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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Sponsorship is a Powerful Leadership Strategy

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Last month, I attended the annual fundraiser of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.  The keynote speaker was Marie Wilson from the The White House Project.   The White House project is a national, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with the aim to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors, up to the U.S. presidency.  To advance this mission, The White House Project strives to support women and the issues that allow women to lead in their own lives and in the world.  Marie was a passionate and dynamic speaker who made a compelling case for, among other things, women sponsoring women.  The theme of her talk was sponsorship and the role that women MUST play in sponsoring other women.  I was moved by the idea . . . and respectfully argue that the concept applies to both genders.  Sponsoring others is a powerful leadership strategy.  Whether they are emerging leaders, leading indivividual contributors, high potential team members, or someone who clearly demonstrates an interest in self-development, it’s important to reach out and help lift someone up.

Sponsorship involves 4 actions:

  1. Encourage.  Express your belief in his ability to succeed, both passionately and frequently.
  2. Support.  Look for all the ways you can help her get where she wants to go.
  3. Authorize.  Create a culture of “yes” so he can explore what is possible.
  4. Introduce.   Make sure you’re not the only one who knows who she is, sees her potential,  and recognizes her results.

When I was 23, I had a sponsor.  She made sure I was involved, connected, visible and responsible for just a little more than what was in my job description.  I loved it.  I felt engaged and I truly believed I could succeed.  I credit her with getting me a leg-up in a great 10 year career with that company.  Her faith in me and commitment to my success made me want to work harder, be more accountable, and get better results.  That’s typically what happens when someone is sponsored – they are driven to live up to the faith that is placed in them.  That’s one reason sponsorship is a powerful leadership strategy.  Another reason is that sponsorship begets sponsorship.  When you reach out and lift someone up, it increases the likelihood that she will do the same and the resulting culture is one where people help others and share in their successes.

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The Employee’s Role in Employee Engagement

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Employee Engagement is a topic that’s continues to get air time.  As the Gallup Organization recently reported, ”. . . engagement has proved to be a powerful predictor of many key organizational outcomes, including profitability, productivity, customer engagement, quality, safety, and retention.”  I am fascinated by how significant engagement can be to an organization’s success or failure.  Recently, I read and article from the Gallup Journal that focuses on the cost of disengagement.  Specifically, the article states that “the quality of a workplace can be linked to depression and anxiety among workers, [and]  . . . these illnesses can have a significant impact on job performance and on employees’ personal lives.”  Wow.  Through research that organizations like Gallup have developed, we know a lot more about the benefits of engagement.  And, we’re learning more about the cost of disengagement.  So, the question I’m pondering with all of this is how much responsibility lies with organizations to create “engagement” versus the responsibility of employees to choose to be engaged.

I admit that I’m challenging some of my own belief systems by asking this question.  I have Tweeted a lot about the topic and the role of leaders in focusing on employee engagement as a critical business driver.  Nonetheless, I feel compelled to explore the ownership of one’s own level of engagement.  First of all, I don’t believe the message to employees should be, “Get engaged or get lost.”  Rather, I think the message is, “It’s a team thing.”  In other words, we each have a role here.  Leaders, you must create a compelling and inspiring workplace.  Employees, you must show up and commit.  I choose to focus on the employee in this blog post.  Let’s give leaders a break . . . for the time being.

Okay, team.  It’s time to show up.  Whether or not you have a leader who understands the importance of engaging employees, you have a responsibility to bring your best to work every day.  Sure, it can be challenging.  But, you are definitely not going to get the scoop on the new project, get a shot at that new job, or be able to demonstrate that you’re the person your leader should be considering for that next promotion unless you are present and accounted for.  So, how do you get yourself motivated to walk in each day with an open mind and heart?  On many days, we may feel inspired by an initiative we’re deeply involved with or by a team effort that is allowing us to work “elbow-to-elbow” with someone we enjoy.  That can be enough to bring us skipping into the office.  Too bad some days aren’t like that.  Sometimes, we find ourselves not so wildly fired up over that report that has to be written or managing the “scope-creep” of the project we’ve been leading for 10 months.  Ugh.  How do you get yourself motivated?  Strengths and discipline.

Strengths.  Marcus Buckingham talks strengths with a boatload of research behind him: “Years of research prove that individuals and teams playing to their strengths significantly outperform those who don’t in almost every business metric.”  You’ve got to find out what makes you feel strong and do that as much as possible during your work day.  Strengths are not just things that you’re good at.  Strengths are those activities that make you feel competent and give you the energy to want to do more.  Do you know what your strengths are?  If not, find out.  A great assessment is one that Marcus helped create when he worked with the Gallup Organization.  It’s called the Clifton Strengthsfinder.

Discipline.  Find a system that helps you bring your best to work even when you’re not particularly inspired to do so.  That might come in the form of professional coaching to help you get organized.  Or, it might be a goal-setting process.  One of the best support systems for discipline in my book is the bestselling book by the incomparable Dr. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  For more than 15 years, this amazing book has helped millions of people bring their best to their daily lives.

Got any other ideas on how employees can own their engagement?  Drop me a line and let me know.

With respect,


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Posted In: Employee Engagement, Motivation, Strengths, Uncategorized

Inspiration from a Blind Mountain Climber

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I recently met Erik Weihenmayer, the first and only blind man to climb the seven summits.  On the night I met him, he was speaking to a small group of clients, colleagues, and friends of  The Prouty Project.  Jeff Prouty and his team are talented and well-known consultants in the Twin Cities who specialize in strategic planning, organizational development and board development.  My husband is a client of Prouty, and so I was gifted with a ticket to join him for this evening.  And, what an evening it was.  Erik talked about his desire to “reach” in spite of the disease he was born with that left him blind by the time he was thirteen years old.

Reach.  Of everything he said, and believe me when I say it was all riveting, when he talked about “reach”,  I was inspired.  He talked about reaching into the future to attain your goals and reaching into the darkness with the belief that what you’ll find is exactly what you are meant to have, even though you can’t see what’s there.  And, he talked about reaching for the next ledge on a grueling climb to make progress, one small step at a time.  He reminded me that goals are achieved and visions are realized when we reach for them.  We can imagine all we want, but we must reach for what we want.  Very little comes to us if we just stand in place and wait.  Erik didn’t let his lack of vision exclude him from experiencing life with exhilaration.  That’s him in the picture, without goggles, standing on the summit of Mount Everest.

In leadership, on teams, and in life, we must reach for what we believe in and what we want.  It’s really very simple, and completely challenging.  Reaching takes an act of faith, and in the case of a blind mountain climber (and often those of us who can see just fine), it takes courage.  We must have faith that we will find the thing we are reaching for, and we must have courage that if we reach we won’t fall.  Of-course, sometimes we will fall.  And, that’s life.  We must reach anyway.  Because most of the time, when we reach, we’ll find something . . . even if it wasn’t exactly what we’re reaching for.  While the result might not be the top of Mount Everest, it may be a small victory that inspires us to reach further next time.

In my effort to “reach” to achieve my goals, as Erik has inspired me to do, I will take action . . . do something . . . try.  The point is to reach in some way and toward something.  There isn’t a right or wrong way to reach.  You just gotta do it.  Okay, so I might not get what I’m looking for.  I might get something more.

In awe,


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Posted In: Inspiration, Leadership, Motivation, Uncategorized
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