Are You Checking in or Checking Out?

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A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. – John Maxwell

Employee engagement is as vital to your success as a leader as ever. When a Gallup survey reports that only 30 percent of U.S. employees are engaged in their work what do you think that says about leadership engagement?

The question we would like to pose to you is simply this: are you checking in or checking out as a leader in the way you engage your people? Your answer matters because in it reside signals not just to your leadership style but to the health of your organization.

Here are a series of questions we would like to pose to you for your consideration; a check-up if you will as to your engagement levels with your people and the state of your leadership effectiveness.

Do you know your employees on an individual basis?

Like any smart leader in business you make it a priority to know your customer. Knowing your target audience is critical to your bottom line. If it is important to you to know your customer does it not stand to reason that you should know the people serving your customer?

When you don’t take the time to get to know your employees on an individual basis, it clearly shows that you don’t care. How hard will an employee work for a leader who does not care? You will not get anywhere near the productivity or quality you need from employees if you do not show that you care about their well-being.

Check-In Tip: Get to know your employees on an individual basis. How are their families? What are their hobbies? How was their recent vacation?

Do you know what is happening on the ground level?

One of the dangers leaders can find themselves in is being too far removed from the front lines of the operation. We understand that the responsibilities you face as a leader in part take you away from the front lines so it must be a priority for you to return.

There is no way for you to know everything; when you distance yourself from what is happening on the ground level it’s like putting blinders on. What issues might slip by you? What opportunities might you miss?

Check-In Tip: Get out on the floor; make your presence the norm. Be observant and engaged with what is happening on the ground level.

Do you have the right people in the right positions?

Your effectiveness as an organization is realized not when you have a lot of people but when you have the right people in the right place. When people play to their strengths and are passionate about what they do then your organization will excel.

None of your employees want to be just a warm body, and most of your tasks require some form of specialized knowledge or skill. When you give little thought to where employees can make the greatest contribution to the organization, you are crippling your operations and minimizing the importance of individual contributions.

Check-In Tip: Learn where your employees’ strengths lie. Then place them in positions where they will be engaged and challenged while making the greatest contribution to the organization.

Can your employees count on you?

The people in your organization need to know that you are a leader who is reliable and will have their backs. You foster trust and earn respect not merely by your words but in your day-to-day actions that demonstrate your commitment to their success.

If your employees don’t feel they can count on you, we’d be willing to bet that they won’t go out of their way to be there for you either. If you send the message to your employees that it’s every man for himself, be prepared to be left standing on your own.

Check-In Tip: Show your employees that you have their backs; knowing that they can count on you is a key factor in gaining the trust and respect you need to be an effective leader.

So, are you checking in or are you checking out? As a leader, you are setting the example for employees to follow. If you are not connecting with your employees and engaging in operations at the ground level, your employees will follow suit. And, disengaged employees do not reflect well on any leader and do not benefit the organization as a whole.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Elizabeth Stincelli



liz Liz Stincelli is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. She holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Liz by visiting her website:


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Finding the Courage to Lead


Courage means to keep working in a relationship, to continue seeking solutions to difficult problems, and to stay focused in stressful periods. – Denis Waitley

One summer morning, as the story goes, Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast on what he thought would be a normal morning. Except there was nothing routine or normal about the events about to unfold. On this morning, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home.

Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something–possibly a rock– protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. “If I can just hang on until help comes,” he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock.

On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.

The courage of Ray Blankenship is certainly admirable. What he did speaks volumes about the human spirit and rising to the challenges in spite of the circumstances. As a leader you may not be forced to face life-threatening situations such as Ray, but it can be challenging nonetheless.

As if you need to be reminded, I will say if for the record; not everything about leadership is glamourous. Courage is the virtue to embrace when times are tough and you need strength to lead effectively. Hang around in leadership long enough and you will soon realize that were it not for uncommon courage in difficult times, you would not be where you are today. Finding the courage to lead is imperative to your leadership. Here are five reasons why.

You need courage to voice your convictions

People tend to gravitate to leaders who project confidence. You will be hard pressed to find a leader weak on convictions and short on courage who is making a difference. Courage empowers you to step up, speak up, and lead with clarity.

You need courage to face your fears

As leaders we all face fears and times of uncertainty. It comes with the territory. But courage empowers you to see through the fear and see the rewards that await on the other side of it. Despite the fact that Ray Blankenship could not swim, he did not allow the fear of the water to stop him from saving the girls life. When you set your fears aside and lead with courage the sky is the limit as to what you can achieve.

