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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.


Featured Image by rawpixel from Pixabay


Bill Gates On Making One Of His Biggest Mistakes

Bill Gates

Recently, Bill Gates, sat down with Eventbrite co-founder and CEO Julia Hartz to discuss the many decisions involved in starting and maintaining a growing business.   Bill Gates talks about how he has evolved as a leader and the many challenges of work-life balance.

We found the article on Tech Crunch.  Feel free to read the entire article here.

Featured Image by Won-hyoung 김원형 from Pixabay

Emotional Intelligence and It’s Impact on Revenue

Emotional Intelligence also referred to as EQ has a significant impact on relationships, communication, conflict and change management or the lack thereof within teams and across organizations. What can EQ do for you and your team? Watch and find out.

What the Best Leaders Know: It’s an Inside Job

entrepreneurs Leading Maryland Article

Leaders and entrepreneurs alike are known to blaze trails and find creative ways to build wealth for their company.  From the outside, most see wealth creation as the common measurement of a quality leader or entrepreneur; however, the best leaders know what preceded wealth creation, and it started from within.

While the entire world surrounding our corporate structures has changed and evolved significantly, it’s quite remarkable that our leadership and organizational approach has largely stayed the same for over 140 years.  That said, it’s the best of leaders and entrepreneurs alike who have the courage to diverge from the pack.

This article will examine common questions for leaders and entrepreneurs: how to hire talent, how to engage staff in organizational purpose, how to establish a purpose driven culture and how to customize our approach to meet individual stakeholder needs.


The best leaders and entrepreneurs recognize none of the external pillars of business success can occur without first focusing on the person behind the competencies and skills doing the work.  In other words, they take care of their top talent!

Top talent typically have several career options so, as an employer, it’s vital to take care of those who take care of you. This is also true of the sole proprietor of a startup. After evaluating the cost/benefit and appropriate fit for the organization, if the analysis leads to a decision to hire, we then must develop and support our talent.

“In the earliest stages of growth, the right hire can be rocket fuel. The wrong hire can be a disaster,” according to Tor Constantino, ghost writer for Entrepreneaur.com in the article titled, “4 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Consider Before Hiring Their First, or Next, Employee.”

Constantino cites the following questions common to entrepreneurs when considering how to grow their company.

Should they hire a family member?

The best fit is the focus, not necessarily who.  While it may be easy and convenient to hire a family member, first consider if the relationship can storm the worst.  If you have to terminate the employment relationship, will this affect the personal relationship?  If so, you’re better off finding someone outside the family.  Again, the better placed focus is on the skills and competencies most aligned with the vision, mission and function to be performed.  How does the new hire add to the collective goals, and are these person’s skills and competencies complimentary or duplicative?  The new hire, to best earn their value, will enable efficiency and have expertise that you as the leader or entrepreneur do not, and vice versa. We can also see here the business case for diversity among teams and organizations.

Should the person be brought on as a contractor, or as a part-time or full-time employee?

The answer to this question is at the end of pure number crunching.  One must consider the market value, hence the compensation rate, the expected revenue generated by the new hire and the difference between the two to determine the most efficient means of accumulating the greatest revenue with the least costs to the company.  Contractors provide the flexibility and limited costs comparable to full time employment that are attractive to entrepreneurs.  However, lacking an official employee/employer relationship may not secure the desired talent, leaving him or her to potentially seek more security through other opportunities (and possibly with the competition).  Therefore, the kind of employment relationship must also be a top consideration for the entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

Should they work onsite or remotely?

The answer to this question comes down to the function and level of face to face interaction necessary to successfully perform the position.  Gone are the days of “If I don’t see you at your desk, then you’re not working” mentality.  No, technology has enabled work to be accomplished almost anywhere.  However, what needs to evolve is how we measure productivity and accountability for performance.  Personally, I see the positives for remote work being a shift in focus to meritorious outcomes of our work, rather than simply a presence in the work site.

Should they be US-based or ex-US?

Evaluation of employing US based employees or persons outside of the US comes down to cost vs. benefit, as well.   Ask yourself, what advantages are realized through employment of US persons or non-US persons?  Developing a pro or con list may also be helpful too.

While most leaders and entrepreneurs are focused solely on an efficient operational model, a quality product, good service and high profit margins, human or person-centered organizations place people at the center of their business model.  The approach ensures people are not an afterthought to business processes but an integral part of the business processes themselves.  By doing so, organizations further engage staff in the direction of the company, enhancing commitment to positive business outcomes.


“Change makes people feel like they are part of the problem, while evolution makes people feel like they are part of the solution”, according to Glenn Llopis, VIP Contributor of Entrepreneaur.com.  Are staff told they must change, or are they expected to evolve?  This may seem like rhetoric to some; however, the approach is significantly different in how it’s viewed by those expected “to do” differently.

