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A Leadership Call to Action

Written by Tony Marbury Posted in Blog, All Posts

There is a shortage of great leaders. I recently read an article that reported the shortage of leaders as the most pressing human resource challenge that businesses are facing. This is a crisis. The gap between the challenges we face is increasing faster than the ability, or the will, to produce the leadership necessary to shorten the deficit.

It’s graduation time! I’ve been thinking about the challenges these young people will face as they enter the workforce, and thought they could use a bit of advice. As you read the letter, ask yourself if you have become the kind of leader that our world is demanding our graduates to strive to be.  If the answer is no, use it as a call to action.  Take an inventory of your training, skills, capabilities, and effectiveness and do the right thing. Now is the time and as mentioned in the letter, we are all counting on you too! And be sure to share this with the new grads in your life!

A Letter to Graduates

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You are now officially graduates! Find the time to celebrate. You definitely deserve it. Be very proud of yourselves as this is one of the greatest accomplishments that you will experience.  You have learned many things about both your limitations and your capabilities and now it is time to go out and make a difference in a world hungry for your many talents. As you navigate through life in search of new knowledge and experiences to build on your foundation, I offer this advice to take with you on your leadership journey:

  • Ask questions. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~Steven R. Covey         Everyone has a journey, knowledge and their own worldview. As you embark on your path of understanding, be receptive to and question all other people no matter how different they are from you, in either appearance or thought. In fact, the more different they are, the more your own worldview will expand.
  • Think before you act. Take the time to give yourself a chance to process your words and actions before you proceed. Create in your mind’s eye a story, complete with a beginning and end, of the path you are about to take. Evaluate the imagined results to increase your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Never stop learning. You can put away your books, but you must always be a student. The world is dynamic. We will never know all that there is to know. The best we can do is to keep our minds and hearts open to this wonderfully vibrant creation.
  • Listen. A colleague once told me, that the greatest gift you can give someone is to listen. Spend less time talking and more time listening. Hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing just happens; listening is intentional. Effective listening is an art that must be learned and constantly practiced.
  • Constantly evaluate your surroundings. Be present and aware. Put down your cell phone and interact with the people around you. Don’t be a bystander. You must anticipate and prepare for anything and everything you may encounter.
  • Be empathetic. In my opinion, empathy is the greatest trait a leader can have. Walk a mile in your own shoes and you will get to the next town. Walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes and you will get around the world. I can’t say it better than the author, Daniel H. Pink: “Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”
  • Find something to believe in.  Find a cause, religion, a community organization, politics, or all of the above. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Leaders always find a way to give of themselves to aid in the betterment of the world. Perform small acts of kindness: lend a hand, cause a smile, wipe a tear, warm a heart – give of yourself in these ways, and I promise, you will be rewarded.*

As graduates and future leaders, we are all counting on you. Find your place in the world and use all that you have and will learn, to, as Michael Jackson said, “Make it a better place for you and me.” *This life insurance commercial from Thailand captures it best.

The Joy of Teamwork

Posted in Blog, All Posts

“All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” says Robert Fulghum, author of the book by the same title. I find this to certainly be true in my life but it is also good to know that the learning continues.

I live in Charlottesville, VA and locally we have a summer camp for kids called “Spectrum”. The camp is sponsored by the Tandem Friends School and they have a hoot (kids and leaders)! Irish dancing, story telling, African drumming, acting, film making, singing, juggling, baking, fencing, organic food production, box city, and more! The tough part for the kids is choosing what to do ... and the best part for parents (and grandparents) is the show they put on their last day. It is hard to believe that kids can team together in such a short time and put on such fantastic performances! You feel their joy radiating as they perform ... and what a delight for those of us who get to watch.

I personally discovered a moral to being able to be a part of these activities. The campers spent two weeks together being highly productive in a wide variety of activities. They loved it and they want to do it again. Why? The answer is the enjoyment and fulfillment of working with their teams as well as the meaningful leadership. The leaders are very good at what they do and they coach the campers (teams) how to have fun learning new things. It was also enlightening to watch the leaders of each session light up with pride as their teams of campers performed ... often, it seemed the results exceeded their own expectations.

Now think of your last two weeks at work. What is so different? Did you participate in a wide variety of activities, work with all kinds of people, learn/teach/coach with joy and enthusiasm, work as a team, produce meaningful results? If you did, I’ll bet you’re enjoying your work. If not, maybe it’s time to be a kid again and have some fun (and call it work)!

