Tag archive for "leadership speaker"

Guest Post, Leadership

Choose a Great Boss. Be a Great Boss

No Comments 19 March 2015

She has a relaxed management styleGuest post by Ivan Serrano.

The best technique for getting ahead at work is choosing a great boss. Not a great job, a great boss. A great boss is one who listens to employees, who is willing to let employees make mistakes and learn from them, who understands the value of loyalty, who is willing to go to bat for employees and who makes sure employees have everything they need to succeed.

But here’s the problem: great bosses are in high demand, but unfortunately in short supply. So jobs with great bosses don’t open up that often.

What can employees who don’t have great bosses do to get ahead? Here are a few thoughts that will help you get ahead even if you have a lousy boss. They will also make you more valuable to that great boss who may be in your future.

There’s one more big bonus to practicing these tips. They will also make you a great boss when you have the chance to step up and lead others. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s great bosses.

Focus on results

There is plenty of good advice about how to get a job and what to do after you’ve landed one, but results are what matter most in the workplace. That said, results are defined differently for every job and every company. At one job, the most important result may be contributing to growing revenues. At another job, the most important result may be creating loyal or happy customers. At another job, the result may be fitting into the team dynamic in a way that facilitates the group effort. It’s important to know which results matter most and then focus on them.

Once the results that matter most for your job have been identified, it is important to identify the metrics for success in achieving those results and tracking your performance yourself. Make sure you are improving.

Ask questions

If no one is telling you which results matter most and how success is measured, you need to be asking questions. Don’t make assumptions and don’t wait for someone to volunteer the information you need. Get out in front and stay in front with salient questions.

This doesn’t mean ask questions so you will appear to be engaged. Only ask the questions you need answers for.

Show me a solution

No whining and don’t play the blame game. There is no future in pointing out a problem without also sharing a solution.

You probably aren’t the first one to notice the problems you see. The real problem is that no one is stepping up to solve the problem. Instead of just pointing out a problem and waiting for someone else to do something about it, bring a solution to the table.

Admit your mistakes

But then move on. There aren’t really any benefits from mistakes except learning what not to do in a single situation. If you learn your lesson, you’ve already gotten everything you’re going to get from making a mistake. Move on.

Things change

Be ready for change, even before your first day on the job. Chances are, if you stay at a job long enough, you will be asked to perform more than one task that is not on your job description.

Don’t let your title limit you. Ask the questions to understand what results are expected and what the metrics for success are. Do your best not to take on new tasks until both you and the person making the request have a mutual understanding of results and metrics for success. This will ensure you get credit for your work.

Often, taking on new responsibilities means you will not be able to perform a task you have been responsible for. Don’t just assume that task will be taken care of. Make sure you know who will be responsible for your old tasks–it may be you.

Challenge yourself

You’re going to be more engaged with your job if you’re continually doing something new. This translates into personal growth, but it also translates into increasing your value as an employee.

The devil is in the details

Make sure tasks get completed. Too often in the daily hustle from one crisis to the next, many tasks don’t get completed in one sitting. This is a reality of the modern workplace. Juggling more than one project is a skill most employees need to have.

Even though your boss asks you to stop doing something to work on something else, it does not mean your boss doesn’t want you to complete the task you were asked to stop. Always go back and finish up those incomplete tasks.

Have fun

Try to have some fun. Humor and laughter in the workplace can make the day go by quicker and creates an atmosphere that everyone enjoys being in.

Following these tips will help you get ahead in your current job. The real value of this particular set of tips is that they are getting you ready for leadership and establishing the capability you will need to as a leader–leading by example. Keep your eye on the goal of becoming a great boss one day. The workplace needs you.

Ivan Serrano is a business and finance journalist living in the Bay Area of California. Connect with him on Google+.


by Richard, Exemplars, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Treat People Right. Make More Money.