You need courage to dream bigger dreams

Speaking of what you can achieve—what are the dreams and aspirations that motivate you? Perhaps it is to write a book, travel the world, become a noted speaker, or be an entrepreneur, etc. Too often all people see are the challenges and obstacles that stand in the way. You need courage to embrace those dreams and goals. They are not impossible, but are only possible when you summon the courage you need to take the first steps.

You need courage to ask for help

A casual study of any successful leader will turn up this common conclusion- they did not do it alone. A common mistake many novice leaders make is the belief that they can. But if you want to be successful as a leader you will need courage to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and how to surround yourself with people who can help you in those areas.

You need courage to stand alone

John Maxwell was right when he said, “It’s lonely at the top so you’d better know why you are there.” There will be times as a leader you will have to stand alone. Not because it is your preference but because not everyone will, or can, take the journey with you. It may be because they have not bought into the vision or do not share your convictions. You will need courage to do the right thing even if it means standing alone.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Dare to face your fears. Dare to face the headwinds of adversity. Because when you are empowered with courage, you will rise to a new level of leadership that others only dream about.


©2016 Doug Dickerson

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How Anger Shapes You as a Leader


We boil at different degrees. – Clint Eastwood

A story is told of the 18th-century British physician John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served as surgeon to King George III, who suffered from angina. Discovering that his attacks were often brought on by anger, Hunter lamented, “My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.” These words proved prophetic, for at a meeting of the board of St. George’s Hospital in London, Hunter got into a heated argument with other board members, walked out, and dropped dead in the next room.

As a leader it is important to know how to deal with anger. Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments when our anger has got the best of us and we’ve said and down things in hindsight that we wish we hadn’t. Yet how we deal with our anger is what will distinguish us as a leader who commands respect. So here are a few helpful reminders and solutions to keep in mind before anger gets the best of you.

Not all anger is bad

The scripture says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” There is a line when you get angry that you do not want to cross. It’s the point where words and actions can do irreversible harm. But anger itself is not bad. It means that you are invested, care, and are passionate about something. Understand that your emotion of anger is not bad, it all comes down to your response.

Not all pleasantness is good

As a leader you need to set the example with your attitude and actions and with the composure you present to your people. All smiles and little truth telling can be just as harmful as misguided anger. Expectations with your team need to be clear. As a leader you need to strike a balance between anger that hurts you and pleasantness that weakens you.

Anger is your stop sign before taking action

Before acting on anger that may have been building up over a span of time– stop. Important to consider here is an understanding of why you are angry, whom your anger might be geared toward, and what the proper actions should be going forward. This is where you earn your stripes as a leader and what you do in your moment of anger will be make you or break you.

It was said that when Abraham Lincoln had to write a letter to someone who had irritated him, he would often write two letters. The first letter was deliberately insulting. Then, having gotten those feelings out of his system, he would tear it up and write a second letter, this one tactful and discreet. Perhaps, like Lincoln, you need to sit down and write two letters, but never act out in anger in a way that is unbecoming to your leadership.

Anger is your catalyst for improvement

As already stated, anger is neither good nor bad, what’s critical is your response. If you channel the energy produced by anger in the right direction it can produce positive results that can be helpful. Perhaps you are angry over quarterly earnings that did not meet expectations. Channel that energy in a way that challenges your team to find new approaches or ways to improve. When you tap into that energy in a positive way it can be just the spark you need to turn things around.

Anger is your responsibility to confront

As a leader you carry a weight and responsibility that most know nothing about. All the pressures you bear have a way of adding up and weighing you down. Despite all the illusions of grandeur, leadership can be tough and can take a toll.

It is important that you take ownership of your issues with anger. Key areas that will make a world of difference (not an exhaustive list) in your leadership and keeping your anger under control is when you learn how to manage your time, learn how to delegate, take time to get away and recharge, set realistic expectations, pay attention to your diet and exercise, make yourself accountable to others, and your spiritual discipline.

Anger, like your attitude, is an emotion to be managed and channeled in the right direction. Either you will shape your anger or your anger will shape you.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson





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Leadership Lessons from The Masters


The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way. –  Robert Kiyosaki

I am a lifelong golf fan. I came up in the era of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Floyd, to name a few. Golf, in the words of Arnold Palmer is, “Deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” And it’s why I love the game.

