Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘decisions

Effective Problem Solving Requires A Systematic Approach

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Effective problem solving in a complex world and in times of uncertainty demands a systematic approach that allows managers to be fair and consistent in the solutions they create. As both customers and employees are placed under more and more pressure to produce, problem-solving skills take on a heightened significance.

Effective problem solving requires that managers use a systematic approach rather than their intuitive judgment alone. Studies have shown that managers make more accurate judgments when they use such an approach for resolving problems and making critical decisions.

Many of the problems managers must resolve involve customers and can impact their business. The use of a systematic problem solving approach ensures that managers will consider all aspects of the issue before making decisions. Additionally, an established system is more efficient and effective than spending hours in unorganized thought considering the dimensions of an issue and creating a possible solution.

As resolving issues requires a series of determinations to arrive at a successful conclusion, it follows that successful problem solving is not possible without effective decision making. When encountering a problem the following techniques should be utilized:

Identify Primary Issues

Often problems are stated in terms describing symptoms rather than root causes. It is a common pitfall for managers to react to these symptoms and take action to resolve them without identifying their underlying causes. To avoid this misstep, managers should stand back and examine the problem to identify actual causes and the degree of difficulty involved in resolving the issue.

Identification of the primary issue is key to the rest of the resolution process. If not properly identified, the manager can waste valuable time and resources on inapplicable solutions.

Frame the Problem

Framing is another word for structuring the problem. Once the preliminary issue has been identified, framing allows the manager to structure the problem in the proper context, identifying the resources and potential solutions that may need to be employed. It should be noted that how a problem is framed does create a bias toward one solution over another. For instance, in terms of accounts, compare, “How can this problem be solved without impacting my profitability?” to “How can this problem be resolved to the customer’s complete satisfaction?” One solution is clearly customer focused while the other is internally focused. The solutions framed by both questions will produce markedly different results.

Gather Information

The third phase of problem solving is the gathering of facts and information to clearly define the extent of the problem and point to the causes. One pitfall managers must be cognizant of is not to discount information that challenges their perceptions and personal biases.

The key to information gathering is to go about it in a systematic manner that allows facts and data to be developed in an organized fashion.

Identify and Prioritize Potential Solutions

As information and data are organized, correlated and analyzed, a series of possible solutions should begin to emerge. When able, managers should use brainstorming techniques with all of the involved parties to identify several paths to take. At this point, limiting factors and other criteria should not be considered. The key is to flesh out ideas and concepts, group them and develop a final series of potential solutions to be considered.

Once the list of all potential solutions has been created, the manager should examine the feasibility of each in regard to time, cost, ease of use, satisfaction and any other important criteria. Solutions should then be ranked from best to worst.

Agree on Optimal Solution

The ideal solution is the one that is acceptable to all parties. The top one or two potential solutions should be considered and modified to meet the needs of all concerned. A win-lose solution may be expedient, but will create ill will in the long-term; as such, where possible it is always better to arrive at a win-win solution.

Assimilate Lessons

The final aspect of problem solving often overlooked by managers is the ability to assimilate the lessons learned from the situation and to refer back to those lessons when a similar problem arises.

Managers need to establish a system to learn from the results of their past decisions. This may require that they periodically spend several hours, once or twice a year, to review those decisions and their subsequent impact and ramifications on their business.

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


Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize 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

Producing Better Decision-Making That Results in More Positive Outcomes

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One of the primary reasons organizations and companies go through the effort of developing a qualified team environment is to produce better decision-making that results in more positive outcomes. This creates a more effective, efficient and productive work environment that helps ensure the success of the organization.

Good decision-making is facilitated by open and effective team communication that allows teams to consider all perspectives and points of view. The synergy of the team allows it to make decisions and outcomes that individuals alone would be unable to reach. Properly done and implemented, effective team decision-making makes the job immensely easier for everyone involved.

When leaders build an effective team structure and facilitate its activities, they will find that teams are more effective and productive at making decisions than leaders alone would be. This not only makes the leader’s job easier, but also enables their organizational unit to be more effective in implementing new decisions.

The structure and synergy created in the team environment greatly enhances decision-making in all organizational settings. This section discusses what contributes to this enhanced decision making ability.

Increased Informational Flow

The structure and makeup of teams typically allows them to develop more information and data than the average individual is capable of producing. Additionally, because of the number and combination of individuals, teams can analyze information and data more effectively and efficiently than a single individual. These enhanced analytical skills allow teams to base their decisions more on facts and data in order to support their conclusions and recommendations.

