The Most Important Person in the Room is Not You

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people- Mary Kay Ash

At age 16 Andor Foldes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian’s personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Foldes play for him. Folds obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann.

When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. “My son,” he said, “When I was your age I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, ‘Take good care of this kiss–it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.’ I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, but now I feel you deserve it.”

The young Andor Foldes experienced what the average person in your office/organization wants to experience (no, not a kiss!) but validation and approval.

In fact, a report by the American Psychological Association ( found that those who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to be motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent). So how are we doing?

Value. It is a word as leaders we like to kick around. We want to “add value” we say, but in reality, do we? Really?

Are you running a deficit on people skills and showcasing the most important people in your organization? Here are three simple tips that you can put into practice right away that can make all the difference in the world to your people.

Say it

Your people are the most appreciable asset you have. As you interact with your team members, look at them with that invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ How about a compliment? How about word of encouragement? How about a pat on the shoulder, a look in the eye, and a sincere “Thank you for all that you do. We really appreciate all of your hard work!” Who wouldn’t feel important after an encounter like that?

Leadership tip – Your people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Tell them!

Show it

Your words are nice and your words are important. But you can also make them feel important by your actions. Take time to celebrate your victories along the way and give honor where honor is due. You don’t have to break the bank to make your people feel important but you should be willing to acknowledge your people and the sacrifices they make. Make your people feel important giving them a hand-written note of appreciation with a gift certificate enclosed to their favorite restaurant. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but the acknowledgement lets them know they are important.

Leadership tip – Leaders who are invested their people will have people invested in their leader.

Share it

Making team members feel important is essential to you as a leader. It does wonders for morale and the sense of shared accomplishment is elevated. But you are not the only one who looks upon your team members and sees their value. After 25 years of service one company I know of gives their employees and spouse an all-expense paid dream vacation. Behind every great team member is a significant other who shared in the sacrifice you benefited from. The circle of your success is far more reaching than you might imagine.

Leadership tip – The most important person in the room is not you. It’s everyone who has joined with you, bought into your vision, share your passion, and have cast their lots with you to carve out a future together. It’s them.

Who have you made feel important today?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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In Praise of Second Fiddle Leaders


Photo Credit: Google Images

Expressions of servant leadership are found when you concede being in the spotlight by putting someone else in it.

Where were you on April 8, 1974 at 9:07 p.m. EST? It might be a stretch for some to remember where they were last weekend, much less on this date 42 years ago, if indeed you were even alive. But I remember the date and time like it was yesterday. I was glued to my TV watching one of my sports heroes make history.

The stadium in Atlanta, Georgia was filled with 53, 775 joyous fans. It was in the fourth inning with a runner on first, when finally it happened- with one powerful swing of the bat – baseball history was made. Hank Aaron hit homerun number 715 into the Braves bullpen in left field. Babe Ruth’s long-standing record was finally broken.

But there is another part of the story that is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Right off the top of your head, can you name the pitcher who threw the ball to Aaron? What team were they playing? On that April night, someone had to be the hero, and someone had to make it possible. That person was left-handed veteran Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Downing had a career ERA of 3.22 with a Win-loss record of 123-107. On this historic night, Al Downing was second fiddle.

Second fiddle. Not a very glamorous sounding title is it? But were it not for untold thousands of people who courageously bear the name, we would not have our heroes to idolize. To be sure, – every quarterback needs a center, every NASCAR driver needs a crew chief, the boxer needs a trainer, etc. Behind and beside every successful person is a second fiddle who helps make it all possible.

Who are the second fiddle people in your organization? Chances are you have already identified this person. They are your most reliable go-to people who make things happen without being asked or told. They have an intuition of what needs to be done and take action. They prefer the shadows over the spotlight and whose job, when completed, make you look better than you are.

I contend that what we need today are more people who play second fiddle. Yes, we need strong leaders out front casting vision, defining the mission, and leading the way. And yes, we need our heroes to cheer who inspire us to be our best. All of my teammates in Little League wanted to be like Hank Aaron.

But in a culture where people clamor for the spotlight perhaps a second look is in order. The backbone of every successful leader, organization, business, and any other worthwhile cause is a dedicated group of people who play second fiddle- the unsung heroes, the real leaders.

So here is to all the second fiddle leaders out there – I write in praise of your leadership. You have conceded the spotlight by putting others in it and by doing so have shown what servant leadership is all about. People may not know your name, or see the tireless contributions you make, but none of it could be done without you.

Al Downing may be a tiny asterisk in the annals of baseball history. But were it not for Al Downing on that April evening 42 years ago you wouldn’t know the history of Hank Aaron. We need more players willing to step up the big leagues and play second fiddle. Are you game?

By the way, the Braves won the game 7-4.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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What’s On Your Success List?

