Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘communication

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

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Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (L), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and David Rubenstein (R), president of the Economic Club of Washington, participate in a discussion during the 25th anniversary celebration dinner of the Economic Club of Washington June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) remarked, “‘It’s vital to be able to communicate well… Just being able to communicate with others on the job adds at least 50% to your value.” Open and effective communications at all levels solves many problems and reduces conflict before it even occurs. Lee Iacocca (Chrysler) declared, “A leader has to communicate. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth…

Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful.” Iacocca notes the importance of intellectual honesty as part of the communication process. “Iacocca says he’s not talking about verbosity or sound bites. He means facing reality and telling the truth, even when it’s painful. If you apply spin, people will know—they’re not stupid—and they’ll stop listening.”

“Peter Drucker [felt] the most valuable asset in a firm is the collective knowledge of its employees. But to realize that value, the people in an organization have to be able to share that knowledge. That means ‘them that’s got it’ have to be able to give it to ‘them that don’t.’ And that transaction requires two-way communication between inspired transmitters and welcome receivers.” The great leaders understood this. In fact, most spent a great deal of their time on the “factory floor” meeting with managers, supervisors and employees to see firsthand what is happening and to understand the problems and issues facing their companies.

At Hewlett-Packard it was discovered that “‘Management by Walking Around’ improves communication, improves quality, improves teamwork, and improves profits. Hewlett and Packard’s visible presence and easy availability (they insisted on a company-wide open-door policy, believing that interruptions were a small price to pay for the advantages of open and frank communication with the talented people they hired) earned them deep credibility with their co-workers. A drill press operator on the outskirts of the factory knew that the CEO and President understood what he did and appreciated his contribution.”

As was previously pointed out, John Patterson (National Cash Register) actually moved his office into the middle of his factory floor. While other leaders, such as Henry Heinz (H.J. Heinz), Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire), William Proctor (Proctor & Gamble), and George Westinghouse (Westinghouse) did not go to that extreme, they still remained highly visible, and openly and frequently communicated with their employees. In recognition of his frequent presence on the factory floor, Harvey Firestone’s casket was walked through his factory one last time, at the time of his death.

The great leaders spent the majority of their time traveling and communicating with employees and key constituencies. This allowed them to become personally acquainted and to influence employees on all levels. It also provided them with the opportunity to elicit feedback to make more accurate and fact-based decisions.

Fredrick Crawford (TRW) spent “much of his time speaking to employees and projecting the force of his ideas and his personality. One observer called him ‘a natural leader of tremendous vitality, self-assurance and singleness of purpose.’ But there was more to the Thompson program than Crawford. At all levels of the organization, managers tried to convince workers that the company had their best interests at heart…

Thompson managers referred employees as ‘members of the Thompson family’ and tried to minimize status distinctions between managers and workers… the firm’s policies were guided by an effort ‘to eliminate class lines and have our relationships on a first name basis.’”

While this may appear commonplace, some influential leaders like Cary Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard), Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers) and Roger Smith (General Motors) avoided meeting with their employees. Not only that, they strictly limited their accessibility to them. These leaders, among others who exhibited this characteristic, experienced substantial problems on multiple levels.


The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Capacity to Face Reality

Don’t Push Out Figures When Facts Are Going in the Opposite Direction


  1. Stein Ben, Ben Stein: More from My Dinner with Warren (Fortune Magazine, January 7, 2010)
  2. Iacocca Lee, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (Scribner, 2007)
  3. Iacocca on the Need for Leadership Now (Business Management Daily, March 31, 2010)
  4. Willax Paul A., To Communicate Better, Improve Your Listening Skills (New Hampshire Business Review, September 28, 2007)
  5. Orfalea Paul, Helfert Lance, Lowe Atticus and Zatkowsky Dean, Inspirational Figures David Packard (West Coast Asset Management)
  6. Jacoby Sanford M., Reckoning With Company Unions: The Case of Thompson Products, 1934-1964 (Industrial and Labor Relations Review, October 1, 1989)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Do Your Communications Have Room For Improvement?

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Every leader has room for improvement in the way they communicate with both their superiors and employees. The fast-paced workplace environment and immediate but impersonal nature of electronic communication has diminished many leaders’ ability to effectively convey their message, gain valuable feedback and lead their organization.