Last Sunday at The Masters was both exciting and gut-wrenching to watch at the same time. The masterful play of Jordan Spieth on the front nine was truly remarkable (rewarding)-then came the back nine (maddening). The coronation of Spieth winning a second green jacket was placed on hold as the unthinkable happened on the 12th.

Life has a way of throwing us curves and what we thought was a certainty turns out to be anything but that. As leaders we face our share of circumstances when things don’t go as planned and we have to find a new way forward.

Golf has a way of teaching us about life and leadership. The Masters proved it. Here are a few takeaways.

It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game

On the first nine Jordan Spieth put on a clinic. He closed out the front nine with four birdies in a row. He seemed unstoppable. The front nine revealed a confidence seldom seen in a 22-year old golfer at the top of his game. The back nine revealed his character in adversity.

Adversity has a way of introducing us to ourselves. In post- round interviews Spieth showed a maturity that made the game proud and left us with little doubt that while that loss will sting, he will be back.

Leadership Takeaway: Character is not developed in adversity it is revealed.

Even the best make mistakes

Ranked at number 2 in the world, it was not a fluke that Spieth was in the final pairing last Sunday. Even after the infamous “meltdown” he still had an opportunity to come back and win. And while it wasn’t meant to be this year, it would be foolish to count him out next year or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Hang around in leadership long enough and you will get acquainted with bad shots. You will understand the disappointment of a target you did not reach. It happens to the best of leaders. Mistakes are the pavement on the road to success. It’s not a matter of if you will fail; but how.


Leadership Takeaway: You are not defined by your mistakes you are defined by your response to mistakes.

Not everything goes according to plan

A lot of variables are taken into consideration when playing a round of golf. The pros rely on their caddies to help them with yardage to the pin, wind conditions, whether to lay up or go for the long shot, how fast/slow the greens are playing, etc. Nothing is left to chance. But after every consideration is taken into account it all comes down to the golfer to execute.

As a leader you can have a strategy for your business- expectations for sales, customer service, and employee engagement. But despite your best plans and strategies things may not go according to script. You have to make adjustments and play the hand you are dealt. It’s what Spieth had to do and as a leader you will do the same.

Leadership Takeaway: One bad swing can change your game plan. Be flexible and confident in knowing that you will recover.

Keep swinging

I can only imagine the disappointment that was going through Spieth’s mind on the 12th hole. Moments earlier it had almost seemed like a mere formality that had he continued to play even at par, he would go on to win the tournament.

One of the greatest challenges you will have in leadership is not how to stay strong when times are good, but how to keep swinging when you feel like walking away. Sound familiar? Yet, what Spieth demonstrated, and what we all have to do, is to keep swinging in spite of the disappointment.

Leadership Takeway: Disappoint and setbacks will challenge you as a leader. No matter what comes your way – never give up and keep swinging!


© 2016 Doug Dickerson








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Recognition: The Fuel of Employee Engagement


Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but rather strive to be worthy of recognition. – Abraham Lincoln

A story is told of the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo who happened to overhear a group of people admiring his Pieta, a statue of Christ on His mother’s knees after His death on the cross. One man attributed the work to another sculptor, much to the chagrin of Michelangelo, who took particular pride in the Pieta. Returning to the sculpture after dark that evening, Michelangelo carved his name on it so that no similar mistake would occur in the future. Talk about someone with recognition issues!

It is not a stretch to state that most people in your place of work appreciate recognition for the contributions they make. A Harvard Business Review article ( cites a Harris poll that is eye-opening to say the least.  “In the survey,” it reads, “employees called out the kind of management offenses that point to a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders, including micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, indecisiveness, and more.” The top offense? Topping the complaints (by employees) at sixty three percent was not recognizing employee achievements.

The most important thing a leader,manager, boss, supervisor, etc. must learn is that people are your most appreciable asset. The second most important thing to remember is that relationships matter. The hard lesson to learn is that people can be difficult and building relationships can be complicated.

So what is a leader to do when it comes to recognition and building relationships? The questions can outnumber the answers but here are a few suggestions for starters.

Make it a priority

As a leader the recognition of your people- your most appreciable asset, must be a top priority. Your responsibility is to make sure that the hard work and dedication of your people is given the appreciation that it is due. When your people know you have their backs and recognize their efforts you are building good will among them and they will keep performing at high levels.

