Leadership Observations

Buy-in to get Sold Out

Buy-in dominates today’s leadership behavior. Leaders are convinced that if only the masses would buy-in all would be well. We see it in business and politics, especially around election time. I participated in a three-year quest for buy-in in a previous job. The vision was a thriving company composed of employees who bought into the corporate leadership strategy and worked together to achieve lofty goals. During this buy-in quest, we had numerous off-sites, filled with strategy development, change initiatives, and leadership behavior analysis. Leaders executed communication plans to reach every employee to get them to believe in the vision of the thriving company. Yet during this time, the company cut benefits, darkened offices, and significantly reduced staff. Morale was low and many employees were not buying into the new vision. The corporate communication intensified and based on the cost savings from the activities mentioned above, the company financial wellbeing began to improve. Corporate leadership heralded this as a new beginning and proof that buy-in worked. I understand from reading many leadership books that getting employees to believe in a common vision is the key to creating the potential for a high performance company. Yet in this instance, the buy-in seems to be one way. Company leadership expected employees to buy-into the corporate vision but the company leadership does not buy-into the employees, it actually cut benefits and staff. Our political leaders and candidates are promoting a buy-into their vision of government strategy as well but all the while, they continue fail to buy-into the people. How do we convince leaders to buy-into the people they lead?


Just Be Cool

A very well written article on how anger can escalate. Anger can be positive but also destructive. The decision on how to respond to anger or which way to use it, happens with little thought. Just like I did this morning after being cut off by a driver who was paying more attention to his cell phone than the road. I instantly raced up to him after cussing and tailgated. I realized what I was doing after getting on his bumper and seeing his kids in the back seat. How can we create the distance to pull the decision out of our subconscious and arrest the emotional cycle to gain control over the situation? Better yet how can we see the indicators and avoid the engagement altogether?


Exercising Good Judgment

Great dialogue. We as humans, have to make judgements to survive and prosper. It is the way in which we go about judging or assessing that creates a positive or negative outcome.

Leading Essentially

I wrote a post a couple of weeks back (The Cost Of Being Judgmental) that was in essence about how being “judgmental” interferes with our ability to learn and discover.  In that post, a blogging colleague that I respect a lot (Diana Schwenk at talktodiana) made a very astute comment that really got me thinking about “good judgment” and “bad judgment”.

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Empathy, Leadership Observations, Servant Leadership

My Leadership Journey Began in Summer School

I started my leadership journey in summer school and to be honest I hated it. I could not believe that my mom sent me to summer school, not just any summer school, but a residential program where I had to take classes and work. As bleak as it seemed at the time, I was able to overcome my anger and disappointment of missing out hanging with my friends all summer and began to enjoy the program. However, it was not until after college that I realized that my foundational leadership skills came from spending four years in a summer school program.

The US Department of Education has a program for low-income families to help prepare their kids for college called Upward Bound. I stayed on a college campus for the summer living in the dorms, eating in the dining halls, attending classes in math, science, composition, literature and a foreign language. I had a job off campus twice a week and we all pitched in to clean and maintain the dorm area. We had workshops in study skills, team building, critical thinking, and exam prep.

The counselors provided a safe environment for us to test out limits, change the way we thought about life and our future, and develop positive behaviors. My classmates were great. We became a community helping each other face and address some very difficult problems. We all took turns leading and following. At the end of my last year, my counselors selected me to attend a national leadership conference in Boston. It was incredible. I also received a leadership scholarship for college.

Given all of this experience, I still did not understand its impact. I finally realized how Upward Bound prepared me for leadership roles while attending Army Officer Basic Course after college. Upward Bound gave me my leadership beginnings. The program helped me develop my empathy, teambuilding and conflict management skills, and my desire to become a servant leader. I encourage all parents of teenage kids to look at this program. Your kids will hate it, but the return on investment compounds for a lifetime.

Here is the link: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/trioupbound/index.html


Challenging the Status Quo

This is a great article, especially the part about opportunity. All we are entitled to is an opportunity; opportunities to grow, learn, and achieve. Make the most of your opportunities and leave the status quo behind.


“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.” —Bob Iger

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Status Quo

As Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” What is sufficient for success today will not be sufficient tomorrow. You must learn to be agile. Evaluate where you are today and where you want to go. Will continuing on your current route get you there? If you are seeking long-term success you must constantly challenge the status quo.

What is your mission?

