Increase Accountability & Responsibility by Letting Go

Are you building employee ownership or employee execution?

Many CEOs whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years have tended to struggle with a common issue—how to increase accountability and responsibility on their teams. As leaders, we often find it difficult to let go of the control we have on processes and projects that our employees are responsible for executing.

Letting go of this control; however, is critical to building a sense of ownership that employees need to feel fulfilled and accomplished in their careers. It is also key to increasing accountability and responsibility among your team. When you can let go of some control, you will find that you will benefit from improved accountability, responsibility, drive, and employee engagement.

To increase accountability and responsibility on your team, you must begin by establishing and building trust. You have to be able to trust your team to make good decisions and stay on-target, and your team has to be able to trust you to give them space to make decisions and—importantly—mistakes without fear of reprimand. This trust doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and it takes steps to nurture.

Define Clear Goals

The first step is to clearly define measurable goals. This provides your team the knowledge and confidence to make decisions and deploy tactics that they believe will take them to the goal.

It is a good idea to create these goals with your direct reports who can help anchor overall business goals to functional capabilities and expertise. Defining goals as a team also helps lay the foundation for building trust and creates buy-in among the team.

Your goals must define the Afters of your team’s hard work, giving everyone at every level a clear vision of what good and great results look like. Making sure these goals are measurable is a critical component to creating this vision of what achievement looks like.

Establish Responsible Roles

Increasing accountability and responsibility also requires an increased sense of ownership in the people or person executing the work. Clearly defining roles and related responsibilities helps to achieve.. It also helps improve productivity and quality by ensuring that nobody is duplicating efforts or, on the flip side, not getting accomplishing critical tasks because everyone thought someone else was responsible.

Perhaps most importantly, clearly establishing the responsible role for accomplishing a particular goal means that everyone knows exactly who is responsible for what and where dependencies exist. People aren’t taking over other people’s assignments and there can be no blame games as the deadline approaches if deliverables are not met. If more than one person is point, then no one owns.

Relocate Decision Making

Once you have defined the goals and established responsible roles with your team, try to push the decision making for how the goals will be achieved as close to where the work is being done. This provides your employees with their own sense of control and ownership of the project—and the outcome.

Your talent wants a sense of ownership in what they do. This is where they get a real sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. When you make decisions on their behalf, you also take away their energy for the project. Rather than being the passionate leader to accomplish something great, they instead revert to simply doing what they are told and going through the motions. This energy can only lead to mediocrity or loss of top talent, depending on the personality type of the person being controlled.

Record & Measure Progress

Letting go of control does not equal letting go of accountability and responsibility—as we have been discussing, it is quite the opposite. Leaders may feel apprehensive to let go of control and let their team members drive ownership because they do not have the proper systems in place to measure progress and success.

You and your direct reports must establish a set of milestones and check-in meetings or reports to ensure forward progress. Without this, trust can easily begin to break down among the team, particularly in cases of longer-term projects or goals.

This is also why establishing clear, measurable goals is so critical to increasing accountability and responsibility on your team. You do not want to arrive at a project deadline, or at the end of the year when you are sitting down for a performance review, and find out that important project and organizational goals were not being met. If there are performance surprises, you have not done your job properly. Or, perhaps worse, your team thought they were successfully working toward a goal that was not agreed upon. They feel their hard work was not valued.

Recognize Progress

What gets recognized gets repeated. If you want to increase accountability and responsibility on your team, you must recognize people when they are doing a great job. This doesn’t mean a simple pat on the back and a generic “good job” every now and then.

While verbal and written recognition is always nice, it will only go so far for your really high achievers. The mistake that many leaders make in the recognition step is the assumption that verbal and written communication are enough. They may undervalue the fact that their high-achievers are often taking on far more work than their average or low-performers.

Your high-achievers are often the people that others go to with questions or for advice, they are picking up loose ends, and they are filling team skills gaps to keep initiatives moving forward. They are the personification of the phrase, “If you need to get something done, give it to a busy person.”

Keep in mind that you need to not just recognize, but also reward, the impact your high-achievers are having on your company. Not only are they contributing to the achievement of goals and creating financial impact, but they are also modelling the way for others on your team and helping to create a culture of excellence. Make sure you are taking the time to understand the person you are wanting to reward and rewarding them accordingly. While some people may value monetary rewards, others may value non-monetary rewards such as more time off or a particular experience. The more personal you can make your recognition and reward, the more effective you will be at influencing future excellence.

Influencing increased accountability and responsibility doesn’t happen overnight. Leaders and teams must work to build trust, develop effective communication channels, define and measure clear goals and roles, and learn what drives each person individually.

This is not an impossible endeavour. While it will take work, and there will be mistakes made, the long-term impact of developing a more accountable and responsible workforce that is engaged and driven to achieve your vision is well worth the effort.


