05.12.2012 General Business, Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Employee Learning Week continues

I attended a terrific presentation by Sandy Stefano of Peak Performance/Sandler Training this morning on goal setting. She showed the incredibly moving and powerful video, The Last Lecture. http://thelastlecture.com

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a presentation by Dr. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In it, he shared his thoughts–philosophy, really–on not just goal-setting, but dream-setting.

So my quote of the day comes from Dr. Rausch. It applies to learning, certainly, and assuredly to creating a life well-lived.

“A brick wall is there to test our commitment to our goals.”

Clarity + Action + Persistence = Achieving your Dreams

What’s keeping you from achieving your dreams, for yourself, your family, and your business?

04.12.2012 General Business, Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Employee Learning Week 2012 is December 3 – 7

Each year for the past several, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) promotes workplace learning and performance through the declaration of Employee Learning Week (ELW). Each year, I try to participate as a “Champion of Learning.” Here’s a link to ASTD’s ELW site, and here’s one to the Central NY ASTD chapter’s site with information about what ELW is and how organizations around the country and the CNY region are recognizing it.

This year, I’m intending to tweet and email a daily “ELW Quote of the Day;” I’ll attend and chair the Onondaga-Madison School Boards Association Annual Meeting where the keynoter will discuss “Linking Workforce Development and Public Education;” I’ll present a client workshop on leadership, and coach two executive clients; and I’ll attend a sales training session presented by my friends at Peak Performance. The book I’m reading this week is “Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning” by Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi. (Csikszentmihalyi’s story of escape from Nazi-occupied Hungary and eventual immigration to the United States during WWII is fascinating and inspirational, and is a lesson in learning itself. He taught himself English, eventually earned his Ph. D. in Psychology, and became, perhaps, the most renowned expert on what he termed “flow” and how it impacts individual creativity and organizational performance.)

Think about ways you can enhance your learning, and how you can impact learning in your organization and for your clients this week.

Celebrate Employee Learning Week 2012!

27.11.2012 Musings from a School Board Member No Comments

Giving Thanks

One of my favorite authors is John Maxwell. The son of a pastor and a former preacher himself, he’s written prolifically on the subject of leadership–and life. I subscribe to a free service he offers, called “A Moment with Maxwell,” which has sort of morphed into his “Word of the Day.” It’s with that inspiration that I offer this first–and, likely, last–”Steiger’s Word of the Month.” And the word for this month is Gratitude. As in giving appreciation and recognition.

I wanted to take a moment, as we move into and through the holiday season and hurtle towards the end of 2012 (and, perhaps, the end of the world, depending on the calendar and political persuasion to which you subscribe), to say, “Thanks.”

Of course, it’s always risky to single out a few and miss the many. But I especially want to publicly note what a few groups and individuals have done to go above and beyond in providing opportunities for students that wouldn’t have happened without them. So, thanks to:

  • the Tully Elementary School PTO for tireless efforts to raise money and provide support to our elementary teachers and students. Most recently, the PTO was able to raise enough money to purchase and donate two Smartboards to enhance learning opportunities for children in this building.
  • community members who have volunteered their skills and time to allow programs to continue, such as Steve Davenport for coaching the golf team; (Mary/Kraig: who else?)
  • faculty who have pursued special funding and grants to provide opportunities we couldn’t otherwise offer, such as Mary Podsiedlik, who championed an effort that resulted in nearly $300,000 in funding over the next five years to provide an enrichment program for our students in K – 7; Derek Hill, who obtained a $10,000 grant to provide state-of-the-art welding equipment to train students in our Ag Mechanics course which will prepare them to pursue high-demand career opportunities; and (Mary/Kraig: who else?)
  • numerous individuals who have stepped up with financial and in-kind financial contributions to support Tully’s programs, such as the golf team, the indoor track team, and (Mary/Kraig: what else?)

I’m certain that I could name more folks for their specific efforts, time, and dollars that have helped us “keep on keepin’ on,” and apologize for any oversights and omissions. To the faculty, staff, and administration who “keep the trains running on schedule every day” through your day-to-day efforts to give your best to support our community and kids, ya know I love ya! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

02.11.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Flex Your Meeting Muscles with Versatility, by Dave Ingram

Attending meetings can impact employees in numerous ways. At their best, meetings deliver needed information, strategic direction, and clarity for participants. At their worst, meetings can waste time, reduce productivity, and cause irritation for those involved. Participants without formal leadership roles may feel helpless about meetings that consume large amounts of time without producing real results.