Your purpose should provide a clear mission. Who needs you? What do they need and why? What must you do to meet those needs? When you have a reasoned mission, you have a clear picture of where you are going and how you will behave on your journey. This clarity allows you to remain calm during times of adversity. It helps you…

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Fear, Leadership Observations, Leading change

Leading Yourself Through Change

Change – it is much easier to talk about than to go through. You recognize the need for it. You create a plan. Then, just when you are ready to execute, it happens. Annoying emotions creep in and fill you with doubt, anxiety, and fear. You begin the doom-loop, ruminating about the risks of failure and second-guessing everything. You let your emotions loose and now how can you get them back under control? This is where I was this week; stuck again in the struggle. Out of a job for two months, and while I applied to over 25 jobs, I received no hits. My skills and experience are not in demand in this area. I moved here for family reasons and lost my job eight months later. I thought I would, as I had previously, change jobs with ease. My perceptions and reality were out of alignment. Facing this realization, I panicked. After more than 20 years of continuous employment and upward mobility, I am now seen not as an asset to a company but too expensive to hire. I reduce my salary expectations and still no luck. It appears companies see me as a flight risk, and will not even interview me because they believe that if a job with a higher salary comes along, I would bolt. Panic leads to paralysis. Leading others through change, I can harness my emotions and guide people through even when they are stuck. Leading me through change is much harder.   Pride was cementing me in place. To break loose I had to accept that I needed help. By setting aside my pride, I was able to reduce my anxiety. Now with the help of those I trust I can reassess where I am and create a new professional identity.   I rejoice the fact that I can move again, but why does reinventing my professional identity seem much harder now that it did 20 years ago?

Empowerment, Leadership Observations

Empowering the Right People

I had a great opportunity to observe organizational behavior and communication at a political fund raising dinner. This was my first fund raising dinner and my expectation was a good dinner with speakers discussing the major issues facing the party, State and County. I also expected to hear how the candidates for the upcoming mid-term elections were going to tackle these issues. The evening partially met some of my expectations. The food was good, the speakers focused on party values and state-level issues. They also discussed issues with the Federal Government but did not discuss County or local-level issues. The event leaders introduced local candidates but did not have them speak. There was definitely a pecking order. Federal and State officials were at the top followed closely by the large donors, then the local officials and the rest of the donors. The order was evident in how the leaders selected topics, speakers, and who sat at specific tables throughout the room. Symbolism also played a role on reinforcing the order of things such as bigger and fancier nametags, pins, and party marketing collateral for the Federal and State folks. It appeared that the event leader’s goals were to showcase the political power of the Federal and State officials and reward large donors, and to improve the engagement and empowerment of local leaders, operatives, and donors. The event leaders succeeded in the first goal but failed in the last. It seemed to me that if you wanted to increase local turnout at elections and to grow the ranks, then more attention to those that would be instrumental in achieving these goals maybe a better course of action. As leaders, how would you have designed this dinner if your goals included improving local engagement?

Empathy, Fear, Leadership Observations

How to Kill a Workplace Vampire

This is an interesting vignette on how to deal with the emotional effects that negativity creates in the workplace. Bedsides ridding ourselves of these workplace vampires, or at least the effects their feelings have on us, we should try to determine why they behave in a negative manner. An interesting thought in this article suggests that workplace vampires purposefully try to infect others. Why is that? Have these individuals been attempting to communicate but were unheard and therefore they resort to negativity to finally get a reaction? We all have bad days and we want to vent to others to help us get out of the bad mood. Why are workplace vampires in seemingly perpetual bad moods? Do they have no one to vent their frustrations? Do they lack productive communication skills? Are they fearful or anxious of change? Do they lack resilience? Alternatively, are we unwilling to listen? Before you splash on the holy water or open the curtains on the vampire, maybe we should stop and try a bit of empathy and listen.

Leading change

How Are You Managing Change?

Excellent overview of the elements required for successful change. I especially agree with communicating often about your expectations and during the planning and execution phases as well. We must understanding that change affects the entire organization even if the change initiative only focuses on a small work unit. This work unit likely has connections, relationships, and business processes that touch other elements in the organization. The best way to start is getting the whole organization in the room when you set expectations (purpose) and develop the plan (Jusela, 2012). Allowing time for vibrant discussion empowers other to participate and makes them more likely to support the change initiative rather than sabotaging it later on.

Jusela, G. E. (2012). Meeting the Global Competitive Challenge: Building Systems That Learn on a Large Scale. In French, Bell, & Zawacki (6), Organization Development and Transformation (p. 63-103). McGraw Hill


“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” —Arnold Bennett

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


Why Change

Fight it all you want, change is inevitable. When we fail to embrace change we cause ourselves undue stress and waste valuable time and resources. Why change? Change becomes necessary when the needs of our organization, customers, or employees change.

How We Change

Once we realize that needs have changed, and therefore we need to evolve; we must set a realistic change goal. Every level of management must roll-up their sleeves and get involved. Employees must understand and believe the reason for the change and the benefit to them personally. The organization must be committed to pursuing the long-term vision and the change requirements associated with it. Here are four factors that will help you manage change.


Have a clear purpose. How will this change…

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