The difference in expectation is one of reaction or innovation, says Llopis.  Are we standing back to determine what is needed and align our approach based on this question or are we simply reacting to market and clientele needs? Are our current systems aligned with our intentions (vision) or are we realizing certain functions, approached and behaviors are no longer supportive and possibly even a detriment to the company’s intended purpose?

Very simply, evolving is a participatory approach to aligning functions to meet intended outcomes to advance the organizational purpose.  Whereas changes are more often than not reactive and do not consider the entire system in response.


Once we hire and impart the vision and mission and how the function contributes to each, leaders are well served to ensure cultural norms are in place to perpetuate the kind of work environment desired by staff and are most conducive to productivity, collaboration and relationship development.

While many leaders and boards of directors are typically focused on quantitative measures of productivity, costs and revenue; it’s the most progressive and accomplished of which that provides equal focus on the culture that supports a growth mindset for staff, enabling innovation and a competitive edge over others in the market.

However, we have seen the inverse is true too, that when boards are so focused on profit that they don’t care how the money is made, which often leads to toxic cultures, rampant harassment, and other behaviors that break down the culture and lead to top talent to leave the organization for less stressful and more supportive environments.

According to Nithya Das, guest writer for Entrepreneur.com leaders and board members should be asking their organizations the following five questions to ensure environments of inclusivity:

  1. Is the leadership team operating with a high level of professionalism and integrity? Do they value diversity and inclusion?
  2. Do legal and HR have a seat at the table in making key strategy, organizational and business decisions?
  3. Does the company have published policies, processes and trainings so employees easily understand what type of behavior is unacceptable and what to do if they have a problem?
  4. What is the company’s strategy to create a diverse and inclusive environment on the board and in the office?
  5. Does the board have oversight and access to management, so as to be informed about the company’s internal controls and policies and when the same are violated?

 I have to wonder whether VW, the Weinstein Company and others in the news recently for illegal behavior, had they asked these questions and not been solely focused on finances could have avoided the behaviors that, ultimately created financial devastation for the companies and their stakeholders.

 No more one size fits all

 The approach today is no longer “Build it and they will come”, but one of “What is the need and how can we provide that better than anyone else?”  Once we identify the “what”, we then identify the “how”.  How we are going to provide our products or services considers the make-up of our workforce.

The largest and most diverse generation to date, Millennials are soon to become the majority demographic by 2025, making up 75% of the total workforce.

The generational values of Millennials are found to be highly altruistic and much less focused on accumulation of wealth or status, as was a more predominant value in prior generations of Gen X, Boomers and Veterans.  As such, what motivated staff in the past through extrinsic rewards will not motivate this generation who is more intrinsically motivated.

Glenn Llopis, VIP Contributor of Entrepreneur.com suggests we pause and step back for a moment to evaluate the big questions with our staff, asking, “What are you solving for? Are we adding value? What makes us great?  How are we serving each customer?

Notice none of these questions include any financial aspect, market data or revenue goals.    Each starts with the fundamental notion of why are we here, what do we want to do, how do we want to do it, and how do we want to be seen by our target market.  This is a highly individuated focus of who do we want to be and how can we best be that?

By focusing on answering these questions first, prior to any financial-based questions ensures a culture and workforce aligned with purpose and consequently creates uniformity of intention among the workforce and clear messaging of value for the targeted market.

The best leaders and entrepreneurs know that wealth and business success are preceded by purpose and vision; a consciously designed state of the future organization that is so attractive that it compels the workforce to be guided by the new vision.

Leaders who initiate systems and cultures that align purpose with function are best equipped to realize their vision.  To do otherwise is putting the cart before the horse!  Yet, how often is this exactly what happens when leaders and entrepreneurs only look for the external measures of success?

By: Ryan McShane, President, HR Evolution LLC,  RyanM@marc3solutions.com

HR Evolution provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” with Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

Contact Ryan to get the results that, elevate individuals and organizations to their highest potential.

View Ryan’s website at:  www.HRevolutionllc.com


Nineteen catch phrases for managers and leaders to enhance communication skills.

Catch Phrases Leading Maryland Article


  1. Speak to the common person and you will be understood by most. Speak to your peers and you may be understood by only a few.

If you communicate technical information and concepts in a fashion the lay person on the street can grasp and understand, you will be more successful over time at transmitting your message to more people.

  1. The three most important concepts to retail business before the internet were “Location, Location, and Location”, and the three most important keys to business communications are “Listen, Listen, and Listen.”

