Month: October 2018


How do you promote a culture of strategic thinking?  There are four easy steps:

  1. Transparency – When management shares information regarding the current market, industry, customers, competitors, and goals, it keeps everyone up to speed. When an entire organization is enlightened, they can collectively work towards the organization’s goals.
  2. Promote solutions – Many times, we operate in reaction mode, placing bandages on problems. Encourage managers and team members to not only react to an issue, but to devise a long-term permanent solution.
  3. Promote future perspective – This is directly related to promoting solutions. Encourage everyone to ask two questions when proposing a solution. How does this serve our goals?  What impact will it have on these goals?
  4. Assign mentors – Everyone should have a mentor. New employees should be assigned one during the on-boarding process.  Existing employees can be paired up with colleagues.  Every manager should have a mentor that sits at the executive level.  Mentors help with training, accountability, and, most importantly, growing within the position.

Creating and nurturing a culture of strategic thinking taps into the collective education and experience of an entire organization.  It also helps to identify natural leaders that can be promoted to more senior positions as the need arises.


Strategic thinking is something that should not be the sole burden of the executive staff. Fostering a culture of strategic thinking will allow an organization to draw from the experiences and education of their entire staff. It also helps to identify natural leaders who may be hiding in their cubicles.

Strategic thinking is one of the most important traits in an effective leader and as such is a skill that should not be the sole burden of managers and executives. All employees should be empowered to plan and think strategically.

According to a 2013 Harvard Business Review study of 10,000 senior executives, 97% cited strategic thinking as the most critical leadership skill for an organization’s success. Strategic thinking requires the ability to plan ahead. This involves objective analysis and systematic thinking to identify the impact of decisions on all areas of the organization including production, revenue, talent management, and customer experience/customer relations.

Instilling strategic thinking throughout the organization can help identify natural leaders at all levels. Executives need to first empower their managers, so that managers can then instill this thought process within their teams. Effectively utilizing the collective thoughts of an entire organization can help a company see all aspects of their operation in a new light or with a fresh perspective.

Next: How do you promote a culture of strategic thinking? Four easy steps.

High Intelligence; Being Wrong

Jeff Bezos is much more than Amazon’s founder with personal fortune of some $150 billion. The guy is smart. It’s also obvious he surrounds himself with other smart people who can help make his vision reality.

How does he find them? The answer Bezos gave in a recent interview was the exact opposite of what you’d expect.

Most of us, when we want to figure out if someone is smart, ask if the person is frequently right: Do they have correct knowledge about the world and their area of expertise?

But Bezos’s counter intuitive strategy isn’t just to look at how often people are right. Instead, he also looks for people who can admit they are wrong and change their opinions often.

Bezos has observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

That willingness to consider new information goes hand in hand with a willingness to admit your old way of thinking was flawed. In other words, to be super smart you have to change your mind a lot.

Modern science agrees too. They call it intellectual humility. Studies of decision-making show that people who are more willing to entertain the idea that they’re wrong make markedly better choices. Being wrong, is a sign of curiosity, openness to new information, and ultimately smarts.

So, next time you’re trying to determine if someone is super smart or simply bluffing, ask when was the last time they changed their opinion.

Benefits of a Learning-Based Culture (2nd of 2)

Learning is a lifelong activity. New positions, even new projects, require a certain amount of education. Focusing on education without hands-on experience is a HUGE missed opportunity.

Cross-training has many advantages. One of the best advantages is the ability to shift employee roles in times of expansion, vacancies, or for a specific project. Cross-education is great for building employee morale and retention. The ability to work on different projects or learn a new aspect of a company helps to break up monotony, while increasing one’s self-worth and value within the company.

Task forces, shadowing, and special projects are all great opportunities to cross-educate. Determining what employees need to know for a specific project or position creates a road-map for learning allowing that learning to occur while working on the assignment. Pairing up employees from different departments for learning increases accountability. It also helps foster working relationships between colleagues.

Conferences and classroom learning still have merit and are especially effective when shared with the entire organization. Whenever an employee or department attends a professional development event outside of the office, have them lead a seminar on the content of that event when they return. Organizations can also bring the classroom learning right to the office implementing concepts in real time.

