How Do Leaders Problem Solve Effectively?

Accountability Transformation


…all hat and no cattle?

As a CEO I have the opportunity to see all kinds of people at work at all levels. As I see employees progress or stagnate in their roles, there seems to be a point of excellence difference based on the degree one takes the lead as a problem solver regardless of position. Here is the process I see people who are effective at problem solving and pro-active in leadership, generally follow:

They have a self accountable mind set where they believe they can make a situation better.

They gather facts and data on the situation by actively engaging others who are impacted. This usually involves a formal or informal “campaign” of providing information on the impact of the problem and asking for suggestions in solution development.

They are decisive in choosing a solution supported by insight stemming from #2 above and then applying a solution.

But this next step is where some of the people who are exceptional at proactive leadership show their stuff… they have a campaign advertising the effectiveness of the problem-solving applied solution. People want to know that their input was put to work.

Success energizes the group and they are ready for more. If not, fatigue often takes over.

If we want data to support this process, review the work of Harvard professors as reported in Working Knowledge, August 30 2010. This research shows that information campaigns led to a 74% increase in suggestions to improve and even more when people learned about the effectiveness of working solutions.

Try the above process on a small or large problem in your area. See what happens. Otherwise we’re all talk and no action. Or as the saying goes, “All hat, no cattle.”

Living the Triangle,


What Are the Benefits of Knowing Our Coworkers?

Collaboration Respect Teamwork


What do we really know about our “8 hour” neighbors, the people that we work with?
I like to know as much about the people I work with at a business and personal level (without inappropriately crossing any privacy boundaries). Why? It helps me better understand and relate to them. How would you and I do on the following questions regarding the 10 people we work most closely with?

1. What are their key business objectives this year?
2. How do they get measured by their boss?
3. What are their career objectives?
4. What are their personal objectives?
5. What or who brings them the most joy in life? What do they do for fun?
6. What have been challenges and disappointments in life? Victories and celebrations?
7. What are their strengths?
8. What are their shortcomings?
9. What can you do at work to bring them the most value?
10. Who are the most important people in their life? Do you know the name of their loved ones?

There may be better and more questions to ask and answer but these are a start. I have hundreds of people working for me. I can’t know the answers to all these questions with every one of them. But I do try and answer as many as I can. I keep mental and written notes. This helps me connect at a personal level whenever and wherever I can.

My belief is that it is our responsibility regardless of our job, to know as much as we can about the people we work with. Doing so shows that we care and this is a basis for having a respectful relationship. The root of word respect is to “look again.” Answering these questions helps us look more closely.

How did you do on the quiz? Now is the time to learn more about our team mates as we go about our daily work.  Start tomorrow.

In the Triangle,


Why Mesh Leaders Create a Better Workplace

Abundance Books Collaboration


Hi Characters,

Being abundant in both thinking and doing is one of the big three of the Character Triangle. I want to be surrounded by people who think this way.  I want to work and play with abundant “meshers.”

What do Zipcar, Groupon, Netflix, Crushpad, Thredup all have in common? They are new business models based on what Lisa Gansky describes in her brilliant new book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing. A Mesh business is based on people coming together on a common platform to share in the use of goods or services. The commercial transaction is based on sharing. Gansky goes on to describe what she calls the “Virtuous Cycle of Trust”:  learn, test, engage, play…then rinse and repeat.  I encourage you to read Gansky’s book for the full meal deal description and understanding of Mesh. But my point is that Mesh, at its foundation, is about abundant rather than scarcity thinking. It’s all about expanding and sharing.

The virtuous cycle of trust is required between us as people in order to make sharing and partnering our preferred way of working. Hoarding resources is counterproductive. We need to leverage each other’s skills rather than negatively minimize each other. As a CEO there is no way I have all the skills to run a company on my own. I need to mesh with all the people on my team so that we can leverage, expand and contract our capabilities as the environment around us changes. As a company we also need to partner more with other valuable members of our ecosystem. To borrow a phrase from Gansky, I guess we could call this Mesh Leadership.

I want to challenge us to think about how we can better come together to share and leverage each other’s skills. How can we abundantly give what we have developed in ourselves? How can we seek out and openly engage and receive what others have to offer? Where and how do we behave in fearful/scarce ways? How is that restrictive? Or even harmful? This is a different and a more complete thought than teamwork. It’s bigger and more expansive. It is “Mesh.”

I am at the early stages of more fully incorporating mesh thinking into abundance leadership. But I know it is important. Join me on the journey. I will write a lot more on this in coming blogs.