Why Your Employees Are Not Engaged & How To Fix It


How do you know if your employees are engaged? Is it based on their body language in meetings? Do they tell you what you want to hear, but then nothing really changes? Do you base employee engagement on periodic survey scores?

Engaged business units produce 21% more profitability for a business than non-engaged and actively dis-engaged business units. And yet, many leaders don’t seem to know how to address the core of their employee engagement problem.

Employee engagement isn’t just about happiness. It goes much deeper than that. Employee engagement is about uniting around a shared purpose, open communication, trust, ownership, and appreciation.

Your people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel like they are having impact and the journey they are on is important.

Salaries do play a role in employee satisfaction, but there are plenty of examples of small organizations that do not have the budget to pay great salaries and benefits that are still able to attract and retain great employees. It’s because these organizations are able to unite like-minded individuals around an aspirational vision, execute the key goals, and  celebrate their wins (and challenges) as a team.

You know that your employees are truly engaged by their impact, by their willingness to do what it takes to accomplish the project or related tasks. Engaged employees go the extra step and take ownership to ensure it is done well. They get the job done without you being around.

Employees must feel that they own something; that it is up to them to make something happen. They must also experience the impact of their hard work and know that their work is recognized and appreciated.

If employee engagement is an issue for you and your team, try this. In your next meeting or one-on-one, ask your employees for their recommendations on an issue or project: What is your perspective? How should we handle it? How best can I help you? Then, be sure to thank them for their extra efforts.

If they need it, help them put structure and a plan around the issue or project that will help them resolve it, but then give them ownership of the end result. Provide support as needed to ensure they can maneuver around and threw obstacles. Allow them to make mistakes, particularly if this is a new responsibility for them, and be there to guide and help them along the way—but don’t micromanage the project.  If you are not tolerant of mistakes and sometimes failures,  then you are not worthy of the 5.0+ engaged employee.  

Engagement requires trust and you build trust by enabling ownership of  projects and initiatives and support when something does not go as expected. Provide autonomy and support and let them guide you as to how much support is needed. If you micromanage them the whole way through or stay completely hands-off until they fail, then punish them for their failure, they will never develop the personal ownership in the project, overall goal, or your vision. Trust is doing what you say you will do. If you say you are going to fix something or change something, but it is not done, it devalues your trust bank.

Here are my top 5  questions  ask my employees during our 1×1 meetings to  improve and retain engagement among my team:

  • How are you growing yourself as a leader, as a person?
  • What are you most proud of this month?
  • Does our team inspire you to do your best work,  or inspire you to deliver excellence?
  • What are you currently struggling with and how can I help?
  • What’s the one thing I need to know this month that we have not discussed

What are your top tips for assessing, improving, and/or maintaining employee engagement on your team?

4 Lessons I’ve Learned About Innovation as a CEO




  1. The introduction of something new
  2. A new idea, method, or device

from Merriam-Webster

Over my career, I have long been viewed as someone who can drive transformational change and innovation in organizations. I did this as a VP for a large fortune 500 company and as a coach and consultant for over 100 CEOs and key executives. When I took on the role of CEO for Crestcom, the path forward for the company was very clear to me. Looking back on the past two years of being a CEO, I’ve learned some very important lessons about innovation from a CEO’s perspective that I did not fully consider in the beginning.

1. Innovation must involve everyone

There are two general schools of thought when it comes to organizational innovation: 1) create an innovation sub-group that is more focused on innovation than operations, typically out of about 10% of employees. 2) involve and engage everyone in innovation.

I have worked with both, and I now strongly believe in the latter. The main reason being that the people who are responsible for the operational roles assigned to them are truly the best people to innovated their own processes. I have found that encouraging and developing people to think innovatively is far more effective than trying to get innovative thinkers to understand operational processes to such a degree that they can make logical contributions to innovative improvements. This team is solving a problem for a reason- they are the ones who feel the pain of the problem. This does put more pressure on the CEO and managers to fill the role of the coach, particularly if the culture has long been one of complacency. It is not always the easiest or fastest route, but it is the most effective. Specific roles on the team must be assigned such as disrupter, researcher, facilitator, and project manager to ensure the team is bringing in new ideas and making progress. I think one thing that CEOs tend to overlook is that innovative thinkers don’t necessarily need to have the technological know-how to bring their ideas to life. They just have to be able to think in terms of process improvement and critical problem-solving. Once the idea has been born, then you can bring in a group of people to help make the project a reality. The key element is ownership. This team owns the idea and they will ensure it is successful.  

