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The Necessity Of Fools

February 21st, 2017 by Miki Saxon


Yesterday’s golden Oldie provided links to a variety of fools, most of which you can do without.

That said, there is one variety of fool that every company should have — and that is the wise fool, as described in King Lear.

Cloaked in the form of discourteous comments or unfiltered remarks, King Lear’s fool was able to express the thoughts that others were reluctant to express. Through the mask of comedy, he would remind the monarch of his own folly and humanity. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “every despot must have one disloyal subject to keep him sane.

Look around; does your company have at least one fool? Or, better yet, one fool in each department?

As Manfred Kets De Vries, the Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development & Organizational Change at INSEAD, points out.

All in all, fools are honest and loyal protectors, who allow society to reflect on and laugh at its own complex power relations. They can act as our “conscience” by helping us question our perceptions of wisdom and truth and their relationship to everyday experience. Through humor and frank communication, the “fool” and the “king” or “queen” engage in a form of deep play that deals with fundamental issues of human nature, such as control, rivalry, passivity, and action.

As such, fools contribute to group cohesion and an atmosphere of trust by providing an opportunity to humorously and critically review our values and judgments as the powerful socio-cultural structures of power pull, push, and shape our identity.

And, beyond all that, fools are a repository of wisdom — based on strong critical thinking coupled with extensive experience — which makes them excellent role models and a great source from which to learn.

Finally, whether a boss can hire, let alone keep, a fool is an accurate reflection of their MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and a good indicator of the prevailing culture.

Flickr image credit: Francesca Romana Correale

Golden Oldies: Flavors of Fools

February 20th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve written several posts over the years about fools (links below). I thought sharing previous thoughts was apropos, since tomorrow’s post is about the importance/value of fools to every organization.

Read other Golden Oldies here.


In the past we’ve looked at fools and money, fools and management and Shakespeare’s idea that one should never underestimate someonewise enough to play the fool.”

One fool thing I haven’t addressed is the idea of suffering them gladly, as in ‘he doesn’t suffer fools gladly’.

An op-ed piece defines the saying this way,

It suggests that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standards. It is used to describe a person who is so passionately committed to a vital cause that he doesn’t have time for social niceties toward those idiots who stand in its way. It is used to suggest a level of social courage; a person who has the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks.

(If you buy the validity of the idea behind this definition I have a great deal on an orange bridge you can buy for your backyard.)

It isn’t courage this person has, but rather a lack of empathy, an abundance of arrogance and absolutely no manners.

And make no mistake, even these days manners are important; in fact, more so than ever. As Edmund Burke said,

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.”

So before you part a fool and his money, give a fool a tool, or refuse to suffer a fool I suggest you look in the mirror, because one person’s genius is another person’s fool.

Flickr image credit: Chris Makarsky

If the Shoe Fits: Who Do You Ask?

February 17th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow many members of your team have been “bloodied in combat?”

How many have worked successfully through multiple economic (upturns/downturns) realities?

Who would you ask if you needed dynamic (question/discuss), as opposed to static (online postings), advice of “the been there/done that” variety to

  • land a candidate;
  • sell in a recession;
  • tweak/kill a marketing campaign;
  • beat the competition; or
  • Layoff a team member?

Don’t ask me; I’ve answered this question multiple times in varied forms.

Instead, ask millennial Tom Goodwin.

Maybe you’ll listen to him.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Can You Right A Sinking Ship?

February 16th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bertknot/8210386029/I read an article today about Warren Buffet. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, recently sold over $900 Million in Wal-Mart stock. Why you may ask?

Buffet believes the retailer is a sinking ship and retail as a whole is being completely disrupted. Now by all accounts Wal-Mart is still hugely successful. They sell more than Amazon, are profitable and growing.

Looking at these factors alone it would seem that there is nothing to be worried about, however a man much smarter than myself thinks otherwise. How can that be changed?

Now, this post is not about Wal-Mart per say but more on the retail experience as a whole. I can look throughout my house right now and say that a large majority of what I have purchased in the past few years has been from online.

I have twin girls and my family may singlehandedly keep Amazon in business by all the items we need on a day to day basis.

Recently Wal-Mart began a service in my area where you can pick out all of your groceries online and pay, then you just drive to your location and they load your car with the groceries. You never go in the store and you have everything you need at a great price!

I can tell you that the service would be extremely helpful to my family but I have never once considered it.

Why? Culture.

