Tag Archives: Human Resources

Business Communication Tools We Can Use

I had a great time at the Delta Chamber of Commerce luncheon on January 21st sharing how social media can help enhance business relationships.

Here are some video clips shot on a Flip:

Langley small business example

Sharing documents


What is social media?


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Leadership Lessons from Lincoln

Leadership is always about people. No matter how much technology we have, the big question is did we connect with followers and do we have influence. Not the influence of power, while sometimes that may be used, an influence that is sustainable, one of leadership.

The aligning of followers aspirations to a higher goal is the process of leadership. The effective leader balances a vision for a better future with the practical realities of their relationship with followers and the relative persuasion that the followers represent. The transformational process has many contemporary and historical examples where societal change is initiated or represented by leaders.

Enduring attributes should remind us to look at the legacy and impact leaders have made. We can learn from the exercise of power, that of influence and the resulting legacy of the different styles.

In Canada, culturally we do not celebrate our leaders. I have always been interested in American heroes/leaders. In Canada, our historical figures do not take on the hero status of the American founders. Our founding Prime Minister is remembered as much for his drinking as he was the political achievement of connecting our country.

My cultural proclivity makes me wonder if my caricature view of American historical figure is accurate. Lincoln is a case of where the more I learn about his leadership, the more remarkable he becomes. He may be a hero that we can learn from and seek to aspire to his leadership abilities.

Here are a few things that struck me about his leadership:


The emancipation proclamation was the right thing to do. In Lincoln’s day it was politically unattainable. At a time of civil war, the north and bordering states needed a unifying message. Large scale social change would not be the most practical agenda.

It appears that from early on in Lincoln’s career he showed sympathy to the abolitionist movement. He was the person in a position to make this change. He had the emancipation policy laid out and shared with his cabinet six months in advance of announcing it. The cabinet was not sure if he was wavering with his delay.  Lincoln was focused on getting the popular support to have this change come to be a reality. He was taking the steps to frame the decision as one of saving the union and depriving the enemies of resources. Not the same aspiration of the abolitionists, but the same result.

He had the patiences to wait until the north would follow. He still had detractors, but he needed the populist mood to be on his side to make this happen. His timing was spectacular. Lincoln’s patiences enables strong support for a tactical change to win the war that became a transformational change to the American society.


Lincoln was an underdog. He was underestimated and built a reputation as a conciliator. He did not let ego get in his way of progressing an agenda. The best example of this was his interaction with one time presidential rival and then Cabinet member Salmon Chase. Chase bad mouthed Lincoln; he kept his own leadership ambition alive and many times threatened resignation.

Lincoln had a purpose for him and he needed Chase’s influence to achieve his goals. He did not turn Chase’s attacks into a personal battle. Most of us would have sent Chase away for disloyalty, inconsistency and sensitivity. Lincoln recognized his value and was humble enough to do want needed to be done to progress his agenda and that of the nation.

Shaping the story

Leaders have to suffer defeat and criticism (this may be a good reminder today). Lincoln had many defeats and in the darkest days of the civil war he stood firm. He worked to unify fighting Generals, encouraged a dejected Cabinet and continued on working the plan. As quoted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals “Lincoln withstood the storm of defeat by replacing anguish over an unchangeable past with hope for an uncharted future.” We do not lead with defeat, but from the hope of a better tomorrow and the belief that our actions will make the difference.

Lincoln leaves me with the intentions to be hopeful. I know that we have achieved great things before and will again. I need to be humble in the face of adversity. I will see the right time to act and not just the right action. These lessons will be helpful when guiding businesses or my family.

It is fair to say that we have big challenges around the world today, but the challenges of a fractured country in Lincoln’s day would be more than daunting. I hope our leaders have the similar characteristics to that of Lincoln. It may be possible for the pragmatist to be the one who delivers the vision.

  • Thanks to Ronald Kustra (Proud torch carrier Vancouver 2010 Olympics) for recommending the Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It was a great read.
  • The second book that I am reading for the second time is Leadership by James MacGregor Burns (1978). Great books have timeless insights and that is true for this book.

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Being an effective leader – Fair does not need to be equal

Many parents I know try to treat their children the same. Christmas presents should cost the same and if one child has a hockey lesson the other should get equal opportunity in another pursuit. This seems only fair. Is this common sense cultural norm good for our kids, our work teams and our organizations?

I have a few clients that use the survey question “The same rules are applied to everyone equally.” The result of a negative finding is a dialogue that ends with “Of course they are not applied to everyone equally, the situations are different.” The result is managers become more aware of how they do not treat everyone equally. Frontline employees regularly agree that rules should be applied differently. They recognize that we are all different and our collective goal is the point. We are not trying to achieve equality unless it is a means to our end.

I have coached football for eleven years at a high school in Vancouver. We coach football. That does not change. Our offense and defense have minor changes each year. Our team is trained with incremental improvements in content and style. Our boys are the same age and in the same school setting. This year, I was reminded once again that the individual players change everything. Creating a high level of performance changes every year with the players. As coaches, we need to get to know our players as individuals and as a group.