Balanced Perspectives

The structure of the team allows for the input of more feedback and perspectives on any specific issue or topic because all team members are mandated to participate and supply their feedback. The team has the ability to produce a balanced perspective on any issue it reviews.

All Points of View Considered

The brainstorming and consensus-building techniques employed by most teams allow them to consider all points of view and perspectives supplied by team members. Throughout the process, concepts are built upon in order to consolidate ideas and perspectives and use the synergy of the group to create more powerful solutions. This allows the team to weigh alternative solutions before reaching a final decision.

Solutions Prioritized

The consensus building and synergy of the team in the decision making mode allows it to consider, weigh and prioritize all possible solutions to any issue or problem. This process is based on criteria established by the team ahead of time, freeing it from any personal bias or agenda. It allows teams to effectively filter all potential solutions in order to arrive at the best possible decision.

Positive Outcomes

The team process allows people to thoroughly consider all points of view and create balanced solutions that ultimately produce positive outcomes for the organization.

It should be noted that initial decision-making in new team environments can be awkward and time-consuming. As teams become more experienced and mature in making decisions, the entire process will become more streamlined, automatic and efficient. Leaders should avoid the temptation of minimizing the team’s ability to grow, especially during the early stages of team development. Doing so will hinder its potential for growth, effectiveness and productivity.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD


How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: 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 Indicators Provide Feedback and Insight into All Levels of Leadership

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Key performance indicators or metrics allow organizations to create a common reporting system and language that leaders on all levels can understand and use in their decision-making. However, performance measurement decisions deliver key information and data that triggers specific decisions and actions at different levels of the organization.

Performance-based measurement systems provide feedback and insight into all levels of leadership within the organization. Local leaders make decisions based upon trigger points and triggered events as well as overall performance of their organizational units.

On the other hand, senior managers must take a strategic perspective that links the performance of all organizational units into feedback related to the entire organization’s performance; their decisions are global and focus on the sustainability of the entire organization.

It is important for leaders on all levels to understand the links between local performance and the entire organization. Key performance indicators and metrics trigger decisions on multiple levels. Lower trigger points may cause lower levels to react and make decisions and changes based upon the organizational unit in a specific location.

Senior leadership will have trigger points at higher levels that concern the performance of the entire organization, compelling them to make decisions and changes based upon the feedback they receive. While the perspectives may be different at various levels of leadership, the use of key performance indicators and metrics allows all leaders to make the decisions that are their responsibility.

Decisions can be tactical on a local operational level and strategic at a higher leadership level. The decisions are linked in that the strategic decisions will impact tactical decisions, but tactical may not affect strategic. Strategic decisions typically provide leaders with the boundaries and parameters that they must work within.

Leaders at all levels must understand that all decisions impact the organization. Daily decisions may not appear to be connected to the major areas discussed in this section, but, ultimately, all decisions made are based in one of these key areas.

Quality of Execution of Organizational Strategies

The availability of performance measurement systems and key performance indicators provides leaders on all levels of the organization with the decision making tools to measure the quality of the strategy that drives the organization.

Financial indicators are lagging indicators, while non-financial indicators provide leaders with a balanced view of what is happening. Metrics provide leaders with specific questions to facilitate the organization’s ability to make tough decisions and quickly seize opportunities as well as to evaluate how well it adapts to changing technologies and markets.

Improvement of Non-Financial Performance

Non-financial metrics linked with more traditional financial ones provide leaders with the information to make timely decisions that impact their unit’s performance and the entire organization’s ability to adapt. Triggered events and predetermined trigger points provide pivotal moments for leaders to make key performance decisions. These events can be established on both strategic and tactical levels with individual leaders responsible for making specific decisions within the organization.

Value Creation

More companies are using value creation indexes that focus on the relationship between non-financial performance and the organization’s market value. The establishment of a value creation index provides leaders with key insights by establishing direct links between the two areas of focus. Research has shown that a reliance on non-financial performance leads to more accurate forecasts and valuation. Typically the value creation drivers are:

  • Innovation
  • Quality
  • Customers
  • Management
  • Alliances
  • Technology
  • Brand
  • Employees
  • Environment

While value creation is defined and utilized by senior leadership within the organization, its metrics that measure non-financial performance are driven into the organization and become part of the suite of performance measurement tools used by leaders on all levels.

