April 30, 2013

Managing Expectations

We make choices every moment of our lives. If we’re in a group, team, or company, those decisions are often magnified and frequently tied to a financial element.

Through every interaction, in tiny increments, we are making choices and creating expectations. We are agreeing on terms, making verbal and written contracts, setting deadlines, and creating anticipation for what we think will happen.

But are we articulating it well to others?

You see it when a supplier and a customer meet about deliverables, prices, quality, or a myriad other issues. Both parties think they’re right and as often is the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The sales manager expects all of her reps to make a minimum of five prospect calls a day because she included it in an email nine months ago and it is how she built her client list so how could there possibly be another way.

Don’t bring me problems, offer solutions.

That sounds good on the surface, you don’t want a bunch of whiners and complainers, but if your team's solutions aren't implemented then they may stop offering them. Leaders need to create a culture where they are clear what they need and how each member can contribute.

The next time you share an idea, check in to see how it’s been received and how others may want to be involved. And with all of our technology and progress aside, a conversation can go a long way. A lesson I learn every day.

Managing perceptions might be our first step.
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.


April 26, 2013

What's Your Excuse?

I was looking for something inspirational this morning. Like you, I’ve seen and read plenty of content on how to get out of our heads or push through adversity, and more will be required as we live our lives, but I wanted something different, something that would be a good stiff kick in the butt.

Leadership isn't about being in control when the road is straight and dry but rather handling difficulties and unforeseen curves along the way.

Meet Sue Austin

TED | Sue Austin

April 23, 2013

Business is Personal

It’s been said for generations that bringing your life to work is frowned upon. It was clearly stated that work is for work and if you want to interject something that is happening in your life, do that after work or during lunch or the small talk portion of meetings, but work is for working. And if you had a problem with your kids, finances, parents, spouse, or another ‘life’ issue, those were to be left at the door as well.

But can anyone expect employees to spend a third of their life in robot mode? Well some do, which is short sighted. Igniting passions and embracing differences can garner remarkable results.

Human Work

While we see four generations trying to mix cultures in the workplace plus more telecommuting, virtual teaming, technology, and flex time, we are seeing a shift and the process may not be going smoothly in many cases.

I’m not a fan of stereotypes but generally the older employees are more resistant to change while the younger employees adapt quicker. Yes, there are exceptions, but working all the time isn't healthy at any age.

Collaborate Openly

My friend and colleague Mitch Joel has said for years that he doesn't believe in the old saying - this is business, don't take it personally. He and his partners deliver to clients while providing a creative atmosphere for their staff and they take that personally.

Fast Company published a short piece back in 2005 entitled Making Business Personal where they made the case of balancing time between life and work priorities which states; “Take more of these opportunities to make business more personal, and please don't think your professional contacts will think less of you. In fact, usually the opposite happens. In most cases, this blurring of personal and professional lives seems to be good for business and good for our families, our friends, and ourselves.”

This isn't to suggest comfy lounge chairs and basketball nets in the boardroom will create a collaborative culture but blending generations, mixing perspectives, and allowing life to permeate your company will make it personal and that’s a good thing.

Make your business personal and your team will reciprocate.
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.


April 19, 2013

The Media of Our Culture

The news this week is filled with updates on the Boston bombings, explosion in Texas, and the killing of police officer Sean Collier at MIT. It’s been a horrible week.

We live in a time when a person can film an event on their mobile device, send to local authorities, and within a week suspects are found. That’s amazing. But that same technology gives us the ability to share or send misinformation.

The Human Network

As updates fly at incalculable speed, I guess it’s not surprising to see global news agencies getting it wrong in their quest to stay ahead of the Twitterverse.

Let's always remember Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Sean Collier, and the hundreds affected by the explosion in Texas. As well, thank-you to the law enforcement, medical community, and local heroes.

Hug your kids, call a friend, say thank-you, help a colleague, keep perspective, and stay strong.

Kneale Mann

James Wilkinson

April 17, 2013

The Importance of Mentors

I was chatting with a friend recently and we got on the topic of mentors. I have been extremely fortunate to have had several outstanding ones in my career. She lamented she couldn't name one in her life. Then she asked why these people had so profoundly helped me which got me thinking about the attributes of a great mentor.


There must be trust. Your mentor has to care about you and your success not simply put their theories and goals on you. My most influential mentor was my boss Stewart. In just five years, I learned more about leadership and myself than I could have in twenty. He was a student of human behavior and not only understood we were different but accepted and embraced it.

He said leadership was 10% about the work and 90% about life, relationships, and people. It's important to do good work but without human connection, company culture won't be strong and your business will struggle. Stewart knew this and created it in our organization. And he's still doing it today.


Stew understood human systems, team dynamics, and the importance of pushing people to be their best. His biggest gift as my mentor was to find those moments to explain how he did what he did and allow me space to find my own style and process. Oh, and if  you know him, don't tell him I wrote this, he isn't the look-at-me type.

I connected with his ability to set the course but also explain how he arrived at the plan and how I could find my own way to lead my team, and years later, even bigger teams. He gave me another view of how to find my own way. I didn't realize at the time, but he gave me the foundation for my work today.


Mentors are priceless yet the relationship is often not evident at first. You don't see "mentor" on an org chart or job board. It happens when it happens and can't be forced. But as the mentor relationship develops, it will garner immeasurable results.

If you've been fortunate to be a mentor, are one now, or become one in the future, cherish the opportunity to help someone find their way.

That’s leadership!  
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.


April 14, 2013

Decisions and Impatience

We live in an instant gratification world where quick wins are lauded and our impatience fills the zeitgeist. Get it now, fix it now, win it now, make that call, close that sale, launch that product, etc. I am working on a new venture and we want stuff done yesterday. In my quest to speed up the process, I often get in the way which is something we all need to keep in mind.

