When Your Process Replaces Your People


When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home. – Betty Bender

John Maxwell shares one of my favorite stories about a turkey chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” the turkey sighs, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch on the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.

The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

While the story is humorous the ramifications of it in the way it plays out in the workplace is not. Unfortunately, many employees feel that they are getting BS from their employers. Let me be clear: strong employee engagement is essential to your success in business. And yes, all businesses want a healthy bottom line and rightfully so. But what happens if your business places its processes over its people? Here are three consequences you will potentially face unless you change.

Fractured relationships

It’s been said that people are your most appreciable asset. But when your bottom line becomes your most coveted resource then you have issues. The most essential ingredient to the success of your organization is not having the best business model, location, marketing, or product. It’s your people. They are the life-blood of your organization and the face of your brand. If you only see your people as a means to an end (your bottom line) then you are using your people.

If relationships with your people are fractured the rhythm of your business will suffer. Don’t expect your people to buy-in to your product until you have bought-in to your people. Until you get this right nothing else will be.

Divided loyalties

Here’s the rub: Your people want to be a part of an organization and service that they believe in and have a connection with. They want to be a part of something that is meaningful and contribute in a way that makes a difference. But when their good intentions brush up against a ‘process over people’ mentality it creates division.

Now your people have divided loyalties between liking the service they render and the people they serve and those who are calling the shots. If divided loyalties are widespread among your people then your processes have failed you.

Revolving doors

It’s been said that people don’t quit organizations they quit bosses (leaders). If the execution of your leadership is grounded in policies and procedures over relationships and teamwork then expect high turnover. Simply put; rules over relationship breeds rebellion. Eventually there comes a tipping point when your best and brightest will vote with their feet and find the door.

Let me be clear – boundaries are important and there is a place for policies. But policies and procedures should complement the work of your people and their productivity, not stand in the way of it.

Your organizational culture is tied to your employee engagement. Such fallout as articulated here due to poor employee engagement does not have to define your organization. But whether it does or not is on you as the leader.

Your path forward begins by recognizing that your people are your most valuable and appreciable asset. To that end you must recognize relationships and communication for what is it is – the heartbeat of your organization. Be committed to serving your people, building relationships, and developing leaders. At the end of the day, had you rather be known as the organization with great policies or great people?

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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Five Excuses That Kill Accountability with guest co-author Elizabeth Stincelli


The problem that we have with a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. Because of this, our spirit is poisoned instead of nourished.” – Steve Maraboli

As a leader there are few things more important than creating a strong and healthy organizational culture for your employees to thrive in. It’s up to you as the leader to be proactive and take the lead in developing the organizational climate you wish to have.

Unfortunately, many harmful behaviors threaten the fabric of the culture that you are trying to create. These behaviors include bullying, manipulation, office politics, etc., and they each pose a real threat. But there is one in particular that we would like to address – so here is our question: Is a victim mentality preventing accountability in your organization?

No doubt there are accountability measures in place within your organization that serve to track performance and measure each person’s progress. Accountability measures are healthy and necessary and keep everyone focused on shared goals and outcomes.

But what happens when a team member perpetuates a victim mentality? What does it sounds like? Here are five common claims that will give you some insight.

It’s not fair

The “it’s not fair” mantra is perhaps the oldest one in the book. It can be used when an employee feels that his or her work has gone unnoticed, was passed over for a raise or promotion, or has made an improper comparison of the value of their work in relation to a colleague. Whether justified or not, this feeling of being on the receiving end of unfair treatment is a source of concern. As a leader it is up to you to address it. Accountability makes sense when each person on the team has a clear picture of the value they bring to the organization. Don’t let an employee’s feelings of being slighted go unanswered.  When they see and understand their importance they will not see accountability as a threat.

Finger pointing

Finger pointing is so destructive because it’s so easy. It’s the first gesture of the least accountable. Yet sadly, the blame game is alive and well. But clear expectations of employee performance along with useful accountability guidelines will go a long way toward bringing an end to finger pointing and fault-finding. As a leader, you must take ownership of these expectations. When employees can build a collaborative team environment around the idea that “we are in this together”, it can unleash everything that is good and creative about your people. Finger pointing now gives way to mutual accountability, and fault-finding takes a back seat to an “I’ve got your back” mentality. Which would you rather have?