Photo Credit: Google Images

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The story is told of a new bank president who met with his predecessor and said, “I would like to know what have been the keys to your success.” The older gentleman looked at him and replied, “Young man, I can sum it up in two words: Good decisions.” To that the young man responded, “I thank you immensely for that advice, sir, but how does one come to know which are the good decisions?” “One word, young man,” replied the sage. “Experience.” “That’s all well and good,” said the younger, “but how does one get experience?” “Two words,” said the elder. “Bad decisions.”

Years ago, like many I suppose, I was programmed to equate success in terms of what I was able to cross off of my “to-do” list at any given time. As each item that was transcribed onto the list was successfully completed it somehow gave me a sense of accomplishment. But the euphoric feeling didn’t last long as a new list soon replaced it and the process started all over again.

As time went by I began to see and understand the frustration associated with this hamster wheel approach of measuring success. I was running myself ragged checking off “to-do’s” which ultimately culminated with an empty feeling on the inside and little to show for it outside. Can you relate?

Allow me to introduce you to a few ideas from the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller (Order on Amazon at that I believe will empower you as a leader. Konethingeller devotes a powerful chapter to the myth that everything matters equally. Here are three key thoughts worth consideration.

You need a success list not a to-do list

The key thought here is that your to-do list tends to be long whereas your success list tends to be short. “If your to-do list contains everything,” says Keller, “then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.”  Focus more on what you should do and less on what you could do. Keller adds, “Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list- a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.” Your success begins with the way you frame it and define it. Success is not measured by checking off the to-do list, it is measured by what you check off of your success list.

Not everything is equal

Being busy does not necessarily translate into being successful. We succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and we end up chasing rabbits all over the place. In the end, the rabbit wins and you are worn out, frustrated, and empty-handed. Keller observes, “When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.” When you remember that not everything is equal many things can come off your to-do list.

Work from your priorities

Successful people have a clear set of priorities. They think and act different. They have an “eye for the essential.” The crux of the matter, as Keller points out is that “the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionally created by fewer actions than most realize.” Success comes not from a long to-do list you check off one by one, it come from focusing your time, energy, and creativity around a short list that you have prioritized (Pareto’s 80/20 principle). Success is not doing many things half-heartedly, it is achieved by making the list smaller and smaller and pouring yourself into it.

Making the transition from busy to productive to successful comes about as you make your list smaller not larger. It comes from clear priorities and understanding that not everything is equal. Do yourself a favor as a leader and get off the hamster wheel of being busy and start being successful. It will make all the difference in the world.

What’s on your success list?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson





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When Leaders Are Good Bad Examples



Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer

A story is told of when Gen. George C. Marshall took command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA. He found the post in a generally run-down condition. Rather than issue orders for specific improvements, he simply got out his own paintbrushes, lawn equipment, etc., and went to work on his personal quarters. The other officers and men, first on his block, then throughout the post, did the same thing, and Fort Benning was brightened up.

While no one would argue that leadership by example is the best way to lead, unfortunately, we have plenty of leaders who do not. I know the frustration of working with such leaders and the challenges associated with it. It can make life miserable.

Regardless of where your leadership role places you in your organizational structure there are lessons to be learned from bad examples. An article in Inc. magazine ( highlighted some common bad boss behaviors. Here are a few of the findings from the Harris poll: My boss doesn’t talk about my life outside of work, my boss won’t talk on the phone (or in person), my boss doesn’t know my name, my boss takes credit for other’s ideas, and they don’t give clear directions.

Can you identify with any of the cited behaviors? What would you add to the list? Regardless, here is a hard truth I learned some time ago- either change your attitude or change your address. I know that can be a tough pill to swallow especially if you feel trapped without a good viable option. It can be demoralizing. So what is a leader like you to do when your leader sets a good bad example?

Be the example your leader is not

Instead of wasting time focusing on everything that is wrong with the leader in your organization that sets a bad example, make it your priority to do what is right. You are only responsible for your actions, attitudes, and behaviors. What expectations do you have for the leader(s) in your organization? Model it. The best leader is the one who knows how to lead himself.

Be part of the solution

The path of least resistance in your organization is to sing along with the chorus of complainers. It requires little. But if you are going to emerge as a leader worthy of respect then take the high road and be part of the solution. It’s easy to find fault. A leader will seek to find solutions. In the end, your leader who is a bad example may continue to be a bad example, but at least you will have a clear conscience that you did the right thing.

Be understanding of their plight

Leadership is hard. John Maxwell was right when he observed, “It’s lonely at the top so you better know why you are there.” Sometimes we judge the actions and/or behaviors of leaders in our organizations with limited information. Do we really know the whole story or are we simply listening to the latest gossip going around the office? With hard work and determination one day it very well could be you in that position so be careful to not let bad karma come back and bite you. Be understanding and reserve judgment. Your leader is human just like you and you may not know the personal struggles that he or she is going through.

