Recent Vitesse posts on workplace effectiveness in CLO Magazine and Pivot Point blog

Hello fans of Vitality and Success! (Vitesse),

Just a quck share of two of our recent publications:

  1. #PickUpThePhone - in InsidOut Development's Pivot Point blog. It describes why electronic forms of communication aren't always ideal and gives some scenarios where it makes more sense to go old school by picking up the phone:
  2. Google, GE and Goldman Sachs: Pursuing Positive Energy - in CLO Magazine (#CLOmedia). In a skype interview, I discuss various ideas and examples I see at great companies for creating positive energy at work, creating a coaching culture, and stoking employee engagement:

Vitesse post in AdWeek's PRNewser: What we can learn about engagement and retention from Apple, BGT, and GE

‘Turnover’ a New Leaf to Attract and Retain Great Talent

By admin on Jan. 29, 2015 - 3:45 PM

This is a guest post by Shani Magosky, CEO and executive consultant at Fort Lauderdale’s Vitesse Consulting.

What new approaches has your agency tried to reverse the troubling trend of high employee turnover (which is especially problematic in the communications industry)?

If the answer is “few or none,” then Einstein might have suggested that you suffer from insanity, i.e. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As a former COO of a PR firm with exceptionally low turnover and now as a talent management consultant who spends most of her time thinking about employee engagement themes, I submit there are at least a few things that PR agencies can learn from companies that excel in these areas.

Let’s use a tree as an analogy for an organization, and consider the roots and trunk as values and mission. Simply put, values are what a company stands for and a mission is the reason it exists. Extending up and out from the roots and trunk are branches, which represent culture and how it must proliferate in various directions in order to grow a healthy “tree” that ultimately bears fruits, leaves, and flowers.

For example, Apple’s original mission statement in 1980 was “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Years later, Steve Jobs articulated what became Apple’s most oft-quoted value:

“We believe people with passion can change the world for the better….and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do.”

Well, any PR professional worth his/her salt saw Apple’s January 26th announcement reporting the most profitable quarter of any company ever (and, may I add, in an industry that is arguably THE most competitive for talent). Money may grow on (apple) trees after all.

Culture starts at the top, and it is no longer effective to manage people with the old carrot and stick mentality of reward and punishment. I subscribe to author Daniel Pink’s philosophy on what motivates people to greatness at work, including control over their own destinies, continuous learning or challenge, and the ability to do good while doing well. Pink refers to these as Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, and we see these elements showing up in abundance at companies with cultures that attract great people and then nurture engagement, loyalty, and low turnover.

An example of the right culture driving enviable talent attraction and retention is illustrated by one of our own MarComm brethren: Miami-based interactive marketing agency BGT Partners, whose success led to a marquis acquisition by PwC in late 2013.

BGT was repeatedly named a Best Place to Work not only by the local South Florida Business Journal but also Advertising Age and numerous other national publications. Prior to being acquired, the company could boast of nearly 100% retention and no layoffs in 15+ years. What did they do to stand out? Their secret sauce had innumerable ingredients, but among them were alluring perks like the ability to bring dogs to work, a meditation room, ongoing professional development programs, flexible hours, and Art Expo Fridays, a weekly free lunch and creative showcase of musician and artist employees performing for their peers. Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose? You bet.

Think your agency is too big to undertake a culture change? GE would beg to differ.

In response to employee engagement survey feedback and the enduring shift to a workforce more heavily represented by millennials, leaders crowdsourced from employees themselves GE’s official new cultural paradigms, called the “GE Beliefs” and introduced a new operating platform called FastWorks. GE’s vice president of executive development and chief learning officer, Raghu Krishnamoorthy, summed it up nicely in a recent HBR Blog:

“When culture is not given enough attention, it becomes an obstacle to change. Just as they do with strategy, companies should make constantly examining their cultures a part of their operating rhythm.”

Full post here:

Boost employees’ well-being, self-awareness, and productivity with coaching

The Four P’s for Coaching Employees through Disappointments

Date posted: December 18, 2014

By Shani Magosky

Year-end is often a daunting time to be a manager, especially when faced with the uncomfortable task of communicating potentially disappointing news, constructively critical performance reviews, or unsettling changes. A best practice I’ve developed to help leaders coach people through such stressful situations involves guiding them through a logical series of Four P’s:

  1. Process. Encourage your people to actually process setbacks rather than bottling them up. Emotions must be processed so that they can move through and eventually out of us; otherwise, they literally get stored in our bodies and trigger discomfort or even disease. While you may certainly offer to be a sounding board, most people process professional upsets best outside the office, so allow reasonable time and space.
  2. Probing. We learn so much more from our failures than successes. As such, once a person has had processed a disappointment, work with him/her to extract the valuable lessons from the experience. The only real failure in any setback is learning nothing from it and ceasing to growAsk some probing questions in order to prompt meaningful self-reflection, such as: What do you do well and want to keep doing or do more of? What could you have done differently to realize more of what you wanted? What do you think you’ll tell people that you learned if recounting this experience five years from now?
  3. Perspectives. Help your people consider the experience from a different perspective aside from one of disappointment or anxiety. We never know the full truth behind anything, and it is human nature to create stories to fill in the missing pieces in our minds. Sadly, the stories we make up tend to be negative. Since we can choose to adopt any mindset we want, why not adopt one that’s constructive, grounded in some realistic possibility, and propels us forward.
  4. Planning. Buoyed by some emotional catharsis, insights from answering probing questions, and some heartening perspectives, your people will now be in a much better place to plannext steps and revise their goals. We can’t change the past, but we can control the decisions we make and the actions we take moving forward. Collaborate with your people to help them think through creative ideas and commit to specific and measurable actions.

Utilizing this 4-step process will not only boost employees’ well-being, self-awareness, and productivity, but also increase accountability around future success.

Full post here:

Communication professionals are uniquely positioned to manage virtual teams better than most because at least three pieces fall squarely in their wheelhouse: communication, clarity & collaboration...

Training managers and employees for success in a virtual workplace

January 28, 2015 by Shani Magosky Leave a Comment

More than ever, work is viewed as something people do, rather than a place they necessarily go. As the former COO of a public relations and marketing company that transitioned from more than 20 years as brick and mortar to an entirely virtual operation, I learned many vital lessons through the proverbial school of hard knocks—lessons I hope to spare other leaders.

While flexwork has become more commonplace in myriad industries, the training of managers and employees for success remains rare. According to WorldatWork’s October 2013 Survey on Workplace Flexibility:

  • 88 percent of organizations do not train employees to be successful with flexible work arrangements.
  • 83 percent of organizations do not provide training to managers of employees using flexibility programs.

Why do we direct people to work virtually without sufficient training to ensure success? Mostly, the answer lies in the fact that no widely accepted model for such training exists. To help fill the void, I created “The 15 C’s for Success for the Flexible Workplace” to help navigate the complex waters of remote people management. But there’s no silver bullet—managing people is challenging, whether it’s in person or across the ocean. However, communication professionals are uniquely positioned to do it better than most because at least three of the 15 C’s fall squarely in their wheelhouse: communicationclarity and collaboration.

Some key takeaways related to these three C’s that are essential to success in the virtual workplace include:

  • Strategic communication to align both external and internal branding and messaging: Google, Apple, Zappos and Patagonia are all great examples of exceptional companies whose brands and cultures are co-created. Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine, noted, “The new ‘power couple’ inside the best companies is an iron-clad partnership between marketing leadership and human resources leadership.”
  • Transparent, precise and ongoing communication: Information about the program, eligibility requirements and expectations must cascade from leadership throughout the organization. Old-school standard operating procedures training is key in order to avoid inconsistencies, confusion and ultimately, widespread dissatisfaction.
  • Clarity around duties, deadlines, consequences of underperformance and progress-reporting mechanisms: Why do I characterize this as an area related to training? Because it’s a competency that is frequently lacking in managers and individual contributors alike. We are all in such a hurry to get to our destination that we rarely slow down to learn about landmarks to look out for along the way. It’s impossible to be accountable or to hold others accountable if the targets aren’t clearly defined at the outset.
  • Practical, hands-on training on the cadre of tools selected to foster collaboration, encourage knowledge sharing, and enhance productivity: People are too busy and overwhelmed for the “Field of Dreams” approach, i.e., if you build it, they will NOT necessarily come. We’ve seen too many companies squander their investment in potentially game-changing apps, like Yammer, Lync, Asana or Basecamp, because they launched without proper training, support and context.
  • Training for managers on how to coach employees to greater performance: I’m talking about the kind of coaching that involves regularly engaging in collaborative, solutions-oriented dialogue with people, instead of simply directing them on what to do at every turn. Nothing engages and motivates employees—in the flesh or virtual ones—more than empowering them to find their own solutions and rise to bigger challenges.