No Comments 26 February 2015

zazie-exteriorWhile channel surfing the other night, I stopped on an NBC News story that, for once, had nothing to do with anyone aggrandizing their wartime exploits, but rather a real hero in the world of good-sense business – someone in – get this – the restaurant business, of all things.


Jennifer Piallat, owner of Zazie, a small French restaurant in the hyper-competitive dining market of San Francisco, makes a ton more money for her business than most of her competitors do, in part by treating her employees exceptionally well. Where have we heard that theme before?


You can watch the story here,

But here’s a summary:

Zazie’s employees, average age 26, work in a restaurant, and actually live like grownups. They earn good wages, great tips, AND they get paid sick leave, full health benefits, including dental, and an employer-funded 401(k) plan.


They’re not actors or starving artists, slinging hash to make ends meet. They’re professionals in a career with a future.


One of the chefs has been at Zazie for 13 years. A dishwasher has 20+ years.


Ms. Piallat tells reporter Cynthia McFadden that in a market where successful restaurants earn a 5% profit, Zazie’s profit it closer to 22%.


How does she pay for all that, and still make good money? She asks each person who eats in her restaurant to pay a $1.25 surcharge, to cover her employees’ health, dental, and retirement benefits. Less, she points out, than the cost of a half-hour at a parking meter outside the restaurant.


There’s been a great deal of discussion lately, much of it in shrill tones, about how much employers, especially those in food service “should” pay their workers, relative to minimum wage, and indeed about what the minimum wage “should” be.


And while that crowd is “shoulding” all over themselves, Jennifer Piallat is calmly treating, and paying, the professionals on her team in such a way that there are always, according to yelp.com, “hoards of people waiting on the sidewalk to get in, but it’s well worth the wait!” I finally had to stop reading the reviews for fear that I was going to book a flight to San Francisco for no other reason than to eat at this restaurant! In fact, I may still do that!


In the story, we learn that before buying Zazie, Ms. Piallat had had a less-than-fulfilling career waiting tables. A brief excerpt from the transcript of the news story is illuminating:


McFadden: What made you decide to go this route with your employees?

Piallat: Just always being treated like a thief, that I was replaceable, irrelevant to the business.

McFadden: You could personally make a lot more money if you didn’t do it this way, couldn’t you?

Piallat: No, I don’t think I could…Turnover is incredibly expensive. People that have been here a long time can turn out a kind of work level that someone that’s only been here six months can’t.


At Contented Cow Partners, all of our work is predicated on the axiom that having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any employer can do for their bottom line. Thank you, Jennifer Piallat, for once again proving the point.


Creating an exceptional workplace is much less a moral and social issue than it is a BUSINESS ISSUE! Pardon my shouting, but after years of pounding that point home from the platform, in the corporate classroom, and across countless managers’ desks, it’s exhilarating each time I see it in practice.


At Zazie, as the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. I can’t wait to taste it.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Leadership

On Caring and Waiting

No Comments 09 October 2014

Recently, oral arguments on what could prove to be a landmark labor relations case (Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc v Busk) were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case hinges on claims by two former employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, a Nevada-based contract staffing firm, that, in their assignment at an Amazon.com fulfillment center, they were required to wait upwards of twenty-five minutes (on their own time) at the end of each shift, to clear security before exiting Amazon’s premises. The two workers have advanced a claim that, as the wait was purely for the benefit and at the behest of Integrity (and Amazon), they should be compensated for the time spent waiting. Integrity feels otherwise. What makes this an even bigger deal is that copycat suits against other retailers are in the cue.

Two admissions before proceeding further:

1. We tend to be well-satisfied Amazon customers and vendors who are generally in admiration of their operation.

2. As evidence of the fact that I am a recovering HR exec., I couldn’t care much less about the arcane legal arguments as to whether or not Amazon, or Integrity Staffing in their stead are legally liable to pay for the time. That said, if you’ve never seen a dozen well dressed attorneys dancing on the head of a very small pin, this could be the time to watch.