Make it personal; make it public

Not all recognition should necessarily be public; but that never hurts. When a colleague is publicly praised for achieving a goal it is proper to praise in public. It builds confidence and reinforces morale. But a good leader also knows that a personal hand-written note of appreciation is priceless. So practice both- and be sincere.

Be spontaneous

Your people often face obstacles and challenges that you are far-removed from. The daily grind can wear down even the best among you. Nothing will lift the spirts and culture of your organization more than a kind gesture of appreciation to your people for no other reason than to say, “I am with you, you are not forgotten, I am proud of you”.

Be realistic

The hard reality every leader has to learn is that some of your people – those “most appreciable assets” will be very challenging when it comes to building relationships. As you know, some require more “strokes” and attention than others and at times there will be no “pleasing” of these people. On the other side of the coin you will have individuals who are just happy to show up, work hard, go above and beyond the call of duty and would be embarrassed if singled out for recognition. Challenging, right? John Maxwell was right when he said, “It’s lonely at the top so you better know why you are there.” Welcome to leadership.

Be inclusive

One of the challenges you will face as a leader is the accusation of showing favoritism. I am a believer that those who demonstrate a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and a genuine team player approach are actually deserving of more recognition that those who don’t. But as much as it depends on you as the leader, be inclusive as possible when it comes to recognition. Everyone fights battles and carry within them struggles you nothing of and a little encouragement and recognition can make the difference between where they are now and the spark needed to go to the next level. Don’t leave anyone out.

Be generous

Recognition and reinforcing a positive message within your organization is a game changer. The culture you desire is created by the tone you set as a leader. There are plenty of critics, skeptics, gossips, and otherwise contentious attitudes to deal with at times. The path of effective and meaningful employee engagement and strong relationships begins with recognition that comes from the heart. It begins with you.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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Excess Baggage: How to Lighten Your Load as a Leader


Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. – Zig Ziglar

Writing in The Living Faith, Lloyd C. Douglas tells the story of Thomas Hearne, who, “in his journey to the mouth of the Coppermine River, wrote that a few days after they had started on their expedition, a party of Indians stole most of their supplies. His comment on the apparent misfortune was: ‘The weight of our baggage being so much lightened, our next day’s journey was more swift and pleasant.’

Hearne was in route to something very interesting and important; and the loss of a few sides of bacon and a couple of bags of flour meant nothing more than an easing of the load. Had Hearne been holed in somewhere, in a cabin, resolved to spend his last days eking out an existence, and living on capital previously collected, the loss of some of his stores by plunder would probably have worried him almost to death.”

As leaders we often carry a lot of baggage that weighs us down. Perhaps it is the baggage of stress, personnel issues, financial challenges, etc. It’s time to identify this baggage and make changes that will make you a more effective leader.

How different would your life be as a leader if the excess baggage you carried was lightened? Think of how much more productive your day could be without having to shoulder the weight of that baggage. Are you ready to experience it? Here’s how.

If it’s not your baggage- don’t claim it

Unfortunately, many leaders fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. While your heart might be in the right place it will only bog you down as a leader. It’s neither your place nor responsibility to be all things go all people or to involve yourself in matters that can easily be handled by others. While it might make you feel good or look good in the eyes of your people, it will burn you out as a leader.

As it pertains to this excess baggage it would do you well to live out the spirit of the Polish Proverb that says, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”


Travel light for greater results

What Thomas Hearne learned from his misfortune was that the journey was more swift and pleasant with a lighter load. How much more effective could you be as a leader if your load was lightened? It’s when you cut loose from the excess baggage that weighs you down that you make the most progress.

What excess baggage is holding you back and slowing you down? For best results remember – travel light.

Get a fresh perspective

When Hearne’s load was lightened he had a different perspective. Where before it might have seemed burdensome and hard, now it was more manageable. When carrying excess baggage it’s easy to get stressed or have a bad attitude.  It was when he lost what he thought was important that he began to see things in a different light.

When you lighten your load as a leader you will get a fresh perspective of what is important, who is important, and why you should have acted sooner. Nothing will invigorate you more as a leader than a fresh perspective and a lighter load.