A multitude of business benefits will accrue to MarComm departments and agencies that are able to leverage their core competencies to properly train managers and employees to succeed in a partially or entirely virtual environment. For example, they will see meaningful improvements in productivity, engagement, ability to attract top talent, profitability and business scalability as well as welcomed reductions in turnover, absenteeism, carbon footprint, baby boomer brain drain, healthcare costs, and travel expense.

Full article here:

From SmartBlog: Executive coaching more popular due to direct impact on increased efficiency, productivity, engagement

Thinking of hiring an executive coach? Consider this

By Glenn Laumeister on December 8th, 2014 | 

iFortune 500 organizations and technology startups are among companies starting to understand the benefits executive coaches can bring to the table. As a result, executive coaching has become more mainstream in corporate America, and it’s not just for CEOs anymore. It is not uncommon for coaches to work with entire leadership teams and other high-potential managers at the VP and director levels.

While coaching does require an initial investment, it is becoming more popular as companies see a direct impact from coaching on increased efficiency, workforce productivity, and a higher level of engagement by the entire organization.

So what could this mean for your organization? Here are five key reasons why your organization should consider hiring an executive coach:

1.      Objectivity is critical. It is not always easy for organizations to take a step back to evaluate themselves and their agendas objectively. Businesses often find themselves trapped inside their own perceptions without leaving enough room to make adjustments to their business plans. A professional coach can offer the unclouded, objective advice that businesses need to make necessary changes. This outside guidance could be just the right medicine to improve the health of your organization.

2.     Improve team dynamics. For many companies who operate using a team structure, building that “just right” team can be tricky. A skilled executive coach can pinpoint differences in personality and work styles and make suggestions for blending talent to form more cohesive teams. Team building is a critical part of what coaches can deliver, and this can truly help organizations and individual teams operate more effectively and efficiently.

3.     Bring out your inner leader. Successful organizations employ skilled leaders, but effective leadership styles vary from individual to individual. Executive coaches can play an important role in helping employees find the leadership style that works best for them and their company. Good coaches are willing and ready to assess individual leaders’ strengths and weaknesses and suggest candid and practical ways to bring out their best leadership qualities.

4.     Raise the red flag. In today’s global economy, it is no surprise that not all businesses succeed. In many cases, failure comes when companies lack a plan for handling and reacting to change. A good coach is adept at identifying points of failure early to help anticipate change, and creating an environment where change can be embraced and not feared.

5.     Unified vision. For your organization to thrive, there must be a unified game plan for growth and change. An executive coach can use his/her objectivity and depth of experience to help align the overall company vision and goals. A good coach can listen without emotional attachment to a particular employee or set of ideas to ensure that your company’s vision makes sense and is realistically attainable.

Understanding the benefits of executive coaching is just the first step. Once you have identified coaching as the solution for your company’s challenges, convincing the parties that control the spending is the next challenge. When making the case for a coach, think about the following:

1.       Your pitch. Approach your CFO or CEO as though you are pitching a new client. Clearly identify the problem and the ways that you see coaching as not only a solution to the issue at hand, but a way to save the company time and money by avoiding a larger issue in the future.

2.      Focus on relevant benefits. If you’re seeking a coach pre-emptively to help senior management develop leadership styles or to collectively set goals as a company, outline how this can increase productivity and cultivate a positive corporate culture. Highlighting the benefits of the investment will likely sway executives working with even the tightest of budgets.

So much of business success is being able to swiftly adapt and react to ever-changing challenges. Having the foresight to realize that your organization can benefit from outside advice and guidance shows your colleagues and employees that you are open to asking for expert help to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Full post here:

Our guest column in Increase the odds of successful candidacy with our "Inner Radio" tool

For Greater Interview Success, Hit the Scan Button on Your Inner Radio

SHANI MAGOSKY  |  November 7, 2014 

I recently uncovered an effective recruiting application for a tool I’ve been using for years to coach clients through challenges and daunting circumstances of all types. It’s a tool that helps people call upon and leverage valuable inner resources that lie dormant, vastly underutilized like muscles that haven’t been flexed in years. It’s premised on a radio analogy: people are like radios, in that we all have the ability to tune into an endless number of stations — or pieces of ourselves — such as our strengths, traits, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Just as most of us literally have a favorite radio station or two, we figuratively tune into a few characteristic personality and behavioral “stations” — either subconsciously or consciously — in order to remain within our comfort zones.

But interview situations typically lie outside of our comfort zones. So in this age of satellite and internet radio, applicants may benefit from hitting the proverbial scan button on the inner radio to identify some different channels that could increase the odds of successful candidacy. When a situation calls for it, mentally press the button for a specific station that can instantly trigger the inner resource(s) required. For example: 

  • Need to conjure up some extra confidence? Perhaps, mentally tune into a Don Draper station; thatMad Men character can sell ice to Eskimos.
  • Want to be calmer in this notoriously stressful situation? Try a Dali Lama channel. Or maybe the Dos Equis man resonates more for you.
  • Struggling to describe an illustrative mission-critical business decision you made? Perhaps a Steve Jobs or Sheryl Sandberg station could put you in the right frame of mind. If not, think about it from the perspective of any leader you admire and then tune in loud and clear.
  • Feeling like an underdog? Channel your inner Jerry McGuire to stoke confidence and connect with values and aspects of the potential role that energize you.
  • Distracted? Create a station that reminds you of how present in every single moment you felt during the blissful weekend you once spent in the Grand Canyon without cell service.
  • Getting too verbose? How about a Twitter station?
  • Overdue for an infusion of your clever sense of humor into the conversation? Seek out the wavelength of Jimmy Kimmel, Melissa McCarthy, Jerry Seinfeld, or any personal favorite comedian.

These are your tools, so make them as personally relevant and meaningful to you as possible. The suggestions above are just that: suggestions. Here are some questions to assist in thinking through your own lineup:

  • In what areas do you typically struggle in interviews?
  • What are some areas in which you typically shine and thus want to reinforce or strengthen further?
  • What feedback have you received from recruiters in the past that you want to address going forward?
  • What would you like to do differently in future interviews?
  • What are some areas of your experience or expertise you want to specifically showcase?

The answers to such questions will help inform what radio stations would be most supportive to you.

Taking the music theme a step further, consider being playful by choosing a private theme song that can help drive further achievement. There is an entire genre of music used by sports teams to pump themselves up before games. Think songs like Tag Team’s “Whoomp There It Is” on the gridiron, Shakira’s “Waka” for soccer, or House of Pain’s “Jump Around” at hoops games. Earlier this year, basketball star LeBron James announced on Instagram, “My new theme song on gameday! #OGBobbyJohnson” (by Atlanta rapper Que). If a world class athlete like LeBron thinks a theme song is valuable to boost performance when it really counts, corporate athletes playing the recruiting game may also want to consider it.

Full post here:

Our latest post in InsideOut Development's PivotPoint Blog: How to spend more time on strategic matters instead of trivial ones

Quieting the Fluctuations of the Manager’s Mind

A pervasive concern I hear among my executive coaching clients, from middle managers all the way up to the C-suite, is dissatisfaction with the amount of time they’re spending on the most important and strategic matters. Why? Mainly because their minds are buzzing with action items and cluttered with trivia, and that state of internal disruption is compounded by non-stop external interruptions and distractions. I have a few tips for managers to attack these challenges, including:

1. Create a master list. What happens when you let your mind to remember things? You can lose sleep, forget, get stressed, drop the ball, miss meetings, and pretend to listen. To remember your daily tasks, it’s important to take a few moments on a regular basis and transfer all of the commitments and to-do’s roaming around your head onto a master list. Once you’ve committed them to a central and safe place, your mind can let go, freeing it up to focus on higher priority projects or strategic thought.