It’s Not My Job

When employees have the mindset that they are only responsible for specific, outlined tasks, it is easy for them to dodge accountability with the simple statement, ‘it’s not my job’. The most effective organizations are the ones where everyone has the opportunity to make an impact. As a leader, you must create a culture of collaboration and teamwork where everyone feels they have a vested interest in the outcome. Let employees see you roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done regardless of your formal job description. Achieve accountability by replacing the mindset of ‘it’s not my job’ with ‘I benefit when everyone participates as a whole’.

Feeling Powerless

Employees will not take accountability for decisions or tasks which they feel they have no control over. As a leader, you must provide employees with pertinent information and encourage them to ask questions. Then, give them the power to make decisions and design how their work gets done.  Accountability will increase dramatically when employees are given power and control over their own work.

Denying Responsibility

Employees often deny responsibility out of fear or frustration. They fear the repercussions for failure or they are frustrated by a lack of clear expectations and control over their work. As a leader, you must create a team mentality. Help employees understand that when one team member fails to carry their weight, they drag down the performance of the whole team. Inspire in them shared values and clearly communicate expectations. Teach problem solving and creative conflict resolution skills throughout your organization. Increase accountability by removing the fear of failure and building employee confidence by giving them a sense of control.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop a culture that encourages accountability and discourages a victim mentality. If your employees willingly accept accountability for their decisions and actions, your organizational effectiveness will skyrocket.

© 2015 Doug Dickerson & Elizabeth Stincelli


*Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com You can contact her by email at stincelliadvisors@gmail.com.

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Are You a Leader With an Identity Crisis?


Getting in touch with your real self must be your first priority. – Tom Hopkins

A story is told of the renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore who lost his passport while traveling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass.

The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word.

It cannot be overstated how important your identity is as a leader. If you have a false sense of identity it will create a void in your leadership that will hurt you. Understanding your identity is Leadership 101 but if you don’t get this you will pay a price.

Are you a leader with an identity crisis? Here are three ways to find out.

You rely on your title instead of your values

This is a common mistake with new leaders. Leaders who do this tend to overplay their hand because they think their title or position carries enough clout to lead. This approach is an identity crisis waiting to happen. Here’ why.

When your values and character take a back seat to a title or position then it’s likely that you will wash out at some point. In, The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell states, “Your values are the soul of your leadership and they drive your behavior.” And this is the crux of your identity. Better to hold tight to your values than try to muscle your way to the top without them.

Key takeaway: In the end, what defines you as a leader is not your title or position; it’s your character and values. Whenever you confuse the two you are having an identity crisis.

You rely on rules instead of relationships

Leaders who rely squarely on their title as a means to enforce their rules tend to miss the big picture about relationships. Its been said that rules without relationships breeds rebellion. And when you are more concerned about dictating rules and regulations than you are about building relationships then you are a leader with an identity crisis. Here’s why this matters.

People tend to follow leaders they like and respect. If your people only see you as the office Sherriff and not someone they can relate to on a personal level then you are depreciating your potential as a leader. At the end of the day your people want a leader they can relate to not one that they fear.

Key takeaway: When you are heavy on relationships you can be light on the rules.  Now you can devote your time and energy to what matters most – your people and your shared success.

You rely on receiving instead of giving

The magnitude and duration of your identity crisis in leadership is contingent upon learning these basic tenants. In short; it’s not about you. The depth, length, and reach of your leadership will never be measured by what you receive but by what you give. Here’s why it matters.

Leaders are givers. True leadership is about reproducing and raising up more leaders – not more followers. When this truth comes to light it creates a paradigm shift in your thinking, your actions, and your motives. J. Donald Walters expressed it this way, “Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.” Do the math: Creating more followers is about addition. Creating more leaders is about multiplication.

Key takeaway: Be generous. Don’t measure your success as a leader by accolades or plaques, but by how you invested your time, talents, and treasure in the lives of those you served.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson




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The Two Faces of Conflict


The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. – Thomas Paine

A story is told of two men who lived in a small village that got into a terrible dispute. They could not resolve it so they decided to talk to the town sage. The first man went to the sage’s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, “You’re absolutely right.” The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, “You’re absolutely right.” Afterward, the sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible, they can’t both be absolutely right.” The sage turned to his wife and said, “You’re absolutely right.”

Leaders know a thing or two about conflict. And most don’t like it. But conflict or “storming” as I once heard it described, can be beneficial if handled the right way. Much of what you hear in leadership or management circles focuses on conflict “resolution” which is based largely off the belief that conflict is always harmful. But is it? Can an organization embrace a healthy form of conflict that works for the organization in a positive way? I believe so. Here are two key lessons about conflict and their characteristics that you need to know.