Get real about your priorities

Don’t be your own worst enemy. You don’t have to claim baggage (especially that from other people) that is not yours, you don’t have to be the “answer man” for everyone’s problems, and at the end of the day, you are expendable. Don’t allow your pride to tell you otherwise. That being said; get real about your priorities. Set boundaries and stick with it.

Here is an exercise for your consideration: Make a list of some of the “excess baggage” that you are dealing with at work/home and figure out what you need to take ownership of- that which is truly within the realm of your responsibility. Then make a list of what you need to cut loose. Set a target date by which you intend to free yourself from each item. Keep working the list until you are moving more swiftly and the journey is more pleasant.

Your work as a leader will be more productive and pleasant when you are focused on what belongs to you. Your stress levels will diminish when you are not worrying about baggage that does not belong to you. Don’t be afraid to lighten your load. Your leadership depends on it.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson






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If These Walls Could Talk: Building a Legacy Worth Remembering


In this bright future you can’t forget your past. – Bob Marley

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of visiting numerous art galleries and museums around the world. Included on the list are the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. and venues in other places like Boston, London, and Athens. Each have a certain appeal and allure that awaken the imagination with images and history that have enriched lives for centuries. How can one not glance upon the work of Monet, da Vinci, Raphael, or Picasso and not be inspired? The priceless pieces of work that hang on those hallowed walls is captivating.

Suppose the walls in your place of business or your organization could talk; if they could tell your story to the world, what impression would people come away with? If your place of business were to be a museum 100 years from now, what would be the main takeaway people would have about the work you did, the culture you practiced, and your contribution to those you served?

Glassdoor recently published its lists of the Best Places to Work 2016 ( Companies making the list include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zillow, Expedia, Delta, and topping the list: Airbnb. The winners, according to Glassdoor are “determined by the people who know these companies best—their employees.” I encourage you to read the list and reviews for yourself. But here is a key take-away – people thrive where people are valued.

If the walls of your organization could talk 100 years from now what would they say? The message a century from now is being scripted today. What is the message others will read about? Would you be embarrassed or proud? If your walls could speak, let these four things be your message.

It was a place with a purpose

Fundamentally the most important thing as it relates to your organization is to know your ‘why’. It’s as you operate in the capacity of this knowledge that everything else makes sense. Without it you are adrift and you will always struggle to find your way.

Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks writes, “At Starbucks, I’ve always said we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee.” Once you know your ‘why’ your purpose becomes clear.

Let the walls talk about what a great purpose you had and that you leveraged every resource to fulfill it.

They were a people who cared

Many companies proclaim a strong company culture but fail to deliver. As such, trust is lost, morale is low, and productivity falters. Clearly stated, it’s not what you say that matters or makes the difference, it’s what you do. If the walls of your company could speak 100 years from now how would you be portrayed in terms of how you treated your people?

An employee review for MindBody (#14) in the Glassdoor article writes, “It’s a culture of happiness! I’ve never been in such a positive environment. Management encourages you not only professionally, but in personal aspects of life too. So thankful to work for such an amazing company!” Evidently, MindBody is a company that understands this concept and is putting it into practice. At the end of the day, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Let the walls speak with fond recollection of a company who knew the importance of caring for its people.

They overcame adversity

Today we remember triumphal moments in history not because people like the Wright brothers failed, or Edison’s lab was destroyed by fire, or that J.K. Rowling’s script for Harry Potter was rejected about a dozen times, or that Disney was fired by a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas”, no- we remember them because they didn’t quit!

The success of your organization rests within the will, strength, and determination of its people, to stare down adversity, and come through on the other side. It’s how every successful organization have done it and yours will not be an exception.

Let the walls tell the story of hope and inspiration and that when adversity came you didn’t back down but instead rose to the challenges of your day.

They never stopped growing

Personal growth and development is the bread and butter of leaders. Leaders who are intentional about growing and developing rise to the top. At the heart of any successful business or organization is leadership that recognizes its importance at all levels. In order to remain competitive in this global economy one must never stop growing and learning.

A review for Hubspot (#4) reads, “Leadership places a heavy emphasis on employee growth across all divisions, from tuition reimbursement to offering opportunities to take on challenges outside your core responsibilities.” That sounds to me like a company that “get’s it” and their employees applaud it.

Let the walls tell your story of relentless devotion to learning. Your commitment will ensure that your team has every resource and tool to compete and succeed. And wouldn’t it be nice if the walls would say, “They’re not done yet!”?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson


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