Research has shown that intangible elements such as innovation, alliance, management and employees are the key players in producing the organization’s value. Within the durable and non-durable manufacturing environment, improvement in key value drivers results in higher market values. These are the indicators that allow organizations to measure and predict future performance.

Efficient Resource Allocation

The balanced use of performance measurement systems that evaluate both financial and non-financial performance metrics allow leaders to efficiently allocate the use of scarce resources throughout the organization. Decisions that effectively manage resource allocation allow organizations to sustain their performance and profitability.

While local leadership on the tactical level makes decisions on the use and application of resources, senior leadership on the strategic level is able to ensure that resources are used in ways that benefit the entire organization. The use of performance measurement metrics allows leaders on all levels to evaluate effectiveness and make decisions regarding future performance.

Excerpt: Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Performance Management Must Begin With the Manage

Attaining Organizational Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership 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

Leadership Shifts Focus From Tasks to Individuals

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Managers are often task-oriented, and not necessarily focused on their employees. Leaders on the other hand are people-oriented; they work through and motivate their employees, utilizing their resources to perform assigned tasks in the most productive and profitable way possible.

Many managers confuse management with leadership, and feel they are automatically leaders because they occupy a position of higher responsibility. While this assumption is often true, many fail to display active leadership qualities. The roles leaders fulfill are different than those of managers, although sound management practices are complementary to effective leadership.

While some individuals are natural leaders, most managers must evolve into leaders both by investing time and effort in developing their abilities and by adapting their management roles to a more flexible, effective leadership style.

Leaders learn how to harness the specific talents of every employee team member in driving efficiency and productivity. While this may appear to be more work than it’s worth, effective leaders are able to produce higher levels of productivity with fewer problems than from simply using traditional managing techniques.

When leaders adhere to specific leadership roles they will foster trust, inward strength and a unity of purpose in the groups under their direction. As leaders, they will embrace their own personal responsibilities, understanding that anything is possible and attainable. They will recognize that each specific element is a stepping stone to the next that ultimately creates a transition from managing to leadership. To define a personal leadership role, the following three principles are critical:


Leaders take complete responsibility for all their actions and decisions. Often leaders must make a decision to challenge rules proven to be detrimental to their overall work environment and the people entrusted to them. The role of a leader is to set ineffective or unproductive rules and procedures aside in favor of those promoting increased cooperation, trust and ownership.

Leaders never waiver in this pursuit. They understand that part of their role is to take risks whenever a policy, procedure or situation hinders progress—and stand by their decisions.

Making improvements often means rocking the boat. While often challenging to the best leaders, this is a substantial part of true leadership. Leaders recognize the status quo often isn’t good enough, and that it takes change and creativity to generate improvements.

Leading People

Leaders approach their roles with serious determination. Part of their role is not to dwell on the “rearview mirror,” but to look forward. They learn from past mistakes and errors in judgment, but never allow them to affect future opportunities and possibilities. Leaders learn to detach themselves from their circumstances to maintain a clear, forward-thinking perspective.

In order to succeed, leaders must unburden themselves of emotions and perceived limitations that impede attainment of goals and performance. They know past experiences can easily alter good judgment. For a leader, past experiences become the lessons for the future, producing the wisdom to adapt to change.

Leaders know situations or problems will not always fit into neat compartments and have predictable outcomes. They understand and accept that even the most unthinkable changes and devastating occurrences are a possibility, and that their role is to embrace the challenge to overcome them.

Leaders also know they must be flexible in any and all situations, and that looking forward requires creating viable alternatives. They are aware that part of their function is to embrace change and the challenges it brings.

Cultivate the People under Your Direction

The most important role a leader must fulfill is to cultivate, support and nurture employees. Anything can be achieved with fertile enough ground to plant and grow the seeds of accomplishment. To best achieve this end, it is important to:

Learn and remember:

Leaders know part of their role is to learn everything about every person under their charge. They make it a point to learn what is important to each, to celebrate special days, achievements and even sadness with outward expressions, incentives, written memos, awards, notes and letters. Nothing builds loyalty and cooperation in employees better than being both professionally and personally attuned to them.

Demonstrate fairness and a cooperative spirit:

Leaders work with their employees to maintain high levels of motivation and productive team efforts. They do this by clearly educating their employees on specific procedures, problems and needed skills. Leaders also acknowledge and take seriously the expectations employees have of them. This role builds trust, loyalty and the desire for all to achieve.