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4 Tips to Unlock the Potential in Millennials and Unify Your Workforce

Written by Tony Marbury Posted in Blog, All Posts

We are embarking on a time when we will have five generations in the workforce including: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials (Gen Y), and the newest generation about to enter the workforce, Generation 2020. Many say they have had difficulty leading such generational diversity, especially with Millennials. This is illustrated by the countless negative articles, discussions, and blogs on the dilemma of hiring and working with Millennials, also known as the “Entitled Group”. Concerns are so widespread and misguided that Strategy + Business magazine published an article titled, “Five Millennial Myths: Forget what you think you know about your Gen Y employee”. The article provides insight into the many disparaging myths that shroud this generation.

Each generation grows and adjusts with the dynamic world in their time, facing different events and challenges as they make their way into adulthood and the workforce. One’s world experience is a major part of the fabric that makes everyone authentic. This combination of generations, experiences and uniqueness make it an incredibly exciting and challenging time to lead!

Here are 4 tips for leaders to help unlock the potential in Millennials and unify your workforce:

  1. Unlock their passion. Assign a mentor who will show them the ropes, help set goals, and help them understand boundaries and expectations. Spend quality time with them and learn what motivates and excites each individual. This can be done by administering behavior/personality assessments and conducting regular coaching sessions geared toward helping them find their place in your organization – (for more information on human behavior assessments, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). By allowing Millenials to feel comfortable and welcome, you give them the freedom to express themselves and find passion in their work.
  2. Promote contributions. Renowned psychologist B.F Skinner said, “You can build a society entirely on the basis of positive reinforcement”. Encourage and promote their insight and ideas by acknowledging and celebrating great input, solutions, and accomplishments. Use positive reinforcement instead of negativity when they don’t quite hit the mark, taking care not to squash creativity.
  3. Ignite creativity and innovation. The Millennial generation is more technically savvy than any before them. They were practically born on the computer and use social media to connect with people and information all over the world. We need to align our businesses and relationships to accommodate their level of connectivity. Maximize the authenticity of the Millennial generation to ensure we do not get left behind or become status quo. Allow them the opportunity to do for you what they do best.
  4. Encourage teamwork. “…there is nothing more important than teamwork. It gives people a sense of connection and belonging, which ultimately makes them better…”—Patrick Lencioni One of greatest contributions of this generation is their ability to function as a team. This is a result of receiving constant (and as the parent of two teenagers, I’m told, annoying) parental guidance and support as well as the trend of recognizing teams’ accomplishments by promoting the “everybody wins” approach to competition. Millennials know that they are never alone in their endeavors and associate being a part of a team with winning. They ask for help when they need it and do not take issue with being a follower. Leaders building highly effective teams would do well to learn from Millenials.

Working with Millennials and untapping the many talents they bring to your organization should not be difficult for good leaders. Their talents are a gift to us. The ultimate gift that you can give to your organization is to identify all the strengths and invest in those you lead. The returns are boundless! It is our time as leaders to mold and prepare younger generations to be tomorrow’s leaders.

How are you making a positive difference unifying your Millennials with all the generations in your workplace? Share your comments!

Also check out, Do Gen-Y’s make good Leaders? by Michelle Braden and Five Millennial Myths: Forget what you think you know about your Gen Y employee”,   written by Jennifer J. Deal.

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Developing Emerging Leaders

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog, All Posts

Developing Emerging Leaders

THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMERGING LEADERS (ELS) IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED OR THE EL IS NOT GIVEN THE ENERGY NEEDED FOR HEALTHY GROWTH TO SUSTAIN LEADERSHIP.

To explore why it is important to invest time, energy and funding into ELs, we have to understand their challenges.

Let's first identify the EL.The EL is typically a star performer. This is why we choose them for leadership. They show the ability to excel in a given area, be it sales, technology, customer service, etc. Star performers are used to being on top. Often this personal success has won them affirmation, bonuses and autonomy. Managing oneself to accomplishment is quite different than bringing an entire team to success. Herein lies the first mistake seasoned leaders (SLs) make. SLs assume because an individual is a star performer they will make an excellent team leader. They then proceed to promote them, give them the keys to their new office, print business cards and think they are good to go... thus, unintentionally setting the EL up for failure.

There are ways to make this transition more successful for everyone. A good starting point is exploring with the candidate if leading people is what they want to do.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you realize your time and energy will now go from your technical skills, you have excelled in, to interpersonal skills?
  • Your time and energy will be divided (this will depend upon all this position they will oversee‐‐such as: long‐term planning, strategy, budgets, motivating the team, keeping numbers up, hiring, meetings, etc)
  • How do you see your days being different?
  • How do you plan to transition from peer to manager?
  • Do you have leaders, mentors or family members you trust and whose advice you value, to be a sounding board for you during this transition?