2. Meditate. Yes, meditation is associated with yoga, but you don’t need to sit under a tree along the banks of the Ganges River or twist yourself into a pretzel in order to meditate. In fact, simply put by the 1,800-year-old Yoga Sutras,” Yoga is a method to quiet the fluctuations of the mind.” For me, as a former Wall Street executive and current Executive Coach, if I can free my mind  and give my sole focus to one complex problem or issue, then that is a huge victory. Some of my most creative ideas and solutions to previously confounding work-related challenges have occurred to me when I hit the pause button on the craziness to relax even just for a few minutes in a meditative state.

3. Get better at saying “No.” Ambitious, successful people tend to overcommit. But due to the finite nature of time, when you say “yes” to someone or something else, by definition you’re saying “no” to something on your own project list. Does this vicious cycle sound familiar? If you take on everything, you fall farther behind, your anxiety level rises, and your mind won’t shut up.. Steve Jobs put it practically, “Innovation comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track…it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

I recommend asking yourself one simple question when faced with a decision to take something on: Does this [meeting, task, project, lunch invitation, etc.] support one of my biggest professional and/or personal goals?

Any credible school of thought on effective leadership embraces the notion that the ability to truly lead and inspire others begins with working on yourself. In the case of our minds, let’s take a cue from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who said, “Your mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

Full post here:

From HBR, re: Manager's role in employee’s executive coaching

Sharing spot on blog from HBR Blog Network explaining how a manager of an employee working with an Executive Coach can help make it successful.

How to Participate in Your Employee’s Coaching

by Ben Dattner  |   11:00 AM November 3, 2014

Once upon a time, executive coaching was viewed as a remedial intervention for executives and managers who needed to be “fixed” in some way. Managers were not expected to be particularly involved in the coachee’s exploration or journey. Coaching was even sometimes viewed as “outsourcing” the management of a difficult employee.

But today, executive coaching is often viewed as a strategic investment in human capital – a perk reserved for employees with high potential — and managers have realized that they need to participate in the process. If you are a manager with a direct report who is working with an external coach, there are several things you can do at the beginning of a coaching engagement to help make it successful:

Set broad objectives and frame them positively. At the outset, the more specific you can be about how you define success for the participant, the better. But when you do so, be sure to emphasize professional development goals. So, for example, your objective might be that the individual should “advocate more persuasively for resources, information, and support” by “navigating organizational politics and priorities more effectively” instead of telling your staffer that he or she “needs to fix contentious relationships” with others. Or you might suggest that he or she “manage workload, expectations, and deadlines more effectively” instead of telling them they need to stop over-promising and under-delivering.

Provide data. Coaching is most effective when the participant and the coach have multiple sources of information, which might include past reviews, personality assessment reports, or online or interview-based 360 degree feedback. While the employee may already have this information, it’s often helpful for you to share what you have in your files directly with the coach. If the coach will be conducting 360 degree feedback interviews, you can make sure that he or she speaks with a representative sample of colleagues for the participant, who can provide a broad, not biased, perspective.

Be specific about concrete action steps the employee can take. A good coaching engagement can go to waste if the manager, the coach, and the employee haven’t clearly articulated specific things the employee can do differently or better.

For instance, the head of a division in a pharmaceutical company had a staff member with a reputation for being brilliant but over-committed. When the coach sat down with the manager to define goals for the coaching, the manager was able to articulate two clear prescriptions for the direct report who was working with the coach: 1) Respond to everyone within 24 hours, even if the response was just a simple reply to set expectations about when a full answer to the voicemail or email would be forthcoming and 2) Create a “not to do” list of tasks that the participant would either not take on or would delegate to others. These two prescriptions, which the coaching participant put into practice, helped him satisfy his stakeholders while simultaneously prioritizing more effectively and focusing on his highest value-adding activities.

Define clear parameters on confidentiality. A coach is not acting as a psychologist, and different confidentiality rules apply. On the one hand, there should be confidential aspects of the process, such as the feedback the coach collects on behalf of the participant (otherwise, feedback providers might hold back in their comments due to concerns that their input may have implications for how higher-ups, or Human Resources, evaluate the employee). You can also understand that your direct report might not want to share all of his or her personality assessment reports, or the 360-degree interview feedback that is collected, with you.

On the other hand, coaching is an investment by you and the organization in the development of your subordinate, so there needs to be accountability built in to the process. Therefore, while assessment data should remain confidential, the development plan based on the data should be shared with you, and possibly also with your Human Resource Business Partner or Leadership Development counterpart.

Be blunt with the coach – blunter than you would be with the coachee. While a coach should not become a messenger between you and your staff member, there is an opportunity in the context of executive coaching for you to provide more specific and candid feedback to the coach than you might feel comfortable delivering face-to-face with your employee.

For example, the manager of a talented investor relations executive at a financial services organization told the employee’s coach that he hadn't been promoted in the last cycle because the executive was viewed as too self-promotional and political. The manager had been reluctant to share her perspective directly with the executive because she was concerned that he wouldn't find the feedback credible, coming only from her. However, since other feedback providers in the 360 process shared that same observation, and the coach was viewed by the participant as a neutral and supportive outsider, the coaching participant was able to hear the feedback in a way he wouldn't have had it been provided directly by his manager. The participant got the message when positively communicated by the coach, became more collaborative and supportive of his colleagues, put the firm’s interests above his own, and was promoted the following year. This happy ending was only possible because the manager had been an active sponsor of, and participant in, the coaching – and had been honest with his coach.

By carefully considering your role in the executive coaching of your direct reports, you can help retain talented members of your team while helping them learn and grow as managers, leaders and teammates, and supporting them as they take their performance up to the next level. Your direct reports will progress further and better on their coaching path if you help show them where it is and where it leads, and then provide direction and support along the way.

Full post here:

Address work conflicts by viewing issue from colleague's perspective (from HBR Blog, by Jordan Cohen)

Sharing a thoughtful HRB Blog piece by an acquaintance of mine, Jordan Cohen, who created and used to run the PfizerWorks program, which empowered professionals there to outsource their less value added/admin work to pre-approved internal and external vendors. He explores a critical issue with this question: "How many conflicts at work result from simply being unable to see the issue from your counterpart’s perspective?"

Put Yourself in Your Colleague’s Shoes

by Jordan Cohen  |   10:00 AM October 6, 2014

I start my mornings with a run around Central Park in New York City. Over the last 18 months, it’s become more like dodging the cyclists as I make my way around the loop than going for a relaxing jog.  Cursing, flipping the bird – even a near miss – are regular occurrences as these two groups of athletes try to get their daily workout. I’ve even seen a cyclist spit on a runner.

How could so many cyclists be so angry? Wanting to understand, last Saturday I borrowed a friend’s bicycle, strapped on his cycling shoes, and clipped into the pedals. I entered the park on West 77th Street, where a steep ramp descends into the 6-mile loop. I quickly accelerated down it and had to merge onto a roadway packed with runners and pedestrians who weren’t paying attention to me. As my bicycle picked up speed and I tried to enter the loop, I realized I was in danger — and so were the runners in my path. That’s when I shouted, “HEADS UP!”

I had been bicycling in the park for only a matter of seconds and I was already yelling at runners and pedestrians.

My perspective shift was immediate. But I didn’t feel angry – I felt scared. Any unexpected move by a runner could mean a serious collision, both for me and for them.

This got me thinking: how common is it to really put ourselves in someone else’s shoes? For instance, earlier this year, a friend introduced me to a senior vice president at a Fortune 50 Company. In our introductory phone call I expected to discuss different productivity and labor models available for his large, multinational corporation. But after I asked some high-level questions and offered the important principles for how I organize roles and systems, this executive raised his voice, shouting, “That won’t work here! You don’t understand us!” and “It’s more complicated than that!” I quickly excused myself from the call, thanked him for his time, and suggested that maybe my area of expertise wasn’t helpful for him at this time. Privately, though, I was thinking, Great, another arrogant executive that you can’t tell anything that he doesn’t already know. What a jerk.