Be intentional about your growth

As a developing leader it is important to be intentional about your growth. From bad leaders in my past I’ve learned valuable lessons that served me well later in life. Uppermost I learned how not to treat people. Your time around a good bad example may not serve any other purpose than that, but learn it. Be observant. Take notice of the good bad examples and their leadership styles and the effects it has on the organization.  We’d all rather be around good leaders who set good examples. But even a bad example can teach you leadership skills. Pay attention.

Brian Tracy said, “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” That is a goal worthy of emulating. Be the leader people want to follow; not the one they have to follow. Be a good example.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson









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The Changing Work Environment Part III: Providing Choice


“I believe happiness is a choice. Some days it is a very difficult choice.” – Steve Gleason 

Our three part series on the changing work environment was inspired by findings in the Staples Advantage Workplace Index ( Findings in the report reveal that half of workers state feeling overworked is motivating them to look for a new job, 62% say wellness programs are a selling point when looking for a new job, but only 35% actually have a wellness program at their current job, 3 out of 4 respondents say their employers don’t give them access to the latest technology to do their job efficiently. You can read more by clicking on the link and reading the full report.

In part III of our series ( In part one we talked about providing flexibility and in part two last week we discussed providing autonomy) on the changing work environment we discuss the importance of providing choice. Employees are not willing to give 100% to a job where they feel trapped. They want opportunity and they want choice.

What does it look like?

In the changing work environment, employees want to know that they have choices. In this new environment management is not dictating ‘how’ everything gets done. Employees are given the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and then they are given the opportunity to make decisions and design how their work gets done to meet the goals of the company. In addition, they are empowered with the training and resources they need to be successful.

Why is it important?

Employees want to know that they are making a valuable contribution to something bigger than themselves; they want to feel truly invested in their work. When employees have choices, they have a sense of control which shows them that their input is valuable. It tells them they are trusted and are important.

Not long ago Glassdoor published its list of the Best Places to Work 2016 (  Topping the list was Airbnb. 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!” That sounds to us like a company that understands the value of their employees and wants them to succeed.

How do we do it?

Providing choice requires management to let go of the control they have clung to in the past. Old habits can be hard to break; here are six ACTION steps to help you think through your current operations and to embrace providing choice.

Accountability – The ebb and flow of an organization that provides flexibility, autonomy, and choice hinges on accountability. Regardless of what the organizational structure looks like or how teams are assembled it all comes down to mutual accountability if it is going to succeed.

Collaborate – In this changing work environment collaboration may take on a new look as well. Your box approach to thinking may now look more like a circle that makes room for more people, new ideas, and greater potential. If your workplace environment changes so too must the way you work with others also change.

Train – John Maxwell said, “The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.” This is so true in the changing work environment. Training is essential not just for your success today but how you will look and operate five years from now and beyond.

Inspire – What your people need to see as they embrace a new work environment is greater ownership, greater opportunity for growth, and more control over their future. Inspire your people to the possibilities before them and remind them of it often.

Opportunity – The changing workplace environment can be frightening for people who have no voice in the direction they are going or have not bought-in to the vision. If one’s opportunity is not clear to them they will be the last to embrace change. Be vocal, be clear, and be out front with the opportunities that exist and for the ones they will create.

Now – The time for creating this new workplace environment is now. And we would like to remind you of what we advised in part one of this series. Take baby steps and tackle one or two small changes that you can implement right away. Be intentional about your changes and make them gradually. Include your people when charting the course. But get started!


© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Liz Stincelli


lizLiz 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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The Changing Work Environment Part II: Providing Autonomy

Cubes - 267 - AUTONOMY

“The way you delegate is that first you have to hire people that you really have confidence in. You won’t truly let those people feel a sense of autonomy if you don’t have confidence in them.” – Robert Pozen


In part II of our series on the changing work environment we tackle the topic of autonomy. Gone are the days when employees were willing to show up at the factory, follow orders being dictated by management, collect a paycheck, and then do it all again tomorrow. Employees aren’t mindless machines and they don’t want to be treated as such. 

What does it look like?

In the changing work environment, employees are demanding more autonomy. In this new environment, employees have control over how their own work tasks get accomplished. They are trusted and encouraged to make decisions and to act in the best interest of the organization without being micromanaged.

Why is it important?

Providing autonomy shows employees that you have confidence in their judgment and ability. This inspires employees to take ownership of their work. When employees have control over their own work they are more satisfied, they take pride in the contribution, and they become loyally invested in the success of their team, department, and organization.

How do we do it?

Many management teams struggle to let go of the control they have become accustomed to for all of these years. Old ways and mindsets can be hard to overcome. Here are six ACTION steps to help you think through your current operations and to embrace autonomy.