I am sure you can come up with many other questions. The principle here is to go through this process before promoting someone into leadership. There is nothing more demoralizing than to go from a star performer to poor leader. It is our responsibility as senior leadership to ensure this doesn't happen.

Once you feel comfortable promoting the EL, it is important to help them begin their leadership journey. They will make mistakes and need to know this is part of the process. The goal is to learn from mistakes and then move forward. If the EL is not comfortable coming to the SL for advice, it is important to make sure they have someone to talk with. Often, although the EL says they will come to the SL, be aware they most likely will not. Do you remember your first leadership position and the challenges that came with it? An EL fears if they show uncertainty it will be perceived as weakness and their ability will be questioned, creating doubt. A coach or outside mentor is often the better choice. The goal is to create a safe environment where the EL can get sound advice and a sounding board to work through their challenges and opportunities.

It is important to help EL first develop self-leadership.

In order for a person to lead others, they must have:

  • self-awareness
  • know their personal values
  • motivations
  • work life balance
  • a network to support and be honest with them
  • be grounded as an individual.

Once this foundation is built, an EL can move on to team leadership to empower others. A SL needs to teach self leadership before team leadership.

As a new team leader, an EL will need to learn things such as:

  • how my self-leadership affects my team leadership
  • communication
  • conflict resolution
  • meetings with purpose
  • motivating your team
  • no favorites
  • hiring smart
  • networking

A SL should not take for granted the EL already knows this information when they usually do not. Leaders are not born, they are taught.

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Strategic Transformation: The HOW Matters!

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

Strategic Transformation Series: Post 3

Thanks for joining us again for the third post for the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first two entries we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection & To Plan or To Transform? We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.

True transformation comes down to Intent. If our intention is to truly transform our organization through strategic planning, then that significant intention will require significant action.

Create a Strong Foundation If your last strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, let me ask you a few questions:

  1. How organized was the pre-planning? Did you identify stakeholders, decision makers, timelines and milestones?
  2. Was the rest of the organization well informed of this plan? Did you continue to communicate transparently and frequently?
  3. Were the right people involved? Did you have enough diversity of experience, subject matter expertise and perspectives to create a full picture?
  4. What historical information was gathered and provided to the team? Did they know what worked and didn’t work in the past?
  5. Were the leaders of your organization in the right frame of mind and open to thinking big about the possibilities for the future?
  6. Was the team prepared to communicate effectively and deal appropriately with conflict? Was there a designated facilitator?

By answering YES to these questions, we show our intent to create strong foundation for success by HOW we prepare. Important work and we haven’t even started the planning! This important phase of creating cultural preparedness for your organization will help you create that all important buy-in from your teams that you need to have the transformation you desire.

Define the Future

Once you’ve created the foundation, it’s time to get to the business of planning. Here are some things to consider as you create the high level strategy that we are all familiar with.

  1. Is your mission and vision clear? Does everyone have the same understanding and clarity that you need to move forward?
  2. When’s the last time you took inventory of everything that your organization does? You might be surprised how many “I didn’t know we did that…” comments you hear around the room.
  3. Are they the right activities? What would you like to be doing? How would you enhance those activities? What would it take to get there?

Strategy, at its heart, is about great communication. Remember – this intent is that this strategy be something everyone in your organization understands and lives by. Be mindful of the strong foundation and work to develop the goals and objectives collaboratively and interactively through a series of facilitated sessions that draw upon all stakeholders’ input and perspectives.

As you write the plan, keep the messaging clear, concise and actionable. Less is more. Consider a strategy map to help as a communication tool that can help to internalize this strategy in your culture.

The Plan to Get There

The typical next step is to issue the plan to the entire organization and instruct that they cascade the high-level goals and objectives into their operational divisions. We might even instruct that performance goals be tied to this strategy.

This all sounds good, in theory. However, Implementation Planning is often missing key results such as:

  • opportunities for collaboration between divisions to execute the goals
  • collective priority setting and coordination
  • adequate resources to execute across the organization
  • measurement of progress and enhanced performance

HOW you plan to implement the strategy is key to its success. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste; be sure to create a consistent process by which divisions are creating work plans that contribute to an overarching organizational work plan. Then work collaboratively to ensure the proper priorities and resources are allocated to TRANSFORM your organization!

MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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