Planning and preparation are the keys to overcoming common hindrances to effective meetings. A previous blog looked at how leaders try and prevent Style-driven meeting disruptions. However, those formal leadership roles are not the only source of influence over meeting productivity. Everyone in a meeting can take on an informal leadership role, benefitting themselves and the team by preparing specific strategies for addressing others’ destructive tendencies.

Attendees without formal leadership roles must often be more creative and relational in their tactics, as they do not have control over elements such as meeting agendas, timeframes and presentation materials. Despite these limitations, discerning participants can do much to make meetings more productive and efficient.

Develop a Strategy for Each SOCIAL STYLE

Understanding the behavioral preferences of colleagues and applying Style-specific techniques is the essence of Versatility. Being Versatile is a great way to improve the productivity of meetings. Here are specific suggestions for people of each Style.

To help Driving Style teammates, participants can come prepared to explain the strategic significance of the topic at hand and any input they provide. This can head-off the Driving Style’s tendency to dismiss issues that they feel are not primary to a discussion. Also, simply clarifying the desired outcome of the discussion and expressing a desire to achieve resolution can help put the Driving Style person in a productive mood.

When working alongside Expressive Style teammates in meetings, co-workers should be prepared to take slight detours from major topics. The Expressive person may get sidetracked and want the opportunity to explore what he or she believes to be an important, if somewhat tangential, topic.  Allowing some flexibility before moving back to the agenda can allow Expressives to satisfy their Style need while avoiding their confrontational Backup Behavior.  Using Active Listening techniques such as clarifying, confirming and summarizing can make a major positive impact on keeping Expressive teammates on track.

Identifying an Amiable person’s Backup Behavior can be a challenge, because it often looks like acceptance. But this person’s acquiescence may signal a conflict in hiding. If you enter the meeting aware of this tendency, you can avoid Backup Behavior by taking time to recognize the Amiable person’s contributions and validate their concerns. Just the act of recognizing such concerns will go a long way to minimizing conflict and boosting buy-in.

To avoid the Analytical Backup Behavior of withdrawing and avoiding, other participants can focus on rational arguments, rather than their own interpersonal needs. Setting aside one’s own desire for quick results (Driving), creativity and recognition (Expressive) or camaraderie and safety (Amiable) and focusing on making a well-informed and thoughtful decision will make the Analytical person comfortable.  Showing patience with Analyticals’ long pauses and presenting them with one point to consider at a time can also help to keep these participants engaged and contributing.

The examples above illustrate that a wide range of creative solutions and meeting-preparation tactics can enhance meeting productivity.  Using your Versatility skills can help overcome Backup Behavior, whether our own or that of the others in our meetings.

Learn more about the four SOCIAL STYLEs. 

The article originally appeared on TRACOM’s Performance Blog.  Visit http://www.tracomcorp.com/blog/blog-topics.aspx to read other articles.

Dave Ingram is a Project Coordinator at TRACOM Group. His writing has been featured in The Motley Fool, The Houston Chronicle, NYSE Moneysense and Yahoo.


15.09.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Musings from a School Board Member, Talent Management and Development 3 Comments

Change happens (and that’s good!)

The calendar turns, the cycle continues…things change, and things are familiar.

At school’s opening in early September, I had the opportunity to greet our district’s faculty and staff on their first day back from summer vacation. We welcomed new members to our learning community, and recognized with gratitude the decades of service that others have provided.

And I realized, with some angst and awe, that, as my youngest has moved on to the next phase of his life after his High School graduation in June, this was the first Back-to-School week that I haven’t had a child going back to school in almost two decades! While this hardly seems possible, since neither I nor my wife have aged a day since the chil’uns were born, it does, indeed, seem to be true. While he’s always close-in-mind, he’s nowhere in sight!

Yet, despite this change, there remains the familiar. The cats are still hanging around, doing their part to control the rodent and bird populations. We both still get up and try to make some type of meaningful contribution at work each day. Oh, and Number One son, fresh off his college graduation, has been spotted around these parts again, providing some continuity of lineage in the house, if for ever-briefer moments.

So, it has always been and will always be: things change, but we’re not left with nuthin’. What has ended, is over, and will never be again. For some, the ending creates hopelessness or a longing for the past; for others, it could be excitement and possibility for the future. In dealing with change, attitude is altitude! Change causes us to look afresh at not just what we do and how we do it, but who we are.

Looking for the opportunities that change can bring, the fresh perspectives and re-creations that it offers, we can find sustenance and renewal, energy and excitement. We have the opportunity to reinvent and refresh ourselves and our institutions, to help us and them become what we want to be.