This also provides everyone in the company the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. Encouraging employees at every level to think critically to overcome challenges and seize new opportunities provides each individual the opportunity to grow, to learn, and to feel that unique sense of pride when they see something they have created come to life and succeed. It also serves to infuse innovation in your company culture, motivating everyone to innovate more and engaging your workforce in creating more opportunities for themselves as well as your organization. The overall result is a more engaged, satisfied, and productive team working toward driving greater results for the company.

2. Innovation requires change management

I thought I knew a thing or two about change management. After all, I’d spent years working on strategic planning, start-ups, transformational leadership and the like. But the role of the change manager as a CEO is very different from how I had experienced it before, both in previous roles as an executive and an outside consultant.

As Harry Truman so famously liked to point out: The buck stops here.

When you are the CEO, you are ultimately responsible for the result and consequences of all of those decisions. Particularly when the consequences are bad. Leaders can delegate tasks, but they cannot delegate responsibility.

You also have many, many… MANY more stakeholders to work with as the CEO. This presents both wonderful opportunities, as well as great challenges. I have always been a believer in the power of shared experiences and gaining different perspectives. It becomes more difficult when you have so many conflicting variables and opinions that it is tempting to take the easier (short term) route and stop moving forward. It is important to remember that it is simply impossible to please everyone. You must make decisions based on the best information you have available and move forward.

Everyone talks about communication and trust when they talk about change management. These are so important for all leaders and managers to continually build and improve on. When you are the CEO, you have to walk a fine line between what you should communicate, particularly in tough financial times. Building the trust and credibility to make your communications effective takes time, and sometimes hard work. Breaking it takes almost no time at all! Throughout it all, always remember to stay true to your core values, remain trustworthy, and be open in your communication to nurture a culture in which change management can be effective.

3. Not all great innovations are big

When many of us think about innovation, we think about Steve Jobs and the iPhone, or Elon Musk and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. We don’t usually think about all the little innovations that happen every day that make our lives just a little easier, or work just a bit more efficient.

Some, if not most, people in your organization are making these little innovations every day. Or they are learning from others’ innovations and applying them to your company’s processes and operations. This type of innovative thinking is, in many ways, far more important to the success of your business than holding out for that one big one. Think about how you can recognize and reward even the little innovations that happen on your team, and how you can encourage these to be shared so that everyone can benefit from them.

What is a small innovation in your team you can recognize today?

4. Innovation is key to growth

They say that creativity is thought and innovation is action. There are many leaders in the world that have great ideas but cannot seem to bring those ideas to life.

When I became CEO of Crestcom, the leadership team had done very little for years to innovate processes, programs, or products to stay ahead of market and industry trends. Given our competitive and innovative industry, we had to move fast to execute key changes to our curriculum and technology.  We have succeeded in meeting and exceeding many of our growth strategy milestones. We have accomplished this through innovative thinking, hard work, many hours and lots of coffee, and (sometimes) by sheer will. When I look back at all that we have accomplished so far, it fills me with a great sense of pride in my team and in the whole Crestcom community for how we have pulled together to effect some significant changes.  

If you need to grow your business, you need to be able to model innovation as a CEO. You must role model vulnerability, self-awareness, urgency and have a calming attitude of we will solve this together when something does not go right. You have to work alongside your team, taking the risks and the challenges of innovation right along with them. Without it, your company is doomed to resign itself to the slow decline of mediocrity.

Why Using a Negotiation Model is Important to Your Business Success

A negotiation model that will help you stay focused on creating value for your business through closing successful negotiations.

In The New, New Thing, Michael Lewis refers to the phrase business model as “a term of art.” Some businesses have a clear business model and many, less successful ones, do not. Business models help leaders tell the story of how their business works, how it will make money and add value. There are other types of models that we use in business, though they serve the same basic purpose. A negotiation model, for example, is used to tell the story of how to plan and execute a successful negotiation process. A negotiation model provides a high-level view of how negotiations work and steps that need to be taken to optimize the negotiation process to ensure desired outcomes and foster mutually beneficial relationships.

You are negotiating every day. But how often do you take the time to plan, to model your negotiation approach to ensure you have a successful outcome? Great business negotiators have a unique ability to make or save their organization a great deal of money. It is their value proposition. Even the most experienced and skilled negotiator understands the importance of using a negotiation model to guide them through the negotiation process and successfully close a deal. This model is second nature to practiced negotiators who appear more casual and conversational. With practice, you can make this negotiation model work for you as well, moving through the process as a matter of habit.

negotiation model_5 stepsYears ago, in my previous life as the VP of Information Technology for a large manufacturing company, I found myself in the position to negotiate a deal with an impact of $30 Million in savings. This is the negotiation model I used then, and still use today:

Negotiation Model Step #1: Prepare

negotiation model_prepareKnowing what you want out of the deal is a crucial first step that many negotiators overlook. Clearly defining what you need, and why you are entering into a relationship with the other party is an important first step. Without this step, your risk is high that you will be entering into an agreement that does not satisfy your needs.