We all want to be heard.  To be an effective communicator, you must actively aspire to hear what others have to say, and be willing to appreciate their point of view.  Then, you must clearly demonstrate you heard and understood what they have presented.  (Number 3 below, applies after you have learned to be a good listener.)

  1. Ask questions, before you start speaking, to ensure you understand the other person’s story completely.

Always remain open.  Never stop learning and pursuing the truth.  There will be adequate time to get your two cents worth in at an appropriate point in the conversation.

  1. Sort out BFF. (Beliefs vs. Feeling vs. Facts.)

To fully comprehend another person’s position, distinguish between the facts they present, the beliefs they hold, and the feelings they express.  Remember the interpretation and meaning of the exact same facts often vary widely among individuals, based upon such things as their perspective and motivation.

  1. Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Take the time to concisely articulate what you really need to convey, especially in writing.  This is clearly a developed skill.  With the ambiguities of language, it is easy to have your message misinterpreted.

  1. Would I buy a used car from that person?

In the vast majority of circumstances, it is best to give others the benefit of the doubt.  However, natural instincts and feelings can sometimes assist your communications skills by providing feedback.  Be vigilant to warning signs.  Unfortunately, there are individuals who will intentionally misrepresent the truth to promote their own agendas.

  1. What do you talk about at lunch, or when you socialize with your co-workers: people, events, or ideas and concepts?

Those who focus their conversations and energy on ideas and concepts are often the ones who bring forth new innovations, profound ideas, and meaningful change to fruition.

  1. Encourage, expect, reward, and be totally open to: discussion, honest challenges, dissenting opinions, and new ideas which will allow your group to fully explore all realistic opportunities.

Actively engage each member of your group to participate in discussions.  As important, seek to explore any underlying issue(s) when someone is having trouble coming on-board.  Honestly caring enough to get to the bottom of their concern(s) may help to bring them along.  It might also help to shine a light on an important point they have been quietly chewing on.

  1. Know when to facilitate a group conversation.

Time is money.  It is your responsibility to bring the discussion back to the task at hand and sense when to put side-tracking issues on a “to do” list for later consideration.

  1. Be transparent to all when others are correct and/or you were mistaken.

Willingly acknowledge another’s accuracy and/or your own errors.  In so doing, everyone will trust you are open to challenges in your pursuit of the truth and in seeking to accomplish your mission.  “Coming Clean” always builds credibility.

  1. Walk the talk. Be truthful.  Be consistent.  Be on point.

One of the worst things you can do is speak out of both sides of your mouth.

  1. Actions speak louder than words.

Some people get things done, others pontificate, or take credit.  Make sure when the discussions have been adequate, you become the doer, the torch bearer, the motivator, and openly give credit where due.

  1. Endeavor to be positive and upbeat in all discussions.

Focus and frame your discussions on: organizational goals, objectives, mission, and core ideology.  Accentuate and foster: cooperation, problem solving, teamwork – across all boundaries, creativeness, enthusiasm, and optimism.  Always seek to improve customer service and relationships, (both internal and external).

  1. Never argue or debate.

Even if you win the debate, you lose, because the other person comes away embarrassed, or wounded, and often times more entrenched in their position.  Seek ways, even when you truly disagree, to move the discussion to a positive outcome.  Attempt to explore areas of common ground and agreement between both parties, which will build trust and more open discussion on the points in conflict.

  1. When you have a critically important message to deliver: 1) write it down, 2) deliver it orally, 3) hand it to the other person on paper, and 4) make them articulate back to you what you just said.


  1. Never rely solely on oral conversations for any business transactions.


  1. In conflict or disagreement, conduct your conversations in a manner which shows respect and protects the dignity of all people involved.

In doing so, when the smoke has cleared, the healing can hopefully begin sooner than later.

  1. Request, imply, mentor, ask questions, seek input, coach, or make suggestions.

Avoid giving orders unless you have no other choice.

  1. KISS.

Keep it sweet, simple, and to the point.


Conditioned to Survive or… Create?

Are today’s learning systems conditioning us to survive or create? You may ask, what’s the difference? When we operate from survival, we see the world as a dangerous and unfriendly place, any inspiration gives way to apathy and we experience a sense of going through the motions. When we operate from creation, we drop all pre-conceived notions of how something “should be” allowing us to see, once typical situations from an entirely different perspective and therefore knowing that “thing” much deeper than name or form.

This may start to sound a little esoteric, however, the difference between operating from a mode of survival vs. creation is as practically important as the ability to earn a living.

