If You Aren’t Doing Content Marketing, You’re Missing The Boat

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

The Content Marketing Institute together with Marketing Profs and Curata released an essential study recently.

You need to read it.

Why? Because it found that 75% of companies are increasing their investment in content marketing, and 43% are increasing staff levels. Content marketing works, and I’ll show you how and why in the next 3 minutes.

Chief marketing officers have repeatedly recognized the need for a core content marketing team. And this team doesn’t need to be led by a CCO — chief content officer — a role which is being retired at many companies. Instead the successful content leader typically has a marketing operations manager or writer/editor title. Their job is to develop and orchestrate a content strategy across the company.

What’s Your Marketing Mix? Credit: Bluewire Media http://www.bluewiremedia.com.au/web-strategy-planning-template

Content Marketing Works

Content marketing is all about non-egocentric (i.e., end-user-focused rather than product- or company-focused) content that helps buyers with their jobs and careers. This content adds value—that’s why it works. Yes, you can include a smidge of product content woven in with the value-based message. Also be sure to publish via multiple content channels. As a result you will speed up the process of providing the necessary nine to twelve high value touches, which is a rough standard for B2B conversions for marketing efforts.

Four Keys To Successful Content

1. Use SBM (safety, belonging, mattering) in your messaging

2. Use meta-programs: when you have a blend of different meta-programs you need to use them all, since the brain deletes information not relevant to it. The good news is that this actually works!

4. Have three or more of the five curve elements:

C for Curiosity: does the content make the recipient curious?

U for Urgency: does the content make the recipient want to take action?

R for Relevance: is the content relevant to the recipient’s situation or context?

V for Value: does the content reflect the recipient’s values and/or is it valuable to the recipient?

E for Emotion: does the content evoke emotions in the recipient? Is it funny, fascinating, surprising…?

In addition to multiple channels you’ll also want to repurpose your content to ensure your reach is to the greatest potential relevant audience. As we know, if you only post one type of content in one specific way, you are only reaching a small percentage of your entire audience and potential prospective customer base. Let’s look at some examples of content marketing that worked.


According to Content Marketing Institute, 80% of B2B marketers include blogging in their marketing and 53% of B2B practitioners say they are achieving greater success now than in previous years. They attribute that increase to spending more time on content marketing, which includes blogs. The trend from “snackable content” to “sumptuous feasts” is rising. Consumers want to trust their information sources and are expecting that content be researched, accurate and worthy of their time and attention.

After many years of blogging, I have found that posting value-added blogs, on a regular basis, continues to deeply resonate with my audience. Based on views and comments, I am able to determine which blog content resonates the most and repurpose this information so that it can be shared on different channels and in different ways (infographic, SlideShare etc.) to reach a larger audience. When you create content that works well, reuse it in at least six different ways (including webinar, podcast, guest blog, video, etc).


One of my clients posted their first infographic on LinkedIn. It had 3,674 views in the first 72 hours, which resulted in 22 leads. Conversations are now in process and we’ll see how many of those convert. Next, they emailed the infographic out to their list and had open rates 83% higher than usual.


One of my company’s clients held a reception after a conference and had a goal of setting up meetings with those that attended. He sought my help in crafting an email that would compel the recipients to agree to a meeting. After we edited the message, using a blend of different meta-programs, this email received a 20% response rate—meaning 20% of the recipients agreed to the call to action (CTA), which was a meeting with our client. This was a new record for the company!


We created a case study that celebrated the success of one of our clients. We used a combination of channels to distribute this information. First, we posted the case study to LinkedIn with a CTA that took the recipient to a LeadPage. The LeadPage had a CTA asking them to opt-in to our list to receive one of the resources that was mentioned in the successful case study of our client. The conversion of the LeadPage was 68.5%. The automated email that we sent out to those that opted in (which contained the value added resource promised) had a 92.9% open rate and 82.1% click rate. These numbers, combined with the feedback from those that received the resource, showed us that our content, which combined safety/belonging/mattering, meta-programs and high-value, resonated with our audience.


We started using SlideShare 90 days ago. We have posted two presentations that contained content that was repurposed from popular blog posts, and have had a total of 2,672 views. Our one presentation had over 300 views over the course of two days. We now know that SlideShare is a social media channel that resonates with our audience and will continue to post on a more frequent basis and test different CTAs to determine what resonates the most with our audience and what is compelling them to convert.

Why Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We’ve all been there.

We make what we think is a rational decision. And then seconds, minutes or days later we wonder “What was I thinking?!” Was it a temporary lapse of sanity? Were we just distracted and decided anyway?

We knew it wasn’t the right decision or the best decision, but in that moment, we made a decision anyway. And it ended up being a stupid one. Why?


The Science Behind “Stupid”

Does this mean that we are indeed stupid? Nope. It simply means that not every decision we make is actually rational. We see what we want to see filtered through our inherent biases, and then we make decisions based on those biases. These biases are called cognitive biases and we all have them.

cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. These biases cause conclusions, inferences, assumptions about people and situations to be drawn in a less than logical fashion. We all create our own “subjective social reality” from our perception of the input we receive — both from outside of us and inside of us.

How can we stop making stupid decisions and start making smart ones? By spending time understanding our cognitive biases.

When we understand, we make better decisions.

Check out this graphic, then in a few minutes I’ll walk you through how I used it to help a client make a smart hire instead of a stupid one.