Managing our patience takes skill and dedication. When do you make a quick decision? When do you wait? When does it require more data? When are you getting lost in data and scope creep?

One of the biggest stories this week is the departure of JC Penny CEO Ron Johnson. Mitch Joel features the Johnson story in his new book Crtl Alt Delete and recently wrote about the swift departure, saying; “I hope 17 months doesn't become the norm.” 

Nimble is the norm and impatience is riding shotgun

In some cases, 17 months is too long, in others too short. I worked with a guy who proclaimed his mantra was - ready shoot aim. Make a decision, do it, deal with the consequences. I think some aiming is important but often we get stuck during the indecision stage, so balance is always the challenge. But waiting for the perfect time to move is a deadly pursuit.

Johnson was tasked with turning around an old brand in a very busy sector shrouded in churn and impatience. But Ron was fired and they're bringing back the CEO he replaced a year and a half ago hoping this time it'll work. Cue the Einstein quote.

Culture is king

Zappos is often used as an example where leadership, patience and culture merge into a cool place to work that makes healthy profit. Culture and revenue can live happily together if done right. The Zappos’ family values are; Deliver wow through service. Embrace and drive change. Create fun and a little weirdness. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. Pursue growth and learning. Build open and honest relationships with communication. Build a positive team and family spirit. Do more with less. Be passionate and determined. Be humble.

CEO Tony Hsieh admits both fast and slow decisions cost Zappos a lot of money while affecting their culture.

Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.

Flickr | Inc. | Tony Hsieh

April 11, 2013

Wows and White Elephants

If you ask most company managers, executives, or owners, they will undoubtedly be able to tell you what their company stands for in a nice tight mission statement. You may hear words like integrity, leading, best, or pick your platitude. After all, what organization would proudly claim they are the worst or provide bad service?

Jay Wilkinson is the founder and CEO of Firespring. He and his team have stringent measures to ensure they have the best people join the organization.

He has been through a lot since launching the company but remains focused on one prime element of his business which comes before products and profit.

Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.

TED | Jay Wilkinson

April 8, 2013

Revenue and Other Human Stuff

There are products, sales, marketing, people, share price, competition and many other factors that keep business people up at night. In the documentary The Corporation, producers examined the modern-day company. They evaluated its behavior toward society and the world at large as a psychiatrist might evaluate an ordinary person.

They concluded if the corporation was human, her ultimate goal would be to make money above all else. If that is the sole purpose of your company, be nervous. Fiscal health is imperative but without strong internal customer service, it will be a struggle.

Infrastructure Investment

I love the old joke about the CFO asking the CEO why they were investing so much in training and people and cautions; "What if we spend all this money and they leave?" and the CEO replied; "What if we don't and they stay?" If you don’t treat people well, they may quit, or worse stick around and have a hand in your demise.

This is not to suggest work is a country club - well, unless you work in an actual country club - but we need to find a new way to engage the culture while keeping a keen eye on the bottom line. I met someone a couple of weeks ago who cannot get his head around virtual teaming and flex time. Yes, they walk among us.

As we embrace four generations in the workforce, it's safe to say the old rule book is due for an overhaul.
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.


April 6, 2013

Must We Follow all the Rules?

If you know the story of Lord of the Flies, you remember how the kids are deserted on the island without parents or rules. At first, it’s nirvana. They can do whatever they want. But soon enough, anarchy ensues. Smaller sanctions are formed. Leadership is sought. The weaker kids are oppressed. The stronger ones become bullies. The good turns to bad in the blink of an eye.

We like rules, we need rules, and we operate more efficiently with rules. But can rules hamper us more than help us? I've worked with leaders on governance models and strategic plans. It makes them comfortable that direction and focus are clear.

But does it account for the human work?

I recently hosted a workshop on the elements of great leaders and teams. Part of our discussion was on aligning values. Do you know your values? Do you know what you stand for and what is non-negotiable? Do you know what your team and company stands for and how it is aligned with your values? Are strengths and employee’s abilities to inject opinions and ideas celebrated?

Barry Schwartz, a philosopher, writer, speaker, consultant, and professor, opines the importance of operating outside the constraints of rules while celebrating our wisdom.

Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach engaging leaders to build successful talent and profitable business.

TED | Barry Schwartz

April 3, 2013

Aligning Goals with Actions

Do you keep an active to-do list handy at all times? These are items you need to do today, this week, this quarter, this fiscal, and beyond. It may feature work stuff, family items, financial objectives, longer term entries. If it’s not an actual list on your desktop, it’s somewhere even if it resides in your mind. Some say writing them down makes them real but without our action, the location is irrelevant.

This is the list of things we want, wish for, and need to accomplish but why don’t we just get to them and cross them off the list? Well, sometimes it’s time. Other times, it’s money. And often we're in our way. Guilty as charged! In order to be great leaders, we need to find people who believe in what we believe. But we need to define it first through action and determination. If we're not committed to our list, it will be tough to find others who will align with us.

Let's Get Stuff Done

So have a look at your list and I’ll do the same. Let’s pick those things we want to get accomplished and set an action plan for each. Without steps, we may as well buy more lottery tickets. Scientists say the human mind is capable of ten times more than what we know so if we are really honest with ourselves, we’ll be much more careful to put items on the list we want and will get done.

Leadership is about action and helping people grow. So if you’re not sure if your list reflects your goals, reassess. Then do the same with your team, your division, and your company. We are all guilty of far too much talk when action is required. Far too often a team or company is operating with competing priorities.

Let’s get to work!
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture Strategist, Writer, Speaker, Executive Coach helping leaders create dynamic culture and improved results.

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