In Thanksgiving

As we enter the Season of Thanksgiving, we are heartened by this annual tradition.  The rituals of life, nature and those that exist in culture can seem simple and mundane.  Yet, following these sacred redundancies often add meaning and significance to such special traditions. 

It is the intentional and collective energy of all, each doing the ordinary again and again that creates lasting memories - shopping, tidying, making, baking, caroling, praying/meditating, and giving.

Thank you for the opportunity to share in the rituals and seasons of  work and service.   

May you and your family enjoy peace, health and happiness this Thanksgiving season and in the year ahead.

Posted on November 22, 2018 .

Seasonal Message

As we immerse ourselves in the season of thanksgiving and all that is merry, we relish the beauty and splendor that abounds.  Together with family, friends and colleagues, we share in this collective joy.  

Each year brings a new set of experiences, yet what remains constant is my appreciation for your trust.  It is such a delight working with all of you.   

May you fully experience the goodness and light of the Season.

Posted on December 3, 2017 .

Leadership is Still an Art

Every once in a while, we come across a book that has a simple, powerful message that stands the test of time.  I first read, Leadership is an Art shortly after it came out in the late 1980s.  Max DePree served as CEO for Herman Miller, Inc., the office furniture company founded by his Dad.

Max DePree felt strongly that our beliefs shape practice and behavior.  He wisely noticed the uncanny relationship, and perhaps causal relationship of beliefs affect on corporate culture, character, relationships and business systems, success, and results.

I have probably read and reread this book a few times since 1989.  I did so again last week.  “You can read this book quickly, but I hope you cannot finish this book quickly,’ Mr. DePree penned.  And, I would say that I am grateful to him for such wisdom.  Mr. DePree encourages the reader and leader to put into practice the ideas set forth.  He gives concrete examples of leadership as an art throughout the book.     

Over the years, his wisdom has served as an inspiration to me as I made leadership and business decisions.  Mr. DePree is a master of asking the right questions.  I have incorporated many of his thoughts on performance reviews of leaders with only slight modification to fit the appropriate situation.

The thoughtful leader cannot help but ponder how his/her own leadership might be improved by reading or rereading Leadership is an Art.  Starting a new year is a great time to revisit one’s leadership style – what works and how to be a better person and leader.  

Posted on January 2, 2017 .

In Thanksgiving

Amidst such spectacle of light and hues, the Fall breeze whispers a reminder of the approaching season of peace and thanksgiving.   Our senses heighten as our awareness of nature’s physical beauty aligns with the spiritual.  

We stop and reflect upon this balance, and recognize the awesome responsibility to be stewards of our many gifts, treasures and blessings.

Let us appreciate the brightness we bring to each other and those we serve.

May you and your loved ones experience peace, hope and tremendous joy this season and the seasons ahead.

 

Posted on November 24, 2016 .

The Interim Leader

Placing an “interim” label on an executive can result in an extremely unsettled atmosphere within an organization.  Employees seek direction but might not know who to ask for guidance.   They might become uncomfortable with making important decisions.  This sense of uncertainty can extend to stakeholders and shareholders as well.  All interested parties want to know that “the ship is heading in the right direction,” and that it has a captain.  That said, the “interim” option is sometimes the best short-term solution. 

When there is a sudden departure or loss of an executive or C-suite leader, the prepared organization executes its succession plan to address the gap.  It might miss a beat, yet it moves confidently toward its intended direction and goals.

For companies without a succession plan, or with a plan that is outdated or hastily crafted, the management team and/or Board must move deftly and swiftly to put the proper person, and sometimes structure in place.

Naming a leader/manager on an interim basis presents the Board or management team some options:

a)       It is an opportunity to evaluate the newly-named executive’s performance in the new role.  If the position reports to the Board, the Board can assess the relations with the Board as well as with colleagues.  Does this leader instill a sense of confidence moving forward?

 If all goes well, the interim title can be removed, and the executive can take comfort in being named the qualified successor to the previous job-holder.

 b)       It is a temporary, stop-gap measure that permits the organization leadership to openly or quietly find a replacement for the Interim.

In professional sports, those designated as “interim” are much less likely to later be named coach or manager of that same organization.   Looking at the track record and life of a head coach, one might wonder why more opportunities are not offered to the interim.  Yet, fan (stakeholder) sentiment is arguably an important consideration in such a decision.

c)       The Board or management team simply needs time to pick itself up and evaluate, not necessarily the acting individual, but the whole business – strategic and operating plans, organization structure, market opportunities and risks, financial picture, customer relations, and changes in the industry.

Or, the company might need time to get through a difficult period.  And, it is not an ideal time to make too many changes right away.

Sometimes, a succession plan will name a person as an Interim to pursue any one of the above-listed options.  What are some things a Board or management team can consider when naming an Interim?  Here are some considerations:

  1. Character and integrity
  2. Knowledge of the business and industry
  3. Commitment to existing strategic and operating plans
  4. Leadership and/or management skills
  5. Respect of internal colleagues
  6. Respect of the Board
  7. Track record
  8. Ability to navigate change and uncertainty
  9. Name recognition and visibility with outside stakeholders
  10. Presence in the community at-large.