As we move into the new school year, the district moves forward with ideas and initiatives to sustain and improve the opportunities for our students and our community. I’m excited to continue to work with an incredible group of committed volunteers and staff on your behalf, for our community’s future and our children’s futures.

13.08.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development 8 Comments

Is Leadership Inspiring or Inspired?

“You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.” Carl G. Jung

In his book, The Five Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell offers influence as THE definition of leadership. The power of a leader is demonstrated not through their title, but through their ability to develop mutually respectful, trust-filled relationships that lead to ever higher levels of performance and development, of both the individuals and the teams they’re privileged to lead.

How does a leader exert influence–not through power, but through persuasion–to inspire creativity in their team? What if we flip this? Have you ever wondered what your team can offer to inspire creative thinking in you? Think of what you could achieve, what everyone could achieve, if your creative ability was amplified by those around you. Consider, also, that in you drawing inspiration from them, you are creating an environment in which they, too, can be more creative.

So how to do it? There are many factors that come into play and every situation is unique, of course, but here are several elements to consider. It depends on you and your style, what your team is like, the history of participation and involvement in the team and in the company, the type of work you are doing, where you would like to be headed, and how you fit into the larger organization.

The first place to start, though, is through assuming good intentions–with you believing that your team has a lot to offer in terms of inspiring creativity in you, and then asking for ideas. Let them know you are inviting them to inspire you. Ask them how they feel they could inspire you. Take an interest in how and why they do their work the way they do. Make it evident that you are doing this because you are genuinely interested. Otherwise they may feel it is some plot to get more efficiency out of them and they could be suspicious or apprehensive.

And when you do draw inspiration from them, tell them. Thank them. Let them know you are excited about the new idea that they inspired. Tell them you are taking a risk and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. Be a model of trying and failing, and then trying again. If it fails, let them know it was not their fault in any way and you still want and value their inspiration.

You will create an environment where people want to help you achieve, and in doing so you also are creating an environment where they can be creative and achieve themselves.

How can you encourage others to contribute to your creativity?  What other benefits can you think of?

09.07.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development 2 Comments

“But I don’t have time to listen!”

Everybody knows, and all my experience as well as the reading and research I’ve done on the subject confirms: listening, with empathy, congruence, and acceptance, is more than a good thing; it’s essential in building relationships, trust, and performance in an organization, a department, a team, or a work group. I’m sure most of you are nodding your heads in agreement. It’s one of those “truths we hold to be self-evident,” to put it in the spirit of the Independence Day season.

Yet, too often, we do things other than listen. What do we do? Among many other things, we

• ask questions that may, or may not be relevant to the speaker

• problem-solve, or give unsolicited advice

• offer reassurance, or harsh judgment

• give praise, or criticism.

Some find it hard to listen, especially when they disagree with what another is saying. Some mistake “hearing” for “listening,” using mute silence when another is speaking, without interacting with them. Some don’t know how to get a word in when faced with another’s strong emotion or non-stop monologue.

What to do?

Listening works best when there is a need for it! Use Reflective Listening when:

• accurately understanding the information the other person is conveying is important to you, to the team, to accomplishing the goals of the organization, and/or

• you’re important to their success, or they’re important to yours, and/or

• the other person has a strong need to talk, and/or

• the relationship with the other person is important to you, personally or professionally.

If you don’t have time to listen, it’s your right, and, really, your obligation, to let the other person know this. But also let them know when you can give them some time.

How does one listen reflectively? Focus your attention, on both the words and tone of the speaker. Encourage the speaker to expand on what they want to say with phrases such as “Tell me more” and “Is there anything else?” And use sentence-starters such as “The main point for you is …” and “The bottom line is …” and “In your opinion, we have to …” to help summarize the gist of the speaker’s message and to demonstrate your understanding of it.

Help a person who might ramble to get to the point by helping them focus on their main message. It could be that they’re thinking out loud, or they might be continuing to speak because they don’t know if you understand them. Reflective Listening will assure them that you do. Clarify the key ideas by breaking in with shorter, more frequent reflections. This also will model brevity for the other person, and it shortens the time it can take to solve a problem by getting to the issue more quickly and accurately.

The more skillfully you can use the tool of Reflective Listening, the more time you’ll ultimately save by getting at root causes to problems more quickly, and by engaging your co-workers to honestly share ideas on solving problems sooner, rather than later. You’ll build trust, commitment, and improve productivity. This will enhance your reputation and skill as an exceptional leader.