I am not a snob, in fact I prefer a good burger over whatever hot dish is on trend right now, however I have a hard time considering Wal-Mart or other similar retailers for most of my purchases.

The main reason, for me, is the culture of those locations.

I feel that retail employees are paid too low and not given opportunities for advancement. Is this true? Sometimes, but also it’s a perception thing. The culture would appear to be one of hardship.

On the other hand Amazon has commercials for drone delivery and cutting edge technology. Is the apple I get from Amazon any different than the one from Wal-Mart? Not one bit, but my perception is. I feel pleased that my money is being well spent with one while depriving from the other. 

Is retail a sinking ship? Maybe, but quite frankly I do not have enough information to support such an argument. However I can tell you that my emotions are directly connected to my perception of the culture at each company and that is what determines where my dollars go.

Culture is deeds, words and actions. It is the sprit that inhabits a person and an organization. It must be jealously guarded as it could quite possibly be the most valuable thing owned.

My personality is my culture.

The company I work for is an aggregate of all combined to make up a unifying culture.

Do I have an answer on how to fix the ship? I would think it starts with the leaders and then moves down. Perhaps it can also start with the individual? 

What fuels that person? What helps them determine right from wrong? Is there a right or wrong?

These are all questions that will determine an individual’s identity and ultimately help them determine their course in life.

Maybe it is time to right our own ship?

Image credit: bertknot

John Wooden On Stars

February 15th, 2017 by Miki Saxon and KG Charles-Harris


In spite of being severely overloaded, KG still finds time to send me stuff he finds interesting and/or inspirational.

Over the years, we’ve had many discussions about culture and its importance in hiring.

He recently mentioned a quote from basketball player and Coach John Wooden.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

KG: In any high performing organization, there are lots of systems and processes that make the organization successful.

When you look at people considered stars, they are almost never part of second or third rate teams; they are almost always in organizations performing at the highest levels.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t truly high performing people in lesser teams, it’s just that they are not defined as stars in general (sometimes they may be local stars, but generally don’t get the full recognition).

So a star, per definition, is a member of an organization that performs at the top.

Me: So true. I’d add that in most cases people become stars as a result of the culture and their manager, or so I’ve found.

KG: Exactly. Look at all the people who leave Goldman Sachs or Google who were stars there (e.g. Marissa Meyer) but are unable to maintain their level of performance outside the culture & systems of that environment.

That’s why it’s always dangerous to hire stars — more than anything else they are a product of their environment.

Me: Absolutely, and the poster child is GE’s Bob Nardelli!

(Click for more Wooden wisdom. For more information about stars and Nardelli use use the tags below.)

Image credit: Wikipedia

Ducks In A Row: Pros And Cons Of Omada Health

February 14th, 2017 by Miki Saxon


Companies are becoming more and more involved in their employees personal lives, especially health-wise.

That’s understandable, considering how fast costs keep rising.

Startup Omada is a good example of what’s new.

The company’s business model is unique, as it doesn’t just charge employers per customer, but it actually depends on the success of each individual to make money. Omada’s revenue is outcome based.

This means that client companies pay only when there are positive results and that’s a good thing.

Accomplishing it, however, can feel invasive.

Its flagship program, Prevent, is modeled around the National Institutes of Health study called the Diabetes Prevention Program and is designed to help participants modify their behavior and reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The client company contracts with third-party organizations to identify those most at risk for at risk of diabetes or heart disease and enrolls them for intensive personal counseling.

The digital scale that each user gets, which is connected wirelessly to their Omada account, does daily weigh-ins to track their weight loss, as that is a good indicator of blood sugar and the risk of diabetes. Omada then gets paid based on the percentage weight loss that user has seen.

However, weight is not always an accurate indicator. Based on my lifetime weight I should be diabetic, have high blood pressure and likely a heart condition.

But I don’t.

In fact, I am amazingly healthy, always have been, and require no medication, whereas 85% of people my age are taking at least one prescription drug.

While Omada’s process would work for many people it feels invasive to me and if I were an employee I’d want to opt out of it.

So the real question here is not the value of the program offered, but whether the employer forces people to do it and penalizes them if they refuse.

Image credit: Vator TV

Golden Oldies: Differences Worth Noting

February 13th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

During his time at GE, Jack Welch was lauded and crowned as a god of leadership and management— How times have changed. Welch’s success was dominantly a function of GE’s financial services and he created one of the harshest cultures around—which would have failed miserably with today’s workforce.