What’s Your Bias? Or How Bias Impacts Business

Neil Jacobstein, an expert in artificial intelligence, notes that we all use AI and algorithms to mitigate and compensate for many of the following heuristics in human cognition (thinking):

Anchoring bias: Tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

Availability bias: Tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which can be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes.

Bandwagon effect: Tendency to do (or believe) things because many people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.

Hindsight bias: Sometimes called the “I knew it all along” effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

Normalcy bias: Refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.

Optimism bias: Tendency to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes. 

Planning fallacy bias: Tendency to overestimate benefits and underestimate costs and task-completion times.

Sunk-cost or loss-aversion bias: Disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it.

Click here for a complete list of all cognitive biases.

Jacobstein is fond of pointing out that your neocortex has not had a major upgrade in 50,000 years. It is the size, shape and thickness of a dinner napkin. “What if,” he asks, “it was the size of a table cloth? Or California?”

The Benefits Of Bias—And How To Optimize Yours

Biases can be helpful. They filter through information overwhelm, they help make sense of the world, they allow us to make quick decisions in a fast paced world. Check out this recent challenge an executive coaching client of mine had.

My client needed to hire a VP marketing to take the company to the next level. He had four candidates that had made it to the interview stage and one had even made it onsite to meet with four different key stakeholders in the organization. I asked him why he favored this one candidate by such a long shot. As I listened I heard the following biases. He was showing:

• Planning fallacy bias: Underestimating how long the process would take and what a great hire would cost.

• Anchoring bias: Focusing on one piece of information (the candidate’s current job accomplishments but not his entire career—his resume had  two decades of one to two year roles).

• Availability bias: Because the candidate was successful (in a huge company with tons of resources available) he assumed he’d be successful in a much smaller company (with about 1/6 of the resources the candidate was accustomed to).

• Optimism bias: Some of this too…thinking we’d have a solid candidate identified, screened, hired within six weeks.

I expressed these concerns, and how cognitive biases can be busted when you:

• Take Your Time: You will make better decisions when you aren’t hungry, tired or stressed. Taking time before making a decision allows you to have think about the future and the impact of your decision.

• Get An Outside View: Ask a trusted advisor or peer for their opinion.

• Consider Options: What else could you do?

Then he asked me to interview the candidate. I deeply questioned the candidate in each of the bias areas our client had. The result? They’re not the right fit for the company. Not by a long shot. The excellent news is our client avoided a costly hiring mistake and the super excellent news is that he still has three candidates that might fit the bill once they are interviewed by carefully avoiding cognitive bias.

While we’ll all still make stupid decisions now and then (welcome to being human!), once you understand cognitive biases you’ll mitigate risk by implementing the tools above.

Employee Appreciation Day — Do You Do These 5 Things?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Friday, March 3, 2017 was Employee Appreciation Day.

Sure, it’s a day for companies and leaders to thank their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. But while having cake and an office party are always fun, shouldn’t employees feel and experience appreciation all year long?

Here are five epic ways to ensure your employees feel appreciated and are in their Smart State year round.

1. Help Them Grow Via Performance Motivation + High Fives And Feedback

Engaged, empowered and appreciated employees will bring their A game every single day. Here are three powerful and proven ways to ensure this result:

• Performance Motivation: use tools to create an environment of internal and external motivation. Performance motivation allows team members to understand their role, believe they are making a difference in their company. They will experience safety, belonging and mattering.

• Appreciation Celebration: Celebrating successes on a regular basis through visible appreciation (high five emails to the team, weekly round-up emails listing individual employee’s wins, leaderboards showing employees who are achieving their needle movers, gamification that shows who has won what based on their specific goals).

• Feedback: Creating an environment where employees feel safe to offer feedback and to receive feedback on an ongoing basis.

How are you creating a culture where your employees are motivated to grow both externally and internally?

2. Help Them Feel Powerful Via Emotional Resilience

To create an environment where team members feel powerful, effective, enrolled and engaged requires leaders to manage their emotional state and show others how to too. Remember when I talked about how you can choose your meaning in any given situation? No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose the meaning we make about it inside.

Emotional resilience is the ability to deal with the toughest, most challenging situations. It’s being able to bounce back even when you fail big. Emotional resilience is the one thing that will ensure you navigate through situations where others would give up. To briefly recap from my previous blog on EQ, there are four steps:

1. Figure out what you’re feeling

2. Take a breather

3. Consider the recipient

4. Focus on the outcome

When we create an environment where employees create behavior patterns that come from emotional empowerment and choice, rather than from compulsive reaction, we are helping them feel good about who they are. This is achieved through re-structuring the Trigger, Routine, Reward sequence of a behavior. I discuss exactly how this process works in two previous blogs: “How Humans Experience The World” and “Get Behavior Change That Lasts Using Neuroscience.

How are you helping your employees to feel powerful?

3. Help Them Have Fun

All of our clients either have or are in the process of launching High 5 programs where any employee can appreciate and acknowledge the contribution of another. These work best when the High 5 is about modeling a company value.  Others hold mini-golf tournaments in the middle of the office where each hole celebrates a company goal or value. Others have story time where leaders tell stories of triumphs—both personal and professional—that they have overcome and how. Some clients host annual competitions for which department makes the coolest/weirdest/most amazing gingerbread house, gingerbread haunted house, gingerbread turkey (all are kits from Trader Joe’s!).

There are countless ways to have fun and even attach empowering meaning to it at the same time.

How are you helping your employees have fun?

