Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Self-Belief Fuels a Strong Sense of Optimism

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Theodore Newton Vail 
AT&T - A Telecom Giant - (1845-1921)

Theodore Newton Vail – 
AT&T – A Telecom Giant (1845-1921)

Do you believe in yourself, your abilities and possess the confidence to succeed in life? It is impossible to develop a high degree of confidence without first having a strong sense of self-belief. This implies knowing without a doubt that you can do it, no matter what you realistically set your mind to do. “Henry Ford had tremendous self-belief and he constantly preached on it. He would hire workers [who] didn’t know [the] understand the meaning of impossible and would keep pushing the limits of their imagination.” [1]

Without a strong sense of self-belief, Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) would never have even taken her first steps forward. “A tireless believer in herself, in her wares, and in hard work, Lauder haunted a purchasing agent at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s classy department store, until she landed a small order. From there, she staked out her ever larger, ever more laden counters in the nation’s leading emporiums.” [2]

Self-belief fuels a strong sense of optimism. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) observed: “Optimism is essential when trying to do anything difficult because difficult things often take a long time. That optimism can carry you through the various stages as the long term unfolds. And it’s the long term that matters.” [3]

Self-belief and optimism provide effective leaders the means to overcome adversity and failure, as was exhibited by John Chambers (Cisco) when he saw his revenues collapse. “Cisco executives say Chambers always believed that Cisco would come out of the bust stronger. ‘We’re extremely optimistic that John Chambers will see to the success of all of us,’ says Mona Hudak, a Cisco manager. ‘We really are trying to build a great company that’s built to last,’ Chambers says.” [4]

Theodore Vail (AT&T) originally left AT&T after the initial investors did not concur with his vision of the company. After J.P. Morgan (J.P. Morgan Bank) acquired AT&T, Vail was brought back to implement his vision. “Vail’s determination and his confidence in the telephone company’s future were unshaken by the fact that the money market was dangerously sagging and recession loomed ahead.

“’When Mr. Vail came back to the telephone company as president,’ an executive at the Chicago associated company later recalled, ‘telephone men and the public generally recognized that somebody was there who not only knew the telephone business, but the world’s business, and it restored confidence.’ Vail was more than just a ‘telephone man;’ he was a knowledgeable entrepreneur, in his 20-year absence from the company, his successful business ventures had made him a millionaire several times over.” [5]

  1. Henry Ford – Leadership Case Study (http://www.leadership-with-you.com)
  2. Guzzardi Jr. Walter, The U.S. Business Hall of Fame (Fortune Magazine, March 14, 1988)
  3. Walker, Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)
  4. Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
  5. Fry Annette R., Man of Decision (Bell Telephone Magazine, March-April 1975)

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.


You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storms

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

A “Conspiracy of Silence” Creates an Organizational Tolerance of Harassment

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The role of the leader is to create a smooth operating and empowered organization that frees employees from obstacles and barriers to their personal productivity. The presence of harassing behaviors and those who would use them against their fellow employees destroys any and all empowerment and organizational cohesiveness a leader builds.

Harassment in any form humiliates and frustrates not only the victim but the employees forced to witness these behaviors on a consistent and regular basis. A “conspiracy of silence” typically develops that creates an organizational tolerance of harassment even when corporate policies are in place to prevent harassment in any form from occurring.

While harassment may not be tolerated at the higher levels of management, it can be present in the lower echelons of the organization. A failure to deal with this jeopardizes the victim of harassment, the company, and the leader who observes it but fails to take appropriate action to eliminate it.

The real legal ramifications and consequences are becoming increasingly severe for the leader and company that turn a blind eye to this negative behavior. Additionally, leaders allow their authority to be undermined and diminished, which results in a measurable impact upon their professional and the company’s financial performance. What appears to be an easy decision to “look the other way” can have far-reaching career advancement implications.

Surveys published by Harvard Business School regarding employees’ perceptions of harassing behavior show that multiple or extreme instances clearly have serious ramifications for organizations. These surveys included employees from a number of major U.S.-based corporations and specifically indicated the following:

Job Satisfaction

Harvard reported a 15% decline in job satisfaction between those employees who never witnessed these harassing behaviors and those who witnessed two or more instances within their company.

Evaluation of Supervisor

Approval ratings of supervisors who tolerated these behaviors in the workplace plummeted by 20%. Included with this is the loss of trust in the system that is supposed to allow employees to make complaints without negative consequences in terms of their jobs and potential for advancement within the organization.