Walk the floor—get your hands dirty:

Part of a leader’s role is to offer help when and where it is needed. This can only be done by personally taking part in tasks and assignments and being an overall active participant in what is going on in their workplace. Knowledge is gathered, problems disclosed and people motivated when leaders fulfill this role. Employees gain respect for leaders who willingly undertake this interaction in a positive fashion rather than view it as an obligation.

Excerpt: Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Four Primary Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

Leaders Succeed When Employees Are Successful

Three Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Looking into the Crystal Ball

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Leadership Styles: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communication 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

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

Four Questions That Challenge Your Ethical Decisions

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Many people are faced with a dilemma in that they want to practice conscientious and moral behavior, but are challenged to do so when difficult ethical problems and issues arise. In order to effectively deal with them, managers and their people need superior decision making tools that assist them in making the right choices.

Too many people are under the impression that they need to be deceptive and unethical in order to get ahead. They consider this line of thinking to be shrewd and “streetwise.” In business as in all other arenas, this perception isn’t shrewd: it’s foolish. Poor ethical decisions and judgments in the work environment, especially when considered cumulatively, have dramatic personal, professional and organizational ramifications.

The benefits of dealing with superiors, associates, subordinates and customers in a straight and forthright manner are obvious. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also positively impacts motivation, productivity and profitability. It is simply good business.

A profound business philosophy is to be found in a simple four-step decision making aid. While it does not direct people in what specifically to do or think, it does give them a tool to guide them in all of their business and personal decisions.

Well known to anyone ever associated with Rotary International and translated into more than 100 languages, The Four-Way Test is highly recommended as an easy decision making tool that makes a clear difference in the practice of ethical behavior.

Managers and employees must display the highest standards of honesty and integrity in their conduct to establish and sustain credibility. The Four-Way Test is a handy and simple litmus test for all personal actions and decisions.

Herbert J. Taylor developed the test during the depths of the depression in the 1930s. A young sales manager for Jewel Tea Company, Taylor was asked by Continental Bank in Chicago to take over the management of Club Aluminum Products, a manufacturer of pots and pans. The company was fraught with unethical business practices and bankruptcy. The banks had assumed control of it.

To bring the company out of bankruptcy, Taylor knew he had to change the way it did business. Ultimately, he developed the Four-Way Test business philosophy and instructed all employees to follow it in each of their dealings with customers, suppliers and associates. The philosophy turned the business around and ultimately brought it out of bankruptcy.

Is it the TRUTH? 

All decision-making must start with an objective base of facts—in other words, the truth. This is the basis for all decisions, negotiations and problem solving.

When resolving a conflict, all parties must agree on what constitutes the truth. All viewpoints and insights into the problem must be considered when defining the truth. The same process applies when making a decision. All sides of an issue or problem must be fully and objectively weighed before determining the truth of the matter.

The benefit of such an approach is that it effectively removes bias, emotion and personal agendas from the decision making process. When truth is objectively defined, viable solutions become obvious to a reasonable person.

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

Any problem or decision comes with a variety of options and solutions that are available when making a decision, solving a problem or negotiating a settlement or sale. The key is arriving at the best solution. When options, alternatives and solutions are weighed as to their impact on all parties, it becomes easier to narrow the options. When the final choices are filtered according to their fairness to all parties, the optimal decision will become obvious.


It is important that decisions leave all involved parties satisfied, knowing the decision is fair to them.

Most people want to get on well with others and treat them in the same fashion that they would wish to be treated. Managers and employees must make ethical choices that build consensus and long-term goodwill. This increases employee retention and profitability of the organization.

Decisions made involving individual employees must focus on the same factors. This establishes trust and credibility, which has a direct impact on personal motivation and productivity.

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

The final point addresses the question, “What’s in it for me?” Individuals want to know how a decision benefits them. The final question assures all involved parties that an equitable and beneficial decision has been reached.

The questions asked in The Four-Way Test are interrelated, with the answer to one question effectively creating the possible answers to the next. The answers and solutions are obvious and logical to all involved.

In the practice of ethical behavior there is an increased need for effective decision making skills and tools to guide and direct managers and employees. Only when specific individuals wish to pursue a personal agenda or achieve a decision will any interference come into play. The Four-Way Test effectively exposes such personal goals and agendas without the need for the manager or employee to directly bring attention to them.