4. Help Them Have Peace Via Mindfulness Practices

The proven results of mindfulness practices are profound: improved concentration, improved focus and attention, less stress and anxiety, greater productivity, stronger leadership, happier more peaceful and fulfilling lives, more energy, better sleep.

Every highly accomplished leader and employee I know learns to stop the world and to stop their thoughts, on command. This is one of the best ways to make key decisions, to determine if a competitive action is truly a threat, to see future products, to assess the current state of a person who is struggling.

When we share mindfulness techniques with our employees, we are inviting them to embrace inner peace and experience more emotional choice and empowerment. These practices can include:

• Exercise

• Meditation

• Stillness Practices: energy recall, gratitude practice, news feed, light shower, heart opening, brain dump

Are you empowering your employees to embrace inner peace?

5. Help Them Have Trust

Trust is key for employees to be engaged. Lack of trust creates an environment where concerns quickly evolve into fears. And when fears collide with a belief that the system is failing, trouble results. Also as distrust and fear increase, the negative impact on employee morale, engagement and performance accelerate. When we create environments where trust is prevalent, employees will feel like their voice is heard and that they are appreciated.

Shared Identity + Profound Meaning = Tribe = Trust

There are three levels of trust that an employee must feel sustainability:

• Trust in their team: Are there bullies in your organization? Are you letting them thrive?

• Trust in their company: Consider your organization’s capability, commitment, and character. How are you doing?

• Trust in their leader: Trust starts at the top where the culture of the organization is formed–leaders must build a solid foundation where employee trust and engagement can thrive.

What other cool rituals does your culture have?

Organizational Distrust Is Rampant: Why Leaders Should Be Worried

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Distrust is rampant. It’s worldwide. It’s pervasive across all types of organizations in the business world. Even though the trust of CEOs is at an all-time low, we can help heal the distrust that may exist in your organization and boost your trust-factor among your tribe.

Are you ready?


You Can’t Buy Trust

Organizations can’t ‘buy’ the trust of their team, but they can create and foster it through increasing engagement and avoiding common pitfalls.

A tribe that continuously activates the reward network — smart tribe — is more productive and effective.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) - Pain and Pleasure

via UCLA

A tribe that continuously activates the pain network suffers from three common leadership pitfalls:

• Pitfall #1: Asking for feedback yet not acting on it

• Pitfall #2: Unemotional or not compelling mission, vision values

• Pitfall #3: Ineffective delegation

When we activate the reward network, an organization inspires intrinsic motivation in their tribe. This intrinsic motivation creates an environment where your talent wants to rise up, be accountable, honor the organization’s mission, vision, values and deliver consistent results.

Thanks to Seth Godin, here is a clearly laid out map to ensure you’re building trust most effectively. While this applies to marketing your brand, you are not only marketing your brand to your customers, but you are marketing your brand to your potential and existing talent within your tribe. Potential talent interacts with your brand far before the interview ever takes place. Once hired, talent will continue to interact with your brand ongoing.

Here are  Seth’s nine factors/aspects of building a powerful brand that inspires trust:

• Word Of Mouth: If I’ve heard good things about you, I am more inclined to trust you.

• Direct Interaction: Have you already interacted with me?

• Tone Of Voice: Does the tone build the relationship and foster Safety, Belonging, Mattering?

• Offer: What’s in it for me to listen to what you have to say? Do I gain more if I listen with an engaged and sympathetic ear?

• Size Of Leap: What are you asking me to do? How big is it?

• Tribal Affiliation: Are you one of us? Am I one of you?

• Perception Of Transparency: When I can understand your intention, I’m more inclined to trust you.

• Longevity: How long have you been showing up? How do you consistently treat your tribe?

• Mass Acceptance: When I hear about you from other tribe members, what are they saying? Is what they are saying, positive or negative, based in truth (perceived or real)?


Trust Drives Talent

Accountability is deeply tied to promises and trust. Safety, belonging, and mattering are quickly damaged when accountability is dropped. In previous blogs, I have discussed how as leaders, it’s key when administering consequences to determine if accountability is being dropped because the person is in their Critter State and is stuck, or if they are intentionally uncooperative.

In my experience, trust is broken in three levels: capability, commitment and character. The same applies to how trust is broken and egos are triggered from the perception of your tribe.

• Capability: Is the organization truly capable of doing what was promised? Capability breaches of trust are the easiest to fix if a company moves swiftly and is transparent.

• Commitment: Is the organization committed to following through on what was promised? Commitment breaches can be tricky. When an organization repeatedly drops commitments, we must find out what the underlying cause is. This can be achieved through leaders working with an executive coach and discovering/determining what they truly want to achieve using the Outcome Frame. This can also be achieved by listening to the feedback from the tribe.

• Character: If an organization keeps making promises and breaking them, who are they, really? An empowered and engaged tribe wants to be part of an organization they can count on. Character breaches are the hardest to fix since the tribe now doubts what the organization totally stands for.

Breaches in capability, commitment and character can take months or even years of demonstrating consistency to win back trust. The organizations that I’ve worked with typically see positive results begin within 6-18 months, depending on the level of Critter State among their team and the severity of the breach.

Trust Drives ROI

According to Paul J. Zak, founding director for the Center of Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, “In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. But most have done little to increase trust, mainly because they aren’t sure where to start.”

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

• 74% less stress

• 106% more energy at work

• 50% higher productivity

• 13% fewer sick days

• 76% more engagement

• 29% more satisfaction with their lives

• 40% less burnout

Two practices to increase trust:

1. Look at Seth’s nine criteria above and scale yourself 1-5 (5 being the highest)and this will show you where you need to work.