Preparing for the negotiation with this potential vendor, I identified what my needs were and my best-case scenario. I carefully prepared my approach and my language and aligned with my team. We were all clear on our roles in the meetings.

Negotiation Model Step #2: Know

Successful negotiations require research into the other company, their needs and capabilities, their team members, etc. This research can be done in a variety of ways and you should employ as many different research channels as possible. While working on this vendor negotiation, we went through almost a year of due diligence to prepare our support approach, service level agreements, and relationship building with the team who would ultimately be our support team. This research included a series of discovery meetings in which we both communicated what our key needs were and the areas that were most important to both of us. These meetings helped build a strong working relationship that was key to enabling the actual negotiation to go smoothly.

Negotiation Model Step #3: Create

In almost any negotiation situation, concessions and alternatives need to be made to create a win-win scenario that builds the relationship. In this step of the negotiation model, create as many alternatives to your best-case scenario outcome that you defined in step #1.

Using your knowledge of the other party that you have gathered from step #2, brainstorm and map out as many possible alternative scenarios. Think in terms of, “If this piece of the agreement doesn’t go exactly the way I want it, what are the possible alternatives or reasons the other party might bring forward?”

During this step, I developed 3 BANTAs (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), and I formed clarity on potential areas of concession; if I gave on this, I would want that.

Get creative on how you will address each of these routes and what alternatives you can present. This step helps you stay in control of the negotiation process, even as it shifts and takes alternate turns. You are never surprised, because you have already modeled the potential moves.

Negotiation Model Step #4: Give & Get

negotiation model_concludeThis is the step of the negotiation model that represents the actual negotiation event. Even the most experienced and skilled negotiator prepares to give and get concessions to create a valuable, win-win scenario. It is a common misconception that, in every negotiation, one side must win and the other side must lose.

When you think about the negotiations that you have participated in, how many have been with another party that you will never have to work with again? Particularly in your professional life, that answer is likely very few. We negotiate with current and potential clients, vendors, and employees and colleagues on an almost daily basis. Your goal in these negotiations is to create value for your business while building the relationship with the other party. A hardline approach to the negotiation is rarely the correct answer for achieving this goal. Here are a few negotiation tactics to incorporate during the Give & Get Step:

  • Be patient: Many people dislike negotiating so much that they would rather simply take what is offered to them and end the conversation. This is a mistake. There is always room to negotiate, and having the patience to stick with it can produce a better deal for you and your business. This is an opportunity for you to create real, tangible value for your company. Don’t throw it away!
  • Use an agent of higher authority: Always have a “higher authority” that you have to report to if specific aspects of the negotiation are not going the way you would like them to go. Many people confuse authority with power, thinking that they have power in a negotiation if they have the ultimate authority to make final decisions. In reality, it is often the opposite. Your authority can be used against you! In my case, I employed this negotiation tactic by communicating that I did not have the authority to go over a specified amount, I simply was not allowed to.
  • Don’t get stuck in the weeds: While patience is a virtue in negotiation, don’t get that confused with digging your heels in and getting stuck in the weeds. Negotiation is a give and get process, where both sides need to understand each other’s needs and come up with creative solutions to creating a win-win scenario. If you are stuck in one area, try to get creative to find other solutions that mitigate this sticking point. Or, agree to “parking lot” it for later discussion and move on.
  • Show respect and use emotional intelligence: Again, in most negotiations, building the relationship is an important part of the overall goal. Build the relationship by being professional and respectful at all times, even if the conversation is getting heated and emotional. Using emotional intelligence goes a long way in negotiations. EI will help you recognize and empathize with the other party, while managing your own emotional reactions. Ensure you are asking the right questions.
  • Don’t negotiate when you are tired: It is so much easier to be patient, to be creative, and to manage your emotions and the negotiation conversation when you are well-rested. Don’t go into an important negotiation tired. If possible, schedule negotiations with enough time after traveling or other big events to feel well-rested. If you are travelling to a big negotiation, particularly if you are travelling a long distance, arrive a day or two ahead of the meeting to give yourself time to recover from jet lag and become a bit more comfortable with your surroundings.

Negotiation Model Step #5: Conclude

You might be surprised by the number of times people leave a negotiation without concluding on a standard, written set of agreements. Always make sure that the terms of the agreement are clearly communicated, written if possible, and agreed to by both parties before leaving the negotiation.

At the conclusion of our negotiation, I was able to successfully close a 7 year $300 Million global outsourcing agreement that resulted in over $30 Million in savings for the organization. This impact on the business created real, tangible value that helped us continue working toward achieving our overall growth goals.