Ethics: Actions Do Have Consequences

Seven Practical Applications of Ethics

Leaders Are Judged By The Actions They Take

Trust is Based on Truth

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

When Evaluating Performance Consider the Intangibles

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Decision making can take many forms depending upon the specific aspects of performance being identified and addressed. When leaders are making performance-based decisions regarding their organizational units, the decisions are typically based upon individual performance of the leaders, managers and employees under their direction.

Although performance can be documented in tangible and measurable terms, it invariably points to the performance or lack thereof of the individual(s) accountable for specific results. However, because decisions concerning these individuals are never made in a void, a number of more subjective factors must be considered.

This is important for leaders to appreciate because the performance evaluation program in an empowered organization incorporates all pertinent factors and contexts in order to yield more informed decisions regarding individual and corporate performance.

Since performance decisions revolve around the individual employees within an organization, the following less tangible factors need consideration. Often leaders are subconsciously aware of these aspects when making decisions, but they require more deliberate and formal weighing.

However, where possible even subjective factors should be linked to something tangible. In some cases overall employee performance and behaviors can be benchmarked, giving leaders a tangible backdrop against which to evaluate an employee when a decision is needed.


Certain employees will cooperate to the extent they are compelled to do so, while others will cooperate and offer their services beyond what is expected. In a union environment, some employees will hide behind negotiated rules to mask their lack of willingness to cooperate.

Undoubtedly when performance decisions must be made concerning individual employees, the level of cooperation among them becomes an important factor to consider. Within the empowered organization, cooperation tends to increase as more decisions are driven down to frontline employees.


As companies face continual change and evolve into empowered organizations, individual employees may become fearful or resistant to adjustments being made. With little other choice they may accept them, but not be enthusiastic. Leaders should watch for these tendencies as they can produce a drag on individual performance and even spread to others, further affecting motivation and morale.


Personal levels of cooperation and enthusiasm are indicators of the individual employee’s motivation. As a leader transitions his or her employees into a cohesive organizational unit, employee motivation should shift from, “What’s in it for me?” thinking to a more group-oriented outlook.

As organizations transition from the traditional centralized and polarized bureaucracy to an empowered organization, employees also undergo a transition. Some will undoubtedly progress faster than others, but there comes a time when all should be motivated at least more by the group than the self. Thus an employee’s perspective must be considered in making performance decisions. If one or more employees have problems in this area, the leader must address them lest they fester and impact the progress of the organization.

Feedback and Insight

Employees that have worked in a job for a long period of time develop what is known as “native knowledge.” As this is developed, these employees begin to know all the “tricks of the trade” enabling them to be more efficient in their jobs. This is the information that leaders must tap into and share with the rest of their employees.

However, many longtime employees are reluctant to share this information since it provides them with “insurance” and a sense of job security. They are fearful that once they have shared this information, lower-paid employees may replace them.

As leaders evaluate their organizational performance, the feedback and insights shared by individual employees must be considered. Leaders should know the level of contribution an employee is capable of providing through daily interaction with them. They should be aware of those employees who are sharing their expertise and those who are not, and this is then factored into decisions made regarding performance.


The role of the leader is to lead and form the employees under them into a team focused on mutual goals and objectives. The more cohesive the organizational unit, the more productive and efficient it becomes. Thus as decisions are made about performance, the level of teamwork becomes an increasingly important consideration.

As decisions are made over time, the levels of teamwork should rise accordingly. Undoubtedly, if problems are identified with one or more employees, factors of cooperation, enthusiasm, motivation and performance also become issues with these employees. All of these factors are interlinked when making decisions regarding performance.


As all evaluative decision making factors are interlinked, deficiencies in one or more of these areas will contribute to personal performance problems. Conversely, strong indications in all of these decision making categories will contribute to enhanced performance.

Most performance decisions are based upon end results alone. However, when the sum total of these factors is evaluated, the problems behind the lack of performance are highlighted, making the leader’s decisions more meaningful.

When the root causes behind a problem are identified, it is easy for leaders to take the specific actions required to solve the problem.

Uncontrollable Circumstances

The final factor that must be considered in making performance decisions is the impact of uncontrollable events upon individual performance. Obviously factors of global competition, economic downturns and situations such as a shipping strike, internal production issues, and even weather can impact individual results. These realities and circumstances must be given appropriate consideration in making equitable performance decisions.


Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Focusing Employees on Common Goals

Excerpt: Strengthening Leadership Performance (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

Empowered Organizations Develop Employee Commitment

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The purpose of empowerment in an organization is to decentralize management and control throughout the organization. The overall effect is to build customer loyalty by creating internal employee ownership of productivity, quality, and the principles for which an organization stands.