Acknowledge the challenge of autonomy. It is critical here to understand the difference between the autonomy of the work while remaining true to the mission and vision of the organization. The two are not in competition but when done right are a compliment to one another.

Coalesce around the best ideas for autonomy. The mistake leaders make is that their idea of how it looks should prevail. But as one company leader explained it, “The one who sweeps the floor picks the broom.” How autonomy looks in your organization should be determined by those closest to the work.

Tweak along the way. Ideas that look good on paper may not play out well in reality. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board as you flesh out what is and is not working for you. There is no “one size fits all” approach for how autonomy works. The key here is to be flexible and be willing to make adjustments as needed.

Invest in their success. Greater autonomy in the workplace is reinforced by leaders who have the backs of their people by empowering them and setting them up for success. Invest in your people. Put the tools and resources in their hands they need to succeed. The greater the investment the greater the autonomy. Be generous.

Ownership is a requirement. Embracing the autonomous workplace is great. But now comes the buy-in that makes it all work. Ownership, like loyalty, is a two-way street. In this model ownership is shared, trust is mutual, expectations are clear, and outcomes are measured. It’s an “all-in” attitude that if not fully subscribed to will derail all efforts of a truly autonomous workplace. Without ownership there is no autonomy.

Next Step – In order to attract and retain the best talent, your organization must offer a level of autonomy. You must provide your employees with the training and resources they need to be successful and then you must step aside and allow them to do their jobs. Show them that you have confidence in them. But, you can’t stop here. Once you have acknowledged the attitudes that are holding you back; have intentionally created a workplace culture; shown employees that you trust them; have identified incremental changes you can make; and observed the impact of those changes, it’s time to take the next step.

Be on the lookout next week for part III of The Changing Work Environment Series: Providing Choice.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Liz Stincelli


lizLiz 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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The Leaders Without Borders Coaching Program

Front Cover_Leaders Without BordersNew Session Begins September 12th!

Across the country students are preparing to go back to school.  But what about you? Now is the time to enroll in my 9 week leadership coaching program! Check out the information below. Space is limited so the time to act is now!

The Leaders Without Borders Coaching Program

After more than thirty years in leadership positions I am pleased to announce to you an opportunity for one-on-one leadership training and coaching for you or your team.

Taken from the pages of my book Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, (Foreword by Mark Sanborn) I bring home the leadership skills you and your team need to move forward.

Here are two realities you are up against:

  • A recent Gallop Business Journal survey not long ago reported that only 30% of U.S. employees (and 13% worldwide), are engaged. Getting your employees engaged and building a corporate culture that thrives can be a challenge. How do you think that type of engagement impacts your place of business? How different would things look if that number increased for you?
  • Writing in the Harvard Business Review, John Zenger, CEO of the Zenger/Folkman leadership development consultancy reports that the average age of supervisors receiving any type of leadership training was 42. More than half were between 36 and 49. Less than 10% were under 30; less than 5% were under 27. Think about that for a moment. If they are not entering leadership training programs until they are 43, they are getting no leadership training at all as supervisors. And they are operating within that company untrained, on average, for over a decade.

But what is a leader like you to do? Your obstacles to this dilemma are two-fold – time and money. Where do you find the time to send your team members to get the training they need? While the desire may be there, often time the resources you need are not. Conferences can be pricey once you factor in registration fees, travel, and hotels, and lost productivity being away from work. Many well-meaning leaders like yourself who would like to empower their employees don’t have the access to leadership training that can help because of these two factors—but, help is on the way!

My book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, serves as the textbook for the 9 week leadership training course you need. The nine chapters address foundational leadership principles that will enrich and awaken the leadership skills that can improve your people both personally and professionally. The nine leadership principles outlined in the book are: passion, priorities, optimism, teamwork, attitude, authenticity, loyalty, kindness, and legacy.

Here is how it works:

*Upon registration, participants will receive a copy of the book. Participants will be assigned one chapter per week to read and will be emailed a set of corresponding questions, outside reading assignments, videos to watch, and evaluations to work on.

*Participants will have a one hour session with me each week live via Google Hangout/Skype where I will serve as their personal leadership coach to discuss their assignments and develop their skills.

Upon completion of the course each participant will receive a certificate and a copy of my latest book, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, a daily motivational leadership read for the entire year.

As stated before, workshops and conferences can be expensive. My desire is to make leadership training not only effective and empowering, but affordable. My desire is to awaken the leadership skills within your people, to close the engagement gap within your organization, and help you get a jumpstart on the training for everyone in your organization. Simply put, I want to add value to you and your team!

The leadership training you desire coupled with the convenience of not having to travel off-site, and equipping your team and raising up leaders is now within your reach!

Now is the time to take action and enroll as an individual or members of your team.

Email me today at: or call  843.509.5104 for pricing and scheduling.

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