The conflict that divides us

There is no denying that unresolved conflict can be very detrimental to an organization.  But a greater question needs to be addressed. Do you want the conflict to go away as quick as possible because it makes you uncomfortable or do you want to get to the root of the problem? A Band-Aid approach will not help you in the long run. What are some of the characteristics of the conflict that divides us? Here are a few:

  1. Clashing values. One of the most significant causes of conflict that divides organizations happens over clashing values. When values are not clear, not embraced, or are compromised then the end result will be unhealthy conflict.
  2. Personal agendas. If the people within your organization place their personal agendas over the mission of the organization then conflict that divides will exist. If your people are score-keepers and are only interested in what’s in it for them then perpetual conflict will ruin your organization.
  3. Lack of trust. Most conflict that divides any organization at its root is a trust issue. If team members do not feel they can trust each other- or their leader, then conflict is inevitable. Conflict is the language of lost trust.

The conflict that unites us

As already mentioned, I do not believe all conflict is harmful. If we do not understand the source of conflict that divides us we will have a hard time understanding conflict that can unite us. So how do we make the connection and rally around conflict or ‘storming’ that can bring us together? Here are a few ways:

  1. Mutual trust and respect. It all comes back to trust. If conflict that divides is the language of lost trust then mutual trust and respect is the language that unites us. Values must be clear, mutual, and fully subscribed to in order to move forward as a unified team. Honesty is the key word for conflict that unites.
  2. A focus on what’s best for the team. When personal agendas are set aside for what is best for the organization then every ‘storming’ session is about what’s best for all of us rather than just one. The airing out of ideas then becomes team focused which creates an atmosphere where, because of trust, a free-flow of best ideas can be voiced and no one is threatened. Differences of opinion or approach are now welcomed because no one is questioning motives. It can breathe new life into your organization and creativity can flourish.
  3. Principled leadership. “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says John Maxwell. It is incumbent upon leaders to position their organizations in a way that fosters healthy conflict by means of mutual trust and respect and open communication. Values must be clear and everyone must be engaged.

Healthy conflict can thrive within your organization but it won’t happen unless there is a principled leader in place who understands the difference. Not all conflict is harmful and not all of it is helpful, but hopefully now you have a better understanding of the two.

What do you say?

© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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Turning Your Stress into Success


When the pressure is on, great leaders are at their best. Whatever is inside them comes to the surface. – John Maxwell

A story is told of actress Carol Burnett who got out of a cab one day and caught her coat in the door. The driver was unaware of her plight and slowly began to edge out into traffic. To keep from being pulled off her feet, the comedienne had to run alongside down the block.

A passerby noted her predicament and quickly alerted the driver. He stopped, jumped out, and released Miss Burnett’s coat. “Are you all right?” he asked anxiously. “Yes,” she gasped, “but how much more do I owe you?”

That light-hearted story shows a humorous way of responding to what could have been a not-so-funny outcome. In our world as leaders we can find ourselves in stressful situations. How it’s handled matters.

It’s not a secret that the stress in the workplace is on the rise. In a recent study by Nielsen (http://bit.ly/1CUMamt), 80% of U.S. workers said they can identify at least one thing that stresses them at work. The stress factors include low salaries, intense workloads, and taxing commutes to name a few.

Great leaders are those who, when under pressure, step up and deliver in spite of the stress. Of course this is easier said than done. So what should a leader do when he or she is in the pressure cooker? Here are three approaches.

Put your stress into context

At times we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to the stress. For instance; we procrastinate on an important deadline and are now scrambling to complete at the last minute. We allow our imaginations to run wild with scenarios we create that adds fuel to the fire. Your workload is doubled without warning and there’s no extra help. We speculate in “what if’s” and get worked up over hypotheticals. It all adds up to one thing: stress! Can you relate?

The best thing you can do as a leader is to put your stress in context. You may be overwhelmed or feel that your current “crisis” is about to sink you. Allow me to make a suggestion – take a step back and take a deep breath. Look at the big picture. It may not be as big a deal as you think. If it is…keep reading.

Get a game plan

Establishing context about your stress is essential. A game plan is a way out. Here is a simple formula to help you get your game plan ready: W (What I am stressed about?) +W (why I am stressed?)+W (What can I do about it?) = S (Success). Get some paper and begin to work on your plan. Here’s how.