2. Consider your organization’s capability, commitment, and character. How are you doing?

How To Leverage Newly Reported Job Outlook Optimism & Recruit Great Talent

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Optimism regarding finding a quality job is at an all-time high.

“For the first time since Gallup began tracking the question in 2001, a majority of Americans (54%) say it is a ‘good time’ to find a quality job.” What’s created this massive upward swing?

Also per Gallup: “People’s optimism is affected by the political lens through which they view the country’s economic health. However, the overall trend in the quality job measure has generally tracked with official statistics about how the job market is doing, including the severe drop after the Great Recession and the improved outlook in recent years as unemployment has reached the lowest point in a decade.”

How can you leverage this improved climate of optimism? As a leader/organization seeking quality talent, or as the talent looking for a quality role, here’s how you can get tuned up and ready to maximize this rise in optimism in the job market.


Leaders: Leverage Optimism And Recruit Great Talent

If you are a leader, this may be a great time to dust off your current impact descriptions. If you are still using job descriptions, this may be a great time to create impact descriptions.

Impact Description – Not Job Description

Impact descriptions help both your team and your candidates to understand that every role exists to impact the organization in some specific way.

Here are some of the items we recommend including in an impact (formerly known as job) description.

• Who we are (company mission, vision, values)

• Who you are (describe who a successful fit is)

• Why this role matters (how the role impacts others—both internally and externally)

• Who your internal customers are and how this role delivers value to them

• Responsibilities

• Requirements

• Performance metrics/KPIs for this role

• Potential career path (possible roles this role could evolve into, and/or job skills and leadership skills to be gained)

• Leadership level of role (see leadership levels graphic)

• Learning and development opportunities

• Compensation

• Once you have the right person in the right role, they need to understand and agree with what is expected of them.

The biggest net-net of having impact descriptions is they create a smaller pool of talent which is more clearly aligned with what you want to achieve with a given role. A smaller pool that is closer to what you want saves time and energy, and will ensure your next team member is the best candidate for your organization.

Redefine Recruiting

Once impact descriptions are used, our clients find that if they recruit for values and accountability, then the talent they interview are completely aligned with the values of their organization. Recruiting for values and accountability is a great way to leverage this boost in optimism around finding quality jobs.

Many clients ask for help in streamlining their recruiting processes. Here’s how we often find that they are going wrong:

• Candidates aren’t being screened for alignment with company values

• Candidates aren’t being asked enough self-revealing questions

• Recruiters aren’t using rapport techniques to powerfully put candidates at ease—which would result in them revealing who they are

A job interview is a candidate’s “Rock Star Moment”—they’re showing you their best face, so it’s up to the recruiter to ensure that it’s an accurate face, a face we can rely on, a face that is representative of who they truly are. Here’s a sample list of recruiting questions that apply to all roles in a company:

• Which of our company values are most aligned with your personal values? Why?

• Please tell me some times in your career when you’ve most powerfully embodied our values?

• What are the five career accomplishments you are most proud of? Why?

• What are five adjectives used to describe you by: colleagues, bosses, friends, yourself?

• What makes a working environment most compelling?

• Where do you want to be career-wise in three years? Five years?

• What is your mission in life and why would working with us help you achieve it?

• What is the most important thing in life? How do you ensure you honor it?

• Please tell us a bit about your past entrepreneurial experiences and why/how you’d fit in with us.

• [Add all of your role-specific questions here]

Using the two processes above will ensure that you have the right talent to rock the right role.

If you are on the other side of the coin, talent that is looking for a quality job, here’s what you may want to consider.

Talent: Revisit Your Values And Polish Up Your Skills

Are you looking for a quality job with a company that is in alignment with who you are and the talents you possess? We suggest you dive into the following two areas:

Revisit Your Values

When’s the last time you really got in touch with your values?

Values will remind you of who you are and what your life is worth living for. Identifying your values is a process of discovery, a journey inward to who you really are. It is important to understand that your Values Compass is only as accurate and effective as the accuracy of the values you identify. By aligning your goals with your values and referring to them when faced with difficult decisions, the sense of struggle, overwhelm, and frustration in your life can virtually be eliminated. This does take time, but it is so worth it!

Think about a time in your life when things were very good. This would be a time when you were totally “at choice,” the best time in your life. Look at the values list below (or add your own) and identify five words on the list that were totally present for you during that time in your life. What values on that list were being totally honored during that time in your life?

Now repeat those same two steps, only think about one of the worst times in your life. This would be a time when you felt trapped, like you had no choices, a time when you were sort of at “rock bottom.” Identify the words on the list of values which were not  being honored for you during the time you described. Which of these words were clearly not present for you during that time in your life?

Though this process, you will experience crystal clear clarity on your values, which is important because you want to work with a company that has values that mesh with our own.

That way you are totally aligned.

Polish Up Your Skills

Are you ready to make sure you are the ‘rock star talent’ that the company you want to work with won’t overlook? We suggest self-evaluating (and maybe even ask a peer for feedback) if you are strong in these four brain-based areas.

1. Focus: ability to zoom in and zoom out, see big picture and little picture

2. Learning: ability to swiftly learn and retain information

3. Personal: knowing yourself and demonstrating self-regulation

4. Social: skills to read people accurately and skill to influence

*I go in depth regarding these areas in my previous blog: “Want To Be Promoted? Cultivate These 4 Traits.”