Immelt sold off the financial stuff, totally changed the culture from one of suspicion to one of trust,  dumped the forced rankings, just issued a directive that all new hires learn to code and has responded to the current worldwide protectionist mindset by moving from globalization to localization.

Immelt is a worthy role model.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

2185315789_e5d6af6e0d_mThere is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.

It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.

It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.

These are the differences between Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt.

Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not at the height of a bubble.

Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.

Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to wean off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.

The differences are worth noting.

Flickr image credit: laurita13

If the Shoe Fits: Cards Against Humanity’s Great Super Bowl Ad

February 10th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

If you don’t live in the Midwest you probably missed one of the best, not to mention apropos, super Bowl ads shown.

The ad was from Cards Against Humanity and they listed the reasons it failed on their blog.

  • We wasted time with establishment thinking.
  • Overconfidence in the model.
  • Bad luck.
  • Failure to trust our customers.
  • We were asking the wrong questions.
  • Our ad failed to connect with young people.
  • We were too early.
  • We didn’t add music.
  • We didn’t add music.

How many times have you heard founders say similar things?

Yup, it reads like a generic laundry list of the reasons “why startups fail.”

And they end the post with a fervent Valley paean to failure.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAt Cards Against Humanity, we believe that you can only become a master by trying and failing. In this way, failure is life’s greatest teacher; failure is actually success. At Cards Against Humanity, we fail all the time. We are veterans of failure. And constant failure, plus unlimited capital, is what led us to greatness.

Now you know why this post is called “if the shoe fits”…

Image credit: HikingArtist    
Video credit: Business Insider

Ryan’s Journal: Can Culture be Defined by One Person?

February 9th, 2017 by Ryan Pew


Have you ever been a member of a group or team that is flat out terrible? I have. I have been a member of that soccer team that never won a game, the work group that wasn’t succeeding.

Did I like it? Absolutely not. Did I learn from it? I think in some ways I did.

Have you ever seen that same team or group start to succeed with different leadership? In my case I have a very real world example of where this came to pass.

I had the pleasure of serving for five years in The United States Marine Corps. During this five year time the US was involved in several conflicts and I found myself deployed to Fallujah, Iraq.

During my deployment I served with a team of 12 other Marines, together we were known as a squad. Now this is the military, but a small group of people working together can be found within any type of organization. 

Our squad was led by a leader who, while a good guy, was not well equipped to lead a group of Marines into life or death situations.

This person had some leadership challenges that ultimately led to low morale, loss of confidence and an overall lack of guidance.

To be completely clear, the group sucked. We moped around, were not excited about our purpose and lacked vision.

After some time our higher leadership realized a change should be made and they moved our leader to a role better suited for his skill set.

I will tell you right now, that was a life changer.

We had a new leader come aboard that had the experience needed, was motivated and challenged us to be better then we were the day before.

Now overall the same 13 people were on the team, but the outcome was completely different.

We worked better as a group, shared responsibilities and were proud of our accomplishments.

I look back on this one example often when I think of how one person can shape a culture. 

Now, obviously the military has a top down culture when it comes to leadership, but it also embraces servant leadership.

In this scenario our new leader embraced servanthood. He made sure we were taken care of before his needs and that reflected in our outcome.

Have you been on a team that isn’t performing to its abilities? What is holding it back?

I had a conversation the other day with my CEO and he said something that stuck with me. He said, “leadership isn’t a title, its an action”.

Isn’t that true of culture too? You and I are the ones who will set the tone.

Do I always get it right? Absolutely not! I fail more times then I succeed. I tear down when I should build, allow emotions to dictate over data and more. At the end of the day my personal culture and that of my team is dictated by my thoughts and deeds, no one else.

Who determines yours?

Image credit: David Spinks

February 2017 Leadership Development Carnival

February 8th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

February 2017 Leadership Development Carnival

You can always tell it’s the start of a new month, because that’s when I share the newest Carnival with you. Sometimes just the link, but more often, like today, the entire post.

There’s lots of good stuff to help you grow, whether you are a positional leader or leader in the instance.

Also a good reference when you are faced with a difficult situation or just need intelligent information quickly.

So, without further ado…

leadership-carnival-5-300x134Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provided How to Say No Graciously. Beth recaps, “Beth Beutler refreshes us on an important leadership skill—saying ‘no’ with grace.” Find Beth on Twitter at @bethbeutler.