You may have noticed that ⅗ of my negotiation model are focused on preparation before the negotiation takes place. This is because preparation is the ultimate key to successful negotiations. You cannot properly use common negotiation tactics and tips if you have not prepared yourself with goals, knowledge, and information that those tactics rely on. Successful negotiation does not work with quick tricks. It requires preparation, clarity, and commitment to goals to create real, bottom-line value for your business.

Tammy Berberick is the President and CEO of Crestcom International, a worldwide interactive leadership development and sales training organization operating in over 60 countries.

Why Is Multigenerational Leadership Important?

Multigenerational leadership is a leadership skill that has become more important in recent years as more generations exist in the workforce than ever before. Understanding how to lead multigenerational teams that can work together and achieve excellence will be key to your organization’s success. Multigenerational leadership training helps leaders and managers in today’s companies and organizations learn to leverage the many strengths of their multigenerational teams to improve productivity, decrease turnover, and achieve excellence.


Conflict is an issue that leaders have to deal with all the time. Conflicts  can arise based on  personality, values or communication differences.

Often, when people think about multigenerational leadership, they think of conflict and stereotypes. Generational conflict is common in the workplace, as this is a space where multiple generations have to work together to perform in ways that are not common elsewhere in our lives. While everyone on the team is working toward achieving a common goal and mission, their ideas on how to get there and how to measure interim success varies greatly.

As the leader, help your team overlook generational stereotypes to overcome conflict and perform. In my experience, this often includes being flexible with my team, communicating expectations and goals in a variety of ways, and being open about new ways of thinking and doing things.


Multigenerational teams are more productive than mono-generational teams. The trick is (like leading any team) getting everyone to value each other’s strengths and communicate productively and collaboratively.

A survey conducted by CIPD found that 55% of employers and 66% of employees viewed knowledge-sharing as a benefit of working in a multigenerational workplace. Other top responses include having different perspectives, greater innovation, new ideas, improved problem-solving, and improved customer service. These findings highlight the key opportunity missed by mono-generational teams—the ability to share knowledge, perspectives, experience, and ideas to improve results and achieve goals.

Ageism is an issue that has become more prevalent over time, as older employees seek to stay in the the labor force later in their lives. While there are a variety of reasons for this, from financial necessity to social contact, studies are showing that employers are increasingly discriminating against older job candidates.

These employers are missing out on the experiences and leadership these potential employees have to offer. Many view younger employees as more productive and better able to multi-task, while also accepting lower salaries. But, older employees bring experience, emotional intelligence, relationship building, and management skills that many younger generations are still developing. They help strengthen a team’s leadership pipeline, not detract from it.


Employees want to feel as though they are part of an inclusive team. Reducing conflict, engaging team dynamics, and facilitating bi-mentoring programs are all great ways to improve team cohesion and encourage multigenerational collaboration.

Employee turnover has the potential to cost a lot of money, and studies show that these costs increase dramatically for higher-level positions (often held by your older generations). If you have not put in the time to develop a pipeline of talent that is ready to step up when these vacancies happen, your lack of multigenerational leadership is having a direct effect on your organization’s bottom line.

Bottom line

Team conflict, productivity, and turnover all have a direct impact on your company or organization’s bottom line. While there is no “silver bullet” to optimizing these impacts, multigenerational leadership skills help you make better decisions with your talent management and  company policies and these decisions  help move your team and your organization forward.

Is Your Biggest Competitor Status Quo?

It’s that time of the year when we take the time to pause and reflect. We measure ourselves based on the goals that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year.

Before I took over as CEO for Crestcom International, I focused on helping CEOs and organizations develop their business growth strategy. My process involved a stakeholder questionnaire and research to develop or evolve their SWOT analysis.

In several instances, as I analyzed the data from stakeholder questionnaires, I realized that the CEOs were looking outside for answers, rather than inside. For many CEOs, the biggest and most dangerous competitor is themselves, and it is called Status Quo.

The status quo mindset allows us to think: If something is working today, let’s not worry about it. Let’s leave it alone. This is not the strategy of a successful and thriving, company. A company that is always improving and asking the tough questions.

As soon as you stop improving, you fall behind. At that point, you can consider your organization dead. It is not a matter of if, or even how, but when. You may be able to limp along for a few years doing the same things in the same way. But, at some point, the market catches up. You are either buried by your competition or you become irrelevant.

The status quo mindset also significantly impacts your company culture.

The sense of urgency slows and employees fall into a familiar pattern of doing the same thing over and over. They become slower. Creativity and innovation wilt as new ideas are consistently blocked by status quo barriers. The company experiences a “brain drain” as energetic, forward-thinking employees leave to find greater opportunities, leaving behind only those people that are comfortable with the status quo mindset.

As you look back on 2016, be honest with yourself.