First, identify your stress. Is it a personnel issue? Is there a breakdown in organizational structure or communication? Is it a personal issue? How is this stress impacting your ability to lead? Regardless of where it takes you, figure it out. Second, now that you know what it is, you need to figure out why it is stressing you. What are the immediate consequences of your stress? Is this stress an imminent threat to your organization or personal life? Etc…  Finally, write out what you can do about it. What are the top two or three action steps you can implement immediately that can help? Is there someone who can help you? Do they need to?  Keep in mind, there may not be anything you or anyone else can do about it. In such case, you have to change your attitude toward it. Now that you have a plan – work it!

Apply your lessons

Smart leaders are out-front leaders. You will never avoid stress as a leader so learning how to deal with it will make a world of difference. Smart leaders know how to manage their stress and the negative impacts it can make across the spectrum of your organization.

Every stressful situation is a test and whether you pass or fail depends on your approach. Not all stress is self-inflicted, and not all reactions merit the same response. Smart leaders apply the lessons and learn from it.

Success over stress is all about your context, your game plan, and your attitude. Choose wisely!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson




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Leadership By The Numbers


Leadership By The Numbers is my new book release exclusively with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing!

In Leadership By The Numbers you will learn ten powerful leadership lessons to help you grow as a more effective leader. Do you know how to handle your critics? What are the some of the most important habits of kind leaders? How do you map your future as a leader? In this new release I share my insights and answer these questions and more!

In Leadership By The Numbers it all adds up to one thing – adding value and helping you grow as a leader.

You can download the book now at Amazon for just $3.99! Click on the link and make your purchase today!

Order here:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SQMLHTC


* This post has been re-sent to you due to a link connection issue that has now been resolved. Thank you!

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Five Routines for Growing Leaders

Composite of Clock and Calendar

There is comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers. – Deborah Norville

I came across a fascinating article in Business Insider (http://read.bi/155XpL3) about the daily routines of 16 famous creative people. The article featured the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, Maya Angelou, and Victor Hugo to name a few.

What were some of the more peculiar routines? Beethoven’s day began with breakfast which consisted of coffee which he prepared himself. He determined that there should be 60 beans per cup, and he often counted them out one by one for a precise dose.

Victor Hugo would start the day by taking a public ice bath. Charles Darwin’s focused work would be interrupted by occasional trips to the snuff jar. Honore´ de Balzac would spend a large majority of his day writing with the help of upwards to 50 cups of black coffee.

Insights into the routines of these creative people prompted me to think about the necessary disciplines for growing leaders. Your growth as a leader is not a passive and disengaged process. Not if you want to grow.

Over the years I have found routines that have worked for me. It has little to do with whether you are a morning person or a night person, a social butterfly or prefer to be alone. What is the tipping point? The disciplines you develop today will determine the type of leader you will become tomorrow. Here are five routines – leadership vitamins if you will, that will help you grow into a healthy leader.

The routine of reading

Leaders are readers. Fortunately, I come from a long line of readers and writers. It was in those formative years, and despite my struggles with dyslexia, where I formed a love for reading that stuck. If you want to grow as a leader there is no better way or place to start than with a good book. When reading is a priority then your leadership growth will be automatic.

The routine of listening

The older I get the more I realize just how much I don’t know. I’ve discovered that there is no better way to learn than to be an engaged and active listener. In many circles you will find active and engaged talkers, and there is a time and a place to talk, but for the leader who wants to grow, he or she will listen more and talk less.

The routine of reflection

Growing leaders take the time to reflect. Through the course of each day you come across dozens of people, make important decisions, and often it’s done on the spur of the moment. Reflection time affords you the chance to measure your progress. Don’t know where to start? At the end of the day try answering these questions: Where did I add value today? How was my attitude? Who needs my encouragement? Etc…  Reflection can also include prayer and meditation to replenish the soul.

The routine of exercise

I’ve touched on this before but it’s worth repeating. Healthy leaders are productive leaders. Exercise should be an integral part of your daily agenda as a leader. It’s good for your body and mind and it gets your creative juices flowing. Include in this routine healthier eating habits. A proper diet and exercise are the fuels you need to grow as a leader.

The routine of staying connected

Growing leaders are connected leaders. It’s through the growth and development of your personal and professional relationships that you mature. Being connected gives you a sense of community but it also runs deeper. It’s when you are able to let your guard down, take your mask off and be vulnerable, that you can truly see growth as a leader. Are you a detached leader? If so, then get connected- your growth depends on it.

What are you your leadership routines?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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