, leaders must learn to ask questions of their employees at the correct time and in the proper situation.  Leaders should pose questions to those employees which hold insight into a specific issue.  The correct time to ask a question is when you can be proactive on an issue rather than reactive to a problem created by that issue.  The best place to ask a question is in the location which will result in the greatest chance for success in finding the best answer.  In certain situations, it might be in a private one-on-one chat.  For others, it might mean in a group setting where the question can be discussed by several people.  In certain cases, it might be next to the assembly line machine which is constantly breaking down and needs to be modified to remedy the problem.  This question needs to be posed to the engineer who designed/installed it in the first place, their boss, and the employees using the machine.

Three questions, relating to a hypothetical Midwest regional chain of truck stops, are presented to illustrate a few of the concepts above:

  • To engage employees with a question linked to the bottom-line, an owner might ask: “Should we consider adding self-checkout lanes in our convenience stores, like big-box stores have done, to reduce the costs of employing checkers?” (Issues involved: possible increases in theft rates; the cost to install more security cameras; the costs of programming and tracking of in-store produced, non-barcoded products, such as soda pop, coffee, or hot dogs; and the cost and remodeling involved with installing new self-checkout lanes.)
  • To encourage employees to contribute to the future direction of the company, an owner might ask: “If in ten years, 50% of all trucks on the freeways will be autonomous, how will this impact the services we will need to be providing to our historic customers in the trucking industry?” (Responses might include: adding shop trucks and technicians capable of analyzing problems, and then repairing, the computers operating those autonomous trucks out on the highway when they breakdown. Adding tractor trailer wrecker services and increasing the size of their traditional truck repair service shops.  This would allow them to bring disabled trucks (both autonomous and human-operated) back to their facilities to complete needed mechanical repairs and thus better utilize the space available on their properties as the direct result of lower autonomous truck visitation rates.)
  • To solicit ideas and react to change, an owner might ask: “If those 50% of autonomous trucks are no longer stopping at our stations, how could we modify our business model to replace lost revenues?” (Responses might include: changing the model to encourage more automobiles to stop at their stations, adding services such as full-scale restaurants – versus just fast food, looking into providing services needed by the local communities, and/or adding motels to their footprint.)

Leaders must make the decision to ask appropriate questions in their efforts to resolve issues, develop their employees, make the company better, and to improve the company bottom-line.  It is their responsibility to lead the company and its employees into the future.  If a leader’s goals are to have their employees fully engaged and willing to help move the company to the top of their industry, then that leader must know how to use great, discerning questions, at the appropriate time, to capture and utilize the creative genius of those employees.

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Coasting, Growing or Dissolving; Look to your Culture


No less than doctors and healthcare are practicing medicine than corporations are also practicing Business. We’ve not found perfection in either and while it’s no one’s fault, we must keep searching for optimization; the perfect blend of conscious design and a profitable approach.

Organizations typically use protocols or best practices (of the time) as their guiding script for action.  Doing so allows individual and the collective workforce to understand expectations and while in the beginning, it’s necessary to exert additional energy, ultimately we learn the “new way”, which quickly dissipates to unconscious actions with very little energy utilized.  In other words we can begin coasting.  What are the costs of coasting as a person?  What are the costs of coasting as a company? Leaders, we must sincerely and bravely dare to ask, “Is our organization coasting with the goal of stasis or evolving with the times?  Have we institutionalized a growth mindset or a comfort and conformity mindset?”

How many of us just want to coast?  Why strive?  Why yearn for something better? Accept what is, right?   It’s so much easier, isn’t it?  OR, does this stagnate, mental-state steal away our individual and organizational spark, life and vigor?

The practice of operating unconsciously is both a blessing and a curse.  The obvious blessing is that we save tremendous amounts of energy by having habituated our daily tasks. We don’t require near the focus and concentration we did when we were first learning the role.

The real threat here is one that exists in every person and consequently every organization is what happens when stasis or unconscious, habitual action is our end game? This tendency drives one toward comfort and protection of that comfort both of which, are a death sentence to growth.   When stagnation and mediocrity become the status quo and everything new and outside of current practices are seen as a threat to the status quo, what kind of culture does this describe?  A dying one, I believe.  Some organizations we can see nearly dissolving in front of us.

One cannot thrive when the goals are to continue to do the same things over and over.  We as people are simply not wired for repetition, but require novelty to increase and maintain energy in our lives and spirits.   The sooner organizations become more employee-centric the sooner they will realize exponential growth.  Employees automatically become more invested in an employer when the employer becomes more personally invested in them.  Taking the time to understand an employee’s personal goals and values is an outstanding way to ensure (as an employer) we are providing the rewards and culture important to our talent.  Practicing the actions that help employers get to know their employees individually and collectively creates the energetic bonds that lead to greater tolerance for complexity and adaptability; two central factors recognized for business success today.

The very simple and similarly very complex matter at hand is that most of our organizations are no longer aligned; not to organizational purpose or even what attracts and retains top talent.  Ask any CEO today and he or she will tell you talent attraction, engagement and retention are the most serious and difficult strategic and competitive challenges they face.

Yet, to do something different, something would have to change.  The question is, would you rather that change be designed by you or forced upon you.  These are really the only two options; evolve and change with the times or do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

Listen, I get it.  Change is hard and while you initially may want to respond with “no thanks, its good enough”.   What you may not remember or even know is what you are missing by not changing.

I invite you to think about it this way (and isn’t it all mental?). Think about when you first learned to drive a car or use a computer. You had to change how you thought and operated to be good at either and now you’re likely quite accomplished in both! This simple example demonstrates at first you didn’t know what you needed to know and with it came a little anxiety. However, over time the understanding came and came quickly, and what have become the new habits and ways of thinking are now enabling you to accomplish your goal(s)!

In other words, what once was seen as a huge hurdle, learning to drive or use a computer is now something you probably do unconsciously today.  Looking back you can see that, the effort made long ago was exactly what made “the doing” so easy today.

We may have also noticed that when we get on the other side of a change we often think, why didn’t I do this sooner? Obviously, something keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.  It’s time to start identifying what it is that may be keeping us stuck, be it intrapersonal or collectively be it People, Processes or Systems.  It can only be one or a combination of all of these (which, it is for many of us).

Evaluating issues to be systemic, procedural or talent-based is a great beginning for coming to a conscious understanding of an approach designed to align with organizational purpose.

A consciously designed organization will reflect and be supported by talent, innovation and culture; made evident by passionately pursuing the highest good for all stakeholders.

When we face another hurdle whether it is a new job, better results for your team or starting a new business we can remember “what once was difficult, I now take for granted how easily I can do these things.  My next challenge will be the same; a little extra effort and a lifetime of new skills and positive habits will be my reward. Besides… to date, I’ve already proven I can overcome any challenge I’ve faced. Right?!”

It’s time, have faith and start sooner to get what you desire.  Otherwise, ask yourself what’s it costing you to stay the same?

By: Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane is the President/CEO of HR Evolution a local HR, Leadership Development and Career Consulting Company supporting individuals in career transition and businesses with HR, Workforce, Training and Leadership challenges.


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