PBP people talk about leadership

leadership1I played sports all my life. Most recently at Franklin & Marshall College, I was a coxswain on the varsity rowing team.

As a PBP Intern, transition from school life to professional work, those experiences got me thinking about leadership, what it takes to succeed, and how leaders can impact success.

So I walked the halls of PBP one day, asking this question to a few people: “What does it take to be a leader?”

Here’s what I learned.

Nicole Riegel, Executive EducationA leader needs to build credibility and trust with his/her team so that the team will become followers for his/her vision.  Due to credibility and trust the team is willing to take some risks and the leader is allowed a few mistakes. A leader should maximizes people’s strengths for the greater good.

Curt Brown, Editorial: A good leader needs to have a clear vision who leads by example rather than by dictating others.

Jess White, Editorial: True leaders motivate and inspire others to do their best work. They listen to everyone’s ideas, and they’re open to trying different suggestions to improve things for the group as a whole. 

Cheryl Jordan, Product Marketing: A good leader needs to be a good listener who pays attention to people’s individual needs.

Dannie Evans, PBPMedia: You yourself as a leader need passion. Saturate yourself in it, and let it drip onto your employees. Have that passion translate into something everyone can take on as their own.

Ed Satell, Founder & CEO: Don’t be cynical. Focus on the positive by maximizing the values in yourself and others. It takes time to be a leader — you need to be a follower first. Ego is a good thing, but don’t let it shadow the wants and needs of others. You have to be able to take the rotten tomatoes when people throw them. But most of all: Be authentic. At the same time, accept the superficiality in people, it can be a good thing, but know when to focus on the real. Make an environment to address real thoughts.

This technique belongs on every leader’s must-do list

Adapted from Safety Compliance Alert.

If you read any list of ideas for motivating employees, one of the best tips will be to consistently encourage people to voice their concerns. (And if that technique is not on your list, pencil it in right now!)

Getting people to speak up about work issues is essential to making them feel they are a valued part of the team, a part of the effort — and ultimately a part of the success.

There are scores of reasons why employees don’t offer up their concerns – from a fear of retaliation to a hesitation to appear ungrateful.

Thankfully, there is a proven, two-step process managers can use to assuage employee fears and get them engaged. The first step is to actively ask for input. The second is to give people feedback about how their concerns were handled.

Both steps are critical – like a two-step tango — otherwise someone’s going to fall flat on their face.

Here’s an example of how it works, as  told Capt. Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger during his keynote address to National Safety Council’s 2012 congress.

After finishing a flight to Minneapolis, a ground crew member came to him to report oil dripping from under the plane, which might indicate a problem.

Sullenberger alerted maintenance, and it turned out to be an over-filled oil reservoir. Not a big problem.

Still, Sullenberger made a point to search out the ground crew worker and follow up with him on the results of the maintenance check.

But the hero-pilot didn’t stop there: He also thanked the worker and encouraged him to do the same thing again if he ever saw a potential problem — even though there wasn’t one in this instance.

It is a lesson managers should make part and parcel of their daily routines, and especially when it involves worker safety: Let people know you want to hear about their concerns. Let them know what came of their input.

And no matter the result, thank them and encourage them never to hesitate to do it again.




Double down on employee strengths — and everybody wins

Adapted from What’s New in Benefits & Compensation

If you’ve hired well, then you probably have a lot of employees who are eager to expand their on-the-job skills. Good employees always want to learn more and do more. It’s the quality that made them good in the first place.

So, if your suggestion box is jammed with requests from people wanting more training opportunities, don’t keep them waiting. Cross-training is the ideal way to double your staffing strength without ever having to hire anyone.

The key is to do the training without compromising other pressing needs.

Select a core group

Step one is to identify those people who want to be cross-trained.

Use email, newsletter or other communication channels to let it be known that cross-training opportunities are being developed. Once you get a reliable list of people wanting training, sit them down to make sure they have your best interests in mind, as well as their own.

The win-win is to find out which skills people are most interested in and how those skills can be used to support the organization.

It also helps to identify what people are most passion about, and who are best positioned to take advantage of the training.

Just remember, some people might want to jump ship once they’ve mastered a new skill. Teach a busboy to be a waiter, and you’ll soon need a new busboy.

Build an efficient system

Finding the most efficient way to train people is key to success. The obvious route is to have people work alongside those who already have the skills the employees in the cross-training program are trying to attain.

But that creates another challenge: Who will do the jobs of the employees being cross-trained?

There’s no simple solution, so be sure to spread out the training so it doesn’t put undue stress on any one department. A good rule of thumb in the beginning is that an employee can engage in cross-training only when someone can be found to sub on the regular duties.

Sit back and enjoy the results

Employees who learn new skills and put them to good use are invaluable, two for the price of one. Cross-trained employees are essential because they can fill in for others with little or no notice.