Chris Edmonds of the Purposeful Culture Group contributed Culture Leadership Charge: Make Values as Important as Results. In this post, Chris charges leaders to elevate values to the same level of importance as performance results. Follow Chris on Twitter at @scedmonds.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership provided 6 Essential Characteristics for Leading Simplification. Dan recaps, “This guest post by Lisa Bodell explores the concept of “simplification” and the leadership characteristics required to succeed.” Find Dan on Twitter at @greatleadership.

Dana Theus of InPower Coaching contributed 5 Leadership Lessons From The Worst Bosses I’ve Ever Had. Dana writes, “I’ve had some pretty terrible bosses. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only did I learn a ton, but I began to claim my personal power by deciding I was done with being treated that way.” Find Dana on Twitter at @DanaTheus.

David Dye of Trailblaze submitted 9 Ways to Motivate Employees When You Don’t Set the Goals. David summarizes, “Whether you are a team leader, a mid-manager, or even the President, CEO, or Executive Director there will be times in your career where you are asked to meet goals that you did not speak into or, in some cases, even disagree with. David shares how you and your team can still thrive in these situations.” Follow David on Twitter at @davidmdye.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group shared What Great Teams are Made Of (It’s Not What You Might Expect). David writes, “Google was fascinated by the question of what makes for an effective work team, and recently studied hundreds of its own teams to determine why some performed better than others. They thought the answer would be the obvious – teams made up of the best and brightest people – but it wasn’t. The answer may surprise you…” Discover David on Twitter at @thoughtpartner

Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center shared Do team values unite your team or divide it?. Jesse Lyn recaps, “ Identifying team values are a great way to create team cohesion. But if it’s not done right, it can actually create discord, as this short story shows. This article also includes 6 questions to ensure your team values unite your team and create a foundation of trust.” Follow Jesse Lyn on Twitter at @JesseLynStoner.

Jill Malleck of Epiphany at Work contributed Build Your Self-Confidence as an Anchor During Change. Jill shares, “Good leaders understand that self-confidence helps employees be more productive, but they can ignore their own confidence and its importance to personal development. Here are some easy tips to ensure you don’t get discouraged.” Find Jill on Twitter at @epiphanyatwork.

Jim Taggart of Changing Winds provided Be Open to Outcome: The Leaderly Approach. Jim shares, “I chose this particular post because it’s about personal leadership and ordinary people stepping up to do good for society with no expectation of any form of remuneration. The setting happens to be the United States for my post, from the perspective of a Canadian. Given all the negativity in the media, we need to reflect on the good acts that people do each and every day.” Find Jim on Twitter at @72keys.

Jim Thomas of Development Dimensions International (DDI) shared The Dirty Little Secret About Expat Failure. Jim wrote, “An expat assignment can be a growth opportunity and a great adventure. But is it a smart career choice? In this post, I discuss the ways expat assignments can go wrong, and how many organizations don’t even bother to measure the ROI in their employee mobility programs.” Find Jim at @ddiworld.

Joel Garfinkle of the Career Advancement Blog submitted Don’t Let Your Work Speak For Itself: 3 Ways to Increase Your Visibility. Joel recaps: “Don’t just let your work speak for itself. It’s time you actively increased your visibility. Here are 3 ways to make that happen.” Discover Joel on Twitter at @JoelGarfinkle.

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shared Cater to Customers’ Desires to Achieve Customer Delight. John summarizes, “Customer delight requires understanding your customers needs and desires. Often even your customers don’t understand these well. Businesses that have a deep appreciation for what their customers, and potential customers, desire and that create systems to deliver solutions that delight those customers benefit greatly from that effort.” Find John on Twitter at @curiouscat_com.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference contributed Less Talk, More Action: Where Do You Fall?. Jon asks, “What have you done lately to lend a hand and lead change? We cannot afford just small talk or empty talking heads. We need more doing. It’s time to act upon the change we wish to see.” Follow Jon on Twitter at @thindifference.

Julie Winkle-Giulioni of Julie Winkle-Giulioni provided Want to Institutionalize Career Development? Look for (or Cultivate) these Cultural Markers Julie recaps, “Does your organization have the cultural markers that enable authentic, sustainable career development? Julie’s article and the assessment it contains helps you answer this question.” Find Julie on Twitter at @julie_wg.

Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders contributed Stop this Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have. In the post, Karin points out a terrible habit many leaders have—and why you should stop it right away if you have it too. Follow Karin on Twitter at @letsgrowleaders.