But now, in light of my recent Central Park epiphany, I have been rethinking how I perceived that call.  During our 25-minute conversation, I’m almost certain I did not say something to anger this man. And he is probably not a jerk; after all, we did get introduced through a mutual friend. What manifested as a demanding, short tempered, take-no-prisoners posture may have just been an executive under extraordinary pressure, working to protect himself or his team from something he feared — inadequacy, failure, embarrassment, or even just change.  Maybe if I’d done a better job of putting myself in his shoes, I would have been able to help.

How many conflicts at work result from simply being unable to see the issue from your counterpart’s perspective? I began to brainstorm a list of how coworkers might be better able to understand one another’s point of view:

  • Asking your boss if you can be a fly on the wall at one of the meetings her supervisor runs, so that you come away with a better idea of the pressures she and her peers face, and how you can help mitigate them.
  • Rotating responsibilities within your department, so that you create a shared understanding of what it takes to get stuff done, and increase visibility into the teammates’ competing objectives.
  • Accepting a role on a cross-enterprise or cross-functional task force – roles that are usually avoided at all costs – to get more exposure to what is going on elsewhere in the organization.
  • Taking an “externship” with a customer, working with their company for a defined period of time to really understand what it’s like to be a customer being serviced by your organization.

This list is far from exhaustive — and it’s worth emphasizing that what actually worked best for me had nothing to do with work. Building your empathy muscles in any capacity can improve your ability to see situations differently in unexpected ways, whether you’re in or out of the office. It doesn’t have to be some touchy feely training session. It can be as simple as changing some habits or reading a good novel. Or even taking a ride in the park.

Full post here:


Sharing HBR blog post on cognitive/mental benefits of regular exercise to your job performance

Regular Exercise Is Part of Your Job 

by Ron Friedman  |   9:00 AM October 3, 2014

from HBR Blog

When we think about the value of exercise, we tend to focus on the physical benefits. Lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, a more attractive physique. But over the past decade, social scientists have quietly amassed compelling evidence suggesting that there is another, more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think.

Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:

·        Improved concentration

·        Sharper memory

·        Faster learning

·        Prolonged mental stamina

·        Enhanced creativity

·        Lower stress

Exercise has also been show to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance.  I’m willing to bet that your job requires you to build interpersonal connections and foster collaborations. Within this context, feeling irritable is no longer simply an inconvenience. It can directly influence the degree to which you are successful.

There is also evidence suggesting that exercise during regular work hours may boost performance. Take, for example, the results of a Leeds Metropolitan University study, which examined the influence of daytime exercise among office workers with access to a company gym. Many of us would love the convenience of free weights or a yoga studio at the office. But does using these amenities actually make a difference?

Within the study, researchers had over 200 employees at a variety of companies self-report their performance on a daily basis. They then examined fluctuations within individual employees, comparing their output on days when they exercised to days when they didn’t.

Here’s what they found: On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.

What prevents us from exercising more often? For many of us, the answer is simple: We don’t have the time. In fairness, this is a legitimate explanation. There are weeks when work is overwhelming and deadlines outside our control need to be met.

But let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.

This is why the research illuminating the cognitive benefits of exercise is so compelling. Exercise enables us to soak in more information, work more efficiently, and be more productive.

And yet many of us continue to perceive it as a luxury; an activity we’d like to do if only we had more time.

Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.

How do you successfully incorporate exercise into your routine? Here are a few research-based suggestions.

Identify a physical activity you actually like. There are many ways to work out other than boring yourself senseless on a treadmill. Find a physical activity you can look forward to doing, like tennis, swimming, dancing, softball, or even vigorously playing the drums. You are far more likely to stick with an activity if you genuinely enjoy doing it.

A series of recent studies also suggest that how we feel while exercising can influence the degree to which it ultimately benefits our health. When we view exercise as something we do for fun, we’re better at resisting unhealthy foods afterwards. But when the same physical activity is perceived as a chore, we have a much harder time saying no to fattening foods, presumably because we’ve used up all of our willpower exercising.

Invest in improving your performance. Instead of settling for “getting some exercise,” focus on mastering an activity instead. Mastery goals, which psychologists define as goals that center on achieving new levels of competence, have consistently been shown to predict persistence across a wide range of domains. So hire a coach, enroll in a class, and buy yourself the right clothing and equipment. The additional financial investment will increase your level of commitment, while the steady gains in performance will help sustain your interest over the long .

Become part of group, not a collective.  One recommendation aspiring gym-goers often receive is to find an exercise regimen that involves other people. It’s good advice. Socializing makes exercise more fun, which improves the chances that you’ll keep doing it. It’s also a lot harder to back out on a friend or a trainer than to persuade yourself that just one night off couldn’t hurt.

But there’s another layer to this research—one that is well worth considering before signing up for an exercise class this fall.

Studies indicate that not all “group” activities are equally effective at sustaining our interest.

We are far more likely to stick with an exercise regimen when others are dependent on our participation.

As an illustration, consider the standard yoga or pilates class. Each involves individual-based tasks that require you to work alone, albeit in the presence of others. Both activities technically take place within the context of a group, however in these cases the “group” is more accurately described as a collective.

Research suggests that if you’re looking to establish a routine that sticks, exercising as part of a collective is preferable to working out alone, but it’s not nearly as effective as exercising as part of a team. So consider volleyball, soccer, doubles tennis—any enjoyable, competence-enhancing activity in which your efforts contribute directly to a team’s success, and where if you don’t show up, others will suffer.

Regardless of how you go about incorporating exercise into your routine, reframing it as part of your job makes it a lot easier to make time for it. Remember, you’re not abandoning work. On the contrary: You’re ensuring that the hours you put in have value.

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How to coach employees through end-of-year disappointments and changes - latest post in SmartBlog on Leadership by Vitesse CEO Shani Magosky

How to coach employees through end-of-year disappointments and changes

By Shani Magosky on September 29th, 2014 |

As we approach the final quarter of 2014, most business leaders are shifting their focus to year-end responsibilities, such as delivering reviews, announcing promotions, and repositioning team or organizational roles. While it’s fun and rewarding to convey positive news, many leaders struggle with communicating about and managing the fallout from disappointing news or potentially unsettling changes that are inevitably announced this time of year as well.

There are generally three choices for dealing with such “elephants in the room”: (1) choose to ignore them, (2) dance around them insufficiently, or (3) address them in an open, direct and constructive way. I will always recommend the last approach, accompanied by a manager-as-coach mindset.

A best practice to help leaders coach their people through such stressful situations involves a common sense series of four Ps: Process, Probing, Perspectives, and Planning.

Process. Encourage your people to process setbacks rather than bottling them up. Disappointments obviously conjure lots of emotion, which is energy in motion, so it’s not healthy to simply brush them aside. Emotion must be processed; otherwise, it gets stored in our bodies in such forms as tight shoulders, chronic back pain or high blood pressure.

While you may certainly offer to be a sounding board, most people process unsettling circumstances best in an environment outside of the office — over wine with a spouse or trusted friend, via a run in the park, with a punching bag at the gym, on the mat at a hot yoga class, with a beloved child or pet on the lap, or maybe sitting alone in thought in a peaceful place. Give them the space and time they need, within reason.

Probing. We learn so much more from our frustrations and failures than we do from our successes. As such, once a person has had a chance to process the emotion from a disappointment, work with him/her to mine the valuable gems from the experience. The only real failure in any setback is to learn nothing from it and cease to grow. Ask some probing questions in order to prompt meaningful self-reflection, such as:

  • What do you know you do well that you want to keep doing or do more of?
  • With the benefit of hindsight, what could you have done differently to realize more of what you wanted?
  • How might you approach a similar situation in the future?
  • Imagine you’re recounting this experience five years from now. What do you think you’d tell people that you learned?