I saw a film, “Most Likely to Succeed” being screened at the local High School, in order to raise awareness about the changing nature of work and education. The film, featured a School in San Diego, California demonstrating a new approach to learning which, seeks to depart from rote memorization and the practice of teaching to the test to an approach of learning experientially. The new methods incorporate many of the standard course topics such as English, math and sciences yet, delivered in an integrated style that many students and parents are still not used to. The Instructors facilitate student led discussions of real world problems, propose theories and build models that visually demonstrate their teams’ respective theories. Once the models are built they are exhibited to parents and teachers. The entire process is said to provide a much deeper, more experiential learning that is entirely more relevant to the experiences they are expected to have in the workplace, rather than rote memorization of the Map of the Middle East, for example.

Not surprisingly, the movie narrators went on to say, the shift in learning delivery hasn’t been implemented without some trepidation by students and parents who are concerned about preparedness for college entry. Yet, the Teachers committed to molding this more experiential, project-based learning approach quickly point out, to those naysayers or parents nervous about college preparedness, this process, by the very merit of how it is conducted teaches the students to operate effectively in a team, problem solve, collaborate, engage in public speaking, perform calculations for modeling, stay motivated, manage conflict and inspire others. These are the experiences, the teachers say, we expect our students to encounter in the current and future workforce.

As a HR Professional of 20 years, I can affirm, the chief complaint from employers is difficulty finding skills and competencies in applicants needed for their industry. There remains a gap between industry and education, fixable by conscious effort on both sides. I can also affirm, the industrial era has ended, a Knowledge or Information Economy is present and the implications are much more urgent than you may think.

Why the Urgency for Developing U.S. Talent?

Without adaptions in the preparedness of our current and future workforce, we don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of competing in a global market, let alone remaining viable and competitive in the U.S. Market. Point of Fact, we are operating from an education model created 124 years ago, according to the film, “Most Likely to Succeed”.

Our brawn was replaced by the mechanized-robot and our knowledge is being replaced by computers, leaving us with our behavioral competencies to differentiate services in the workforce. The behavioral competencies such as, relationship building, problem solving, conflict resolution, grit, collaboration and creativity to name a few are no longer referred to as “Soft Skills” in workforce circles, they are now referred to as “essential skills”.

The urgency to “catch-up” has increased! Education may have a long and arduous task to formalize a new approach to learning. Yes, it could take years to implement! However, our current Workforce is even worse off than education. Failure to adapt (immediately) could mean a company’s demise. The quarter to quarter, financial focus of many corporations must shift and adapt to a culture of growth, collaboration and sustainability for any real chance of long term existence, let alone success.

The workplace is changing and just as in education, many are beginning to realize the methods that worked in the industrial era, are no longer effective for attracting, developing and retaining a quality workforce. A stark example is Google and their legendary campus of conveniences for employees.

However, far too few have yet to see the proverbial writing on the wall, “Industrial Age, command and control, authoritarian-style, “I’m your boss that’s why”, type of leadership is completely lost on the next generation of employees, the Millennial Generation”. Millennials buck convention at every turn, yet will produce at an extremely high level, if you let them… do it when they want, where they want. Remember, Millennials are the digital natives, having grown up with tech, they can deliver on tasks which used to take weeks, now in only minutes and having done so from their home at 3am.

There are limitations to every situation. Some jobs certainly do not lend themselves to virtual offices. Yet, we must be open to a new way of performing our work if we are to keep up with consumer demands and hope to attract quality talent. As Tony Robbins says, “It’s all about results”. Does it matter whether performing a 9-5, 40 hour work week or a flexible schedule via a remote work location, as long as we achieve the desired results?

The matter stands whether we use flexible schedules, permit telework or virtual offices, if employees are managed through control, rather than support and growth as the focus, they will quickly leave or become a liability.

Millennials are expected to have 15-20 careers over a lifetime! Employers who fail to adapt will no doubt fail to attract and retain talent, when it will be most in need, as the Boomers vacate long-held roles and retire.

Leaders, (we who have been chosen to operate in these roles for the benefit of those we lead) have the opportunity to model creativity and the problem solving skills we expect from our employees. What better way to influence employee behavior than model what you expect of employees? Systematize the culture of learning and growth by supporting through policies that expand employees, not limit them.

There is no doubt in my mind, that we are on the precipice of a sea-change in how education and work are performed. Practicality rules the day, we must turn the page and begin teaching what is most beneficial to one’s ability to learn, grow, adapt and create. These “essential skills” will always be in high demand, no matter the type of economy. Leaders, entrepreneurs and business professionals of all walks of life, I can simply suggest, model that which you wish for yourself in business and relationships and you will create a legacy of growth for others to follow.

Finally, I offer my heartfelt support for those who choose creativity over simply survival. It is not the easier path but, the abundant path.

How A Leadership Transition Impacts Brands

Leadership in Transition

All companies strive to build recognizable brands that eventually become iconic. But sadly, very few companies get to experience the iconic status of being a leader among their competitors. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” Heraclitus, certainly rings true with any company trying to build iconic brands.