The sole purpose of creating an empowered organization is to develop employee commitment. The role of the leader in this capacity is to ensure that the same common mission and set of values is communicated throughout their organization and are consistent with those of other individual leaders in the organization. This means that leaders must match words with actions to instill the right character and culture within their organization.

As control is decentralized within their organization, both leaders and employees assume a greater role of responsibility in decisions affecting effectiveness, productivity and profitability.

Leaders must make sure that decisions impacting efficiency, cost-cutting, and overall value are made with as much participation of the frontline employees they impact as possible.

The key to organizational empowerment is to make employees part of management rather than individual cogs in a wheel, holding them accountable for their individual actions. This creates positive organizational change with distinct advantages:

  • Employees become more cost conscious.
  • Employees become involved in the cost-value trade-off decisions that must be made if an organization is to remain competitive.
  • Employees work toward continuous improvement in value efficiency as well as quality effectiveness.
  • Employees experience an overall reduction in frustrations as well as an elimination of continued inefficiencies within the organization.

Empowered employees who are included and involved in the management of an organization respond by acting like owners themselves. This is something that managers and leaders cannot achieve with slogans or manipulative methods to force employee compliance and conformance. These faulty methods run counter to motivational principles.

As employees become empowered and assume personal ownership, attitudes and behaviors begin to shift in accordance with their personal beliefs. They become more conscious of workplace factors impacting the effectiveness, productivity and profitability of their organizational unit.

This is the desired objective of the organization: frontline employees focused on making essential decisions that improve the quality of the product or service and the value it provides the customer.

Organizations must become increasingly cost-conscious in an increasingly global and competitive environment. Empowered organizations flatten decision making and bring it directly to the “trenches” of the organization. Employees in the front lines are able to make more effective decisions because they are properly focused.

This insures that cost cuts and efficiency improvements are made in the right places without injuring the quality and value of their product or service. To make this truly effective, leaders must ensure a system is in place that makes cost consciousness every employee’s concern.

The less involvement of employees at the front lines of an organization, the more unseen and hidden costs are overlooked. The farther away these decisions are made from their point of impact, the harder it is to arrive at the right decisions without harming both the quality and value of a product or service.

Within an empowered organization, the more frontline people—who most directly benefit from a reduction of costs and enhanced value—actively involved in decisions, the more effective decisions will be. This is important to note since too many organizations place an emphasis on cost controls rather than on the production of value. While this may look good on paper, these decisions undermine the overall quality of products/services and diminish customer satisfaction levels.

Within the empowered organization, employees will often extend their job descriptions on their own and work diligently to eliminate the inefficiencies that create cost-value problems in their workplace. This is often the more widespread kind of commitment organizations will experience when they empower their employees and give them the authority to manage their work and make decisions on their own.

This only occurs because employees are empowered to question existing methods and concepts and are encouraged to experiment with new ideas and concepts for the sole purpose of increasing efficiency. This is highly effective in reducing frustrations and cutting costs where they really matter, rather than in random and often painful ways that compromise the quality of the product or service being produced.


Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow

Empowerment is a Structured Discipline

Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace

Four Major Hindrances to Empowerment

Excerpt: Organizational Empowerment (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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

If You Put Fences Around People, You Get Sheep

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Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard (seated) and William Hewlett run final production tests on a shipment of the 200A audio oscillator. The picture was taken in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.

Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard and William Hewlett

Empowerment, delegation and team building need to have a proper environment where they can be nurtured, have the ability to grow and ultimately be ingrained into the corporate culture.

It is surprising how many companies launch training initiatives in these areas without obtaining management buy-in, and then wonder why they do not firmly take root.

The lessons from the practices the great leaders employed illustrates that if empowerment and team building strategies are ever going to work, they must be initiated, endorsed and fully supported by senior management. The great leaders clearly understood this and in many cases institutionalized these practices in their companies.

3M possesses a well-earned reputation for being a highly innovative company. During its early years, William McKnight focused on the development of unique and ingenious products and applications.

“After the development of masking tape, McKnight learned a crucial lesson about letting his engineers follow their instincts. He soon codified this lesson into a policy known as the 15% rule.

‘Encourage experimental doodling,’ he told his managers. ‘If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.’