Trust me, spending some time polishing up your skills in these areas will increase your chance of landing your dream job drastically.

How will you leverage this massively improved climate of optimism?

63% Of Employees Don’t Trust Their Leader — Here’s What You Can Do To Change That

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Trust is toast, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It’s worldwide, it’s pervasive across business and government, and trust of CEOs is at an all-time low.

CEO Credibility plunged by 12 points this year. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. Whoa. Wow.

How Trust Is Broken…

Lack of trust creates an environment where concerns quickly evolve into fears. And when fears collide with a belief that the system is failing, trouble results. Also as distrust and fear increase, the negative impact on employee morale, engagement and performance accelerate. The end results are disengaged employees, frustrated management and lower profits. And the problem comes from four key emotional experiences:

1. A sense of injustice – the experience of unfairness tamps down the insula, the part of the brain responsible for emotional hurt and intuition. If a person is experiencing unfairness they will be spending more time in critter state, which will impact performance, decision making, collaboration, overall peace and happiness.

2. Lack of hope – the experience of hopelessness is even more painful than unfairness, and it’s below Critter State on the emotional range. In neurolinguistics the states of hopeless, helpless, worthless, and grief/terror are consider Baseline States. It doesn’t get worse than this.

3. Lack of confidence – depending on the person and degree of lack of confidence we’ll likely see procrastination, reluctance to take risks, playing “small”, and yes, more Critter State.

4. Desire for change – this is encouraging as there’s some energy here. Desire for change means we can envision a possible future where things are better. This lights up the Ventral Striatum where we anticipate reward. If we can increase this experience we can get into Smart State.


A few more key findings are that with the experience of distrust Edelman found that facts matter less to people and bias becomes the filter. 53% of respondents stated they do not listen to people or organizations with whom they often disagree. Further, people are 4x more likely to ignore info that doesn’t support their beliefs. Wow.

…And How To Fix It

So what’s the solution? Edelman’s survey respondents said that a shift from a top-down approach to a more participatory model is needed. In a word: collaboration, communication, transparency and mutual respect. This means deeply listening to and strategically acting on insights from employees. The report also concluded that rebuilding trust is a shared responsibility. We’re in this together.

And sustainable trust is key. This means taking employee engagement and empowerment to a new level, and ensuring leadership is engaged and empowered too.

Engage Everyone

In previous blogs we have discussed proven and trusted neuroscience-based tools that will increase employee engagement, the real reasons your team is not engaged, how great leaders build trust and increase employee engagement and the one mistake leaders make that kills employee engagement.  Engagement starts at the top where the culture of the organization is formed–leaders must build a solid foundation where employee engagement can thrive.

 Leadership engagement = employee engagement.

Engagement and motivation happen when people solve their own problems, and create their own aspirations and expectations. That’s why the “outcome frame” tool is so powerful. Additionally it’s essential to:

• Use inquiry over advocacy—ask questions vs. giving orders, and use the Outcome Frame for deep insight and clarity creation.

• Hold team strategy and problem solving meetings at every level–meet to do the work not to talk about the work.

• Have team members create their own goals and action plans.

When we add empowerment to engagement, we will see profound results.

Empower Employees

Are you encouraging employees to have a voice? Are you empowering them to make decisions and to have a say in the company in their department/role and to offer feedback in a safe and outcome focused way?

The damage happens when a leader asks for feedback and then either does nothing to improve him or herself or attempts to identify the source of criticism and punish it. Persecuting someone who took a risk to respond to your request is an obvious trust breaker, but why is doing nothing problematic as well?

When we take the time to give feedback to someone we have most likely thought about it, and feel that the person is not able to see or to prioritize something that can be clearly seen from the outside. When we do nothing, we discount the feedback giver’s experience and their desire to create a more positive outcome—we send them into Critter State through a sense of loss of belonging, mattering and possibly safety. Not responding may result in having them feel invisible and powerless. This results in a fear-based culture where trust won’t thrive, when what we want is a transparent culture where trust is abundant.

According to the Edelman Report, the most trusted spokesperson to communicate the topic of employees are the employees themselves, not the CEO or the Senior Executives. Employees also find the following types of communication the most “believable.”

• 57% Spontaneous Speaker vs 43% Rehearsed Speaker

• 54% Blunt and Outspoken vs 46% Diplomatic & Polite

• 51% Personal Experience vs 49% Data

Effective communication works when we incorporate Safety, Belonging, Mattering into the dialogue. Here are three examples that employees can use with their leaders to increase this experience:

Safety: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you help me create structures, techniques, processes to foster innovation, safe and sane risk taking, intellectual challenges? I think this could really help us grow and stretch.”

Belonging: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you provide me with opportunities to bring people together, to form teams and help them perform at their peak? I would love to contribute this way.”

Mattering: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you let me know when you’re happy with my work/contributions and what specifically you like? This will help me do more of what matters to you and the company.”

Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust

We can help heal the significant distrust in the business world via first understanding what a person is experiencing and then intentionally helping them shift into engagement and empowerment. When we give people what they crave their Critter Brain (fear based) calms down and we can guide them into their Smart State.

The result? A culture where trust, true rapport, connection, alignment, enrollment and engagement live.

How will you build trust in your organization?

The Power Primer: Lessons From Andy Grove, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates And Larry Ellison

*As originally seen on Forbes.com


In my experience, leaders either use power well or they don’t. Thankfully, I’ve met more that fall into the “use power well” category.