Given human nature what it is, with most people not feeling comfortable with uncertainty, it is vital that the Interim provide stakeholders with a sense of calm and confidence that the business is on track.  If not, the leadership team will want to pursue an accelerated, albeit thorough search for a qualified successor.

Recently, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and United Continental Holdings named interim leaders while the organizations’ regular leaders convalesce due to illness. 

Getting the decision for an interim is difficult… and making the right hire for a full-time replacement can be doubly difficult.  These weighty decisions are perhaps the most important decisions the Board will make affecting all stakeholders – both short and long term.

    

Posted on January 30, 2016 .

Stand For A Cause

Perhaps you feel that these are perilous times.  Yet, our grandparents and ancestors faced many hardships - some despicable.  As I ponder this, I cannot help but think how many voices were squelched or demonized for speaking the truth.  History is replete with examples of such.

I still believe there are good people who seek to do what is right, simply because it is right and they have no other motive than to live honorably, selflessly and lovingly.

Posted on December 15, 2015 .

A Mentor Remembered

Sometimes, a person we barely know influences us in ways unimaginable.  Whether through counsel, encouragement, praise, or even chiding.

Recently, John Szymczak passed.  Nearly twenty years ago, I was at a crossroads in my career.  Deciding whether to continue working in senior corporate human resources management or start an organization development firm, I sought the counsel of Mr. Szymczak.

John was well known in Western New York and beyond as a career transition specialist.  He had helped thousands of men and women of all ages and backgrounds search for employment and/or find their niche.  He was an executive coach before the profession became in vogue.  

When I voiced my interest in starting a business, John listened attentively.  He deftly challenged my idea without killing my dream.  Then, he offered a simple prescription,  “If you are serious about this, share your business idea with 35 people.  Do not try to sell them.  Ask them what they think about your idea.  And then, and only then, after you analyze and digest the information will you consider whether to start your business.”

John Szymczak had a knack for “cutting to the chase.”  This was exceptionally valuable when dealing with results-oriented professionals and executives.  I sure did not need the message and advice sugar-coated in anyway.  John knew the risks associated with starting a business.   He had the wisdom to not predict what level of success I would have in my business. Perhaps, he knew that a bit of uncertainty was the challenge I needed.

Twenty years later, I am glad I listened to John Szymczak, the career professional I barely knew.   May his memory be eternal.

 

Posted on November 5, 2015 .

A Time For Giving

When reading the newspaper recently, I was reminded why I rarely read my horoscope.  The advice provided, “Don’t feel obligated to help someone out who has nothing to offer in return.”   Perhaps, the star gazer doubling as an advice columnist got the first part right.  We should never feel obligated to give.  Giving is personal, and hopefully connects with one’s purpose, cause and values.   And, as the apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity.”

But, it is the second part of the horoscope that proffers ill-advice.  Imagine what our community would look like if people gave only to those who could give something in return.   How about the homeless or poor who benefit from the local food pantries?  How can they repay us?  Or, the elderly neighbor who needs help with buying groceries?  Why then is the word, “neighborly” in the dictionary?   

Thankfully, there are non-profit organizations that help people with all sorts of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health needs.  Surely, the leaders, workers and the ones helped by such organizations appreciate selfless givers who offer their time, talent and treasure with no expectation or even a thought of return.

At this sacred time of the year, we look within ourselves, and then willingly and cheerfully reach out to others.  Enjoy this time for giving. 

Posted on December 13, 2014 .

Big Picture Emerges When Succession Plan is Tested

Dealing with Sudden Loss of Key Talent

Leaders and managers face perhaps their greatest test of their succession plan upon the sudden loss or departure of a key contributor.   As a leader, you will be presented with both opportunities to shine and stumble. 

 Answers are important.  Yet, asking the right questions might be just as necessary and important.

  • How well did the succession plan address this loss? 
  • Were you able to run the operation or service adequately in the short-term until you were able to fully implement the particular plan? 
  • Did circumstances change that were not earlier addressed, which necessitate a new direction? 
  • Might you consider combining or changing functions and/or responsibilities? 
  • Can you fill from within, or do you need to look outside? 
  • Will you keep an open mind to various possibilities?     

How do you respond in the midst of loss and possible confusion?  

In the event of the death of a fellow team member, colleagues will need time to mourn.  Call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and arrange to have counselors and/or pastoral counselors available.  Memorialize the person in appropriate and meaningful ways.   

What words should be used to describe the process of filling the vacancy?   It is better to say, we are seeking a “successor” rather than a “replacement.”  You will never be able to fully “replace” another human being.  Fellow team members will remember the talents and unique approaches, style, personality and most of all, spirit that the departed brought to the job.  This cannot be replaced.  

What if the opening is created by the sudden resignation of a key team member?  How do others in leadership respond?  Do some treat the one leaving as a traitor?  Even if feelings are hurt, leaders have an opportunity to handle the departure professionally.  One never knows when the arc of life presents an opportunity to mutually benefit from a positive exchange in the future.  At the very least, you will know that you wished someone well with dignity.

Posted on August 12, 2014 .

True Leadership

Recently, a national leadership publishing house conducted a promotional campaign with a sales letter that boldly proclaimed in its header, “It’s Not Enough to Have Everything You Need. How Can You Get Everything You Want?”  

Posted on May 28, 2013 .