Organizations experienced a 10% decline in company communications. This is due to a lack of trust in the system and a feeling among employees that they are placing themselves in jeopardy if they make complaints about harassing behaviors. There is a strong sentiment that management does not take discipline seriously and that there is a fear of reprisal that keeps employees silent.

View of Senior Management

Organizations experienced a 15% drop in the approval of the actions of senior management. The prevailing view is that senior managers are out of touch with what is happening in the lower echelons of the organization, specifically highlighted by the fact that they feel adequate policies and channels are in place to deal with the problem of harassment.

Organizational Commitment

Personal commitment to the organization is reported to drop approximately 20% as employees feel they have been left on their own to deal with these problems. There is a prevailing view that when harassment occurs, they are powerless to do anything to effectively handle the problem. This is why so many ultimately go outside of the company and go through the legal system to handle the problem.

Employee Turnover

Employee turnover increases with the existence of workplace harassment within the organization. Approximately 30% of those who witness harassing behavior will actively look for a new job. For employees who have actually been harassed the number increases to approximately 50%. This represents a loss to the organization that then has to replace and train new employees as well as a drain on experienced and productive employees who refuse to tolerate this negative behavior.

Additionally, once employees feel compelled to seek new employment due to the hostile workplace environment, the liability risks to the company increase as many will seek compensation for financial and monetary losses associated with the change in jobs.

It is difficult for companies to quantify the total financial impact these factors have on efficiency and productivity, not to mention the financial risks associated with lawsuits stemming from this behavior. It places leaders in the dilemma of having to effectively lead in what may be considered a hostile workplace environment. The principles of empowerment and team development are negated, completely undermining leaders’ efforts.

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


Six Ways You Can Destroy Trust and Credibility

Functioning in a Less Than Meaningful Workplace

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

With Conflict Resolution Nothing is Straightforward and Simple

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Sexual Harassment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Negative Employee Behaviors: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communications in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Performance Management Must Begin With the Manager

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The concept of performance management allows managers to align the actions and activities of their employees with the goals and objectives of senior management in order to achieve the stated outcomes of the company.

It is this linkage that allows each individual employee to work toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Many managers make the common mistake of assuming that because they understand the goals and objectives assigned to them, everyone else does as well. This is often where many performance problems occur, as in terms of thinking and action there is a gap between what was planned as an overall company goal and what the unit or department is actually doing. The company might have established a specific goal while employees are working in a fashion wholly unrelated to that goal, which will assure that it is not met.

Managers are the liaison between senior leadership and their people. Often there is no sense of connection between a company’s goals and the actions of individual employees. They continue to perform in their usual fashion without achieving the desired outcomes stated by upper management. The role of the manager is to align the actions of his or her employees with the goals and objectives of the company.

Effective performance management must begin with the manager. Before they can communicate the goals and objectives of management, he or she must clearly understand both what is desired and the means to achieve it. Unless this information is clearly communicated to the manager and he or she comprehends and understands what is desired, there will be a gap in the system that will result in deficient results.

The problem is that in many organizations there is too great a disparity between plans and results. Many employees and managers develop annual plans and then ignore them during the course of the year; there is no actual implementation. They are instead an exercise that management requires, without any real utility or connection to day-to-day work.

Before managers can manage the performance of their people, they must personally commit to it and the results they wish to achieve. Once they have done so, they can then focus their efforts in the following areas:

Clarifying Goals

Managers must take the time to create a two-way dialogue with their people and clearly communicate the company’s goals to them. Employees should be encouraged to question, challenge, interpret and clarify these goals in their minds. This process gives them ownership of the goals, which makes them more concrete and meaningful and increases the likelihood they will be accomplished.

Discussing Ways to Meet Goals

Once employees understand the individual company goals and objectives, managers should discuss the specific ways they can meet them.

These discussions should be detailed and explicit in order to align employees’ strategies and plans with the company goals. Managers should specify the precise changes employees have to make to align their individual behaviors and activities with the company goals.

Employees should be informed of what is now expected of them and how they are expected to meet those expectations. As goals were clarified through encouraging questioning, challenging and interpreting, similar brainstorming should be encouraged to determine the best ways to achieve company goals and objectives.

Following Through to Align Behaviors with Outcomes

The critical link in performance management is the manager’s commitment to follow through with each individual employee to ensure that their work is aligned with the stated outcomes outlined in the company’s goals and objectives. This is where many performance management programs fall short: goals and methodologies are discussed with the unit or department, but individual employees are allowed to backslide into old habits that hinder achieving the company’s goals.

Managers follow through by first observing each individual employee’s professional behavior, discussing the results he or she is achieving, and supporting their efforts with additional training and coaching to keep them on focus.