Here are four powerful leaders and the lessons they taught me.

I hope their wisdom will touch you too.

Andy Grove (Photo By Anne Knudsen/Getty Images)

Andy Grove: Be Gracious

Andy Grove always tried to feed me. He was that kind of man, making sure others were comfortable. He was the most gracious billionaire of the dozen or so I’ve met, and the one I’ve most wanted to emulate. When I first pitched him to invest in my venture capital fund he told me the presentation was “lucid.” That to me was a huge compliment. When he introduced me to his wife he said “this is the woman that is managing our money”—which was too generous as I managed a very very infinitesimal amount of his staggering net worth.

The more wealth and power he acquired, the more gracious, considerate, kind he was to me. He always met me “where I was” intellectually and asked questions that were simple, straightforward and effective. His assistant always worked with my calendar to find a mutually appropriate meeting time so I felt respected and like we were equals. That equality was a remarkable and rare experience.

Bill Gates (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Gates: Be Certain

It was 1985 and Windows was being trashed in the press. It had recently been launched and was full of bugs, was a commercial disaster, and was nearly unanimously ridiculed. Bill was unfazed. He said Windows was going to be the world standard, it was just a matter of time. We just had to keep plugging away at it, people would come to embrace it, they just didn’t “get it” quite yet.

Society often implies that we need to succeed to then be confident. But Bill taught me the exact opposite: you start with certainty, with confidence and then the proof shows up. It took until 1990 for Windows to become the desktop standard. Bill kept believing and moving through all the criticism for five years. Why? Because Windows was going to be the world standard. It was just a matter of time. He was certain of it.

Larry Ellison (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Larry Ellison: Be Bold

Back in the day before Oracle was the market leader, their competitor Sybase regularly ate Oracle’s proverbial lunch. Head to head on sales calls Sybase was technically superior… and yet Larry told the world he’d eat their lunch. As his team marketed and sold with bold claims of superiority Oracle got lucky: Sybase had some problems, their stock price crashed, and things started to fall apart. Larry seized the day and put Oracle on top. When one of my startups needed Oracle licenses and we couldn’t afford them I decided to be bold with him. I offered Larry stock options in my company in exchange for Oracle software. He told me I had guts to try that. I said I learned the behavior by observing him. He laughed, signed the stock document, and had his people give me six-digits worth of software. And he never even executed the stock options.

Stephen Hawking (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation)

Stephen Hawking: Be Warm

I met Stephen at a White House lecture he was giving. This excerpt from my book Rules for Renegades says it all:

“Hi,” I say crouching before the seated man. He’s alone, slumped over the little desk attached to his wheelchair. “Your speech was terrific,” I tell him. “You make physics so . . . accessible. Thanks.” He smiles and shifts a little, preparing to type a reply into his speech synthesizer. Aware of the effort I say, “You needn’t respond.”

He looked up at me, into me, with deep dark eyes—no black holes here. His eyes embraced me in a down-duvet hug. And there it was: connection. I could feel his anguish, his giant, potent mind trapped in a tiny, twisted body. And right then my insecurity evaporates: I no longer care that I’m not a player, that I’ll probably never be all that important. Because my quest for success had been about being seen, about banishing the perpetual feeling of invisibility and inconsequence, about making sure I mattered. And right then, I did. I felt seen all the way through.

And I realized that this…this is a moment that I’ll remember, this very real, better-than-a-handshake moment: the soulshake, the touchless shake, of Professor Stephen Hawking.

Be Gracious. Be Certain. Be Bold. Be Warm.

Great leaders choose to lead, and they work hard to be the person that others choose to follow. They provide a vision for the future and a mission that their team believes in. They cultivate the desire to improve. Are you cultivating that intangible drive and passion for excellence, for being all that you can be? How can you cultivate the traits discussed above, not only for you but for your team members?

5 Signs Your Top Performers Are Going To Quit And What You Can Do To Retain Them

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

How many of your top performers have quit, leaving you, their leader, wondering why or what happened?

People will quit before they ask for what they want or tell you what is wrong. That’s why knowing what to look for is so powerful.

Red Flag Behaviors

1. Productive And Accountability Drop: They are missing deadlines, not achieving needle movers, they aren’t keeping normal hours or if they are in the office – they aren’t ‘all there’. They stop making commitments to long-term projects and aren’t offering forward thinking ideas. They don’t seem to care or want to step up, grow, stretch or course correct. Your once top producer is now not producing.

2. Communication Stops: They aren’t proactively contributing in meetings, they aren’t responding to emails/phone calls in a timely manner or sometimes they don’t respond at all. They are isolating. They are only doing the minimum or less in regards to keeping the lines of communication open and constructive. When asked if everything is okay, they get defensive.

3. Negative Attitude And Behavior: They are expressing negative things about work, they aren’t satisfied, they have nothing positive to say, they aren’t optimistic or outcome focused or pro-active, they play the blame game and they may even display bullying behavior.

4. Change In Appearance: Drastic changes in appearance, combined with changes in behavior can indicate that they aren’t interested in how they are perceived at work or they don’t feel that they are “seen” at work so how they dress doesn’t really matter.

5. Team Members Are Concerned: When team members come to you and express their concerns, this is something that you should consider serious. Your top performer works closely with team members and they will be the first to notice subtle changes. It’s important to ensure that these concerns don’t become office gossip but don’t dismiss these concerns before taking a moment to check in with the top producer.