Still in place today, the rule lets 3M engineers spend up to 15% of their work time pursuing whatever project they like. Subsequent policies and programs—like Genesis Grants (an internal venture capital fund available to engineers whose ideas have been turned down by management) and the 25% rule (requiring that each division generate a quarter of its sales from products introduced within the past five years), which in 1993 became the 30% rule—furthered 3M’s climate of innovation.” [1]

Under the tutelage of David Packard and William Hewlett, Hewlett-Packard saw a number of innovative empowerment practices incorporated into its corporate culture. “David Packard and Bill Hewlett’s approach to management bequeathed many gifts to today’s managers and their teams.

‘Management by Objective,’ for example, empowered individuals to be creative problem-solvers. Not only does the process create an organic and self-sustaining kind of teamwork, but it prevents ‘diworsification’ for companies, which can stay focused on what they do best and what fits their core competencies.” [2]

Donald Kendall (PepsiCo) fashioned an environment that was known for hiring only the best people and fully supporting their jobs. “PepsiCo deeply believes that managers who act like owners, run lean, and get big results should get big rewards.

PepsiCo treats its managers extremely well. Top middle managers earn between $96,000 and $144,000 (1989) annually, not counting bonuses, stock options, and other perks. How does it justify this largess?

Says Roger Enrico: ‘Treating the people well who produce is cheaper than having a big bureaucracy following them around trying to keep down costs.’” [3]

Timothy Koogle (Yahoo) noted the unique environment Yahoo created to facilitate empowerment and improve decision-making.

He explained, “We get real clear about what we’re going to do – not necessarily how – so we’ve got a focused strategy. But then we drive decisions out to the organization and that’s real different from kind of past generations of business if you will, that were very hierarchical where most of the decisions had to flow up through the chain and flow all the way back down the chain.

Here we actually do distribute the decisions out to everyone who’s got authority to build great product and great service. But what it means is you’re making a lot of decisions in parallel and what that means is you can execute faster and that’s a real key in our environment because it’s growing real fast, changing all the time, and there is a lot of competition.” [4]

The great leaders provided their employees with the necessary tools to effectively harness their power, but more importantly, they created healthy environments where they could flourish.

As General Robert Woods (Sears) articulated,

We put our faith in men, not systems. I like to let a man learn by making a few mistakes, as long as they don’t cost too much.” [5]


“Hire Character and Train Skills”

Attaining Organizational Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

Leaders Succeed When Employees Are Successful

Focusing Employees on Common Goals


  1. Lukas Paul, 3M a Mining Company Built on a Mistake Stuck It Out Until a Young Man Came Along with Ideas About How to Tape Those Blunders Together as Innovations – Leading to Decades of Growth (Fortune Magazine, April 1, 2003)
  2. Orfalea Paul, Helfert Lance, Lowe Atticus and Zatkowsky Dean, Inspirational Figures David Packard (West Coast Asset Management)
  3. Dumaine Brian, Those Highflying Pepsico Managers (Fortune Magazine, April 10, 1989)
  4. Gardner David and Gardner Tom, Fool Interview with Tim Koogle, Chairman and CEO of Yahoo! (Fool, April 18, 2000)
  5. Retail Trade: The General’s General Store (Time Magazine, February 25, 1952)

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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

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Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

In addition to investigating new possibilities, effective leaders tend to possess an investigative mindset. Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) stated,

“Sit down before the facts with an open mind. Be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you learn nothing. Don’t push out figures when facts are going in the opposite direction.”

Peter Drucker described Alfred Sloan (General Motors) in The Effective Executive. “Sloan, was anything but an ‘intuitive’ decision-maker. He always emphasized the need to test opinions against facts and the need to make absolutely sure that one did not start out with the conclusion and then look for the facts that would support it. But he knew that the right decision demands adequate disagreement.”

Meg Whitman (eBay) noted, “My job was to uncover what was going well. I think sometimes when a new senior executive comes into a company, the instinctive thing to do is to find out what’s wrong and fix it. That doesn’t actually work very well.

People are very proud of what they’ve created, and it just feels like you are second-guessing them all the time. You are much more successful coming in and finding out what’s going right and nurturing that. Along the way, you’ll find out what’s going wrong and fix that.”

Other effective leaders used other specific techniques that were extremely beneficial and fruitful, including probing for answers. Irwin Miller (Cummins) was noted for this attribute. “He was a teacher, not by providing answers, but by asking tough questions.