Marcella Bremer of Leadership and Change Magazine provided How Can You Develop Your Personal Positive Power at Work?. Marcella recaps, “How can you develop your personal positive power at work? There are four levels to work on, starting with yourself: ME. Here’s the overview of the book that I am blogging! I hope you like it – in this era, we need as many positive agents as possible to make change happen.” Find Marcella on Twitter at @marcellabremer.

Mary Ila Ward of Horizon Point Consulting contributed Are Your Goals Comfortable, Delusional or Somewhere in Between?. She recaps, “Throughout January, Mary Ila has been talking about methods for goal setting to set us all up for a successful 2017. In this post Mary Ila looks at how we should step outside our goal comfort zones to achieve peak performance in 2017. ” Discover Mary Ila on Twitter at @maryilaward.

Michael Lee Stallard of Connection Culture provided What Disengaged Employees Would Say to the Boss (If They Could Be Honest). Michael recaps, “What if you could hear the honest truth about things disengaged employees wish you would do? Michael Stallard shares 6 ways that leaders can boost employee engagement.” Find Michael on Twitter at @michaelstallard.

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success contributed 3 Steps to Being a Great Boss. Miki writes, “Being a great boss has a lot to do with being a great worker, then fulfilling your own desires after you are promoted.” Discover Miki on Twitter at @optionsanity.

Neal Burgis of Burgis Successful Solutions submitted Being an Inspired Leader. Neal recaps, “Inspired leaders know how to their employees well enough to inspire them to create and produce great work. Employees who are inspired by leaders contribute significantly than those who are not inspired.” Find Neal on Twitter at @exec_solutions.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader contributed 5 Reasons To Keep Recruiting When Fully Staffed. Paul summarizes, “If you have a full complement of people on your team, you may want to see the wisdom in staying in recruiting mode. The reasons may surprise you, but the benefits are tremendous.” Follow Paul on Twitter at @paul_larue.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen submitted The Gift of the Present Moment: A Book Excerpt. Paula summarizes, “In this excerpt from The Five Thieves of Leadership by John Izzo, leaders are encouraged to learn how to center themselves in the present moment and, by doing so, to deter the happiness thief of control.” Follow Paula on Twitter at @biggreenpen.

Randy Conley of Leading With Trust shared The Strategy Every Leader Can Use to Develop High-Performing Employees. Randy writes, “The performance of your employees is a reflection of your leadership. What does your team’s performance say about you? Randy shares new research from The Ken Blanchard Companies that points to the strategy any leader can use to develop high-performing employees.” Find Randy on Twitter at @randyconley.

Robyn McLeod of Chatsworth Consulting shared Slow It Down and Keep It Real. In this post, Robyn shares why being thoughtful, being present, focusing on the quality of our interactions not the quantity, and spending face-to-face time with others, helps us to slow down and put our relationships back in the center of our communications. Find Robyn at @ThoughtfulLdrs.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row submitted The Number One Way to Show Respect at Work. In this piece, Shelley reminds us of “a simple, but often neglected way to show respect to one another at work.”  Discover Shelley on Twitter at @shelleyrow.

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership provided 5 Ideas to Help You Cultivate Leadership. Susan explains, “The ultimate sign of an effective leader is that they are cultivating leadership in others. Sometimes this happens naturally. Yet, more often than not, if you want to cultivate leadership, you need to be intentional.” Follow Susan on Twitter at @susanmazza.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer submitted How Would You Answer This Question About Your Leadership? . Tanveer explains this piece shares, “A question every leader should be asking themselves in order to figure out how successful their leadership will ultimately be.” Discover Tanveer on Twitter at @tanveernaseer.

Thom Pirone of Stronghold Training shared Thoughts on the Death of a Leader. In this memorial post to a revered mentor, Thom reflects on the three marks of a genuine leader, including how the impact they leave will be personal and profound. Follow Thom on Twitter at @strongholdthom.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership submitted 3 Ways Excellent Leaders Keep Getting Better. Wally recaps, “Great leaders keep getting better. Here are three ways.” Find Wally on Twitter at @wallybock.

Willy Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts provided 8 “Whats” to Engage and Mentor. Willy explains, “Key challenges for leaders to retain the best talent are to keep their staff engaged with the enterprise and to provide effective mentoring to help them grow and develop.  This post suggest 8 key “WHAT…” questions to support your staff in each area. Discover Willy on Twitter at @coachforexecs.

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