The key to any learning culture is to embrace different learning styles. Some employees learn best by hearing information, others by seeing or reading information, and some learn best through writing or physical manipulation. Professional development options can include online videos or articles, face-to-face training, and hands-on experiences. Depending upon the industry, all three of these options can be achieved for each training experience.

Promoting a learning-based culture will yield more engaged, productive, and satisfied employees.

Benefits of a Learning-Based Culture (Part 1 of 2)

Learning is a lifelong activity. New positions, even new projects, require a certain amount of education. Unfortunately, professional development (in many organizations) is stuck in the classroom. While traditional classroom learning is an efficient means of delivering information, it is not always the most effective. Many times, the concepts learned at a conference or training event fail to be implemented or can even be forgotten. Focusing on education without hands-on experiences a HUGE missed opportunity.

Effective leadership development is experience-driven. Experience is gained when education is put into practice. Fostering an organizational learning-based culture will engage team members, increase employee satisfaction, and boost productivity.

Creating a learning culture that is experience-based does not need to be costly. Utilizing the existing knowledge base within the organization is the simplest and most cost effective way to bring effective learning into the office. It also allows for cross-education to occur. Cross-education is critical at senior levels, but can be equally beneficial to productivity at all levels within an organization.

Next: Cross-training, task forces, conferences and classrooms




Frustration among current team members is perhaps one of the worst effects of a bad hire. Constantly having to help new hires, pick up the slack when the new hire fails, or contend with a “checked out” disgruntled employee when they under-perform is an immediate turnoff to top talent. The last thing any organization wants to do is drive away top-performers.

There are three approaches one can take to identify and release the bad hires and dissatisfied employees.

• Create a six-month “refund” policy – After six months, the organization can offer a modest severance and good reference if the poor performing hire agrees to resign. If accepted, the employee signs away their right to sue. Some companies will allow the employee who refuses this deal to stay on for a defined period of time, up to one year. If at that time there is no improvement, the employee is released without any severance or reference.

• On-boarding – An extended on-boarding process that is highly structured is a great way to identify poor-performers. New hires should be assigned a mentor to help facilitate the training process. At the end of this initial training period, companies can take a page from Zappos and PAY under-performers to resign. Another approach used at Whole Foods is to have the team vote if the new hire is a strong enough member. This approach works best when there are team-based performance incentives.

• Encourage dissatisfied employees to move on – Dissatisfied employees can be just as harmful to an organization as a bad hire. In fact, they can convert a good hire into a bad hire. Negativity, absenteeism, or general “checking out” on their work is something that needs to be addressed quickly. It IS in the best interest of the organization to encourage the employee to move on, even if they are performing well.

There is no such thing as a perfect hiring process. Sometimes candidates are misjudged during the interview process. Making certain that reference checks are performed to help detect possible issues is one of the best preventative measures. In the end, despite some of the best plans and preparation, bad hires still happen. Having a process to work with them will mean the difference between a learning opportunity and having a poor-performer in the organization for an extended period of time.


Dealing with Poor Performers

There is no such thing as a perfect hire. Every person entering a new role requires time to acclimate to the position. Training is not only necessary, but an important part of the on-boarding process. When all is said and done, as much as 46 percent of new hires fail within the first 18 months. Holding on to a weak hire can become a disaster if not dealt with in a timely manner.

Unhappy new hires and even disgruntled employees can become a cancer within a company. Identification and corrective action needs to occur as soon as possible to contain the issue. These employees soak up time and resources when managers try (many times in vain), to train, retrain, and coach them up to speed. It is very likely that a bad hire or disgruntled employee will not get any better.

Frustration among current team members is perhaps one of the worst effects of a bad hire. Constantly having to help new hires, pick up the slack when the new hire fails, or contend with a “checked out” disgruntled employee when they under perform is an immediate turnoff to top talent. The last thing any organization wants to do is drive away top-performers.

Next; Three approaches one can take to identify and release the bad hires and dissatisfied employees.