When the CEO and corporate leaders understand branding, this enhances shareholder value, and helps to unite the vision and core values of the organization.

Well-known brands such as Apple, GE, Coca-Cola, Ford, Disney, Nike, McDonald’s, and Harley Davidson all share a common vision that branding enhances shareholder value and helps stand the test of time. They also share a common goal to build an emotional connection between their customers and stakeholders. This emotional connection is the key to building an iconic brand.

Without an emotional connection, we may not be compelled to buy a Coke, even knowing drinking soda is not so good for us. We see the commercials and the ads on all marketing channels. Prior to the movie starting in the theater, we see the ad where someone drinks a cold glass of very carbonated soda, and then the camera cuts to the expression of the person drinking. You then feel the urge to drink a soda to get the thirst quenching feeling of satisfaction that the commercial conveyed.

Strong brands have a unique brand promise and they deliver on that promise time and time again. McDonald’s works very hard to deliver the same taste from one restaurant to the next. McDonald’s tagline is “I’m Lovin’ It”, and they often use young, hip millennials in their commercials that all appear to be loving the food, even though we all know fast food is not good for us. You know you will get your food fast, save time by not going to the grocery store and having to make your own dinner from scratch. That convenience and reliable good taste is what has people come back time and time again.

The shared brand vision must be accepted and acted upon by the entire company for all of the actions and activities. Everyone in the organization needs to have a servant mindset to the customers and create great customer value, and this builds a synergy between all levels of the organization, in which everyone is working toward the shared brand vision. When guests visit Disney World in Florida, they are greeted with smiles and happiness. Can you imagine if they were greeted with the same look you get at the fast food drive-thru window at some fast food chains? Nobody would ever go back.

A shared vision is vital, but it all starts at the top of the organization. The CEO is the most important leadership role of the organization. Much like a great football team needs a great coach and quarterback, an organization needs a leader as the CEO. CEOs become highly visible representatives of their brands. Apple, of course, was well lead by the dynamic and charismatic Steve Jobs.

When an organization has a strong leader as the CEO, it provides a competitive advantage. It also conveys significant investment in the brand as a whole, and sends a strong message as to the quality of the product and/or service.

What happens when the CEO steps down?

Steve Jobs had to break with Apple on a number of occasions including having to step down for health reasons. After he stepped down, stock prices dropped, and the iconic leader of the company was no longer there to steer the ship to the next technologically-advanced destination. Since the death of Steve Jobs, CEO Tim Cook has embraced a friendlier brand image than that of Steve Jobs. The most famous example is Jobs’ threat of going “thermonuclear” on smartphone rival Google. Apple is showing more of a willingness to donate money to charity and stand up for political, environmental and social causes. In addition, it’s more open with developers and the press. This is maybe not what Steve Jobs would have done, but times change and as long as Apple stays true to their brand promise and core vision, they will continue moving the brand forward.

It is vital for companies and their top level leadership to develop strategies to protect the brand independent of the acting CEO, in addition to ensuring the brand is not overly tied to the charisma and personality of the CEO. Companies should balance the visibility of the CEO with other visible brand ambassadors in case the CEO ever steps down. This puts the focus back on the brand itself. Companies need to develop a strong internal brand culture where all corporate activities are centered around the core brand promise, which makes the transition between iconic leaders more manageable. The brand promise and identity should speak louder than the personality of the CEO.

Jack Welch was the chairman and CEO of GE from 1981 to 2001. In the last ten years, GE has been left in turmoil by years of poor deal-making, over complexity,and questionable accounting and as a result, the stock has been down more than 50 percent. John Flannery is now the new CEO of GE, replacing Jeff Immelt. Recently, Mr. Flannery provided a detailed road map of needed changes at GE that went well beyond an investor update. He pointed out that nearly 40 percent of the executives under him are new, and that echoed a very similar leadership strategy that Jack Welch employed in his first year as CEO back in 1981. These newbie executives are highly motivated to work extra hard in order to keep their jobs and higher paychecks. Mr. Flannery made it clear that he wants to measure results with verifiable and quantitative methods and less micro managing, and he expects each division to improve its operating performance.

The transition of leadership is an essential part of the succession plan of any organization. Most companies do not have an active succession plan. It is imperative that companies invest in their top leaders to insure the brands future development and growth are on the rise, satisfying shareholders, stakeholders and customers. The new leadership needs to gain a company wide acceptance of the mission and vision of the brand promise and identity in order to transition from one leader to the next. The leaders do not have to be the same with regard to personality, but they do need to share the same common goal of moving the organization forward.