What does matter is that this should never have become a legal issue in the first place. About the second time that someone from Amazon or Integrity management noticed the backed up security line, efforts should have begun to overcome it. Really. Think about it. This is a company whose very existence is based on convenience and speed. How I can order something on Saturday, or even Sunday sometimes, and have it Monday is amazing. Never mind what they can do with their Kindle devices. Remember who has been talking lately about using delivery drones in order to get stuff to you faster? Nothing, nothing sits around there and waits.

The very presence of a long queue (that should keep our British fans happy) is evidence of the kind of systemic defect that keeps people from doing their very best work (or even wanting to), and when prolonged, drives them crazy. It’s just the kind of thing that good leaders are supposed to take care of. We get paid to get the system off our teammate’s backs so that they can do their best work.

In a speech at the U.S. Army War College, Gen. Melvin Zais told a group of assembled officers that, “If you care, you make sure that your soldiers don’t have to stand around and wait… because the only (repeat, only) reason that soldiers stand around and wait is because some dumb, jerk officer didn’t plan it right, or planned in such a fashion that his soldiers would have to pay for him not wanting to miss a deadline.” Nuff said.

Our suggestion to you is this: Make it a part of your daily (yes, daily) routine to find and root out the kind of systemic defects that keep your people from doing their best work. They will appreciate it, and then reward you with better work.

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Richard, Exemplars, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived

No Comments 08 September 2014

truett-cathy A mighty tree fell in the forest of business leadership today, with the death of 93-year-old Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. Truett was a pioneer, an innovator, and a true gentleman of character and courage. He improved the lives of millions, way beyond “sellin’ chicken”, and leaves a legacy that makes him a real standout in the annals of American business.

I’ll quickly dispense with the elephant in the blogpost and acknowledge that not everyone likes Chick-fil-A, whether it be their food or their values. But I’ll allow to speak for itself the fact that their supporters overwhelmingly eclipse their detractors. Just drive by any Chick-fil-A restaurant any day of the week (except, of course, Sunday, on which they’re closed), and you’ll see what I mean.

It was my privilege to meet Truett on a couple of occasions, while we were conducting leadership training for Chick-fil-A, and he was gracious enough to let me interview him in 1997, while Bill and I were writing our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk.


Here are 3 things I know about Truett Cathy:


1 – He was authentic. Truett’s faith was his life, and he uttered no apologies for it. He went from millionaire to billionaire years ago, but continued to teach a boys’ Sunday School class at his church until his health failed. You could count on his word. Many, many people did, and have built very successful businesses and fulfilling careers.

2 – He was a giver. In addition to his personal philanthropy, Truett’s company has given more than $68 million to more than 700 educational and charitable organizations in the last three years alone. Since its inception, the company’s Team Member Scholarship Program has provided more than $30 million to help more than 30,000 employees attend more than 500 different colleges and universities. Through its WinShape Foundation, it has invested millions in programs directed toward helping young people. And the company regularly donates food to people who are hungry, and provides organized relief for victims of natural disasters.

3 – He was a forgiver. Here’s a story we relate in our 2007 book, Contented Cows MOOVE Faster: It was told to me by Truett’s son, Dan, Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operating Officer, when Dan invited me to travel across the country with him on a whirlwind grand opening tour to the Midwest and California.

Dan and his father were walking around the original Dwarf House restaurant (the forerunner of Chick-fil-A) one evening, inspecting the premises. It seems that a gaze upward revealed a fresh collection of empty beer cans on the roof of the Dwarf House. As alcohol never has been on the menu of the Dwarf House, or Chick-fil-A, it was determined that, unfortunately, the spent vessels most likely came from an employee engaging in off-label activities on the job. As much as Truett didn’t like to think of any of his beloved employees drinking at work, he suspected a middle-aged fellow named James.

When Truett confronted him, he gently extracted a genuine confession. What happened next owes to James’s greatly improved judgment in having told the truth about the incident and to Truett’s exceptional maturity. Name any employer. Drinking beer on the clock and then littering the premises with the evidence would pretty much be grounds for dismissal without intervention from even the most liberal of unfair labor treatment folks.

