Author Archives: Sarah McNeill

The Lollipop Moment

My daughter is in grade seven and just made house captain. She’s thrilled by this honor. Her teachers and peers say she was chosen not for her outstanding popularity or nor her ability to influence others by extroverted behavior. Her most outstanding leadership characteristics have been demonstrated every year since Kindergarten in her ability to take her own initiative and to lead by example.  Today, she showed me this TEDx video that truly resonated with me on the theme of leadership. My daughter is totally inspired by the concept that leadership can take light in the everyday, ordinary world.

It’s in the small stuff where one can make the biggest differences.  Leadership can thereby be found in every individual. It is in the art of these small, lollipop moments that the biggest impacts on people can be made. This is a good challenge for us all to regularly have our lollipop moments by giving them naturally without premeditation or agenda.

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Does your leader have heart?

leadership keyNo one really leaves a job just because they have found a better opportunity or better pay. The number one reason people leave is because they fail to connect with their bosses as leaders and as people.  Think about it. Most people in their careers can share in this experience. Although missteps can happen, the best leaders strive to make their actions consistent with the philosophy of having an engaged and excited team.

I interviewed Cameron McNeill, owner of MAC Marketing Solutions, on what it means to lead. Here’s what Cameron said on this subject: ‘As a leader, I am constantly challenging myself to think about my team’s enjoyment in their career with my company. There is one test we have- when people wake up in the morning, are they excited about working with our company?  If they aren’t excited then I have failed. This philosophy is the driving spirit within our business and permeates all levels of the company. It boils down to two things: every person is driven by different circumstances, and you, the leader, must care about each individual as a fellow family member in the context of the vision of the company. Everyone then looks after each other and their collective well-being. It is hard to create this and impossible to fake. No marketing team could ever produce this spirit. It requires champions big and small to express this in an individual way. It is done with a common set of core values that everyone knows. They all know which way they are going and are pulling in the same direction. I never stop thinking about nor ever get tired of saying, “when you wake up in the morning…” ’.

And this theme is true with every executive of some of the top Canadian business’s I’ve had the pleasure to know. An effective leader lives and breathes the company’s core values. They obsess over the clarity of these core values. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Repeat. Repeat and repeat.

The best leaders have tremendous passion for what they do. Yet they operate with a level of genuine humility and with the sole purpose of their company’s welfare.  It’s not about them, rather, it’s about the company as a whole. These leaders protect their teams aligned with their vision at all costs. Lose your core team and you lose the heart and soul of the company.

Manage by Wandering Around

Okay managers, time to get out from behind your desk, and start wandering around. When you walk around you learn things but most importantly you get on the same level as the rest of your team by doing this basic step.

Here is a quick video on Tom Peters recounting the day he stumbled onto MBWA.  You might just want to MBWA. Get out from behind your desk. Try it. See how it feels and the results you get.

Human Resources at 30,000 feet

30,000 feetAre you leading the way you want to be led?

Are you really that good? We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we were perfect leaders.

The M word. Nothing can unsettle a competent employee more than when a manager takes their title name too seriously. The title ‘Manager’ for tradition’s sake should be made extinct along with its sidekick, ‘micro’. The most common theme I hear in human resources is the growing frustration of leaders oscillating from task management to accountability metrics with no apparent awareness of the bigger picture and it’s tie in to the company’s core vision.  It’s kind of like treating the symptom not the cause. A knee jerk reaction not only applies to medicine but also to management. When operated in such a manner ‘A’ players eventually leave the organization.

It’s a simple as this. An effective leader’s primary concern should be the ability to acquire and retain the best people. Once you have them, the key objective is to grow and develop your top talent.  The juggle today is that you must do this and also create a very real connection to these individuals. And it’s a delicate balancing act. Too much of one and not enough of another could shift the experience of whether or not an individual will thrive under your leadership. (Or lack thereof). The rock star CEO is so over. Just like the internet has made companies more transparent, great companies require their leadership to be real, and to truly be human.

Show don’t tell. It’s an age-old statement that goes back to primary school. No one likes to be told just as no one likes to be managed. No competent leader I’ve ever known enjoys the proverbial ‘management’ part of managing. Who would really? It’s kind of like glorified child minding except children are much sharper now and far more fascinating. When you ‘manage’ someone you are saying that ‘you’re not capable of managing yourself’ and ‘you’re not responsible to do what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it’. It essentially shows a vote of non-confidence to their commitment to action.

Tom Peters made famous,  ‘manage by wandering around’. When you walk around you learn things but most importantly you get on the same level as the rest of your team by doing this basic step. And do you ever learn about the pulse of the organization and it’s closeness to the company’s core values. If there is one piece of experience I have learned over the years as a business owner it is to do just that – walk around.   I love to walk up to an individual’s work space and ask the question, ‘What’s happening in your world right now?’ From there I am able to learn not only where they are at, but how they are approaching or considering their challenges. In many instances I will also learn something about what’s happening in their personal world too, leaving us both feeling better connected.

When you put yourself as a leader into one that is more of an approachable, getting ‘into the trenches’ role, you grow abilities and remove the roadblocks that might demotivate an employee. And the neatest thing is when I say something that really catches their attention that is relevant to them and they say ‘that was so helpful! I’m glad we spoke!’ Listening to them, by acting as a coach, looking at the framework of the world that employee lives in, you start to see more and have a better connection to that individual. Try to put yourself into their paradigm. Their lens is their reality. It’s their paradigm, not yours. By setting strategy in this context you achieve a complete picture and not the bits and pieces found in task management. And best of all, being closer to your team lets people feel more comfortable to speak and make comment. They are most likely going to feel that their opinions and feedback may be heard.  Spontaneous time with your team is so important. It’s those times together where I think, on reflection, I’ve learnt the most and received some of the most valuable feedback or ideas from individuals.

Jim Collins’ quote, ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.’ Is dead on.  Leadership ‘greatness’ is a skill that takes mindful practice. Here! Here!

Workplace Culture – Surprising Truths Revealed in Survey

Culture. It’s what we at McNak think about with every recruit we take on. Culture is such a big part of why new hires stick; a perfect piece in a complex puzzle.  This Inc. article reveals some surprising truths behind perceptions of executives and employees. Some wise words are shared that give pause to think about our own organizations and how we perceive culture.

For those that must know the survey results now, click here.

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photo credit: Jason Hargrove

Corporate Culture Minute

From the top of Whistler Mountain, Sarah McNeill talks about obstacles that can get in our way.

Happiness Inspires Productivity

I think that once viewing this video, actually twice (couldn’t help myself!), I felt happier and inspired to take this challenge on in my own life. I’ve always fallen on laughter as a key part of keeping happiness alive when facing stress or adversity. Shawn’s presentation has led me to consider happiness and success differently.

“ It’s the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.” Sage advice Shawn!

Shawn’s video shares an insightful message on how we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Bring happiness back and this act of raising positivity will naturally make a person more productive than those whose brains operate under negative, neutral or stress. What a difference place we’d live and work if we could rewire our brains to work as Shawn demonstrates. Let’s move the benchmark for average up!