Kendra watching the post game prayer.

We have the same team rules for everyone. These rules are simple and universal. They cover the obvious things (i.e. don’t be late). Some rules are never used and others have to be frequently applied. When applying rules we must ask ourselves, what is best for this person and what is best for the team? Our goal is to transfer our discipline to their intrinsic motivation. We desire every player to submit to the rules so that our team can function and perform. To get there, our players are on individual journeys and this requires a variety of interventions to progress. Our principles and rules do not change; however our ability to achieve growth collectively depends on our ability to apply the rules with wisdom and grace.

The process our team takes to be self determined has multiple stages. We seek to create a community around the common goal of winning a championship. We start soon after the ending of the previous season with off-season training sessions. Before we get to training camp the next year we have two off site events, one is a tournament and one is a football camp. These activities work on football skills and build personal relationships.

When fall camp starts we have a two day retreat where we facilitate a team charter. This charter is created by the players to determine who and how they want to operate for the season. At the end of this session we have a ceremony to celebrate the official formation of our team. This year we had each player sign an axe handle as a commitment to themselves and each other. At the end of the regular season, the handle was awarded to the player that most resembled the attitudes and behaviours the players decided they wanted to achieve.

Charter created by the players during unity camp

Rules are the norms we aim to follow. We need to work together so we can perform. The rules are not the purpose and should only act to facilitate our growth and protect our ability to operate. At work we need a process that enables employees to intrinsically apply rules. Fairness comes from our responsibility to each other and our collective goals. Applying rules need to facilitate individual and collective success. How are you preparing your people to do this?

Tony Dungy in his biography talks about having to treat his players differently. It is a good read and has some memorable quotes.

The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. VISION will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to achieve excellence. Only VISION allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. VISION has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our VISION is what we become in life.

Tony Dungy


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Does aiming for employee happiness undermine engagement?

Many studies over the years have proven that satisfied/happy employees are more profitable.

The result has been the increase of entitlements and entitlement programs with tangible results.

What if this evidence leads us to short term gains that are unsustainable?

Happy Happy People

Happy Happy People

Here is my theory – when we use incentive based leadership, we can measure a short term impact that can be quantified into a ROI. This encourages a focus on satisfaction and externalities.

A sustainable approach would involve creating an intrinsic motivation that is self determined by employees. They would have a sense of belonging to something bigger. They attach themselves to the mission of the organization and to the people they work with.

Our practices of short term ‘happy measures’ may in fact work against the sustainable leadership approach.

Sears started this when they demonstrated a ratio of profitability correlated to employee satisfaction. Does this foundation of evidence lead us to bad practices?

I am definitely not the first to consider this:
Paul Kearns is Director of PWL


Filed under Employee Surveys, Leadership

Leading in troubled times

This post addresses the needs of your team members and how they can help you in troubled times. I use a story about a good buddy (Calvin) who taught me a lesson.

The second thing this story does is challenge the typical strategies we may use to deal with job security anxiety.

Many of us were taught Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as the premise of behaviour and motivation. I find this model very useful, but it can produce ineffective strategies for engagement when we seek to grow from the bottom up, we never go after the heart at the top.

Maslow’s hierarchy – is it really the definitive set of needs

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360 Feedback – Building on tradition


“The term 360° feedback comes from the analogy to a compass: A circle with 360 points of reference used to determine and monitor direction. 360° feedback provides performance data from multiple points of reference, not just one. Like a compass, it is a navigational tool that more accurately lets us know when we are on or off course. It can fill the gaps that invariably exist between how you see yourself and how others see you. Its’ purpose is, first, to gain deeper insight into how we, and others, see our performance and, second, to reinforce and accelerate the need for continuous development.”

David Lassiter
Performance and Instruction Journal


The traditional approach is to use 360 feedback to identify relative weaknesses and build a development plan that improves those weaknesses. This approach is still valid and useful. We need to be aware of our relative weaknesses and how we compare to others. The strategies to use this information can be two fold, improve (training, effort, practice, etc) or enable others to support you in these areas.3-30-2009-08-55-572

Your feedback and discussion should answer these questions:
1.    What are my strengths and weaknesses?
2.    What should I improve?
3.    How can I improve?
4.    What can I do to have others support me in my areas of weakness?


We have learned and adjusted practices over time using feedback surveys. What might be counter intuitive is to focus and build on your strengths. Like an athlete who needs to be aware and manage weaknesses, the opportunity for greatness is only found in your strengths. To be a great leader and a great business, we must be able to leverage our best attributes.3-30-2009-09-00-384

Applying this view, our development plans should answer two more questions:
1.    How can my strengths be used more often?
2.    How can the business benefit more from my strengths?

In conclusion

Two items should be addressed in a development plan:
•    How do I mitigate the negatives of my weaknesses and/or grow in these areas?
•    How do I exercise my strengths to enhance the performance of our team/organization?

“You will learn the most, grow the most, and develop the most in your areas of strength….Your strengths magnify you.”

Marcus Buckingham
Go Put Your Strengths to Work

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