The Buck Stops Here! “Leadership Accountability”

Buck Stops Here Article Leading Maryland

Want your business to:

  1. Be successful?
  2. Provide a service to your customers?
  3. Reward you through attainment of great accomplishments?
  4. Support your employees?
  5. Make you rich?

If so, you should read this first:

  1. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, over 50% of all businesses started, will fail within six years!
  2. In ten years, the figure is over 64%.
  3. These failure rates represent a significant amount of time and financial resources lost, year after year.

Citations abound with lists of specific symptoms of business failures such as: insufficient cash flow, poor demand for products, or conflicts between team members.  These lists provide insight, important details, and good information, but often miss the root cause: a failure in leadership.

If you subscribe to the Doctrine of Accountability, then you understand the buck must stop somewhere.  My contention is: businesses fail because leadership missed one, or more, required pieces of the puzzle needed to build and operate a successful enterprise.

If you wish to start a successful business, or make your existing company better, you must understand the role leadership plays.  You must become familiar with leadership related actions, characteristics, and concepts.  You must put leadership practices into place for your company which make sense and will yield a sustainable, successful future for you and your employees.

People have dedicated their entire careers to learning about leadership.  There are many extremely valuable books on the market covering leadership concepts, ranging from historic reviews of successful companies, to works covering Presidents of the United States.  However, if you are in the process of trying to start a successful business, right now, you need critical leadership information in a short, sweet, and to-the-point version and you needed it yesterday.

In developing this article for Leading Maryland, my goal was to present an overview, covering key roles a leader should play and what they must do to be successful from a big picture standpoint.  This will provide you with an introduction to some of the: what, why, when, where, and how of successful leadership.  In future articles, we will explore more nuts and bolts.  While the context of this article is geared primarily toward smaller businesses, much of the research and material it has been drawn from was based upon studies involving larger organizations.  These general leadership concepts apply across all sizes of businesses as well as to non-profits and governmental agencies.

There are eight critical ROLES a leader must play:

As the entrepreneur of your company, you must have a commodity (idea, product, or service) consumers need, want, or cannot live without.

As the leader, you must define the mission for your organization, i.e., the future (dream) you are seeking to accomplish.  The mission should be visionary, inspiring, lofty, and consequential.  It needs to be clear, concise, and to-the-point.  It should set the stage for your company and drive it toward a successful and sustainable future.  The mission statement must become the core concept which binds your organization together as one.  The mission should be used as a key to every company decision.  It should be:

  1. Placed on your desk where you will see it every day.
  2. In big, bold letters on the wall at the front of your conference room or meeting place for your employees to see.
  3. Above the front desk in your reception area for visitors to see.
  4. At the top of your website landing page and on your mission statement page as well.

Your mission statement should be in the forefront of the minds of every employee who works for you.  Your mission statement should be a large part of how your company is perceived, when viewed by your customers.

As the visionary, you must have commitment, drive, willingness, character, and resolve to make your dream come true.

As the voice of your company’s dream, you must articulate and personify every day, the organization’s mission, plus related goals, objectives, and organizational fixed core values, as you march forward.  You must buy into them; your board members, officers, and managers must buy into them; and your employees should understand and agree why it is in their best interest to buy into them as well.

As head of sales and marketing for you company, you must be directly involved in selling your commodity.  No one else has the same passion or engagement with the product, plus you are ultimately accountable for the success of your company.  Sales are not only your responsibility, but at the very heart of your business’s success or failure.

As the leader, you must make decisions based upon information, facts, goals, objectives, and in furtherance of your organization’s mission.

You must be willing and able to adapt to changes; help others adapt – without losing sight of the organization’s mission; and learn how to capitalize on opportunities presented.

You must stay in tune with what is happening externally and how it may change the big picture.

As a leader, there are eight areas of actions, concepts, and characteristics YOU must embrace:

You must know and understand: who you are, where you are going, how to get there, and how you relate to others.  (You must be able to conduct an honest self-evaluation.)

You must be willing to listen and be open to other points of view.

You must be willing and able to adjust your personality, approach, or style, to ensure success, especially, if by chance, you have a caustic, or fatal, flaw in your current personality characteristics.  (It is your choice.  If you want to build a successful and sustainable business, sometimes things must change.  You are the only one who has this capacity.)

You must be honest, articulate, genuine, inspiring, and accountable for the success of your mission.

You must understand leadership is a responsibility.  (As a sole owner, it may also be a right – which you should exercise appropriately.)

You must be able to communicate, persuade, encourage, motivate, and set the bar, both in words and actions.

You must stay focused on outcomes, be results oriented, and able to turn set-backs into rallying points.

You must surround yourself with great people who augment your values, strengths, and weaknesses, rather than only mirror them.