And that’s a real benefit for the bottom line.

Managing differences — and creating cohesion

Adapted from Injury Prevention & Cost Control Alert.

The workplace has never been so diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity and culture, and that means mangers and executives are more challenged than ever to embrace this growing diversity – and still get results.

Overcoming language barriers is the first obvious challenge, but that’s only the beginning. It’s important to recognize the expanse of cultural differences, too, and how those differences impact work.

For instance, different cultures can have very different approaches to essential workplace issues like time management, respect for authority, teamwork, responsibility and even safety.

Different cultures also have conflicting interpretations of transparency, openness and ethics. Some are more reluctant to communicate, or to give and receive feedback. Obviously when customers, clients or co-workers operate on differing belief systems with conflicting attitudes, it creates barriers to success.

These barriers need to be addressed before an organization can run efficiently.  That responsibility falls to leadership to ensure that every worker feels valued—and that people’s needs are being address.

Here are two real-life examples as it relates to workplace safety.

Fatalism, the idea that events are inevitable and can’t be influenced by human action, is common in some Latin American cultures. This mindset presents a challenge for managers trying to promote safe work habits among Hispanic workers who think they’re pre-destined to get hurt – or not – regardless of their habits.

Other safety managers report some Asians are less likely to speak up about hazards because of cultural upbringings that suggest only troublemakers do that.

To begin addressing this issue:

  • Provide mentors cross culturally. This will help senior leadership relate to and understand people of other cultures as well as provide them with an experienced guide. Simply assigning a mentor is not enough; the mentoring relationship must be active. Senior leaders are not always comfortable with mentoring and may lack mentoring skills and motivation. Provide training to both mentors and mentees and institute a regular process for monitoring their progress.
  • Hold leadership accountable for harnessing diversity and creating cultural awareness. In the world of organizations, what gets measured gets done. Build these systems into a performance metric and regularly review the results.
  • Keep communication ongoing. Managers must be willing to continually intervene and follow up to reinforce positive actions and behaviors.


On Leading: Keep productivity up when staffing is down

Adapted from What's Working in Credit & Collection.

If you had everything you wanted, you'd have twice as many people and everyone would agree with you all the time, right?


But most managers are scrambling to make do with fewer hands on deck, and working hard to communicate their own ideas.  So whether you’re a department of one, five or 50, you can boost productivity – and support – by following this advice.

Managing time effectively
It's basic, but it's proven. One of the trickiest parts of doing more is developing – and sticking to – a good plan.
  • Make a list, but be prepared for last-minute changes. No matter how detailed the plan,  something could crop up. Whatever the priority, always strive to build some flexibility into the day.
  • Meet with other departments  first thing in the morning. Remember, everybody is their own No. 1 priority, so let them know if they want to get stuff done, the should  see your early in the day
Partner with your in-house adversaries
 At the end of the day, you're all in it together no matter how competitive you may be with other departments head to head.  Don't overlook the bigger goal:
  • Keep people  informed on all major goings, especially new projects or staff changes.  Others will be more likely to keep you in the loop if you already make this a habit. Try sending regular reports and start expecting them in return.
  • Ask for help or insights when you’re  experiencing a particularly difficult challenge, or maybe getting mixed messages from on high. You might be surprised how willing you in-house adversaries are to help in these kinds of situations.
Know your customer

This is the most critical to business success – understanding who your customers are and how the are doing.

When you  know what’s going on with your customer and your industry, you’ll be able to spot red flags and the trends much sooner – and ultimately spend less time and money chasing after business that isn't there.

It always pays to:
  • Makes visits. You can't say enough about the value of visiting customers.  Take advantage of opportunities to build relationships and of course, to look for signs of trouble. Try to offer your own expertise and find out if customers are having any problems you can help with.
  • Stay involved with industry or trade groups. This can be the best source of info about the customers you depend on most.

Spot the gold-medal members of your organization

Adapted from CFO & Controller Alert.

There were plenty of examples of excellence during the Olympic games in London this summer.

Which has to make you wonder: Are certain people simply wired for that level of extraordinary achievement?

Turns out they just might be – and perhaps some of your own staff have similar potential.

A recent study of all 114 British Olympic gold medalists in history uncovered these four common traits:

  • intelligent
  • driven
  • single-minded, and
  • admittedly even bit a selfish.

Sound like a few top-performing members of your team fit that profile? Not so fast – there’s one other trait that just may be most important of all.

Don’t overlook humility

In analyzing interviews and footage of these champions, one other characteristic rose to the top: Above all, the gold medalists were humble.

There was a lack of arrogance across the board that even surprised researchers considering how much these people achieved.

That’s insight worth applying to your own team.

In business, we often accept the super-egos that come with the star performers. But look a little deeper at your more quiet leaders – those may be your true gold-medal winners who can take your department to new heights.