Simply put, all of these red flag behaviors equal one thing – your once top performer is now disengaged and instead of contributing positively to the company, they behavior is having a negative effect.

Once you see the behaviors, you can take action.  It is easier to respond to the intention of a behavior rather than the problem. It also helps us to groove our brains in useful ways.


Disengagement Is The Foundation

All of these factors equal disengagement and that is the core of knowing that someone is ready to jump ship. How do you know when to throw them a lifeline or when to let them go? When my clients have a top performer that is becoming disengaged and displaying signs that they are going to quit – they find it powerful to check in with them before that team member checks out.

Let’s create an environment where you as the leader get the results you want and your top performers feel powerful, effective, enrolled and engaged.

Create Resolution 

My 7 Step Feedback Frame (with some modifications for the disengaged employee) is outlined below. It helps everyone get to a shared positive understanding.  This is a process you can do with your struggling top performer. It’s essential to come from caring, listening, first finding out if the person wants to stay and then forging a go-forward plan together.

1. Set the stage – explain why you’re meeting and the outcome you want (to form a collaborative turnaround plan). This is where you need to find out if something external is happening that is contributing to their disengagement.

2. State observable data/behavior – this is where you describe specific behaviors that must change and examples so the employee can “step into” the past scenarios. This is also where you gain more clarity from them on external factors.

3. Describe impact – the damage that these behaviors are doing to others/the company/the employee themselves. Also find out here the damage the employee may perceive is happening to them.

4. Check problem acknowledgement – do they agree that there is a problem? Do they agree this problem now must end? This is the most essential step. If you don’t reach agreement here, go back to step 1. Once agreement is reached you’ll notice steps 5-7 are more pleasant, as the employee will now be engaged in finding a solution!

5. Co-create a plan – set a time period (30-90 days) where you’ll meet weekly for 15-30 minutes to track their progress on releasing the challenging behaviors and fixing the external factors identified above. Make the plan very specific in terms of what you need to see and when you’ll know you got the outcome you wanted. If the turnaround doesn’t occur, state clearly what the consequences will be (lose job, etc). Also note you may have some action items here too if there’s an external factor you need to fix (your behavior, that of another, a silly policy/decision that set the employee off, etc).

6. Check understanding – is everything clear? Anything else we need to cover? Reiterate desire for a positive resolution so the consequences can become irrelevant.

7. Build small agreements – launch the plan and commit to ending the conflict once and for all. Be sure to track it frequently and make sure all concerned see the behavior change too.

Success is a two-way street.

Four 2017 Topics That Bad Leaders Will Ignore And Great Leaders Will Embrace

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Are you ready for 2017? What will make it your best year yet?

Will it be tackling key goals? Finally getting those long-delayed “to do” items off your list? Or will it be taking your leadership to an entirely new level?

I’m hoping for the latter—and if you’re on board, I’ll be right there with you. Here are the four key areas that should be on every leader’s agenda for the New Year.

1. Lead With A Great Story

“Every great leader is a great storyteller.” — Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist

Storytelling is a tool that is more powerful than most leaders realize. Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate Convince, and Inspire, says that: “storytelling is useful in far more situations than most leaders realize. The five most commonly used are probably these: inspiring the organization, setting a vision, teaching important lessons, defining culture and values, and explaining who you are and what you believe.” Stories help your team take the journey with you and share in the triumphs. Stories are memorable, so make sure people are remembering you in a positive way.

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers

Source: www.educatorstechnology.com

Here’s the storytelling “recipe” that my executive coaching clients love. If you are ready to dive deeply into each of these “ingredients” see my blog “Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers.”

Step 1: Focus On Your “Story Customer” And Their Context: Who is the story for?

Step 2: Make It Authentic: Telling a fairy tale won’t cut it, your “Story Customer” wants an authentic Happily Ever After.

Step 3: Give The Story Movement: Make sure your story moves from problem/challenge to a more desirable outcome.

Step 4: Make It Value-Oriented: Your story doesn’t need to be an action-packed, overly dramatic screenplay that J.J. Abrams wants to direct, it needs to demonstrate your values and provide insight on how you will show up for your team.

Step 5: Test The Efficacy: Tell your story and make edits as needed. It’s not carved in stone.

2. Use A Collaborative Approach To Motivate Performance

Performance motivation is intrinsic motivation within a supportive environment. Team members are empowered to understand their role, believe they are making a difference in their company and desire to bring their A-game. Every. Single day. This infographic lays the groundwork.


3. Boost Your Emotional Resilience

4 Steps To Become A More Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Are you done with the drama? Tired of negative meaning making?

In order to be emotionally resilient, you must increase your EQ (emotional intelligence). To briefly recap from my previous blog on EQ, there are four steps:

1. Figure out what you’re feeling

2. Take a breather

3. Consider the recipient

4. Focus on the outcome

Let’s create an environment where you as the leader get the results you want and your team members feel powerful, effective, enrolled and engaged. In order to do this, leaders must be able to manage their emotional state. Remember when I talked about how you can choose your meaning in any given situation? No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose the meaning we make about it inside. Emotional resilience is the ability to deal with the toughest, most challenging situations. It’s being able to bounce back even when you fail big. Emotional resilience is the one thing that will ensure you navigate through situations where others would give up. An article in Time discusses the research conducted by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney that dives deeply into how the toughest people summon the will to keep going. They found 10 things that emotionally resilient people have in common.