01.06.2012 Musings from a School Board Member, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Commencement! (and a lesson in talent development)

A year ago, almost to the day, my older son, kind-hearted soul that he is, brought home yet another stray cat, this one from the mean streets of Binghamton. Esther, as he named her, was a bit skittish, no doubt a result of her challenging day-to-day existence, but also, it turned out, because she was pregnant. Little more than a kitten herself, in about a month she birthed a litter of six of the cutest cat babies you ever did see.

Now we helped a little bit, providing food here and changing litter there. But she took the lead in their upbringing. First by doing things for them and then showing them how to do things and eventually letting them do things for themselves, she’s raised some mighty fine young men, er, cats (the two we’ve held on to) who can now go forth into the world on any given day and fend for themselves (well, except for that food and litter thing).

And so it is with our kits, er, kids. (You hoped I’d get around to a tie-in at some point, didn’t you!) Except it takes a bit more time than a year before ours are ready to face the challenges of the world they will enter, and it’s a much more complex, ever-changing one at that, for them and for us. We, the parents, bring them into our lives, in circumstances ranging from fortunate to difficult. With some assistance, or none, we do the best we can in their early years. At some point, we entrust a portion of their formal education to the educational community of the Tully Central School District, and we enroll them in Kindergarten.

From those tentative first steps as Tully students to their final jubilant ones as they “walk the stage” to receive their diplomas, we’ve followed a similar path as Esther did with her kittens. First doing almost everything for them, we teach them and train them to eventually do things for themselves, to be successful and confident young cats, er, people.

On June 23, I’ll watch my younger son and his friends and classmates stride with confidence across the stage to take the next, first really independent steps in their lives. While I have no illusions that they’ll be ready to completely fend for themsleves (they’ll, too, still need food and; oh, you get the idea), I’ll be filled with hope and optimism that they each will have the knowledge, skill, and confidence to learn new things and take on new challenges.

Thank you to our faculty and staff for your professionalism and commitment to their learning and development over the years. Thank you to all the parents of all of our students for your partnering with our staff for your children and for fostering learning in your homes. Thank you to our community for your financial and moral support of our schools and students. Congratulations to all of our students for your hard work and success in the past year—have a great summer!

And, of course, best of luck to all of our graduates. I know you can be wildly successful in any given endeavor to which you choose to commit yourself, as you go forth into that challenging world.


03.05.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Can Leadership be Learned?

In last week’s blog, I wrote about the difference that leadership can make in an organization, not just in terms of motivation, but in tangible, bottom-line performance, sales, and profitability. A reasonable question that arises, then, is, “Can leadership be learned, or is it innate?”

A new white paper published by the TRACOM Group, the organization long-known for its research and development of the Social Style model and its applicability for individuals and teams, looks afresh at performance results that can be attributed to EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, and its practice by leaders. “3G EQ” is a growing body of research that organizations from many industries and sectors are applying to achieve improved, and impressive, performance results.

The white paper’s author, Dr. Casey Mulqueen, describes the differences between “Emotional Intelligence” (EQ) and “Behavioral Intelligence” (BEQ). EQ is an internal process with two elements. The first focuses on Self-awareness; the second on Awareness of Others. BEQ operates in the world, where people and interactions exist. BEQ elements are behaviors and actions that can be seen and heard; EQ elements are invisible to the world, and harder to measure or observe.

Elements of EQ as relating to the Self include Emotion Awareness, Self-insight, and Self-confidence. These are likely the necessary prerequisites for the BEQ corollaries of Self-control, Stress Management, Conscientiousness, and Optimism. Emotional Intelligence abilities that relate to Others are Emotion Perception, Empathy/Openness, and Listening; Behavioral Intelligence skills relating to Others include Building Relationships, Influencing Others, Motivating Others, Flexibility, and Innovativeness.

One thing I know is that if you can observe something, you can measure it. If you can measure it, you can improve it. A key part of my job, as an executive coach,  a manager–and a parent!–is to gather information and feed it back into the system, whether that system is an organization or an individual. Awareness creates insight. But that’s the beginning, not the end, of a development cycle. Feedback on results or the perceptions of others can tell you HOW you’re coming across, but not WHY you’re getting those results. Skill development requires both insight on perceptions, and action on that insight.

Can you have high EQ, and low BEQ. Absolutely. We all know people who have said , “But that’s not what I meant” when dealing with the fallout from not considering the unintended impact of their actions on people or their performance. (Not that I’ve ever said that!) The good news: most people are usually more than willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, and another chance. But when that lack of consideration–that low EQ–becomes the norm, people start to consider their options and dust off their resumés. People will tolerate a toxic climate for only so long before deciding that they need to take action, whether that action is to quit and leave, or, worse, quit and stay!