On many occasions his question ‘Ten years from now, what will you wish you had done differently today?’ caused business colleagues, community leaders, friends, and family members to reassess their points of view and reach for higher goals. If you came to tell him what you had already done, he always simply asked, ‘Did you do the right thing?’ ”

Andy Grove (Intel) was also a tough questioner, with an equally strong purpose behind it. “Andy will test his staff endlessly… If someone makes a suggestion, he’ll ask, ‘How would you do that?’ Andy wants answers that are well thought out. Gut feel doesn’t cut it with him. His test is: ‘How would you implement it?’ . . . And he challenges his staff to convince him that a particular direction is the right way to go.’

In some organizations, taking such a rigorous approach and insisting that people be prepared to thoroughly defend their ideas might discourage timid subordinates from offering suggestions – and thus stifle creative thinking. But Grove insists that isn’t really an issue.

‘If it discourages you,’ he says, ‘then you probably had a poor idea that you didn’t have much confidence in – or you are the kind of person who wouldn’t execute the idea anyway. If you can’t be expected to fill out the details of your concept, how can you be expected to execute it? It is almost a test:

‘Do you really believe in your idea well enough to defend it? And, if you are given a go-ahead, will you have enough devotion to it – a serious enough commitment to it – to make it happen?’

Clearly, Andy Grove understands how to make things happen, which helps to explain why Intel has played such a major role in shaping the digital world of the future.’ ”

William Blackie (Caterpillar) used his own power of observation to investigate the facts prior to making key decisions. During the post-Second World War years, replete with growth opportunities for Caterpillar,

“Blackie didn’t make his decisions in some comfortable office. He went out in the field to see for himself and advised others to do the same – even though doing so in the postwar years wasn’t comfortable.

‘Seeing the changes and their effects creates more conviction than being told about it or reading about it,’ he told Iron Age. ‘Therefore, one of the first things I urge any interested or skeptical U.S. businessman to do is to go abroad himself to see what’s going on.’”

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

Leaders do have control over the actions, behaviors and decisions that influence and shape their personal credibility. This once again involves self-awareness as well as comprehensive critical thinking abilities to examine the consequences of both their long and short-term actions. All leaders have choices, but the right choices demand a leader’s willingness and acquiescence.

“Bill [William Hewett] and Dave [David Packard] could be gruff and demanding but were seen as compassionate at heart. They agonized over layoffs and, according to company lore, would apologize for angry outbursts. They created one of the most humane workplaces in the United States. The founders also served as models of integrity. HP products were expensive but they were dependable. Wall Street could trust the numbers that Hewlett and Packard presented to analysts.”[1]

My research substantiates that the great leaders were compassionate and displayed empathy. There is a story about George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric) conducting a tour of his factories with visitors. In the course of the tour, the group observed a young man stumbling and falling while carrying a large copper plate. As the group laughed at the young man’s predicament, Westinghouse walked over and in his business suit, kneeled down and assisted the young man.

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) has fostered compassion and empathy within his company. He took a personal interest in even the smallest events of his employees’ lives. Using their own initiative, his employees have in turn, routinely used voluntary payroll deductions to assist fellow employees with serious financial problems such as terminal illnesses.

In the quest for ever-increasing shareholder value, many contemporary leaders perceive empathy and compassion as a sign of personal weakness. Quite to the contrary, my research proves that the great leaders, especially those who were compassionate, were also strong leaders. There was nothing weak about them and their compassion and humanity didn’t diminish their performance. Most times it enhanced it.

An additional benefit the research revealed was that strong levels of compassion and empathy result in strong levels of trust and loyalty. Rather than diminishing shareholder value, the great leaders typically outperformed their competition.

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) “explains how [employee] meetings help him lead a fast-growing $ 6.4 billion global company with 90,000 employees, 9,700 stores, and 33 million weekly customers. ‘People aren’t interested in how much you know… It’s how much you care.’”[2]

Jack Welch (General Electric) noted the value of a compassionate leader, when he said, “If you have everything else you need in terms of talent and skill, your humanity will come to be your most appealing virtue to an organization.

Your team and your bosses will know who you are in your soul, what kind of people you attract, and what kind of performance you want from everyone. Your realness will make you accessible; you will connect and you will inspire. You will lead.”[3]


  1. Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership
  2. Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader
  3. Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness


  1. Johnson Craig, The Rise and Fall of Carly Fiorina: An Ethical Case Study (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, November 2008)
  2. Meyers, William, Conscious in a Cup, (U.S. News & World Report) October 31, 2005
  3. Welch Jack, Get Real, Get Ahead (Business Week) July 23, 2007

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 © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

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