  • Have you been stuck in the status quo mindset?
  • How have you improved the way you do business this year?
  • How have you added more value to your company, to your customers, this past year?
  • How have you invested in your people? Are they being developed? Are they growing and bringing new ideas to the table?
  • Are you bored in your job or are you always working on new ways to improve?
  • Are you still learning, still growing?

Commit to embracing a new way of thinking and operating in the next year. Find ways to stay agile, even if you are leading a larger company. Bring in your team and engage them in thinking creatively on how to grow the business and improve operations. Embrace and enjoy a journey of change and feeling uncomfortable.Don’t put off investments that will improve employee engagement, customer experience, and your products or services.

The time for growth is now. Become the key competitor.

Defining Your Leadership Purpose

What is more important than your mission and vision? Your leadership purpose.

I have been reflecting on purpose lately. What is purpose? What is Crestcom’s purpose? What is my purpose?

Tweet: #Purpose is our directional magnet and life fuel. #LeadershipPurpose #Leadership @crestcomleaders Purpose is our directional magnet and life fuel. It is a scale, a life balance, requiring hard work and challenge. It is reward and fullness as we achieve steps toward fulfilling our purpose. It is aspirational, and it is frustrating. And it is worthiness. To have our passions become our purpose and our profession is Nirvana.

what is</a> your leadership purpose?What is Your Leadership Purpose?

Harvard Business Review defines leadership purpose as “Who you are and what makes you distinctive… It’s not what you do, it’s how you do your job and why—the strengths and passions you bring to the table no matter where you’re seated.”

Many leaders get so wrapped up in the organization’s purpose that we don’t think about defining our own leadership purpose. As a result, we can fall into a trap of working hard and putting in many hours while feeling unfulfilled in what we do.

Your leadership purpose is also the thing that pulls you and, by extension, your team through tough times. It acts as your due north that will keep you oriented through the chaos and distractions so that you can enjoy the journey. Communicating your leadership purpose, along with your organization’s purpose, to your team helps them understand the why of your leadership style and puts their own tasks and goals into perspective. Perhaps it will also make them think about their own purpose and how it aligns with your organization’s purpose.

Defining your own leadership purpose is not always easy. It will begin with a broad idea, which you can then distill down to a targeted, impactful leadership purpose statement.

Step 1: What are your personal values?

What is it that you are truly passionate about? What would you do with your time if money was not a factor? Some people like to think of this as what they were passionate about when they were young, before adulthood took over their life. This may or may not apply to you, but your values have typically been with you from a young age. It’s not just about what you wanted to do with your life or what you “wanted to be when you grew up”, but what you have always been interested in and passion about.

Step 2: What do you want to accomplish in your life?

Think about the impact that you want to make in your life. This does not have to be grandiose. There is nothing wrong with valuing time and connection with your family over something like landing humans safely on Mars. This is YOUR purpose. It needs to define what you want to accomplish in your life.

Step 3: Write it all down

This is potentially the easiest step. Don’t think about whether your ideas are defined well enough. Certainly don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just get your thoughts out of your head on onto paper (or on the screen). Don’t just stop after a minute or two when you can’t think of anything else to write. Give yourself at least 20 minutes and really push yourself to explore your values and aspirations deeply.

Writers call this free writing and it is a great exercise to help you further develop your thoughts and ideas so you can start formalizing your leadership purpose statement.

Step 4: Refine your leadership purpose statement

This is potentially the most difficult step! Depending on how you operate, this step may be best done directly after you have completed your free writing exercise and you are still in the mindframe, or perhaps leave it and come back to it the next day when you’re a bit more fresh.

In this step, you need to distill and refine your leadership purpose statement down to just one sentence. It needs to be simple, clear, and action-oriented. Perhaps most importantly, it needs to define you as a person and as a leader.

Step 5: Share it

Once you have completed your leadership purpose statement, share it with friends, family, and colleagues who know you best and whose opinions you respect. Ask them to provide you with their thoughts and feedback. From their perspective, does this statement really define you as a person?

Again, this is YOUR leadership purpose, so don’t feel like you need to take all of their comments and suggestions into account if you feel like they do not align with your purpose. But it is a helpful exercise to help see your style from other’s perspectives—do they see this statement as defining how you lead?

You may or may not decide to make adjustments to your leadership purpose statement after this step.

Step 6: Put your leadership purpose in action

What is the point of this exercise? Certainly not to write a statement and then pin it to your wall or keep it in your desk. You need to put it in action and live it—to fulfill it.

Your Leadership Purpose in Action

Your leadership purpose will manifest itself in different ways depending on what your purpose is. My leadership purpose has led me to become the CEO of Crestcom, an international leadership development organization. I am passionate about growing better leaders around the world. This inspired me to update Crestcom’s purpose statement: Make the world a better place by developing stronger, more ethical leaders across the globe.