Can you have high BEQ with low EQ.  Well, the research says, “Yes.” In other words, you can “fake it ’til you make it!” But you have to move towards the ‘making it’ part. The good news is that by doing the behaviors of BEQ, it actually helps improve and develop one’s EQ.

What I like about the BEQ idea is its congruence with that model, of feedback leading to self-awareness leading to insight leading to developing a repertoire of actions and choices to be applied to different situations as needed, all cycling back to improved EQ and BEQ in more and more circumstances.

Having skill-based choices, and developing the discretion of how and when to apply the appropriate option to each unique situation, is at the heart of what effective leaders do to develop their people and organizations–and themselves. And these choices can be observed, learned, practiced, and improved.


(Here’s a link to TRACOM’s White Paper on Behavioral EQ: http://docs.tracomcorp.com/TPD/Whitepaper/BEQ_Whitepaper.pdf )

19.04.2012 General Business, Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development 2 Comments

Apple does it right

Okay, so why the Apple ode?

I’m typing this on my latest of new Apple objects, a 15-inch Macbook Pro. The machine looks beautiful. The keys are sensual. The internet screams on it. All my old files “just work” on it. So what’s that got to do with anything? This is a business and leadership column, after all!

Well, you see, I originally went to upgrade my seven-year-old computer, thinking I’d buy something cutting edge and current, like an iPad or a Macbook Air, but maybe save a little by purchasing from another company (of which I’m a shareholder). (That I’d be purchasing an Apple product was decided–I’m firmly anchored to their ecosystem. And I’m not a shareholder!) I’ve read lots o’ stuff online about specs and performance and features and thought I had a pretty good handle on the benefits and drawbacks of the product line. I’ve purchased a couple of iPads for the fam. Now it was my turn to get hip with the latest and greatest.

I went to my local Big Box Electronics Retailer where they wear blue and yellow shirts, fully expecting to buy there. I “hailed” a sales associate after a few minutes of looking at the machines on my own. She was pleasant, although I got the feeling she might have been heading somewhere else to do something else, rather than stop and speak with me. With little direct eye contact nor facial expression and frequent interruptions, she “listened” for a minute or two (which felt like 10 or 15 seconds to me), and made her recommendation. Rather than the shinier toys I coveted, she recommended the Macbook Pro to meet my needs, and called her manager over to confirm this. This rec made sense to me, given what I said I needed to do with it (though I was a little disappointed!). And the price was actually lower than offered on Apple’s site, so the “yippee, I’m getting a deal!” sensation made me feel alright about it.

The floor associate wandered off to do something else, and the manager began verifying pricing, filling out the paperwork–and heavily pushing add-on support services and warranties (“What happens if you drop it? This will protect you! And there’s no deductible each time, so you can drop it as often as you like! For Three Years!”) Final pricing was more than I was hoping to spend, but still within budget. Told him I’d think about it.

The next day, I’m near the Apple store in the mall and had some time to kill. With no intention of buying that night, I wandered in, near closing. Friendly greeter at the store’s front introduced me to a smiling associate to help me. Kirsten listened–really listened–to my story. My experience. My challenges with the present equipment. What I was hoping to accomplish and my needs. Even my desires to own the hipper new products! She looked at me and listened. And listened some more, engaging in back and forth with targeted questioning to balance the listening.

After several minutes of letting me ramble (probably seemed like a couple of hours to her!) yet keeping me focused through her skillful listening and questioning, she recommended the Macbook Pro to meet my needs. Same computer. I asked about the Applecare and “What’s this One-to-One thing?” (training and support), and she described it but left it to me to think about, with no pressure. (At this point we were more than ten minutes past the store’s closing time, although I wasn’t the last customer.) The list price of the computer actually was $120 higher, although the total package with support turned out to be about the same.

I said I’d take it. (And now I was the last customer!)

What drives a business’s success?

Sales? Controlling expenses? Cash flow?

All important, and necessary. But, who’s achieving these business goals?

People. It’s the people in an organization, the employees carrying out the day-to-day tasks and activities that bring about the most desirous of business outcomes: profitable mission fulfillment. (And this applies for non-profit and governmental organizations, also, of course. The business outcome could be called “mission fulfillment in a financially meaningful way,” but the bottom line is as crucial to ongoing viability for them as for their for-profit siblings.)

And from where do the people in the organization take their cues? Leadership.

Leadership that’s value-based and congruently “walks its talk” by behavioralizing and modeling its values. Leadership that treats its employees with honesty, fairness, and respect, building trust, commitment, and engagement.

Leadership is the lever to organizational success in how it defines and lives its company’s values, and engages employees in that culture and the real purpose of the business.