Perspectives. A complementary approach is to help your people consider the experience from a different perspective than one of disappointment or anxiety. We never really know the full truth behind anything that happens, and it is human nature to create stories to fill in the missing pieces. Sadly, the stories we tend to make up are often negative, self-critical, discouraging, defensive or all of the above. We can choose to adopt any mindset we want, so why not adopt one that’s constructive and propels us forward? Not delusional or Pollyanna-ish, but grounded in some realistic possibility.

Perhaps it was a dress rehearsal for an even better opportunity? Or maybe it wasn’t the opportunity it appeared to be on the surface. Was it a much-needed wakeup call to reevaluate what you really want? What might be better about the new situation? What decision might you have made in management’s shoes?

Planning. Buoyed by some emotional catharsis, honest reflections from probing questions, and some constructive perspectives, your people will now be in a much better place to plan next steps and revise their goals. We can’t change the past, but we can control the decisions we make and the actions we take moving forward. There are a variety of effective processes leaders use to help people think through ideas and get into action, and the key is to keep it simple, collaborative, and S.M.A.R.T. (guidance ensuring that objectives are “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound” objectives – developed by George T. Doran).

Utilizing this four-step approach to engage with employees affected by setbacks or unwelcomed changes will not only boost their well-being, self-awareness, and productivity, but it will also increase accountability for finding success. Furthermore, the process positions leaders to move swiftly to the other undertaking that naturally springs from the year’s end: tackling those largely looming objectives for next year!

Shani Magosky is a talent management consultant and executive coach, having worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown start-ups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory, and senior managerial roles. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs, managed a local TV station in Vail, Colo., and was chief operating officer/chief financial officer of an all-virtual international marketing company. Her firm, Vitesse Consulting, helps companies accelerate development of leaders, engage employees, and improve performance. She can be reached at or (970) 376-1860.

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Latest Vitesse post in Employee Benefit News-Trick or treat: Boost engagement and loyalty with creative perks

Trick or treat: Boost engagement and loyalty with creative perks

Posted October 2, 2014 by Shani Magosky at 12:29PM

Halloween decorations and candies are already ubiquitous in stores. That means Thanksgiving and the various December religious holidays aren’t far behind. What tricks and treats do you have lined up for your employees to help them manage the frequently conflicting personal and professional priorities that arise during the holiday season?

Offering up flexible work options and other productivity-boosting measures well in advance of the holiday season has a couple of huge organizational benefits. First, employees will be more focused, industrious, and engaged with the ability to exercise a little extra control over their own destinies during that overcommitted time of year. Second, leaders can manage scheduling and workload proactively rather than haphazardly when forced into fire drill mode by unanticipated absenteeism and other erratic actions taken by conflicted staff. 

Here are a handful of goodies to consider:

1. Flexible days/hours. As long as high-quality and timely results are still delivered, let people modify their hours as needed to allow them freedom to attend the kids’ holiday play, finish gift shopping, or do some personally meaningful volunteer work. Or perhaps taking advantage of a compressed work week of four 11-12-hour days instead of five 9-10-hour days one week will make all the difference in airline fares and thus affordability of a family vacation.

2. Remote work arrangements. As long as employees have a proven history of accountability and all the tools they needs to perform their jobs virtually, what’s the harm in letting them work from a hotel room or the home of a relative? You may actually discover they get a lot more done while away from the interruptions and distractions of the normal office environment.

3. Team-managed shift flexibility. Clearly, not all jobs lend themselves to remote work; it’s not feasible for serving customers in a restaurant, caring for patients in a hospital, or running equipment in a factory. In those cases where physical presence is required, empower a team of workers to self-manage the exchange or modification of shifts as long as the changes meet certain predetermined criteria set by managers in terms of coverage, customer service, and requisite skill availability.

4. Auto-delete policy for vacation emails. Yes, I’m suggesting that we actually let people unplug during their vacations! Plus, imagine how much collective time employees waste digging themselves out from a thousands-deep hole of messages that are mostly moot by then. German car maker Daimler has already implemented this eyebrow-raising approach to holiday email on an optional basis, with corresponding explanatory out of office messages such as, ‘I am on vacation and your email is being deleted. Please contact [person] or resend the email when I'm back in the office on [date].’ In launching the policy, Daimler explained, "The aim of the project is to maintain the balance between the work and home life of Daimler employees so as to safeguard their performance in the long run."

5. Recess during last week of December. How much work actually gets done between Christmas and New Year’s Day? If you think a company-wide vacation of this sort is only offered by small businesses, you’d be mistaken. For example, aerospace behemoth Boeing states on its website, “For most employees, Boeing provides paid time off for 12 standard holidays, including a winter break between December 24 and January 1.”

Many of these perks will go a long way in raising morale, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and, ultimately, retention – much further than conventional corporate holiday actions like gifting engraved pens or hosting mandatory tacky sweater staff parties.

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New Vitesse piece in SmartBlog on Leadership: Salesforce has dogs at work; what's your employee-engagement idea?

From SmartBlog on Leadership

General ManagementInspiring Others

Puppyforce: A case study in employee engagement and organizational success

By Shani Magosky on September 17th, 2014

Getting caught up on my never-ending stack of periodicals on a cloudy Sunday morning, I read with delight and admiration about’s creative approach to allowing pets at work — hardly surprising, it’s called Puppyforce.

But the cute name is not what differentiates it, and permitting pets at the office is not necessarily a new perk. What stands out to me is the strategically innovative way in which Salesforce went about designing their version of this employee benefit and the bona fide emphasis placed, in general, on building a highly engaged workforce.

Puppies for Success

Fortune magazine’s Christopher Thaczyk describes how Puppyforce took shape via discussions on Chatter, the company’s enterprise social networking platform (think Yammer but tied to the Salesforce CRM). Incorporating feedback from employees concerned about allergies, hygiene and noise, Puppyforce ultimately took shape as a separate soundproof workspace with rubber floors and a reservation system. Monika Fahlbusch, senior vice president of global employee success, said, “Everybody who had concerns now raves about our solution because it really met everyone’s needs.”

As a talent management consultant and executive coach dedicated to making the workplace work better for both employers and employees, I see nuggets of gold here, affirmed by the company’s track record of success. Salesforce has been on Fortune’s list of “Best Companies to Work For” for six years running. While that’s a nice accolade, the proof is in proverbial pudding when you look at stock price performance over that same period. On Jan. 2, 2009, the split-adjusted share price was $8.51, and, in 2014. it has traded mainly between $50-60.

Succeed by focusing on success

A major reason for Salesforce’s tangible success is the larger brilliance of fashioning a role focused on “global employee success.” As noted above, the name alone reinforces a culture of actively valuing employees as assets. Many companies pay lip service to that concept, but Salesforce has institutionalized it into an important senior level function. According to Fahlbusch’s bio, she “drives efforts to amplify the team sport culture and deliver the #dreamjob employee experience that helps fuel the company’s incredible growth.”

This is a perfect illustration of a concept I developed for clients called Life-Work Infusion, which is based on four premises:

  1. People are equally important assets to manage properly in any organization.
  2. It is virtually impossible in this technologically-obsessed era to totally separate one’s personal from professional life.
  3. A happy and fulfilled person is a more engaged, more motivated, more successful employee.
  4. When you keep valued people “Infused,” there is far greater likelihood of success in keeping customers, colleagues, vendors, shareholders, partners, and other consistencies delighted.

There is a voluminous amount of research on employee engagement that substantiates its positive impact on performance and business results. On the flip side, Gallup’s oft-quoted 2013 State of the American Workplace report shows that 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged, and they estimate the cost to U.S. business ranges from $450 billion to $550 billion.

It’s not my intent here to rehash statistics; instead, this case study highlights the pet example in order to encourage more expansive thinking among leaders who are already engagement advocates. Rather than simply dismissing an idea that has opposition or may seem irreconcilable on the surface, find ways to bridge the gaps instead. Let’s get more resourceful, collaborative, and solutions-oriented in carving out effective ways to buttress engagement as Salesforce did.