When I am talking with our clients and hear how their leadership development experiences have changed their personal and professional lives—and have made an impact on the organizations they lead—I feel truly fulfilled. No matter how stressed or tired I may feel, it fills my cup knowing that my leadership purpose and Crestcom’s purpose are being fulfilled as well.

I recently traveled to participate in the graduation of Trinidad and Tobago’s Police Service from our leadership development program. The graduates had learned so much from the program, from realizing that they are truly a customer service organization and developing their vision around that, to learning how to communicate and negotiate better, and improve their business acumen skills which improved processes and reduced wasted time and money. Everyone who graduated had the opportunity to speak in front of the group and discuss how their leadership training had improved their lives.

The impact of this experience grounded me back in my leadership purpose and Crestcom’s purpose. It got me to thinking, what would our world really be like if all leaders were more ethical, empathetic, communicative, and passionate?

Prioritizing Distractions for Focused Results


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I am a big proponent of focus.

Multitasking has been put on a pedestal of high productivity. But as employee stress, anxiety, and burnout become a chronic issue in many organizations around the world, researchers are now discovering that the costs of a multitasking, unfocused workforce outweigh the benefits.

Focusing on one project at a time is the clear winner in executing with excellence. To do more with your time, you need to be focusing on your Time Management MVPs—your Most Valuable and Profitable activities.

But we all live in the real world where distractions arise—some days, seemingly, constantly. The ability to prioritize distractions to focus your time will contribute to your ability to get the really important activities done in the fixed amount of time you have available.

distraction matrixTo accomplish this, think about the distractions that you encounter on a daily basis in terms of the category they fall into. I think about distractions in the form of a Distraction Matrix.

Neither important nor actionable

In other words, whatever you’re working on will not be impacted whatsoever by the distraction and there’s nothing you could do about it to begin with. It’s neither important nor relevant.

Important but not actionable

We tend to like to interrupt ourselves to take current action and thus be distracted rather than delay taking future action. This distraction is the kind of thing that you need to file for a later date or future use.

Important but actionable in the future

This distraction is something that we may need to do but we don’t need to do it until a future date. It is not urgent or time sensitive, but should be considered in the long-run.

Important and actionable

Distractions that are urgent or time sensitive do come up. For these rare distractions that really are actionable and urgent, act upon them and then refocus. In other words, take a break to do what needs to be done, and then return to the task at hand as soon as possible.

A very good example of an important and actionable distraction is a fire alarm. But there are far fewer fire alarms in our day than we tend to think there are. It may be procrastination on our part, to put off those really big, difficult tasks for a distraction that is smaller and easier to “check off the list”. The ability to stay focused on the task at hand is critical, so you must avoid all the distractions you can. The question is how to do that.

I’m a big believer in two techniques. The first is blocking time. If a task or a project is important, schedule it. Give it time on your calendar and make sure that your assistant, your team, or your colleagues know this is “not to be interrupted time”. You’ve blocked time specifically for working on that task.

do-not-interrupt-sign-gears-u-s-8-5x11The second thing that you can do if you want to avoid distractions is to work behind closed doors with a sign that simply says “Please Do Not Interrupt”.

The problem is, we live in a culture that values accessibility over accomplishment. But that accessibility that we allow others to have to our time keeps us from getting important work done.

If you can’t avoid distractions, then ignore them. The phone rings during a performance review, your best option is to ignore it. Let them leave a message and you can call them back in an hour. If you absolutely must, answer and simply say, “I’m sorry I can’t talk right now. I’m in the middle of a performance review. I’ll get back to you.”

The real problem arises not when the distraction occurs but when you respond to it.

Business Acumen is the Key to Organizational Growth


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Business Acumen Is The Key To Organizational Growth

Business Acumen ModelBusiness acumen is the understanding of how the business operates, makes money, and grows profitably. It is a skill that everyone in your organization needs to develop; Business acumen is everyone’s business, not just the accounting or finance departments. Every business and organization’s ability to grow profitably is affected by the four key elements of business acumen, organizational drivers, organizational performance, external factors, and future trends.

Organizational Drivers

Understanding organizational drivers and how everyone on the team impacts those drivers is a key component to developing business acumen among your team. When employees know and understand how their work fits into the big picture vision of the organization they are not only more motivated and engaged, but they are also better able to improve the way they impact that driver in what they do. Understanding organizational drivers helps give big picture meaning to each employee.