Remember: as the leader of your company, if you are accountable for your actions, your chances for success in the business world will be significantly higher.

FOCUSED LEADERSHIP A Mindset on Execution, Results, and the FUTURE.

Preeminent leaders have a mindset focused on accomplishing things larger than themselves.  To go beyond “business as usual”, your mindset must be capable of:

  • Focusing your company’s endeavors.
  • Bringing out the best in your people.
  • Providing your company with a competitive edge.

As important, the articulation of your mindset must inspire your workforce to “focus” on the successful completion of their individual tasks in reaching your company’s desired future position in the marketplace.

Setting direction, making decisions, leading people, adapting to change, reacting to stimuli, and how you interact with those around you are all a matter of your mindset.  Your mindset is how you view the current world and more importantly “how you believe it might be changed or improved”, i.e., the future or a vision.  How the world will view you is based upon your actions, words, and approach in conveying your mindset of said future and how best to attain it.

Leaders are basically free to choose the path they take in business.  Elements which will shape your path and may also improve the potential for achieving success include:

  1. The mindset you have.
  2. Your specific idea or dream (vision/mission).
  3. The goals and objectives you set out to accomplish along the way.
  4. The “Leader” you are willing to become in guiding others in the achievement of your dreams and aspirations.
  5. Your attitude and approach.
  6. The relationships you build.
  7. Your ability to sell yourself and your end-product.
  8. Your ability to adapt to change.
  9. Your ability to zero in on the future and to maintain said focus.
  10. Your ability to focus the energy and efforts of your employees on their tasks in your mutual pursuit of the future.

This article discusses how to become a “Focused Leader”.  Regardless of how you describe the concept, i.e., “Keeping your eye on: the ball, the prize, or the target”, learning how to improve your ability to focus is essential to your leadership success.  This article is structured, from start to end, to introduce a general leadership concept and then develop take home ideas to consider within the context of your individual leadership role and style.

The dictionary defines “focus” with phrases such as: a main purpose or interest; a center of activity, attraction, or attention; a point of concentration; emphasis; a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding; a guiding or motivating purpose or principle; a concept of the greatest importance to an activity or interest; to fix one’s attention steadily toward a central objective; and to direct your attention or effort at something specific.

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Reach, Attract, and Capture the BEST Top-Tier People in Your Hiring Process!


As the leader, the first question in hiring employees should be: how do you formulate and implement a results-oriented approach to recruiting and hiring the BEST employees for your company? To be more successful, you will need to reach, attract, sort out the best candidate from the list, and ultimately capture top-tier candidates for your positions. As the leader, you must own your hiring process to help accomplish this goal. (Please Note: the “concepts” presented in this article relate to any size company. Not every example will be directly related to every company, but the basic concepts will apply universally across the full spectrum.)

The single most important concept in the hiring process is discussed in Part Two, on how to sort out the best candidate from the applicant pool.

Employees, top to bottom, in many companies are the single most important resource they have. Therefore, as the leader, ask yourself:

  • Did you leave start-up planning and execution for your company to your co-founders to sort through and figure out on their own?
  • Did you leave securing of critical start-up funding to your accountant?
  • Did you leave direction for your company to be determined by your mid-level managers and supervisors once you were up and running?

If employees are a key resource your company depends upon, why as the leader would you leave hiring of employees to the discretion of your HR/Admin person? Delegating your recruiting and hiring decisions down and allowing HR to use their “top-10-steps” for hiring, found on the web, will result in a serious missed opportunity to increase the capabilities of your workforce and thus, bolster the success of your business venture.

If finding and recruiting the “best” available employees is essential to your company’s future, as the leader you must invest time into making the process meet your goals. Here are some criteria you need to consider:

  • What are the goals, objectives, and mission of your company?
  • What positions (or categories of positions) do you need to fill to meet those goals, objectives, and mission?
  • What knowledge, skills, and experience should candidates in each position possess? (Note: in some cases, consider pre-employment skill-based testing, if appropriate, such as for highly-specialized technicians or IT specialists.)
  • How do you REACH, ATTRACT, and CAPTURE the top-tier of candidates available to select from?

With your list of positions to fill in-hand, you, as the leader, must strategize on how to best reach, attract, and capture candidates to fill those positions. Here are concepts, questions, and ideas to help you in being successful in all three areas.