Live the Triangle,


Get Uncomfortable: The Value in Mixing Up Your Environment

Community Organizational culture Respect


Hi Characters,

Diversity, as a key element in developing RESPECT as a value, includes learning how to meaningfully connect with a variety of others in a wide range of environments. As a CEO, I want leaders around me who can walk into any environment and build value. We should learn to be comfortable and confident in all areas, from the board room to the front line; the academic to the mundane. This takes experience and practice. In order to develop this skill, we have to intentionally get out of our “safe” zone. I also don’t think it’s possible to be a great listener and therefore fully embrace the comprehensive value of being respectful if we haven’t been in the front lines with others. As an example, one third of our business is in Europe. I try and spend significant time living as a European.

This viewpoint is also expressed by Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.  In an October 1, blog on Big Think (Why MBA’s Should Take Acting Classes) Pfeffer notes that meeting lots of people should take priority over staying exclusively in the comfort zone of friends. “Its very important for you to meet people in a diverse set of industries and a diverse set of companies and a diverse set geographies.” I totally agree.

As part of an organization’s recruitment process I think we should place prospective candidates in numerous organization environments to see how they act and react. If they can’t navigate all levels of an organization, I am not interested in hiring them. If their passport isn’t stamped I would rather they did that first before joining us.

Pfeffer gives us a challenge in his blog: “Find 10 unique people we don’t know, who if we did, they could help us in our careers” …and as leaders overall. I like this assignment.

Let’s purposefully practice (read my recent blog on practice) by intentionally putting ourselves in unique environments with others. Why not start by getting to know five people outside of our departments but still inside the company. Then let’s seek out five people who we would really like to get to know because they will help us grow. Let me know what happens as you go about this. What will you learn about yourself? Others?

with Character,


How Sleeping on the Street Helps the Community & Your Business

Abundance Kindness


What are we doing as leaders to make our communities better? What are you and your teammates doing through your organization, to make a difference to those that need our help? Living the Character Triangle bridges life in and outside of work. Kindness, generosity, and compassion must be part of the fabric of institutions we work in. We are those organizations.

Ian Snadden, an executive at Intermec Technologies, turned me on to the UK IT industry’s annual event, Byte Night,  in support of Action for Children. Each year hundreds of individuals and teams from across the IT and business community in Britain spend a night sleeping on the street exposed to the elements in a bid to raise sponsorship and awareness of Action for Children’s work.

It all began 12 years ago when 30 individuals from the IT industry slept out and raised £35,000. Since then the event has grown to over 700 sleepers raising almost £550,000 in 2009 alone. Patrons, sponsors, and sleepers include celebrities and leading figures, CIOs, systems developers, business managers, marketers, and more. Every year hundreds of individuals and teams representing some of the UK’s biggest companies return to take part in Byte Night. This year Ryzex’s European Sales Director and I will be joining the Intermec team to do our small part.

I’m sad to admit that I’m better at reading the sports page than poetry. But I encourage you to read and reflect the below poem, titled “Kindness” and written by Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

with Character,


“Later” Has No Guarantee

Accountability Books Purpose


The following story is referenced in the recently published book Bounce, and Marlo Thomas‘ book  The Right Words for the Right Times.

Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA star who will likely be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, tells a story of how he was despondent after coming back from highly competitive high school basketball camps. O’Neal felt that other players were better and that his future as a professional player was in doubt. His mother exhorted him to try harder but Shaquille didn’t feel he was ready to do that and told his mum that he would “try harder later.” His mother, like many moms who intuitively get the concept of self accountability, responded with the following:

“Later doesn’t always come to everybody.”

Well, O’Neal took that insightful and motherly wisdom to heart and began to work his butt off with the dedication and intensity required. Of course it helped that he had imposing physical attributes. But others have similar physical stature and never come close to getting to the big leagues. Talent helps but is over rated. Purposeful practicing and having a detailed game plan may be underrated?

The point is – we must outline an action plan starting now (for more information read my Success is a Mind Set blog).  This includes specifically describing the connection between the desired end and the means to get there. Then we have to execute to that plan. So many people have a hope and wish but no real thoughtful and specific road map. But putting the target and means together as a system is necessary. Self accountable people start now. They don’t wait for later. We have a purposeful game plan, fail, learn, improve and practice, and practice, and practice.  We push the limits and practice more. One day we get to some gratifying milestone, and keep going.

Pick a road. Start now. And find a team of coaches and people who care for guidance and support. Most of us can’t do it alone.

Living in the Triangle,