Brainstorm to uncover new ways to succeed

There’s no better way to do that than a good old-fashioned brainstorming session, in which we invite creative people to think broadly without judging, evaluating or making decisions until every conceivable idea has been captured, including ones that may seem far-fetched at first glance. When working with leaders or teams to brainstorm potential solutions to puzzling or complex issues, it is helpful to prompt their thinking with questions like:

  • If time, money and resources weren’t an issue, what would you do?
  • What might the best leader you’ve ever worked for do in this situation?
  • Think back to a time when you succeeded in an analogous situation. What ideas or best practices can you apply to the current challenge?
  • How might an artist (or someone with a less than linear thought process) approach this?
  • If you posed this question to someone totally unfamiliar with your business, what might he or she say?

The idea is to create an environment that gets people out of their typical patterns and filters, helping them consider the situation from a variety of perspectives. From this array of ideas, innovative solutions can take shape.

A challenge for success

Here is my challenge to leaders: Identify an initiative that could boost employee engagement and vet it in a way you never have before. If pets in the office doesn’t resonate, there are countless potential areas to consider, such as wellness, stress management, flexible work arrangements, workload management, office design, meal perks, instilling a coaching culture, after-hours e-mail limits, and technology enhancements.

If I were working with you, in addition to the litany of questions above, your brainstorming sessions may also include the following: “What might’s SVP of global employee success recommend?”

Shani Magosky is a talent management consultant and executive coach, having worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown start-ups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory, and senior managerial roles. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs, managed a local TV station in Vail, Colo., and was chief operating officer/chief financial officer of an all-virtual international marketing company. Her firm, Vitesse Consulting, helps companies accelerate development of leaders, engage employees, and improve performance. She can be reached at or (970) 376-1860.

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Vitesse blog post in EBN: Employers take to meditation as perk in relaxing staff

Employers take to meditation as a perk in relaxing staff

from Employee Benefits News

By Shani Magosky

July 28, 2014

One of my all-time favorite quotes was spoken by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.: "Your mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." That sounds inspiring, but the reality in this day and age is that rarely, if ever, do we have the luxury of uninterrupted time to just sit and contemplate new ideas. Rather, most of us exist in a constant state of information overload. Stimuli rush at us constantly from all directions: emails, phone calls, texts, meetings, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even the thoughts swirling around in our own brains.

Much has already been written on fancy ways to combat this challenge, but I’d like to focus on one simple idea to help leaders eliminate the clutter in their minds in order to give their undivided attention to more important and/or strategic matters. It’s called meditation. Yes, you left-brained corporate denizens, I said meditation. Please don’t roll your eyes or make patchouli oil jokes; rather, please keep reading as a fellow left-brainer explains.

You don’t need to sit under a tree meditating along the banks of the Ganges River in India, twist yourself into a pretzel, or rush out to buy the latest Lululemon gear in order to meditate. Yes, meditation is associated with yoga, but yoga is simply about quieting the over-activity of the mind. New age associations of yoga are largely Western creations, not innate or mandatory aspects of yoga and meditation.

As a former Wall Streeter and current executive coach, I know that if I can free my mind of the dozens of other things going through it and give my sole focus to only one complex problem or issue while sitting in my Herman Miller chair beneath florescent office lights, then that is a huge yogic victory with lots of benefits. Some of my most creative ideas and solutions to previously confounding work-related challenges have occurred to me when I hit the pause button on the craziness to relax even just for a few minutes in a meditative state.

But far more successful business people than I find this approach to be highly effective. For example, founder of Newport Beach, CA-based Pacific Investment Management Company, Bill Gross, told Forbes that some of his best ideas come from standing on his head doing yoga. “After about 15 minutes of yoga, all of a sudden some significant light bulbs seem to turn on,” he said. PIMCO is one of the largest money managers in the world, so I’d contend that Mr. Gross has had a few good ideas.

Some companies have taken these benefits so seriously that they have dedicated space within the office. For example, Katrina Markoff, owner/founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Chicago, IL says, “we have created a corporate culture which strives to find a balance of mind, body and spirit within the workplace.” The yoga/meditation room at the company’s corporate headquarters is a refuge where employees can escape to re-energize or to simply be alone in creative thought.

No pun intended, but clearly this must be a recipe for success, as Markoff has earned numerous awards, including being named Bon Appétit Food Artisan of the Year in 2004, the top innovator in chocolate by Food and Wine Magazine in 2008, and one of the 10 Best Chocolatiers in the World by National Geographic in 2012.

Really just a variation on relaxation, meditation is not just some quirky, hippy philosophy; it is actually grounded in physiology. The autonomic nervous system of the human body is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which triggers rest and relaxation. The sense of relaxed control achieved through yoga or meditation turns off the fight-or-flight system, allowing the relaxation response to kick in.Your body registers this with a slower heartbeat, decreased respiration and blood pressure, and return of normal blood flow to that vital organ of thought, your brain. 

And guess, what? That blood flow and re-invigoration goes to the right and left sides of your brain.

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Vitesse blog post in InsideOut Development's Pivot Point: 3 Road Lessons to Lead By

AUG 1, 2014

3 Road Lessons to Lead By

Today is the official start of the 74th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a marquee event for Harley enthusiasts that my husband and I have ventured to twice. Although we’re not going this year, the excitement is still palpable as we've watched thousands of bikers riding through Colorado en route to South Dakota over the past week. It’s prompted me to think about the wisdom I've collected from riding, not the least of which is in the realm of leadership.

I believe riding has made me a better leader…and it’s not just because people generally think it’s cool to see a 5’5″ 125-pound woman commandeering a 750-pound Heritage Softail. Here are three of many leadership truisms accentuated based on experiences I've had on my Harley:

1.    Keep your focus on where you want to go. On a bike, if you watch the ditch, you’ll end up there. If you want to avoid an object on the road, the surest way to hit it is to stare at it instead of ahead of it, to a spot of safety. In order to navigate a tight turn, a rider must keep her attention further down the road from the turn itself or get ready to drop the bike. In a corporate environment, it’s exceptionally easy to lose that important big picture focus, given all the proverbial potholes, obstacles, twists, and turns along the way. Effective leaders keep their eye on the prize, as they say.

2.    Be clear and intentional in your communication. Smart riders utilize hand signals to communicate to fellow riders and cars on the road. (There is still no “app for that!”) In addition to the obvious ones we’re taught in riding 101, my husband and I have aligned on signals indicating everything from ‘I need to potty’ to ‘I need fuel’ to ‘hey, watch out for this debris or hazard that I’m seeing before you do.’ As an executive coach and talent management consultant, I encounter many performance issues and interpersonal challenges that could have been mitigated or avoided entirely with more effective, mutual communication.

3.    Stretch yourself. I’ll admit, after learning on a much smaller bike, I was somewhat intimidated to upgrade to a big Harley. But I was confident in my riding skills and knew I had resources to support me. Now I am far more comfortable at faster speeds, get further on a tank of fuel, and have even more fun. As a leader, it takes a lot of courage and confidence to make tough decisions and take well-calculated risks, but often the risk of doing nothing or thinking too small is much greater.

Although Mark Twain didn't live in the motorcycle era, his famous quote seems apropos: “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so…Explore. Dream. Discover.” And to that already superb list, I’ll add: Focus. Communicate. Stretch.

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Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, on the importance of coaching

Check out this 41 second video clip, in which Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, articulates why he values having a coach: John Doerr, Google board member and one of the most successful venture capitalists in the country, recommended to Schmidt that he get an executive coach. At first, Schmidt resisted but once he started working with a coach, he understood why it is that not only top athletes need coaches, but top business people as well.


Sharing SmartBlog on Leadership article: 6 benefits of hiring an executive coach

This post is from SmartBlog on Leadership. My favorite line is: "...successful coaching usually proves to be a smart investment, not an expense. If it’s truly a smart, prudent idea, then can you really afford not to do it?"

Business owners need to be accountable, too

By Pat Doody on July 23rd, 2014

One of the more puzzling and precarious realities about how owners lead businesses these days is the vast numbers who do so with little to no accountability. Every other employee is subject to scrutiny and performance reviews. Except if you’re the company king, The Boss Boss. But is that truly viable and sustainable?