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


Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Focusing Employees on Common Goals

Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Strengthening Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Approach Problems in a Professional, Logical and Systematic Manner

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A critical element of business is building relationships that ultimately result in partnerships. As all relationships have problems, the successful employee knows how to handle these issues efficiently and professionally in order to keep relationships productive. Constructive interaction resolves problems to everyone’s satisfaction, which builds good will and trust. The resulting solid relationships can provide the companies with the elusive edge in highly competitive markets.

Many employees are placed on the defensive when faced with a problem. Rather than diagnosing a problem logically, they react emotionally.

There are several types of problems that confront employees, many of which stem from deficiencies in the performance of a product or service. Customers can also create fictitious problems in an effort to gain an advantage in their business relationships. Additionally, there are perceived problems: situations where nothing is actually amiss, but for one reason or another the customer perceives a problem. While any issue—internal or external, real or perceived—can be trying, in all cases the employee must maintain his or her composure and approach the problem in a professional, logical and systematic manner.

People realize that in an imperfect world they will encounter problems. However, it is not the situation itself that tends to cause difficulties, but how the employee reacts to it. Surveys have indicated that a rapid, helpful response and resolution to an issue can strongly bind a customer to the company and employees to each other, whereas a sloppy and slow response can result not only in losing valued employees and customers, but also in turning them into activists that will do anything to undermine the business.

The next time managers are faced with a problem, they can follow the systematic approach outlined below, bearing in mind that speed is indispensable to problem solving.

Identify the Problem

Employees and customers will no doubt bring problems to light without being prompted. The identification of an issue allows the manager to begin a diagnosis and gauge the potential impact of the situation. This step affords the opportunity to establish the importance of the situation and determine how fast to respond.

Define Parameters

Once the issue is identified, it is up to the manager to distinguish the real cause of the problem. Many complaints are either symptomatic of a larger problem or point to other unresolved departmental issues; still others are wholly unrelated to the company’s product or service. The manager will need to define the problem by probing and asking pertinent questions in order to discover needs, expectations and the ultimate reasons behind the problem.

Qualify the Problem

When qualifying, the manager is determining where responsibility for the problem lies. Often when an employee or customer voices a complaint, they place the blame on parties that have little or no responsibility for the problem.

In terms of accounts, a flooring retailer, recounting the instance of a customer coming into his store and vocally complaining about the carpet she bought and its installation, disclosed that upon further examination it was found the customer had purchased the carpeting from a cut-rate competitor and had it installed by an incompetent handyman. She wasn’t a customer, but felt compelled to tell someone, and the only one available was this retailer. It wasn’t his problem, but he was able to turn this ugly situation into a new and happy account.

Quantify the Problem

When quantifying the problem, the manager is defining the size and scope of the situation and zeroing in on the ultimate impact the issue will have on the business. For example, a small order of a critical product can literally shut down a production line. It is up to the manager to identify the extent of the problem and the resulting impact on their employees’ and/or customers’ situation. All too often employees minimize what appears to be a small problem, but in fact has a significant impact. Managers must be careful when dealing with such issues, as how they are handled can ultimately determine future outcomes.

Examine the Problem

During the examining phase, the manager is identifying the source and potential causes of the problem. Decision makers need to examine what has happened, why, and who is responsible for the problem. The process should not be a fault-finding expedition, but a search for the genuine causes of the problem.

In terms of customers, examination includes identifying whether issues such as late delivery, a manufacturing defect, faulty materials or a lack of education caused the problem. The goal is to determine where the ultimate problem lies as well as examine the options that are available to resolve the immediate problem.


Once causes have been identified, the problem can be solved to all parties’ satisfaction. Managers who attempt to minimize difficulties at this critical juncture are only hurting themselves. A successful company will do anything to correct a problem, whether internal or external, in a satisfactory and timely manner. Any extra expense will be readily recouped in future productivity and business; failure to follow through with an adequate resolution will build considerable barriers to productivity. The time and money required to thoroughly address a problem are minimal when compared to the productivity gains and repeat business represented by happy employees and customers.

Report Findings

Findings should be reported to senior management so that the cause of the problem can be remedied and a record made in order to avoid its recurrence. The manager’s findings should not spark recriminations, but positive changes within the company that will prevent this type of situation from arising again. These adaptations should allow the company to grow, prosper and thrive while making the manager’s job easier.

No one wants to have to continually solve the same problem with different employees or accounts, as this ultimately undermines the manager’s credibility and the reputation of the company.


Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

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