1. Be Optimistic

2. Face Your Fears

3. Have A Moral Compass

4. Practice Spirituality

5. Get Social Support

6. Have Resilient Role Models

7. Maintain Physical Fitness

8. Keep Your Brain Strong

9. Be “Cognitively Flexible”

10. Find Meaning In What You Do

Neuroscience says there’s only one real way to deal with fear: to face it, head on. This is what the most resilient people do.

4. Bust Workplace Bullies

It’s time to get serious about busting bullies. They are scary, shocking, embarrassing and have been tolerated in the workplace for too long. Leaders avoid dealing with them because they don’t want the attack, conflict and discomfort. And bullies can be hard to detect because they often work within the rules of the organization. This stops now. Don’t let bullies disrupt and eventually cripple your company. If you have bullies in your culture, start with this plan on January 1.

My 3-Step Bully Rehab Plan:

1. Identify how you are enabling the situation

2. End the enabling behavior

3. Set up a new system with healthy boundaries and behaviors (rich in safety, belonging, mattering and shifting from tension to empowerment)

To see an example of how this rehab plan works, my previous blog goes into more detail. Remember, the targets of bullying are not always the weakest players – they are often the strongest. Bullying is a cycle that will result in prevalent Critter State, high employee turnover rates, far less revenue per employee, increased absences, the list goes on and on. It’s up to the leader to recognize that they are responsible for a team member’s bullying behavior. Confront the bully, use my formal feedback steps, turn their skills into assets if possible and create the culture of your dreams, a real SmartTribe.

For more info in bulling in the workplace and how it’s affecting your bottom line, check out my most recent post: “75% of Workers Are Affected By Bullying – Here’s What To Do About It.”

Chime in if you’re game to share this journey to the next level of leadership!

The Only Career Advice You Need For 2017

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

“The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization. She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.” Seth Godin

Are you ready to have your career soar in 2017? If the answer is yes, do you have a plan?

Buckle your seat belt and here we grow… in the next few minutes we’ll map out the path to ensure you reach your goals for the upcoming year.

Career Advice


Why Your Work Matters

First, let’s look at the state of your world. Seth Godin’s insightful blog ’10 Questions For Work That Matters’ is the best place to start when reflecting on your work in 2016. These questions will ensure that you are connecting your work to something more meaningful than just a paycheck or a title. Make the commitment to yourself, to your company and to the greater good you are achieving through work that you are passionate about.

Reflect on and answer the following questions.

1. What are you doing that’s difficult?

2. What are you doing that people believe only you can do?

3. Who are you connecting?

4. What do people say when they talk about you?

5. What are you afraid of?

6. What’s the scarce resource?

7. Who are you trying to change?

8. What does the change look like?

9. Would we miss your work if you stopped making it?

10. What do you stand for?

11. What contribution are you making?

Per Seth any question that’s difficult to answer deserves more thought. Any answers that are meandering, nuanced or complex are probably a symptom of something important.

Solidify Commitment Via Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

An IDP is not simply a potential career path, this plan alone won’t guarantee results. But when you combine the IDP with your heartfelt commitment, that’s where the power is. An IDP is a two-way commitment between you and your company to empower you to grow, to provide you with new opportunities and challenges. It is a statement that tells you:

• You are safe here (we are planning your future)

• You belong here (we are envisioning where you can increase your impact for the tribe)

You matter here (we are co-creating a way for you to shine even more brightly)

This is why an IDP is essential, and also why it’s key for it to be co-created with your leader, and driven forward by you. If IDPs are a new concept to you and your company, this is your opportunity to introduce this concept to your leader.

Your leader and company will take your IDP seriously because it’s a written commitment. You will want to move it forward to enjoy the many benefits of personal and professional growth.

An IDP is:

• A written plan that outlines what career goals you want to accomplish and what steps you will take to meet those goals

• A tool you can use to envision, organize, and plan your career

• A tool for creating a personalized plan that best reflects your career aspirations, whether you want to plan for professional development, promotion or both

You are responsible for driving the outcome of the Plan. An IDP should be viewed as your motivation. When you commit to your IDP, you will show your leader that you are deeply committed to growth and the work required to see this plan to fruition.

Ideally, your IDP will be comprised of Professional and Personal Development sections:

Professional Development Portion:

• Identify two or more possible career evolutions that can occur in the coming 1-3 years. Note that they can be up or across the org chart or can include deepening your current role.

• What job skills will be needed?

• What leadership skills will be needed?

• A timeline for acquiring these skills

• A plan, budget, leadership commitment to support the plan

• Next steps and monthly or quarterly check-in on plan progress

• Agreement that the plan will be driven by you, not by your leader

Personal Development Portion (optional but highly encouraged):

• Personal growth that you wish to undertake (weight loss, fitness goals, learning new language, stop smoking, etc.)

• Mapping of how this personal growth will benefit the company

• A timeline for acquiring these skills/creating this growth

• A plan, budget, leadership commitment to support the plan

• Next steps and monthly or quarterly check-in on plan progress

• Agreement that the plan will be driven by you, not by your leader

Be sure to determine the frequency of follow-up with your leader to ensure that the objectives of the plan are being attained. I recommend quarterly. Note that your IDP will be updated as needed and as you continue your growth. IDP’s include a lot of important information, but they don’t have to be complicated or intimidating.

Here is a simple template that my clients have found to be extremely powerful.

Career Advice: Individual Development Plan Professional

Career Advice: Individual Development Plan Personal

Feel free to edit and make this template your own and watch your career soar in 2017!