There is a different degree of detail that needs to be known at each level. On a basic level, each employee should be acutely aware of how their job impacts the department, how the department impacts the key driver, and how the key driver impacts the top and/or bottom line of the business. All key drivers have a direct or indirect impact on the overall success of the organization.  This is relevant across all industries and sectors, nonprofit/ service and for-profit organizations. Ask each of your employees how what they do impacts the organization.  You may need to assist by asking the right questions—digging deep to find the “why” and help them identify their impact and understand why their role is important to the organization.  

Key drivers vary based on the industry that the company is in, but they will generally fall into similar clusters. These include people, revenue, operational efficiency, product, and quality.

Organizational Performance

There are two basic philosophies when it comes to transparency about organizational performance generally and, particularly, financial information. Some companies are more open to sharing financial performance with everyone on the team, while others prefer to keep finances closed. There is really no right or wrong answer, it is your decision as the leader. Personally, I am more of a fan of being open about company information, particularly when it comes to the top and bottom line performance of the business.

I do this for two main reasons. For one, it is a great way to help develop the business acumen of my leadership pipeline. I want my team to experience first hand how their work affects the overall financial performance of the business; it helps ignite big picture thinking. The second reason is to give them context. It gives them an answer to their “What’s In It For Me?” question. They are able to understand that when the company is growing and profitable, there are opportunities for upward mobility and extra perks.

Additionally, each department needs to understand how the department budget that they own and are responsible for impacts our budget, so that they get that “hands-on” experience to become bigger thinkers about how they impact the overall financial performance of the company.

Being open about organizational performance also gives employees the context to let them know that their job is meaningful and important to the organization. Everyone fundamentally wants to be on a winning team and to know that what they do has meaning. When times are good, providing that context helps to enforce that feeling.  

External Factors

Leaders need to be aware of how external factors affect the business as well. It’s not just about how the internal performance affects the bottom line, but there are external threats—and opportunities—that leaders and managers need to make sure they are staying abreast of. This includes understanding how regulatory, political, economic, and competitive changes impact business drivers. They also need to be innovative thinkers to help mitigate the potential threats and leverage the opportunities that these changes can create.

Future Trends

Analysis of future trends provides market insights and helps leaders develop proactive insights that improve decision making. Understanding future trends spurs new ideas, new ways of saving and/or making money, new innovations, and new ways of leveraging others’ innovations to stay competitive in the long-run.  The decisions you make today will determine your organization’s future.  

I cannot stress enough the importance of business acumen, particularly across key leadership and management roles. Your ability to use important, relevant information to help make decisions, involve the employees on your team, and develop new ideas is the key to organizational growth and long-term strategic advantage.

Transformational Leaders on Tough Decisions and Taking Risks


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Risk avoidance is not something that transformational leaders do.

Some managers do everything they can to avoid risk, thinking that if they avoid risk they will not have any problems to deal with. They use risk avoidance as a strategic filter. If you are leading a transformational change there will be risks involved–it is part of the game. Tweet this: Transformational leaders don’t avoid risks, they manage risks. They manage the risks and make the tough calls to ensure they achieve their results. If you go through life avoiding risks, you miss out on the payout of stair-step development growth and the personal satisfaction of having IMPACT.

Tweet this: Transformational leaders look for opportunities to generate real value for their organizations. They weigh the potential value proposition vs. the potential risks involved. They ensure they understand all of the risks involved, such as resources, reputation, timing, political, complexity, cost, etc. They assign values to the risks involved and suggest potential mitigation plans to manage the risks if they occur. They plan and then they make the decision. They do not second guess their decision if the facts do not change. They stay the course.

Transformational leaders don’t simply take risks for the sake of taking risks. They do it to solve a real problem that faces the organization. Perhaps the marketplace is changing, customer demographics are shifting, or new competition is entering the market. Leaders need to be able to identify and understand their ever-shifting business environment and make tough decisions and balanced the risks to best position their organization for the future.

When weighing an important decision with risks involved, ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. If I were to make this decision what is the best thing that can happen as a result?
  2. What is the worst thing that could happen?
  3. What is the most likely thing to happen?

Now, clearly, a lot more thought goes into making complex strategic decisions; however, after gathering all the facts and information available, these three questions help simplify and clarify your decision. I think you would agree that, more often than not, the extremes aren’t the ones to happen, but rather something in the middle is what usually happens. So, if the most likely thing to happen will get me closer to my goals, and I am willing to deal with the worst thing that could happen, then I will go for it.

But if the most likely thing to happen, does not get us closer to our goal, does not help us achieve our mission, does not improve customer service, does not save us time, energy and money, or if we’re not willing to deal with worst that could happen, the worst that could happen could be too expensive, could cause even bigger problems for our organization and its people, then I would clearly not make that decision!

I would start again and I would review the 7 Steps of Effective Problem Solving to help me structure the solution to the problem. This is how leaders excel at managing risks to make tough decisions and create solutions for the issues facing their organizations. Are you a risk taker?