Kudos are certainly due to owners for having the smarts, vision, courage and stamina to own the company. Many of you actually founded it. Congratulations. But owners would readily admit that nothing automatic comes with ownership. Infallibility, impeccable judgment and vital leadership skills are not “bundled” with the ownership package. And we all espouse the wisdom of continuous improvement — for our staff.

It just doesn't occur to many of us owners that we need someone to hold us accountable. It’s an honest mistake. After all, we are accountable every day in so many ways to customers and employees and market forces. We’re constantly having to perform to keep our company viable and yet the vast majority of us don’t think we need someone to answer to.

Why should owners have a coach? Well, here are six reasons:

1.      Less managing, more leading: It’s damn hard to lead a company; the company keeps getting in the way. So do customers and employees and competitors. It’s just about all an owner can do to keep the ship afloat. So much to do. But who’s navigating while you’re doing? Who’s leading? It doesn't matter how well the ship is sailing if you haven’t charted the destination. Coaches can help make sure we owners are leading, not just managing.

2.   Accountability. Who calls you on the carpet when you fall short of revenue or profit goals? Or those sights you set in your strategic plan? Shouldn't you specifically be held accountable for that? Who does that? Most of us small-business owners don’t have boards. And while we might “beat ourselves up” privately for falling short, how often does that solve the problem?

3.    Letting your guard down. Whom do you talk to when you’re thrashing about with no answer or, worse yet, feeling in over your head? You know it can’t be any of your employees. Maybe it’s your spouse who probably is qualified to comfort you but not advise you. Or maybe it’s that brother-in-law whom you vent to twice a year at the 19th hole. But, while comforting and familial, are those strategic, directed conversations? And is there follow-up to these? We all have vexing — even frightening — issues and episodes. Coaches can help solve these with usually more objectivity and detachment.

4.   Calling BS on your thinking. So, how many half-baked ideas have you had that nobody called you out on? How many of your staffers have the confidence and job security to tell you, the emperor, that your new clothes aren’t really there? We usually have the opposite problem. Too many “yes men” agreeing with everything we say. We know we’re not right all the time. We hope we’re right way more often than not. A coach can call “a spade a spade” at those times when subordinates really can’t.

5.    Sounding board. You have a lot of good ideas. Some are on their way to being fully baked, great ideas. But if you’re really honest about it, you’re not always sure they’re good ideas. And, many are missing an ingredient or two that keeps them from being great ideas. An outside perspective from an experienced peer is an invaluable ingredient to successful idea generation. Most of your good ideas can be baked even better with the help of a qualified kibitzer.

6.   Asset insurance. If you’re like most of us, your business is probably your most vital asset with regard to your current and future financial security. I bet you have life insurance, long-term health care, and homeowner’s insurance. You may even have key-man insurance which protects your asset in the event of your death. But what protects you from your business dying? Do you have business asset insurance? A coach is a form of business asset insurance. A coach can help you make sure that asset retains its value, so you get your ultimate rewards.

So, why do so many smart owners not have coaches? My experience suggests it derives from two things: affordability and learned behavior.

Yes, coaches cost money. Money you’re not currently budgeted for. But successful coaching usually proves to be a smart investment, not an expense. If it’s truly a smart, prudent idea, then can you really afford not to do it?

The bigger impediment is learned behavior. While advancing in our careers, the majority of us have never had an owner who had a coach. Most of us saw him as being “free” from having a boss. Not having a boss was another sign of success, intelligence, leadership, vision and wealth. We aspired to be that guy. Now, we are.

Coaches are an invaluable resource for us to continue to be that guy. The smartest leaders have worked through this learned behavior and figured out that they need a coach. In other words, they've learned that they’re not the smartest guys in the room.

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Vitesse featured in Training Magazine article on Workplace Flexibility

Scroll towards the end to find our contribution to this Training Magazine feature on workplace flexibility, entitled "Clarity and Collaboration in Flexibility Training." With a special shout out to my friends at #1MFWF!


Working from home can drive employee engagement and performance, but companies first must provide telecommuting training and reinforcement.

Article Author: Lorri Freifeld

Ayear ago, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer ignited a firestorm of controversy when she eliminated the company’s telecommuting option. Best Buy and Hewlett Packard soon followed suit with their flexible work programs. While many employees feared this was the beginning of the end of flexible work arrangements, 89 percent of respondents to a PGi survey of 933 respondents reported their employer’s telecommuting policy did not change during the last year. In other research, almost all 556 full-time employees (97 percent) surveyed reported having some form of work-life flexibility in 2013, according to a report from the Flex+Strategy Group | Work+Life Fit, Inc. (FSG/WLF).

That said, despite the availability of workplace flexibility, more than 4 in 10 full-time employees surveyed reported their employer’s commitment to worklife flexibility may have waned in the last year, according to the FSG/WLF research. That is evidenced by the fact that a majority (57 percent) of employees did not receive training or guidance on how to manage work-life flexibility.

“We can’t expect employees to effectively manage and leverage work-life flexibility when most receive no guidance or training. It’s not enough to just offer the option or provide a laptop,” notes Cali Yost, CEO and founder, FSG/ WLF, who believes a telework policy is just one piece of a broader day-to-day and formal work flexibility strategy and culture change. “A strategy to maximize workplace flexibility should be as important to a business as a strategy to develop new products or identify new markets.”

That means identifying how workplace flexibility can engage employees, implementing best practices for motivating telecommuters, providing training to both in- and out-of-office workers and their managers, and clearly communicating any policy changes and the reasons behind them.

Yes, Yost believes. “Flexibility increases employee engagement and motivation because it gives good performers the ability to fit work and life together in a way that allows them to be their best. However, the combination of flexibility in how, when, and where work is done that is most motivating will depend upon the person and the job.”

Adds Rose Stanley, Total Rewards Practice leader for WorldatWork, “Telecommuting often has a positive effect on engagement when it’s the right worker: The ideal teleworker is self-motivated, works well on his or her own, has clear direction and a supportive supervisor/manager, and all the things needed to complete the job are readily available in an alternative location. These are all the things that make a conducive work environment to help the worker do his or her job away from the traditional office.”

The “culture of flexibility” within an organization can give a worker the additional boost of knowing that his or her organization not only offers this form of flexibility, but supports it, Stanley says, and that can be an important distinguisher. “Employees want to know they can have flexibility if they need it—and sometimes when they want it. Employers want the job done, and if they can have an engaged employee doing that job, they feel they’re getting superior results,” she notes. “But not every job, person, department, or company is right for telework. Most employers and employees like the idea of telework, but, in reality, it may not be an appropriate fit, and fit is critical to telework success for both the employer and the employee.”

Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D., founder of workplace consultancy Aubrey Daniels International, has a slightly different take than Stanley and Yost. “The fact that employees work at home or in the office has little to do with engagement,” he believes. “It is the management systems and management behaviors that determine engagement. If an employee wants to work at home, and has earned that privilege, engagement already should be at a high level for that particular employee or he or she will do no more at home than in the office. In fact, if the privilege is not earned, the employee will do less.”

Dr. Daniels believes the privilege of working at home should be earned. “If a poorly performing employee complains he would work better at home because he won’t be interrupted as he is in the office, don’t be surprised if he is more of a problem at home. Use the privilege as positive reinforcement for good work in the office, but keep in mind that some employees would rather work in the office than at home.”

In addition, Dr. Daniels says, feedback and reinforcement must be used effectively to engage employees. “Working remotely does present some obstacles for delivering feedback and reinforcement, but they can be provided when you understand behavior.”

While it may seem difficult to motivate employees who are not physically in the office and interacting in person with co-workers, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In addition to giving telecommuters challenging, meaningful work and recognition for a job well done, Yost says the three best tactics to engage and motivate telecommuters are:

  1. Plan periodic on-site meetings where they can interact in-person with the rest of the team.
  2. Incorporate video-based communication tools into the ways team members interact with each other.
  3. Loop them into important, ad-hoc meetings and calls as often as possible.

Stanley notes that employees who work more often in a telecommuting arrangement risk the possibility of estrangement and lack of focus. “Dedicated and regular communication between employee and manager on an ongoing basis is crucial,” she says. “And it’s not just up to the employer to set up opportunities to connect; the telecommuter bears part of the responsibility to stay connected also. It’s always wise to bring telecommuters in every few months to reconnect with co-workers and the organizational culture and provide them with face-time with co-workers. Getting them involved in cross-functional teams virtually can help build relationships, as well.”