Instead, Truett forgave James. James didn’t get a lecture about how wrong it was to drink on the job. Truett figured James was an adult and therefore knew what he did was wrong. He didn’t get fired. He didn’t get written up. He barely got a reprimand. He got forgiven. Which is not to say his deed got overlooked. By forgiving rather than firing James, Truett took the bond of trust between the two men to a completely new level, something that was not lost on James over the balance of his long career with the company.

Many prayers, including ours, are being said today for the Cathy family, and in thanks for a life well-lived. Godspeed, Truett.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Leadership

Be the Boss You Always Wished For

No Comments 18 August 2014

good-bossWe’ve all worked for bad bosses – people who attained their lofty positions by virtue of one of the following two qualifications: 1. They were good at their non-management job, or 2. Their last name happened to be spelled exactly like the name on the building. I once reported to a boss who felt her job had not been done until she’d demoralized every member of the team into quitting; another was a nice enough guy, but had the backbone of an amoeba, and all the organizational skills of the painter Jackson Pollock. No hate mail, please. It’s a metaphor.

Although I, too, was made a manager far too early in my career, with a hard-earned Bachelor’s Degree in Management from an accredited university, but scarcely an hour’s worth of leadership training, I did give a considerable degree of thought, during my pre-management days, to what a good manager should be like.

I’ll bet you have, too.

At one point, to divert my attention from griping about the clowns I was working for at the time, and do something a bit more productive, I decided that when I became a manager, I would do my level best to be the kind of manager I’d always wished for. Mind you, I had had, in the past, two or three really great leadership examples as bosses, and so I was hardly starting from scratch.

This is anything but an exhaustive list of leadership qualities, but it represents three of the traits and attributes I hoped to emulate and develop when I was entrusted with the leadership of others. Perhaps these three rose to the top of my list because they had been so sorely lacking in some of the bosses I’d toiled under:

  1. Focus
  2. Compassion
  3. Encouragement

Here are some ways I’ve learned to develop each:

  1. Focus: go to your team, today, and ask this simple question: “What do you believe to be our top three business priorities?” Compare the responses you get. That will tell you everything you need to know about the current focus of your team. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t blame them! Tighten your focus. And then teach your team what the real priorities are. This is where repetition can really help. I’ll say it again. This is where repetition can really help.
  2. Compassion: No, I’m not talking about being a pushover, or falling for every excuse in the book. But I am talking about engaging your heart, not just your head, in the leadership of those you need to follow you. I heard a great CEO/leader once tell his management team, “When a team member is enduring a personal hardship, go the extra mile for that employee. When you do, you’ll have their full attention when you talk about going the extra mile for your customers.”
  3. Encouragement: Here’s something else you can do today. You know that team member of yours who’s having a rough day? Yeah, that one. Find something encouraging – in their work or elsewhere, and go out there and remind them of it. An act like this has one of the highest ROI’s going.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Leadership

Customer Indifference is a Real Biz Kill

No Comments 27 February 2014

self absorbedWhat’s more toxic than incompetence? Deadlier than old technology? More surely fatal than being slow to market? It’s the remarkable indifference to customers that we all still see from some service providers, those who were nodding off during the part where the rest of us learned that that just won’t cut it anymore. Remember Eastern Airlines, anybody? In a few years, we’ll be asking the same question about K-Mart. And AOL.

For several years, our company relied on a spam filtering service now provided by Excel Micro. We didn’t choose them; we ended up there after they acquired the little startup provider we selected years before, a company that had a really effective anti-spam system, and responsive customer service. Everything was rocking along fine until earlier this week, while flying back to the US from Canada, I began getting notifications via my personal email that my regular (company) email was bouncing everything back. Because, with this system, all mail goes first through the anti-spam system, Excel Micro was my first suspect. When I tried to log in to the spam portal, I got kicked out – invalid password. No way.

The call to tech support went like this: 20 minutes on hold. Young guy who neither knew nor seemed to care why my email was broken. Finally determined that it was time to pay the annual subscription, but my credit card had a new expiration date, so it wouldn’t go through. Their solution? Suspend the account. They never got in touch with me, despite the fact that this is my email company, and they had my email address! Just cut off my email oxygen. That’s all. They figured I’d call them and fix things. I fixed things alright. The billing department apparently keeps bankers’ hours, so “there’s nothing we can do until morning.” Wrong again. There’s almost always something the customer can do. In this case, I went online, asked a few friends what they used for spam, found something I liked, and installed a 10-day free trial. It seems to be working beautifully.

This morning I called the billing department at Excel Micro to let them know they’d been fired as our service provider. Again, I was smacked to the ground with a wall of indifference, the likes of which we rarely see these days. After talking with several people, I couldn’t find even one who cared one hoot about either my email problem, or their customer retention problem. It was as though I had called to report a change of address.

I’ve never had any correspondence with Joseph Vaccone, Excel Micro’s CEO and Founder, so I don’t know how he feels about customers. But I do know that in most cases, indifference is modeled from the top.

The competitive landscape in your business, just like Joe’s, is probably too unforgiving to survive indifference to customers. There are just too many good service providers out there, hungry enough for a share of your business, that they’ll go to great lengths to astound their customers with great service.

When I can go online at Amazon.com, and click a button, and someone from Amazon calls me, in 2 seconds, then replaces my broken Kindle by next-day air; and when the Delta flight attendant takes the time to place a personalized, handwritten welcome note in my seat before I arrive, the response from the spam company (what’s their name, again?) stands out as particularly old school and unsustainable.

It’s not about your products, your services, your prices, or your catchy ad campaigns. It’s about people. The people who work for your customers. Are you, as a leader, at whatever level, setting an astounding standard to knock your customers’ socks off every day? Are you providing them with the means, the tools, the wherewithal, to do it? Do they know it’s important to you? Are you rewarding them when they succeed? And coaching them when they fail?

Or – are the people in your organization just going through the motions, like those I encountered at Excel Micro, with a remarkable indifference to the very people who enable the organization to exist?

Suggestion: find out. But not the way Eastern Airlines did.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Leadership, Think About It...

What Do You Think of Your Boss?

No Comments 30 July 2013

boss love hate

In January of this year, we conducted a survey to determine people’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings toward their bosses.

Those who subscribed to our free monthly “Fresh Milk” newsletter were invited to take the survey. That particular issue was received by about 3,700 subscribers, and 183 responded by participating in the survey, over a two-week period.

It wasn’t a scientifically conducted survey, but we think the results ARE useful, and instructive.

We’ve prepared a white paper outlining, in detail, the results of the survey, along with our commentary and some recommendations. You can download the white paper for free, by clicking here.

If you want only a high-level synopsis, along with the commentary and recommendations, read on.

The first section of the survey posed this question: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your boss on each of the following attributes? 1= lousy, 10=terrific

  1. Providing relevant information when needed
  2. Integrity
  3. Listening
  4. Fairness
  5. Showing respect
  6. Expressing appreciation
  7. Fostering teamwork
  8. Maintaining high standards
  9. Inspiring us to do our best work
  10. Holding people accountable
  11. Recruiting great talent

The highest rating went to “Integrity”, followed by “Maintaining high standards” and “Showing respect”. Bringing up the rear were “Fostering teamwork”, “Recruiting great talent”, and (in dead last place) “Inspiring us to do our best work”.

Having observed this, let’s consider something about the concept of “integrity”. Having integrity is, in at least one regard, like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. As mathematicians would say, having a little bit of integrity is an “undefined state”. The word “integrity” comes from the Latin word for “whole”, and you simply can’t be partially whole. Still, we asked the question, and included integrity on the same scale as the other attributes. On that scale, a 7 or above was considered a “passing” grade. But under the notion that you either have integrity or you lack it, you’d have to earn a “10” to get any “integrity credit” at all. While 66.5% of respondents gave their boss a passing grade, only 26.25% were willing to give their boss a 10. That’s disheartening, to say the least.

Percentage of respondents who gave each item a score of 7 or more


Next, we asked which of the 11 attributes their boss needed to improve the most. The top vote-getter, at nearly 20%, was “Holding people accountable”, followed by “Providing relevant information when needed” and “Listening.”

We asked other questions, and learned that, by and large, our respondents’ bosses were willing to get their hands dirty, two-thirds were comfortable telling their boss what they thought, and nearly as many felt that their boss cared about them as a person.

Only about 42% felt their bosses had a clue about what they (the employees) have to do to get their jobs done, only 36% have bosses who do a good job telling them how they’re doing, and only about a third have bosses who do things to help them in their jobs.

We couldn’t help but notice that more of our respondents like their boss (65.6%) than respect them (56.3%) or trust them (46.9%).

And when it comes to personality traits, our respondents’ bosses were more kind than heartless, and more cheerful than grouchy. Less than half (47.8%) are interested in their followers’ success, but 54.2% of the bosses are interested in their followers as people. 38.6% said their bosses demonstrated consistently good leadership; 64.1% rated their bosses as “competent”.

The last two questions in the survey were open-ended ones: What one thing would you change about your boss, if you could? And what positive quality about your boss do you appreciate most? The following “word clouds” depict the themes in the answers to these questions, with the most prominently appearing words commanding the most attention in the graphics.


What ONE thing would you change about your boss, if you could?















What ONE positive quality does your boss have that you appreciate most?











If we were to extrapolate the results of this survey to the workplace at large, then we could conclude the following:

* Overall, bosses treat their followers with a reasonable degree of respect, and conduct themselves with integrity, although their followers are hesitant to say they fully trust their bosses. Bosses tend to hold people to high standards, and are reasonably fair in their dealings with those on their teams.

* Employees notice and appreciate when their bosses notice and appreciate their work, especially when they express that appreciation. They also appreciate being left alone to do their work (autonomy), having their ideas considered seriously, and a boss with an open-door policy.

* Their followers would like some – but not all – bosses to spend a little more time with them. This should be meaningful time, though, and not time spent micromanaging them or their work. In fact, based on some of the survey results, we’d suggest that managers could spend more time learning how they can be of help to those on their teams, and then helping them do their jobs better.

* Overall, bosses know how to behave and conduct themselves around others, but some of the subject bosses sound like royal jerks. A few of the responses to our open-ended questions contained words that even we don’t want to publish here (or in the white paper), and the one or two anatomical references in those comments will be allowed to remain in the realm of your imagination.

* One of the most serious indictments of the subject bosses is that they fail to inspire people to do their best work. We’ve written and spoken extensively on the topic of Discretionary Effort – that extra increment of effort that people give to the job because they want to, not because they have to. It’s become clear to us that you can’t beat Discretionary Effort out of people. And you can’t buy it from people. You can only inspire it. If you, as a leader, aren’t getting enough Discretionary Effort from your followers, the first place to look for a solution may be at how well you inspire people to do their best work.

* Many bosses could do a much better job of holding people accountable, of listening, and of providing relevant information when needed.

* At Contented Cow Partners, we’ve long maintained that one of the most essential elements of any manager’s job is hiring the right people to serve on the team. In this respect, the bosses who were the subject of this survey fared particularly poorly. If that is indeed the case, these managers could make their jobs, and those of their current followers infinitely easier by constantly recruiting and then hiring top talent.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Leadership, Meeting Goals

Goal Sharing Leads to Goal Reaching

No Comments 22 July 2013

goalsharing-postI’m a big proponent of personal growth. But when, a few months ago, my own person had grown too much, I decided to drop about 12-15 pounds, or about a stone in my wife’s British parlance.

I knew that I felt, and functioned, better at 195 pounds, and so I picked that number as my goal. Then – and this, I knew, was the only way it would work for me – I shared that goal with my family, and the guys I work out with at the health club. I knew they’d keep me honest. And they did.

Every morning that I was at the gym (roughly 3 times a week), there was a weigh-in. With an audience. As one who craves approval and eschews disapprobation (who doesn’t?), I was motivated by what I knew would be my friends’ reaction when the number trended downward, and the razzing I’d get if it went in the wrong direction.

It must have worked. I’ve been a little below 195 for a good month now, and my gym buddies have been relentless in applying the pressure to keep it that way.

I don’t know about you, but for me, private goals are much harder to reach than those I share with people who care about me. Maybe if I were more disciplined, it wouldn’t be that way. But there I am.

It works the same way with professional goals. So here’s an assignment – one that I give to almost every leadership audience I speak for.

Pick one leadership trait – something that you know you could improve on. If your brain needs a little jogging, here’s a non-exhaustive list of suggestions:

Communication (Listening)
Mission clarity

Now, resolve to get better at whatever trait you picked, over the next, say, 90 days. Next, find somebody who will hold you accountable for reaching that goal. Share it with them, and ask them to help you hold yourself accountable. It doesn’t matter what position this person has in your organization, but it should be someone who has ample opportunity to observe your leadership behavior, AND someone who cares enough about you that they’ll give you bone honest feedback about how you’re doing.

My bet is – if you’ve got someone holding you accountable, you’ll reach your goal, and get better at whatever you pick.

Now – if you manage other managers, expand on the value of this assignment by giving it to every other leader who reports to you.

Then, please let us hear from you. Ninety days from today, we’ll post a reminder blog in this spot. We’d love to learn about your results.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Exemplars, Motivation

CSX: One of the Best Places to Work in I.T.

No Comments 18 July 2013

csx hqGrowing up in Jacksonville, Florida, virtually every one of my friends’ fathers worked for either “the phone comp’ny” (as we pronounced it), or “the railroad”. That “railroad” was what is today known as CSX, whose riverfront headquarters building occupies a prominent place in the Jacksonville skyline, and which occupies perhaps an even more prominent place in the life and economy of the city. And now, the company’s Information Technology function occupies the number 19 slot on Computerworld magazine’s List of 100 Best Places to Work in I.T. (See the full article here).

If you’re a regular reader of ours, you know our view: inclusion on an annual ranking of workplace quality (like Computerworld’s, Fortune’s, or any other respected publication’s) is a good first indication, but not the only determinant of how great an employer really is to work for. Companies that make the list ostensibly because they let people take naps, or bring their pet ferrets to work are less likely to get the Contented Cows seal of approval than those known for things like great leadership, innovative reward systems, or an emphasis on professional development.

It’s this quality – an emphasis on professional development – that caught our attention at CSX.

Training is a top priority at CSX, and that commitment is seen in full bloom by its technology professionals. Of the company’s 30,000 U.S.-based employees, nearly 500 are in I.T. Each of those workers received an average of 5 days of training in 2012, and the company budgeted $1,125 per I.T. employee for training that year.

It’s not all classroom training, and it certainly isn’t limited to technology training. These I.T. pro’s spend lots of time learning what those who work in the depths of the railroad’s operations do to get the cars down the tracks. Many techies spend time in the freight yards, and on simulators and real trains, to give them irreplaceable experiences vital to integrating the technology with the workings of the freight carrier.

And CSX maximizes the return on its investment in professional development by providing advancement opportunities for lots of talented CSXers. In 2012, 12% of I.T. employees were promoted to more advanced positions within the technology division of the company.

While the labor market for many industries and professions is still a little anemic, not so in I.T. The demand for talent generally outweighs the supply of people with the skills needed to power the work. And yet, in a field where skilled talent can exercise a lot more options than those in many other fields can, employee turnover in I.T. at CSX is low. Very low: 3%.