REACHING adequate numbers of TOP-TIER candidates:

  1. Do you need to search: locally, regionally, or nationally to fill your positions?
  2. Do you need to invest in a “marketing type campaign” to meet your recruiting targets?
  3. How can you utilize your networking, social media, “Linkedin”, on-line ads, professional organizations, or industry publications in this “recruiting” campaign?
  4. How do you build a reputation for being an “employer of choice”?
  5. How do you tap into the knowledge of your employees (their families and friends) about potential candidates? (Offer bonuses, if candidates are hired.)
  6. Will some of your positions require the use of professional headhunters?
  7. Will some of your positions require the use of a professional staffing company which specializes in finding upper level candidates in areas such as: Attorneys, Upper Management, Finance, Accounting, and Information Technology?
  8. Will major well-known staffing websites provide you with adequate exposure to be able to find the top-tier candidates you are seeking?
  9. Do you need to develop long term agreements with colleges, trade schools, and/or universities to participate in their job fairs and work directly with their placement offices to identify top-tier students for internships and positions?
  10. Do you have a long term need to create “in-house” training and skill development programs to meet your needs in some areas?
  11. Do you need to participate in hiring fairs, locally or regional?
  12. Do you need to participate in regional and national level trade shows and dedicate a portion of your booth space to interviewing people with a big sign stating: “We are Always Looking for the BEST People, come INTERVIEW with us TODAY!”?

ATTRACTING the attention of TOP-TIER candidates:

In your job announcements, job descriptions, job advertisements, outreach notices in professional publications, and on your entire website – including on your “Employment Opportunities” page, the “story” you tell about your company MUST:


  1. Give top-tier candidates MORE than run-of-the-mill rationale to seek additional information about your company.
  2. Outline solid reasons they should want to work for your company versus someone else, or worse, your competition.
  3. Entice them to explore their options with your company.
  4. Inspire them to dream about the possibilities of working for your company which motivates them to apply with high hopes.
  5. Sell your branding concepts to them as something they can totally relate to.
  6. Connect with what “intrinsically motivates them every day”, so they will take the extra steps to make their application stand out, be noticed, and present themselves in a light which will catch your attention.
  7. Provide them with details on your commitment to innovation, expanding opportunities to be creative, and rewarding accomplishments.
  8. Dazzle them with your company’s mandates for: pushing envelopes, staying on the cutting edge of new technologies, or the exploration of new frontiers.
  9. Tell them about the importance of your mission and vision and the horizons it opens for personal growth and development in their careers.
  10. Inform them about your company’s core values which will help convince them of the endless possibilities in front of them.
  11. Make them wish they were working for your company because it aligns with their personal goals, objectives, and career expectations.
  12. Make them want to call you “Right Now” and “beg you” to hire them because they have been dreaming about the kind of job you have open, since forever.
  13. Explain to them why your company culture will allow them to reach their full potential.
  14. Excite them with the prospect of finding the “perfect” career.
  15. Encourage them with great expectations and anticipation about the future of your company.
  16. Share your company’s culture of supporting all employees, (and how it highlights new employees specifically) including such items as: open and frank communications, meaningful feedback processes, shared vision and mission across all divisions, job training and advancement opportunities, and teamwork at all levels.

CAPTURING your selection process identified “BEST” candidate(s):

Involves somewhere in the process, the need to:

  • Consider pre-employment personality-based testing, as appropriate.
  • Making calls to references and other sources of information and asking tough questions!
  • Reviewing the candidate’s social media sites.
  • Conducting background checks!

Then, if you want to successfully capture the best top-tier employees, you have to offer them more than salary and benefits, once they are identified as THE “BEST” candidate.


  1. Be ready to fulfill promises you made in attracting their attention.
  2. Once interviews have been completed, make offers in a timely fashion to reduce the potential for others to steal an exceptional candidate away from you.
  3. Make the offer yourself (or, if this is not possible, you must delegate someone with full responsibility to discuss options) in a fashion which will make the candidate want to select your offer, over other options they may have.
  4. In some cases, be ready to discuss salary level, extra benefits, and profit sharing, if needed and appropriate.
  5. Convince them they are making the correct, and best possible, decision for their future.
  6. Tell them how critical their role will be in your organization.
  7. Ensure them they will be welcomed by your organization and employees.
  8. Make them feel like they are part of the family, even before they have accepted the offer.
  9. Be prepared to offer recruitment or retention bonuses in some cases.
  10. Be prepared company-wide in the face of industry-specific competition, to pay above industry standards to acquire and retain critical top-tier personnel.
  11. Be prepared to tell them about, or better yet introduce them to, their supervisor: who will be helping them become a part of your company; who will be responsible for their mentoring; and who will assist them in seeking career development opportunities in the future within your company.
  12. And finally, genuinely express how pleased you are with their decision to join your company.

As the leader, your ownership of the hiring process will result in reaching, attracting, and capturing the BEST top-tier employees available. Using these three concepts, combined with the selection process outlined in Part Two, will position you with the top-level employees required to make your company MORE successful, well into the future!