Surveys often show employees are concerned with the quality of communications in the workplace. Many feel companies give lip service and are not sincere in the messages they communicate. Others feel the only way information is imparted is through memos on bulletin boards. Still others feel instructions or policies are vague and difficult to interpret and follow.

This is important to recognize because ineffective communication begets poor cooperation and internal coordination, decreased productivity, and increased tension, absenteeism and turnover. Voids in communication are then filled with extremely damaging gossip and rumors. These repercussions seriously undermine a leader’s efforts to facilitate change within their organization, a crucial ability in today’s business climate.

The following is a list of proven concepts and techniques leaders can use to improve communications with both superiors and employees.

Communication: A Two-Way Process⎯Not a Monologue

Leaders should understand that communication does not end when they are finished delivering their message. Whether with superiors or employees, it is a two-way process that involves both giving information and receiving feedback. It is an ongoing exchange as questions are answered, additional information is given, and further feedback and input solicited.

Emphasize Personal Communications

The convenience of voice and email has made impersonal communications a reality for many leaders. Rather than rely on these electronic media as well as bulletin boards, memos and other like methods of communication, leaders should rely on personal exchanges and stress face-to-face meetings where possible. This helps eliminate miscommunication as leaders can readily interpret nonverbal facial expressions and body language.
Be Specific

Vague statements or instructions cause most miscommunication by failing to clearly and concisely direct or inform employees/superiors. Since vagueness is open to a variety of interpretations, confusion quickly sets in.

Every time a leader conveys a message or gives an instruction, they must ask if what they are communicating is clear, concise and specific. If not, they must restructure the communication so that it is.

Information Is… A Service

“Information is power” is a widely used phrase. The problem is, instead of sharing information, many managers and leaders hoard it as a method of wielding power over others.

Leaders should view the delivery and availability of information as a service to both their superiors and employees that enables them to be more productive and make better-informed decisions. It is in this service sense that information should be considered powerful.

Show Respect

Effective and open communication demands that all parties respect one another. This means that leaders, superiors and employees demonstrate respect for what each other has to say. They ask questions to show interest and further clarify key points. When this is done, all will feel an important part of a team and tend to be both more dedicated and productive.

An Open-Door Policy

Leaders don’t give lip service to an open-door policy, they practice it. They take the time to be among and interact with their employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of the organization by openly discussing needs and problems and allowing employees to disagree and contribute new ideas and insights.

This practice demonstrates a sincere concern for employees—and builds an endearing sense of loyalty. The impact it can have on a leader’s organization cannot be overemphasized. Actively and continually showing care and concern dramatically increases productivity and personal dedication.

One-on-One Meetings

Where possible leaders should have one-on-one meetings with their employees to develop insight and ideas regarding how to increase productivity within the organizational unit. Discussions should focus on ways leaders and employees can help one another be more productive.

Build Credibility

Without personal credibility, no matter how hard a leader tries he or she will fail to communicate. Unless leaders create a climate of credibility, they will not be trusted or believed by their employees. This destroys any ability or image of leadership. True leaders deliver on their promises and do what they say they will do.


Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Why Organizations Need Critical Thinkers

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Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees.

At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

Related: Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

  • Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.
  • Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.
  • Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

  • Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.
  • Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.
  • Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade.

Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Empowerment is a Structured Discipline

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Just as organizational improvement is an ongoing process, so too is empowerment. Specific factors combine to define the empowered environment that must be in place if the organization is to work effectively and efficiently.

Leaders should understand that employees have a wide range of discretion when it comes to contributing or withholding efforts. The goal of empowerment is to motivate employees to contribute maximum effort to the success of their unit’s activities and, ultimately, the company.

Many employees will contribute as little as possible within the range of their job description and responsibilities. When leaders empower their employees, they are motivated to contribute not only increased effort to the accomplishment of their own duties, but also more ideas, concepts and insights. When collaborative efforts, ideas, concepts and insights are combined in an empowered atmosphere, it translates into sustainable success and improved results for the company.

Leaders are the main impetus for creating an empowered atmosphere within their organization. They know the strength of empowerment is achieved when such an atmosphere is created at all levels of the organization, and that they have the power and authority to remove the barriers to empowering their employees. In this manner the organization is able to gain the momentum to move forward and grow as a whole. The factors discussed below help create an empowered atmosphere when put into place.

Employees Understand What Is Expected of Them

Employees must be taught to appreciate that a transition to an empowered atmosphere is a pivotal change for the organization. Minimal efforts and contributions are no longer accepted—not in terms of a disciplinary approach but in terms of employees understanding their role in the company’s success and how individual efforts contribute to that success. Often these changes are greeted with skepticism, which changes once employees see that the leader’s words are backed by consistent actions.

Employees must understand that a choice to more deeply involve themselves by contributing their ideas, concepts and insights benefits not only themselves but also their associates and coworkers.

Related: Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

Goals and Measurements Are Consistently Applied

A critical factor of the empowered environment is the consistent application of goals, standards and measurements. When this is implemented it creates an atmosphere of trust and credibility throughout the company because employees understand they are all being treated fairly and consistently. They know what is expected of them and how those efforts will be measured. If they fail to meet those standards, they know the penalties. They also are aware that when they exceed the standards they will be rewarded and recognized.

When employees understand the objectives of their company and unit, the current performance goals and targets of their team or workgroup, and the limits on their decision-making authority, they are empowered to make consistent decisions without the leader’s guidance.

Related: Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Employees Are Given the Skills and Tools to Perform Effectively

More than merely a word, empowerment is a method of tapping the human resources within an organization. Employees cannot work in this environment without first being trained according to the concepts of empowerment and teamwork; they must be provided with the skills and the tools to perform effectively. Leaders understand that a fully developed, empowered environment is a process that requires time to implement. It takes time to train, coach, monitor and develop the skills and tools that facilitate organizational change.

Related: Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Frequent and Immediate Recognition of Contributions

Recognition is one of the most powerful motivators in the workplace. The Westinghouse studies of the 1930s recognized this concept and determined that employees are more motivated by personal recognition than financial benefit. An empowered environment must factor in frequent and immediate recognition of subordinate contributions. Additionally, leaders play a major role in this critical factor: while everyone expects to be recognized for their major successes, the real impact is when leaders reward employees for their small contributions. In some companies, leaders actively search to catch employees doing something right and then reward them on the spot. The impacts of these programs have dramatic effects on employee performance.

Related: Motivation Is More Than Money

Employees Provided with Positive Feedback and Communication

Another essential role of leaders in the empowered environment is to actively communicate with employees and provide them with positive feedback. The leader is facilitating change and empowerment by motivating and assisting the individual subordinate to meet his or her goals or objectives. This is in contrast to a manager or supervisor who is directing and disciplining employees when they fail to perform. Contrasting the two styles highlights a differing focus on negative and positive behaviors.

Employees and Leaders Perform with Discipline

Empowerment is not a haphazard management fad but a structured discipline within the organization. It allows employees to contribute their individual efforts at their maximum capabilities and thus allows the company to harness a largely untapped resource. Since it is a disciplined approach, all leaders and employees are directed to work within the parameters established by the goals, objectives, standards and measurements of the organization. Barriers and constraints are removed, but all employees are still working within and toward the entire organization’s goals. There are rewards and penalties delivered to maintain discipline and to motivate employees.

Related: Do You Have the Talent to Execute Get Things Done?

Excerpt: Organizational Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

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Systematic observation and thorough analysis of the team process as it relates to individual members is essential for understanding how teams must shape their dynamics in order to improve overall performance. The team observation and analysis process focuses managers on the various ways individual members interact with one another within the team environment.

Teams respond to issues differently. Responses can result in disruptive conduct such as personal dominance, obstinacy, controlling, outright fighting and a host of other negative behaviors.

Task and maintenance roles allow individual teams to deal with issues and influences in a more structured and productive manner. However, managers must observe how their individual teams interact before and after structures are put into place in order to determine the increase in their performance output and productivity.

The team observation and analyzing process includes the following factors and components:


Leaders need to understand that individuals who comprise the makeup of an individual team have differences in personalities and backgrounds and that these—along with gender and age differences—all affect the group dynamics within the team structure. Differences in functional backgrounds and commitment to collective goals also contribute to a level of cohesion or overall conflict within the team environment.

Organizational Context

Successful teams need organizational direction, information and resources. Problems can occur when organizational missions are unclear, tasks poorly defined, and teams not given sufficient autonomy. Problems also result when rewards are given to individual members and not collectively to recognize overall team results.

Influencers, Communication and Participation

It is important for leaders to identify the influencers and established subgroups and coalitions within individual team environments. There is a natural tendency for individuals within the team to form alliances to the exclusion of other members, and most team environments will experience their influence and control. Influencers and alliances impact team communication patterns as certain individual input is sought and heard over and above other sources of dialogue, ideas, comments and suggestions.

As within any healthy team environment there is a balance of all opinions and feedback, leaders must be aware of who has the most impact on the team’s actions and decisions and take action to ensure those who have been ignored are heard.

Climate and Personal Behaviors

Leaders must observe individual team members for signs of anger, irritation, frustration, boredom, defensiveness and withdrawal. As within a healthy team environment, individual team members should be free to probe others with regard to their thoughts and feelings – such emotions are indicative of problems that must be addressed.

When reviewing the climate, it is essential for leaders to also determine whether conflict is suppressed or encouraged: solutions cannot be reached unless there is healthy debate and open conflict that allows individual teams to reach their optimal performance levels.

Minority Opinions

In most team environments there will be individual members who hold opinions and viewpoints that run counter to those of the majority. In a healthy team environment, these opinions are valued and sought out rather than suppressed and discouraged.


Leaders should monitor the power structure within their teams to determine whether leadership responsibilities are assumed by one person or shared by the entire membership. They should be watchful for power struggles and conflicts resulting from a lack of leadership within the team environment.

Task and Maintenance Functions

Healthy teams have task flow and maintenance roles that are fulfilled by all members. Leaders should determine whether specific roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled competently and accurately, and whether the individuals assigned to these roles and tasks take their responsibilities seriously.

Decision Making

Leaders should be well acquainted with the decision making processes used within their individual teams. Key decisions are generally made during the first meeting, which often then tend to shape and determine progress. These key initial decisions are often hard to reverse. Leaders should also guard against groupthink, where pressure is put on all team members to agree and conform to the actions of the entire team and little or no dissention is allowed.


Leaders should encourage useful, healthy and appropriate conflict over substantive issues, while taking time to improve personal relations among individual team members when negative emotional eruptions become apparent. Conflict is healthy only when personalities and personal issues are removed from the issue.

Emotional Issues

All individual team members come to the team setting with personal needs and issues that get played out within the environment, including:

  • Personal identity within the team
  • Goals and needs
  • Power and control
  • Intimacy


Leaders should monitor the atmosphere created by their individual teams. Within some teams, members may prefer a business-only approach, while in others a more social atmosphere might be prevalent. The atmosphere is also shaped by whether a single individual controls the team or leadership is shared collectively.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about developing strong teams by properly structuring team roles, refer to Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

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Vision communication can be thought of as expressing an ideal that represents or reflects the organization’s collectively shared values. Numerous studies have shown that leaders who enthusiastically promote and communicate their vision tend to create positive effects on employee performance, attitudes and perceptions.

Specific core components need to be incorporated to effectively communicate one’s vision. These are:

  • Displaying a charismatic, forceful, animated and confident communication style;
  • Taking action to support the implementation of the vision, such as by serving as an exemplary role model;
  • Intellectually stimulating employees and building their confidence while continuously promoting the vision.

A well thought-out vision concisely but openly expresses a leader’s values and energy. In this way, vision content is communicated through imagery that generates a vivid mental picture of possibilities in relationship to existing realities.

When communicating their vision, leaders should focus on detailing its strategic emphasis and response to necessary changes. This includes outlining expectations as to the vision’s degree of control over those changes and its relationship to employees’ self-interests, as well as combining specific needs and values into a unified and collaborative effort.

Describing the Vision in Terms of Mission, Values and Goals

Communicating a vision effectively needs to incorporate components of the leader’s organizational mission, strategy, values and goals. Leaders need to communicate the vision in such a way as to integrate all these elements and place them into a visual framework that works to guide future action. Communicating a vision needs to motivate the setting of specific task-related goals, which in turn affect and alter performance.

It is essential to maintain clarity when communicating visional direction, with goals specifically detailed and explained. As part of this communication process, statements should include imagery that is specifically related to:

  • Performance
  • Achievement and improvement
  • Future time perspectives
  • Assumptions of personal responsibility
  • Initiatives and their acceptance
  • Anticipating future possibilities

Goals should be described in desirable terms that reflect ways to address challenges or the future orientation of the organization. For example, results-focused company goals may become the equivalent of task-specific targets such as “doubling production output within the next two years.”

The Importance of Modeling the Vision

While effective communication of a vision has a direct and obvious effect on performance, it is more likely to generate indirect impacts on motivation, acceptance, and perseverance in overcoming challenges and hindrances. Indirect positive results are realized when employees know the purpose behind the vision’s structure and understand its content, attributes and interrelationships from their own personal perspective.

As simply communicating a well-formulated vision is not enough to guarantee results, leaders within the organization must “walk the talk.” As part of the communication process, leaders need to reinforce the vision’s inherent values through consistent and animated positive role modeling as well as in the way they select and work with employees, acknowledge small changes and reward successes.

Vision Needs Visibility

Leaders often tend to articulate a vision taken straight from their organization’s strategic plan or their own personal planning process. When doing this, they begin to rewrite a modified or restructured vision and mission statement, or sometimes even find themselves devising and establishing an altogether new set of organizational values. Most times these efforts only muddy the visional communication process and leave employees confused. This in turn results in hindering the goals they desire to pursue, and effective ways to achieve them.

Communication of a vision does not rely on the underlying rationale as much as it does on making exciting possibilities “visible” within the organization. Leaders can accomplish this by openly communicating and stressing the following:

  • Inspiring with a sense of passion;
  • Employee well-being as a direct benefit of the vision;
  • Vision as an adaptive tool for organizational and group survival;
  • The necessity of building and maintaining work effectiveness;
  • Courage and a willingness to take a stand;
  • The rewards of ambition and perseverance;
  • Integrity, ethics and values;
  • Generating self-esteem and emotional stability;
  • Developing patience, endurance and tolerance for ambiguity;
  • Quality decision making;
  • The importance of stimulating creative thinking and innovation;
  • The intention to utilize all employees’ functional, technical and organizational skills in pursuit of the vision;
  • Priority setting as a necessary tool to accomplish assignments, projects and tasks in a timely and effective manner.

To align and communicate vision-related responsibilities, leaders utilize terms related to organizational values and mission, exciting challenges, unified efforts, and work-related incentives to help get the attention of employees. Doing this makes the vision concrete and tangible, and sets in motion key elements for reaching the necessary goals that steadily lead to its attainment.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques to develop and communicate a strong vision, refer to Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

April 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  •  Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about how to effective manage change in the workplace, refer to Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

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A manager’s entire position must be predicated on trust and credibility. When either are removed from the equation, they are unable to perform. Both are required when dealing with their individual unit or department members.

Some managers feel trust and respect come with the position, when in fact they must be earned through consistently ethical and professional behavior. Inconsistent behavior and an inability to fulfill promises and commitments will develop an atmosphere of mistrust with employees. Words and actions do have meaning and should be used and taken with great care.

Like everything else in life, there are consequences attached to most everything managers say and do. When trust and credibility are removed from the equation, managers will be unable to perform effectively, and they can also see their work undermined by a demotivated and angry team.

Trust and rapport with employees is something that takes time to develop. This is especially true if there have been problems in the past. In these instances, the manager must operate while experiencing open and unconcealed mistrust of his or her words and actions. However, trust and rapport can be established, and in certain cases reestablished, by using the guidelines below.

A manager’s behavior must be consistent. If they don’t want their motivations questioned, they must treat all of their people equally. Developing consistency can be achieved through:

Setting and Uniformly Applying Equitable Standards

Managers must establish consistent performance standards that apply to each individual member of their team. The standards must be applied equally to all without favoritism, and all must be evaluated without bias.

Communicating and Providing Feedback

Managers should be openly and frequently communicating with their employees, sharing insights and expertise and helping them achieve their goals. They must provide frequent feedback regarding their individual performance. Feedback should be based upon facts and free of subjective judgments regarding personal behaviors or attitudes.

Recognizing Performance

Managers should use the standards they have established as a benchmark and openly recognize the performance of the members of their unit or department. A simple word of acknowledgement and appreciation can go an extremely long way towards maintaining enthusiasm and motivation.

Keeping Commitments

When dealing with subordinates, it is easy to let commitments slide. While many managers feel there are no consequences to such actions, if they cannot be counted on to keep their commitments, they cannot be trusted. Their employees’ motivation will suffer, which will then foster a negative and unacceptable atmosphere. Managers creating these problems for themselves can use the following techniques to help overcome them:

  1. Managers should think very carefully about each commitment they intend to make. They should make sure adequate time and resources are available to meet the commitment.
  2. Once a commitment is made, managers should make sure it is completed both as and when promised.
  3. If a commitment cannot be completed when promised, the manager should not wait until the last minute but let their employee know as quickly as possible and revise the schedule accordingly.

Developing an Open Management Style

Developing an open and trusting management style might require a shift in thinking and attitude on the part of many managers. This includes:

Remaining Impartial

Before a manager deals with any employee or situation, they must avoid making rash judgments, eliminate all emotion and gather all pertinent facts.

Trusting Others

Managers must learn to take employees at their word until the facts prove otherwise. A manager who cannot trust either his people or customers will in turn fail to earn their trust.

Listening and Being Open

Managers must be able to listen—not only to gather facts and information, but to hear issues and concerns that may arise with their employees and customers. Listening includes empathizing and showing care and concern about their problems. Managers must be open to new ideas, concepts, feedback and criticism. Trust is earned when employees and customers understand that the manager is available and responsive to them.

Excerpt: Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about establishing trust and credibility, refer to Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press

Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It

Email | Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

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Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.

If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.

If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.

The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership

Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.

Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.

Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.

Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.

The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision

A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:

  • Everyday problems
  • New tools
  • Ideas
  • Developments in the field
  • Things that work and other things that don’t

The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:

  • A challenge;
  • An appeal to personal pride;
  • A sense of needed comradery;
  • A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.

Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.

The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment

Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.

A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.

In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.

Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.

The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.

At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.

Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.

Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.

The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration

An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.

An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.

The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.

Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.

Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about effective team building techniques that produce results, refer to Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

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The application of performance management aligns all employees with the overall goals of the company. This enables each employee to understand both their role in the organization and how their efforts contribute to its success, as well as to work toward the mutual accomplishment of those goals.

The manager has an important role to play in the formation of a performance management program for his or her people. Goals must be clarified and clearly communicated, and the behaviors of the individual employees must be aligned in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

This is important for managers to appreciate as performance management demands not only time and patience to properly implement, but superior communication skills to close the informational gaps between the desires of senior management as expressed in their plans and the actual behaviors and efforts exhibited by employees.

Managers will find that once they are able to effectively close these gaps and clearly communicate established company goals to their people and align their behaviors accordingly, their programs will work very efficiently to produce a more productive unit.

The role of the manager in performance management is to clearly communicate the company’s goals, align their individual employees’ behavior with them and monitor performance. This includes:

Clarifying Goals

Research has shown that differences in overall performance among individual employees are directly proportional to the level of internal clarity in which goals and objectives are presented to them. This is because when goals are communicated and clarified, employees have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how to do it, and they are unified in the pursuit of that goal.

Limit Priorities

Many managers can either get strategic goals intermingled with more tactical operational goals or have entirely too many “top priorities.” This blurs their focus and leads to a lack of clarity. It is the manager’s responsibility to narrow the focus of their priorities and limit their number to as little as five. They should also see that individual employees do the same thing. This assures that all are focused and crisp in their execution. Additionally, too many priorities scatters the individual efforts of the unit or department in a variety of unmanageable directions, ensuring that goals and desired outcomes will not be achieved.


Good execution only happens when an employee’s behavior is aligned with the company’s goals. Many managers fail to align their people with company objectives because they don’t know how to talk to them about change and poor performance. Additionally, many managers won’t align their employees because they find it uncomfortable to challenge them and give them candid feedback or don’t realize that successful execution will never happen without ongoing performance dialogue.

When employees understand how their work fits into overall company goals, they will appreciate how they need to align themselves with these efforts and make the appropriate adjustments in behavior. These changes in execution are not possible without performance feedback from the manager.

Communicating Clearly

Quite often the only feedback many employees receive over the course of the year is regarding how they are performing against their stated sales goals. It is important for managers to create the linkages between the individual employee and the company so that he or she can see not only how they fit in but also how their efforts are contributing to the company’s overall success.

Numerous studies have shown that when employees clearly understand how they fit into the organization and see how their efforts contribute to the company’s success, they are substantially more motivated and productive.

Managers should open up the channels of communication to their people—who oftentimes feel isolated from the company to begin with—in order to build a sense of community so that they can see how their efforts are part of the company’s overall success.

Proper Acknowledgment of Progress Toward Goals

Managers must ensure that they encourage employee behaviors that are consistent with the company’s goals. Employees’ behavior is easily modified by a change in how their efforts are acknowledged. They will do what produces the most recognition and positive reinforcement.

Excerpt: Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about performance management techniques, refer to Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 by Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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