We think there’s a lot to be learned from the example of CSX: Invest in personal and professional development. Let people see how the whole business works, and how their contribution relates to the enterprise. Then provide advancement opportunities for those you’ve developed – a great way to maximize the return on your investment in people.



Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Leadership, Motivation

Employee Engagement Fundamentals Haven’t Changed

No Comments 31 January 2013

Library GangDo you remember your first job? If you”re like roughly half of us in today”s workforce (myself included), you were most likely in your teens, and the job was part-time. And if you”re like me, while you earned a little, you learned a lot.

Although participation in the youth labor force has declined steadily since at least 1989 (see this white paper compiled by Patrick J. Holwell, of the Arapahoe-Douglas Workforce Center in Denver), those early part-time after-school and summer jobs do much to build valuable job and personal skills that will be deployed to even greater use later in life. As leaders of very young workers, we mustn’t underestimate the influence of that first job, and our roles in shaping young people”s view of the world of work.

From the ages of 16 to 20, I worked as a “student assistant” at the Regency Square Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library. Yesterday, the branch held a celebration of its 40th anniversary, and someone was thoughtful enough to put my name on the invitation list. The picture accompanying this post shows yours truly, flanked on either side by two of my first bosses (including my first-ever job interviewer), joined by a couple of others from my library days.

What a great job it was. But not so much for the duties we performed, which were less about literature than inventory management. And, at $1.60 an hour, it sure wasn”t the money. So what was it that kept me there, and engaged, for 4 years? It was the same things that keep your employees, of all ages, engaged today. While much – indeed VERY much – has shifted in the workplace since the late ”70”s, the fundamentals of engagement have remained rock-solid.

Good leadership. My bosses probably covered very little about leadership and human motivation in their Master of Library Science programs in graduate school, but somehow, they knew how to treat people.

These professionals also taught me about showing up on time, properly attired; keeping up with my name badge; looking for ways to help others when my work appeared to be caught up; the fact that I was not indispensable, and that my job security depended, in large measure, on my performance; finding creative ways to help customers; and a host of other valuable life lessons.

Meaningful work. There”s nothing particularly exciting about sorting and shelving books (our number one function) and our bosses knew that. So, they were careful to season our days with as much variety as possible – a few hours of shelving, followed by an hour of customer contact at the front desk, a special project, or maybe running the projector for the classic movies we  showed (something the geekier ones of us truly relished.) They were also careful to point out how our work enabled our branch to be the top performer in the library system, and how that affected our budget, which in turn affected the number of part-time hours distributed to our location.

Just rewards.  As city employees, we weren”t eligible for incentive bonuses, and the librarians didn”t exactly go around handing out 5 dollar bills to the student who shelved the most books accurately in an hour, but they did know what motivated us – each of us – individually. In other words, they subscribed to the notion that, when it comes to rewards, one size fits one. Our most effective incentives came in the form of work assignments, both hours and duties. They knew that my least favorite task was sorting incoming books, and that I much preferred working the checkout desk. Some of my friends wanted only enough hours to pay for gas and date money; others wanted to work as much as possible. We quickly learned that the quality of our work seemed to have a direct relationship to our goals. If ever I slacked off, my next week”s hours would be cut, and those hours would be spent – you guessed it – sorting the 800”s down to 6 Dewey Decimal places.

A good “fit”. The library gang was a diverse lot that eventually chose wildly varying career paths, to include: nurse, art appraiser, auto mechanic, two-star general in the US Army, and even a librarian. But, at the time, most of us “fit” the job, and the job fit us. It fit our temperament and our interests. It worked with our school, extracurricular, and social schedules. Of course if provided some income, but also, not insignificantly, given the age group, a great social environment. I”m still in touch with many from those days so long ago; a few remain my best friends today; one introduced me to my wife.

This simple library job, my first job, remains a good demonstration of what we”ve always known about employee engagement. Compensation is secondary to other factors: good leadership, the chance to do meaningful work, rewards that provide a good incentive, and a job that just “fits”.

Those things don”t change.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.


Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.


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