Dr. Daniels points to his three best practices to engage and motivate all employees—both in and out of office: reinforcement, reinforcement, and reinforcement. “This is not a facetious answer,” he stresses. “Employees at home think those in the office are treated better than the telecommuting employees. Those in the office think the telecommuting employees have it better. These perceptions come from the fact that neither group feels it gets enough positive reinforcement.”

At Aubrey Daniels International, many employees work from home. “These employees understand the expectations for them and their work,” Dr. Daniels says. “Those who manage them, as well as those who work with them, rely on the telecommuting employees to perform just as they would if they were in an office. In addition, for those who don’t telecommute, there is an office policy allowing them flexibility to adjust their schedules when things come up. Whether it’s leaving the office for a few hours to attend to a personal need or working from home when a family matter arises, we treat our employees with the respect they deserve. In return, our employees perform at their best, always.”

When training telecommuters (and any worker with any type of work flexibility) on working from home, Yost believes the emphasis should be on three key objectives:

  1. How do you use work flexibility to deliberately and intentionally fit work and the other parts of your life together to be your best on and off the job, day-to-day, and at major life transitions (e.g., having a baby, caring for an aging relative, etc.)?
  2. What are the expectations, or organizational “rules of the road,” for flexible work success related to responsiveness, customer service, team collaboration, communication, and compensation/benefits?
  3. How do you use the available technology effectively?

Yost recommends using a combination of live, in-person or Web-based training sessions to introduce skills and tools and to answer questions, then reinforcing those skills and tools with as-needed, on-demand, learner directed e-learning.

“We see more success in organizations that train managers, telecommuters, and co-workers on some aspect of the teleworking policy, organizational culture, and senior management’s views on this way of working,” adds Stanley. “The goal is to make this new way of working as seamless as possible, and everyone needs to know how to communicate easily and effectively with one another.”

Follow-up should be reinforced by and even observed through that “seamless” viewpoint, Stanley says. “You’ll know when it’s not working, and the training and continual use of such things helps maintain a smooth working environment.”

As time goes by and business needs change, organizations will need to tweak, revamp, or, in some cases, eliminate their workplace flexibility policies. If done right, that should not provoke a critical backlash like Yahoo! experienced.

“In our research, 68 percent of full-time U.S. workers said that without work-life flexibility, employee loyalty and morale are affected,” Yost says. “That is why companies need to first determine if they can fix or improve an under performing flexibility strategy before completely rescinding it. Sometimes policies and procedures need to be improved, but think twice before you throw the flexibility baby out with the bath water. Unfortunately, more organizations don’t know how to do that. It’s easier to say, “Forget it.”

When it comes to changing any type of flexible workplace strategy, honesty is always the best policy, says Stanley. “Communicating the reason for the change and helping employees understand why the business now is going this new route is key. Also, if a company has decided to eliminate a telework program, it should consider whether or not there are there other forms of flexibility employees may be able to utilize in specific situations to still balance work-life responsibilities.”

Dr. Daniels recommends inviting employees to contribute to the details of the new policy. “Ask questions about what worked and didn’t work with the old policy, and what employees think they need to work effectively,” he says.

Yost agrees. She advocates involving as many people from as many levels and areas in the development process as possible. “If a particular group already supports and allows telecommuting, learn more about the underlying business case, what the roles and responsibilities of the manager and employees are,” she says. “Then take what you learn and use that as the basis of the telework process and policy, or ‘rules of the road,’ that you then will pilot and scale.”

Yost says the biggest mistake employers make is writing a top-down, one-size-fits-all telework policy, handing people a laptop, and essentially saying, “Good luck.” Utilization is limited, Yost says, “as managers are leery and roles and responsibilities for effective implementation are unclear. That’s a recipe for trouble.”

Clarity and Collaboration in Flexibility Training

By Shani Magosky, Vitesse Consulting, LLC

While flexwork has become more commonplace, the training of managers and employees for success remains rare. According to WorldatWork’s October 2013 Survey on Workplace Flexibility:

  • 88 percent do not train employees to be successful with flexible work arrangements.
  • 83 percent do not provide training to managers of employees using flexibility programs.

Few strategic initiatives are supported by such a low level of training commitment. We’d never consider asking someone to operate a complex new machine or sell an intricate new product without appropriate training, so why do we direct people to work from home without sufficient training to ensure success?

As a flexible workplace consultant who earned her stripes managing a highly distributed team from 2006 to 2011, I didn’t have a “how-to” book on leading a virtual staff, and no one trained me on the subject. While thought leadership on the topic has become more prolific since then, there’s still no silver bullet—managing people is challenging whether it’s in person or thousands of miles away.

Having said that, I created “The 15 C’s for Success for the Flexible Workplace” based upon what I learned to help other leaders navigate the complex waters of remote people management. The first five C’s are strategic and the other 10 involve implementation.

To heighten awareness of and encourage actions to correct the training gap, I’ll focus on two of the tactical C’s: Collaboration and Clarity. From a training and development perspective, we need to see:

  • Practical, hands-on training on the cadre of tools selected to foster collaboration, encourage knowledge sharing, and enhance productivity: People are too busy and overwhelmed for “Field of Dreams 2014,” i.e., if you build it, they will NOT necessarily come. We’ve seen too many companies squander their investment in potentially game-changing apps such as Yammer, Lync, Asana, or Basecamp because they launched without proper training, support, and context.
  • Training for managers on how to coach employees to greater performance: I’m talking about the kind of coaching that involves regularly engaging in collaborative, solutions-oriented dialogue with your people instead of simply directing them what to do at every turn. Nothing engages and motivates employees—in the flesh or virtual ones—more than empowering them to find their own solutions and rise to bigger challenges.
  • Clarity across all levels of the organization about the flexwork program: Clear communication and old-school standard operating procedures training are key in order to avoid inconsistencies, confusion, and, ultimately, widespread dissatisfaction.
  • Clarity around duties, deadlines, consequences of underperformance, and progress-reporting mechanisms: Why do I characterize this as an area for Learning & Development? Because it’s a competency that managers and individual contributors alike frequently lack. We are all in such a hurry to get to the proverbial destination that we rarely slow down to communicate and receive training about landmarks to look out for along the way. It’s impossible to be accountable or to hold others accountable if the targets aren’t clearly defined at the outset.

As Ben Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”


My latest Employee Benefit News post: "5 questions to coach your team through a mid-year review"

5 questions to coach your team through a mid-year review

Posted June 11, 2014, Employee Benefit News by Shani Magosky

I blinked and suddenly the calendar said June instead of January. It seems like yesterday that I was setting goals for 2014 and coaching my clients do the same. Alas, now it’s time for a mid-year review of said goals!

People managers should not underestimate the impact of coaching their people to success around individual and shared goals. It’s one of the rare benefits that accrues to the organization as much as its employees, in that there are no “hard” costs associated with coaching conversations and there are often big returns on time and energy invested. As such, I implore all business leaders to do some version of a mid-year goal review via a coaching session with their team members.

Mid-year coaching sessions should feature lots of provocative, open-ended questions, typically looking something like this:

  • What successes or accomplishments do you want to celebrate so far this year – individually and as a team?
  • What are the best practices present in those achievements that stand out and which do you want to replicate going forward?
  • To the extent one of your/our 2014 projects hasn’t gone as planned or has stalled:
    • What were the key lessons learned?
    • What are some creative ways you might surmount obstacles you’re encountering?
    • What might you do differently going forward?
  • Of the goals that are still in progress:
    • Which are top priority?
    • What and when are your next tangible action steps to keep them moving forward?
  • Is there a theme you notice and want to build upon for the rest of the year?

In the famous words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Wouldn’t you agree that life moves exponentially more quickly for us now than it did for Ferris in 1986? This year will be a memory before we know it, and it will serve your business well to do mid-year check-ins to ensure greater focus and clarity on your team’s goals for the balance of the year. 

Full post here: