My Soapbox: Trust, Accountability, Empowerment: All that matters

Building relationships based on respect

People who have worked with me before have heard me on this particular soapbox quite a bit and for those I will suggest maybe they don’t need to read this particular blog. There will be nothing new here. That said, it is perhaps because I continue to hear stories from great talent I have met around the world that are working with people that still do not get it.

It is for these people that I write this blog.

Executives get busy and they get stressed. Markets start to squeeze and pressure mounts, causing many to revert to the old command and control techniques they used in prior decades. When the kitchen heats up, they forget the basics. I believe some need to be reminded of a basic principle that should be obvious to all: Organizations are successful when there is a strong relationship of respect among leaders at all levels.

Now, before I go further, let me be absolutely clear: effective leadership requires adapting your style from time to time to appropriately handle a given challenge. There are times for diplomacy, inclusion, and democracy (e.g., complex problem), and there are times for command and control (e.g., during an urgent crisis). However, underlying your leadership style, and regardless of the type of problem, the relationship of respect must prevail.

A relationship of respect requires three key elements: trust, accountability, and empowerment.

Every team that has worked with me over the past decade will have heard me speak explicitly of the three simple things that I feel are the most important elements of effective, increasingly global, teams. I sincerely hope that those that worked with me before that will see in this blog some of the elements of our team work that worked best even if we never put it to words.

Trust. Accountability. Empowerment.

You will notice that none of them involve bureaucracy, centralization, or added layers without added value! It also does not require being “nice”.


Trust: We must build and maintain levels of trust across borders and business units, recognizing the unique strengths and backgrounds of each individual. In companies that are complex, especially with multiple business units and geographies, the absence of trust can cause money, time, and valuable resources to be wasted on duplicated efforts.

Accountability: We must be a respectful organization and a collegiate one, but all of us must be held accountable as well. Accountability goes hand in hand with trust. When we all understand each other’s respective areas of responsibility and accountability, we create a culture of trust, and we can focus on the services and solutions we deliver and the goals we want to achieve without distraction.

It is important to note that accountability is as much about what is accomplished as it is about how it is accomplished. If you’re an a-hole, regardless of your delivery skills, people will find it hard to trust you and the relationship of respect will be difficult.

Empowerment-Zone.jpg.728x520_q85Empowerment: People must be allowed to make decisions and drive change without being micromanaged and without needing to get multiple approvals; they must be allowed to be leaders. Just as importantly, we must enable those whom we empower. Power without training is not a formula for success. Empowerment is about giving a person the ability to manage something tangible that adds value, but also about working with that individual to help him or her succeed.

Leadership is not easy, and successful teams are elusive to many people. But, with some basic focus on respect and these key principles, you will at minimum have the right foundation for success.

Be Well. Lead On.


Follow me on Twitter
Connect with me on Linked In
“Like” me on Facebook
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in


Ready. Aim. Do it.

A New Beginning

Every day is a new beginning. All of life provides opportunities for new beginnings. Whatever has gone wrong, or right, in your life, you can begin again.
Jonathan L. Huie

New beginnings can be nerve wrecking. You spend years building a team, finding the people you can trust to get things done and do so in a values based manner. You drive strategy and create value for shareholders. And you check off so many boxes, proudly getting to a point where you can finally rest and look at the great things you and the team created …. and then you move on to the next challenge.

YIKES!! So much for resting.

“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time” Arnold H. Glasgow

If I’m honest with myself, I will admit that I will likely never get to truly resting until retirement (target TBD). The fact is, I love gnarly, complex, global challenges and am thankful I have found that in my new role.

Leaders at All Levels

Top 12 Quotes on LeadershipI am incredibly excited about this new adventure and will enjoy getting to meet the new teams around the world. One concept I have constantly addressed that I expect will be highly relevant here is the fact that everyone in today’s technology organizations must be leaders. From time to time, everyone will be called on to make decisions, act independantly, and respond to crises without time to go up the chain for days.

You can’t always wait for the guys at the top. Every manager at every level in the organization has an opportunity, big or small, to do something. Every manager’s got some sphere of autonomy. Don’t pass the buck up the line.
Bob Anderson

I blogged about this a while back with “Leaders at All Levels”



I LOVE Chicago, the place I have called home for so many years. And I love having the opportunity to give back to the community in which I love. Living in London over the past two years was an amazing adventure, the opportunity to more deeply explore another great city, and to work with colleagues in other European cities. While my prior role required that I moved to London for a while, I am confident that the relationships I built in Chicago will continue to grow. And, of course, I hope to see many of my friends from London throughout the year. Visit!!

As Marilyn Monroe said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” So I expect my friends to trek on over to see me from time to time, share a lager or a cup of coffee, and warm my heart with their presence!

Let’s Go

Two great quotes come to mind as I contemplate the week ahead and my new adventure:

“If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work is an inanimate thing and can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it. Your job is only as big as you are.” George C. Hubbs

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Henry Ford

I’ve enjoyed my time to reflect on the good and bad aspects of my prior leadership role, and the opportunity to give back via non-profit and civic consulting. But it’s time to go back to corporate, tackle this new and exciting challenge, and meet a new batch of great people with whom I hope to build something great.

Be Well. Lead On.


Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ALSWharton
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in

Adam at Sunset

This blog is a revision of a prior post.

My soapbox: Aim for life connections instead of networking


Networking or making life connectionsI met someone this afternoon with whom I truly felt an immediate connection. It was scheduled to be a “career conversation” but instead was an open introduction, over tea, and very casual. The conversation reminded me of a question someone asked me recently: “How can I get better at networking like you?” Those who truly know me realize just how much this question disturbs me. But to many, this would be considered flattery. I do not consider it so at all.

The fact is, I am not a networker. In fact, I detest networking.

Networking is to me a very clinical term, and reminds me of the technology of networking. I know that like various applications in a bank, I am connected to various people. Some linkages were planned and chosen carefully, others stepped in to a role that was by default in my network. Within a network, we depend on each other to work and do our part, and if one portion of the network is significantly damaged, the rest of the network is damaged. I know that to some extent, my success depends on others in the network being able to carry something from me and me in exchange carrying something back. Networking is a fact of corporate (and community) life. However …

I am not a circuit or a router. I am a human being.

When I am in my final minutes of life, perhaps I will think to myself, “If only I had made that one additional link that would have opened up my network to another dimension!” Of course not! I like people. (Of all types! Really! Click here for a blog I wrote on the topic, noting that yes, I even love jerks and *€$holes. I just don’t necessarily want to work with them.) In any corporate network, there must be someone that is necessary but not wanted. God, I never want to be that person.

I prefer to make life connections.

Life connections are not always about business. Some examples:

– Getting to know all of the bartenders at the Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in London. Learning how each came from their home countries of Italy, Russia, and elsewhere, to London and why they are so passionate about cocktails. Enjoying a laugh or two whilst enjoying a cocktail or three. Side bonus: I have been introduced to a popular chef/mixologist in my hometown of Chicago for when I return. Plus, the Artesian has become a great place I can bring clients, colleagues, and other connections.

– Building a relationship of trust with my vendor partners and colleagues whereby they share personal details of their lives with me and allow me into their world. Sharing a good meal and a great bottle of wine with no talk of contracts or issues. Side bonus: we find connections we did not know existed and ways in which we can help each other out in so many more ways that traditional sourcing relationships. And, as we move to different roles in different organizations, we can call on each other for advice and support.

– Introducing two people, not because I think they can help each other, but because I just think they are both just really really cool people. Watching them get to know each other and become friends. Side bonus: people have done the same to me, bringing some of the most wonderful people I currently know into my life.

– Having a cocktail party at my house with a mixture of people I have met through work, the neighborhood coffee shop, and other connection points. Looking around and seeing there are people from five different countries with incomes and careers as diverse as chalk and cheese. Witnessing how they all learn from each other: new recipes, fashion styles, tax policy changes, technologies, dating schemes, relationship tips…. Side bonus: Learning myself about all of the above!

Many people will classify the above as examples of networking, and perhaps they are. And, to be clear, I’m not necessarily against networking entirely. I just think it is critical people start with the right perspective. And be honest! If you really just want to meet me for what I can do for you, or who I can introduce, just come out and say it. At least you will save some time! But, I encourage you to take some time to get to know yourself better, enjoy meeting people just because, and see the amazing things that will come out of your connections forged by respect, trust, and integrity. It is amazing how much more one can get from a relationship when he leads from the heart and the mind.

Enough! Off the soapbox, here is some reading …

For those of you who REALLY want to get good at Networking, especially the shy ones, here is a decent CIO magazine article on the topic.

For those of you who like me want to learn how to be a better person and know that success that comes from good just feels better inside, there are a couple of good links for you. Yes, they are a bit kooky. And there will be some who succeed despite being downright bad people (I can name a few.) But, I choose to succeed, or fail, with my values intact. Here are a few links for you:
24 ways to be a better person
How to be a good person in 5 steps

And for those few out there (certainly not a regular reader of my rants) that are downright sinister and yet deep down feel they want to be good, there is even some help for you. I found this one both intriguing and humorous.

Thanks for reading another soapbox rant. I would love to hear what you think about networking and making life connections.

Be Well. Lead On.


Follow me on Twitter
Connect with me on Linked In
“Like” me on Facebook
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in


Lessons from Henry V … Leadership Inspiration

Looking for inspiration in history (and movies …)

In a recent leadership course sponsored by my employer, we used The story of Henry V and the battle at Agincourt as a metaphor for leadership. I have watched this video of his speech to the troops every day since then and wanted to share it with you. It provides me with inspiration and hopefully some potential tools I can use to take my troops into battle every day: humility, decisive leadership, participative decision making, scenario planning, and clear articulation of vision and objectives are but a few reasons Henry V prevailed against overwhelming odds.

For a great synopsis on leadership lessons from this battle, read the article found on Knowledge@Wharton, from my alma mater. Enjoy the video clip and let me know what lessons you think are learned from his speech or the battle itself.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Be Well. Lead On.


Follow me on Twitter
Connect with me on Linked In
“Like” me on Facebook
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in


My Soapbox: Take talent personally

Talent should be on the agenda and objectives of every leader at every level, every day, and in every organisation

Talent Matters.

I recently went on the soapbox when a conversation was started about forming a committee to work on ways to identify and develop strong talent. It’s clearly not because I do not find the goal relevant. In fact, I think Talent should be on the agenda and objectives of every leader at every level, every day, and in every organisation. That is the only way to be successful. Committees formed formally to focus on talent, regardless of intent, simply do not work without concerted action and interest from leaders with true desire to manage and grow talent. And, worse, the experience for those on such committess can be downright disheartening if they feel they are part of an academic exercise that in the end does not matter. Talent matters!

I want each of my leaders to feel excited thinking about what they are doing for their teams. What opportunities are we finding for them to stretch and be rewarded? To train them and coach them? To sell them for career enhancing roles with peers and other teams (or even other firms) even if it means losing a critical resource in our world? Talent matters!

I view every top performer in my team as a future CIO, CTO, or executive. I LOVE being able to share stories of individuals who worked with me at some point and rose through the ranks to take on major leadership roles around the world. Love it! And I firmly believe that the only reason I have been successful (or recovered quickly from failures) is because I try desperately to hire strong, develop well, and appreciate greatly. Talent matters!!

Anyone that knows me recognises that I tend to hate governance and I disdain committees. I frown on talking and planning talent development “initiatives” unless I see the signs of true interest and passion. Because a committee or initiative without passion is …. sadly, like many many many leadership teams in the corporate world … just bureaucracy.

Just my soapbox for the week. Thanks for listening. And, one more time, as I hope you’ll agree … Talent Matters!!

Be Well. Lead On.


I pledge to listen harder.
Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Follow me on Twitter
Connect with me on Linked In
“Like” me on Facebook
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in

Top Traits: Fun to Work With


Defining the perfect employees

Let’s face it, for most people work is a means to an end. You work so that you can eat, keep your brain active, connect with other people, learn, or reach some apex in your ambitious plan to take over the world…. Whatever the reason, for very few people work is about finding intense joy and personal satisfaction every hour of every day. That is simply not reality. But, like any other required part of our lives, we can choose how we want to handle work. We can come in every day, do what is required, talk to nobody, and leave. Or we can bring a smile into the office, do our jobs and encourage others to do theirs, and try to bring fun into what can be otherwise mundane or stressful.

I worked with someone for years that was by far the very best at a particular function. This individual was 1)Both talented and hard working, and 2)showed a true pride in the products he created…..good so far, right? If you’ve read my two preceding “Top Traits” blogs, you’d say he is a perfect employee. But wait! This person was so depressing, so negative, and so, well, just not fun! There were days where despite the value I could get out of a conversation, I could simply not do it. It would drag me down into a depression instead of inspiring me to be better. Like the Dementor guards of the Azkaban prison in the Harry Potter movies, this kind of person can simply suck the soul out of a team, an office, or a company. Which brings me to my third top trait ….

… Trait # 3 – Fun to Work WithFun People

If you’ve done interviews, you’ve perhaps been asked to assess “fit” with the culture of your particular company. When I started my career, I thought those interviews were inappropriate. Fit translated into Golf Club network, family connections, and politics. But as I advanced, I realised more and more that fit can make or break a leader. A leader whose style is perfect at one place will bomb elsewhere. So, to be clear, being fun isn’t always going to make you successful. You still must deliver. This is my personal opinion and what I personally look for. I want employees that are fun to work with. Period.

What I like

There are some people that simply bring joy to the office. They bring smiles, jokes, the occasional cupcake or brownie …. They bring personality and just enough of themselves to break down barriers and create a culture of openness that makes work more rewarding.

I’m not talking about class clown, chronic joking, or distraction. I’m talking about balancing the “what” with the “how”. Say you have a complex team challenge that must get done in 24 hours. You have to work pretty hard to get it done and, especially as a leader, you can be a humourless tyrant and slave driver. Or you can be an inspirational and personable motivator. I’m choosing to be the latter.

I recently spent time with some of our colleagues managing technology in Europe. During the evening, we had a team dinner and drinks and I had the opportunity to get to know the Poland, Spain and Italy leaders. We laughed, joked, and had a really great time but occasionally someone would bring up a problem facing our firm and I would ask for a recommended solution. What amazed me is how smart the team was at coming up with ideas but at the same time they were having fun and enjoying being together. That’s the kind of team I want!

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable


When I’m having a funk of a day, I either stay home or avoid meetings. Smiles are contagious, I truly believe that. So if I can’t bring a genuine smile to the office, I try desperately to avoid contact with people! We can’t expect everyone to be happy all the time, but as a manager I need to both set an example and reward those that also bring fun to the office.

Last week, I woke to yet another rainy London day and, frankly, I was disgusted. I was so sick of rainy weather that I knew I would be in a bad mood. I went back into my kitchen, made a huge breakfast with a large strong cup of java and read a low intelligence required novel. Then, I went to the office. I was later than intended but by the time I got to the office I was refreshed and able to deal with another grey day.

Solicit feedback from team.

Talk to your teams on a regular basis to determine what makes them happy. What motivates them and when they smile, ask them why they are happy. Find something that brings them joy and do that.

Support and understand that some people just have bad days.

Recognise that some people will have bad days. Support them. Make sure they feel comfortable detaching if necessary. Make them leave if you must. If they need help, try to get it for them. And reward those that bring joy to the office and perform with a positive attitude.

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as top employee traits? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members? Are you working hard on something worth doing?

Be Well. Lead On.


Be sure to view all of the Top Traits:
Trait 1: Hard working AND talented

Trait 2: Pride in work product

Trait 3: Fun to work with

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ALSWharton
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in


Top Traits: Pride in Work Product


Defining the perfect employees

I had a whole home audio system installed in my Chicago home a few years ago. I spent more than I have ever spent on audio equipment and hired a team of twenty somethings to install it for me. I remember when they came for the install and opened all the boxes. You honestly would have thought they were installing for themselves. They were so excited about the install, and kept telling me how I really got the coolest equipment out there. Their excitement was contagious. I truly felt like I was “the man” and could not wait until my first party. When done with the install, they beamed with pride and showed me the system, how to use it and some of the fun stuff. They also discussed potential upgrades coming down the road and ways I might consider expanding.

… Trait # 2 – Pride in Work Product

How often do employees show this kind of pride in the work they do? When you shop at a mall, or work with your local telephone company, do you get the sense that the people working with you are actually proud of the services they are providing? I’m doubting it! Definitely not the case with BT given my recent experiences with them, but I digress …. Shouldn’t you be proud of what you do? Pleased with your work and the value you bring? Nurses comfort people. Teachers change lives and prepare our futures. Your particular job may not be as obviously impactful but you’re driving value by helping clients either directly or indirectly. And if you have chosen to work at a particular place, you should have pride in what you do. My maternal grandfather was a garbage truck operator for almost 30 years. My paternal grandfather worked at the US Post Office for 25 years after serving his first five adult years in the army. Neither of them ever made very much money. But each had a pride in their work that was inspirational.

What I like

Steve Jobs - pride of productI want employees to show a sense of pride in what they do. In what they create. The best recent example of a leader that exuded pride in the products he offered was Steve Jobs. You just knew he thought that every product he allowed out the door was AWESOME! In my current role, I have a principle that I call “pretty red bow” that is based on pride of product and service. In short, I demand that my teams think about the entire package when building a new service. Not just the technology, which may be cool as ever, but the service, the support, the way it is sold and the training provided for users. You can build the very best mousetrap but if everyone thinks it is an appetiser with crackers and cheese …. Well, you get the picture. I want them to build a service, package it well and tie it up with a pretty red bow. Get it?

My favorite employees are the ones that call or email me to tell me when a client is really pleased, or even better, when no client has said anything but they know the service they have built will excite clients. The emails that show progress on solving a complex problem, the random drop by to my office to show me a prototype of a new collaboration tool, or the demo of a new “awesome” iOS application, this is what excites me.

If you do not feel pride in the work you do, why would your boss, your team, or your client?! If you don’t feel you can be proud of your work, perhaps you aren’t in the right field. Or perhaps you are simply not working hard enough to deliver something with which you can be proud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable

Provide. Praise. Promote.

  • PROVIDE. If you hire an employee and ask them to build a Bentley, then only give them a thousand bucks, a Bentley you will not get. Set guidelines that are achievable and provide your teams with the resources needed to be successful. The greatest morale killer in most technology shops today is the constant badgering on costs. We must provide opportunities for employees to shine. A great example of this within Aviva is our mobile apps competition. We’re encouraging people around the world to create prototypes of great new app concepts in friendly competition. We encourage all of the contributors and it is FANTASTIC seeing the pride of ownership among the teams that is evident in their submissions.
  • PRAISE. Give credit. Give credit. Give credit. Employees, especially those in service industries, operations functions, and technology, get PLENTY of complaints and abuse. When someone creates something amazing, you MUST acknowledge it. I have seen so many managers take credit for their team members work without adequately praising them. It is shameful. As I said with respect to all hard working and talented employees (prior blog), ensure those who show pride in their work and deliver excellence get the recognition they deserve.
  • PROMOTE. This should be easy for those of you with children as well as for those who remember when you were a child. Think about how proud a kid is when their artwork is displayed on the refrigerator or on the school bulletin board. Create THAT environment. Showcase the amazing products and services your teams have created. If they have pride, and it is deserved, their leaders should also be proud. And showcasing their products will encourage others to create great things as well. Be a “proud mama” or “proud papa”. You will encourage more people to take pride in their work. And when you take pride in your work, you do better work. Simple, right?

I’m proud of the folks working with me now and proud of the things we accomplished while I was in my prior roles. I will continue to seek out, provide for, praise and promote those around me who take pride in what they do. It takes all kinds to make a great team but the perfect employees demonstrate pride in work product. And I want the perfect employees along on the journey with me.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as top employee traits? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members? Are you working hard on something worth doing?

Be Well. Lead On.


Be sure to view all of the Top Traits:
Trait 1: Hard working AND talented
Trait 2: Pride in work product
Trait 3: Fun to work with

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ALSWharton
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in

Lessons on Relationships from The Help

The Help MovieLessons from The Help

I never really liked going to movies as a teenager and most of my adult life was the same. Then, two things happened: 1) Showplace ICON opened a VIP theater near my home in Chicago, offering the opportunity to see movies in a recliner with drinks and gourmet sliders (and popcorn with bacon!); and 2) I started watching the Harry Potter movies to connect with my nieces and nephews. It was the second one that kind of leads me to this blog. You see, while I started off watching for the “action” of the young wizard, I quickly realized how many leadership lessons can be found in movies. Like rap music for inner city children in some schools, perhaps we can use movies to bridge between popular culture and leadership lessons for Gen Y.

I can blog thousands of words from Harry Potter, which is in my opinion as rich as the Godfather movies with leadership lessons. However, today I will discuss “The Help”, a movie about three very different women and the relationships between them and other people in their Jackson, Mississippi town. I have watched the movie and read the book so may interchange them a bit. The movie was a very good adaptation, in my humble opinion.

Here are some simple lessons found from the book which spawned the movie:

1) Communication is more than just talking

“I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”

How many times have you been in a meeting that lasted an hour and accomplished absolutely nothing? Sometimes it seems that everyone has something to say and yet nothing is said. I firmly believe that people need to listen more and talk less. Think about what goals have been set for the meeting and how each participant can add value.

A mentor of mine once told me that anyone who came to a meeting and said nothing should not have been at the meeting. However, some people are SO VOCAL that others may want to contribute but do not. Try not to be THAT person. Listen, learn, and watch for non-verbal and verbal cues.

2) Carrots work better than sticks. And they are a lot cheaper.

“…and that’s when I get to wondering, what would happen if I told her she something good, ever day?”

For many of your team members, you may be the only positive encouragement they have all day. I have had the pleasure of managing help desk technicians as part of my organization for several years. Many of them are the brightest, hardest working, and dedicated employees I have led. But talk about a thankless job. When things are good, no one calls the help desk. So they only get the irate, the frustrated, and often, the …. well, clueless.

Greet your team members, both peers and subordinates, by name and with a smile. Tell them something positive about their work, their attitude, or anything else you can find that is truly positive. Don’t make things up, but challenge yourself to find the best in everyone with whom you interact. You will be amazed what it does for that person and in turn what that person will do for your team and your clients.

3) Change begins with a whisper
There are thousands of quotes out there on change. And everyone says the right thing. Change happens. Change is good. Change is the only constant. And so on…. But the fact is CHANGE IS A PAIN IN THE …. Well, it’s hard.

In the movie and book, Aibileen is known as a solid citizen in the black community, respected for her wisdom and her prayers. Skeeter, who wishes to get several of the maids to participate in her book project, works first with Aibileen, who starts to mention it to Minnie, who then spreads it to others. Soon, the whisper spreads and several women want to speak to Skeeter.

The best way to manage change I have found is to think of every change as both necessary and positive, but to spread the word through individual conversations as much as town halls and large announcements. It is incredibly powerful for you as a leader if the day a major change is announced, you have dozens of people out there who have already been talking about it. Start small conversations with key influencers amongst your team and get them to discuss the change with others. Don’t do this for politics or scheme, you’re not just pandering to junior colleagues. Engage them because your team knows what works and can help make the change more effective. Let your key employee leaders be the whisper that starts a successful change event.

4) Some people will never change. Deal with it. Or Leave.

“It seems like at some point you’d run out of awful.”

I have been blessed to work primarily with great people. Even those that had their rough spots and mean streaks typically showed their good more than their bad sides. But there were two in particular that try as I might, I could not find within them a redeeming quality. They were mean, nasty and completely uninterested in team building and collaboration. One even went so far as to tell me I needed to be more of an [expletive] and that my team enjoyed working for me too much. The implication was that they could not possibly be working hard enough and still like me the way they did. I know, right? Crazy! And this was not in the 1980s.

My solution was to walk away. I knew it could be risky (using up some of my “marbles”, as a mentor of mine used to say) but worse still would be staying and working in a toxic environment that could make me toxic. I sacrificed the “glory” of working with this particular team and opted to find my success in other teams. To take the risk to be a respected AND liked leader and not just one that was feared.

If you have this kind of person in your team, try to address the issue head on. Do all you can to make it better, but at the end of the day, some people will never change. If you are the boss, you must fix the problem either by getting them to change or severing them from the team before they spread their negativity. If you are a member of the team and working for the “negative nestor”, you have the option to stay or go. If you can, get out of there before the negativity spreads to you.

5) Relate to and empower all employees.
One of the main characters in The Help convinced herself that building separate bathrooms for her maid was good for the maid as well as protecting her from “their diseases”. Most people watching this today feel this is so far from what anyone would do and thankfully they are correct. But how many times have you personally spoken to the most junior employee in your organization? Do you structure every meeting in layers where you meet with your directs and they meet with their directs and so on? Do your junior associates call you by your last name (Good morning, Mr. Stanley) sometimes and feel they have to ask permission to say hello when walking past your office? Watch for this and consider what you can do to create an environment where all of your team members truly feel equally engaged and empowered. And hang out with the senior and junior staff. A beer tastes the same with a CEO as it does with an analyst. Trust me.

Don’t give your employees the separate but equal treatment. Be a part of the team. As one of my favorite Aon teams used to say, “Hug it out!”

Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.

I pledge today to be a better listener and communicator, to empower my teams and treat them as equal partners, to encourage and uplift them, and to involve them in change so that their whispers can drive powerful success. Will you take this pledge? Do you have other lessons on leadership from this or other movies? I would love to hear from you. Post your comments below, on my Facebook page, or via Twitter.

Be well! Lead On.


Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

See more thoughts on leadership in my other blogs, such as:

Let's have lunch!

Transitions: Thoughts as I leave Aon

Moving on from Aon

For many of you, my update on LinkedIn and Twitter will be the first time you are hearing of my departure from Aon. For the hundreds of amazing leaders that made up my wonderful Technology Solutions and Services (TSS) Team and for our strategic vendor partners, the change has been known for a while now. Leaving such an amazing company after a truly rewarding adventure has been incredibly difficult for me but I leave inspired by all we accomplished over the past several years. I have truly enjoyed the challenges Aon presented me and the TSS team. The opportunity to lead such an amazing group of talent has been humbling and exceedingly rewarding. I am thankful for having worked with Greg Case and his leadership team and to have been a part of the incredible progress made at Aon over the past five years. I will greatly miss my team and my many colleagues but will watch closely as the firm continues its path of success.

As I transition, I reflect on just how much we accomplished together, some of which I cannot publicly describe but truly astonishing given the fact that only 4 years ago, there was no Global Infrastructure organization.

* Having started with dozens of separate email systems managed by teams around the world, over 40,000 colleagues across all regions have now migrated to BPOS, Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite now called Office 365. These colleagues are now using Outlook to manage email and Office Communicator to chat with colleagues across the globe.

* All of heritage Aon’s offices globally have completed the migration to the new global network, uniting Aon under one network for the first time and allowing access to many of our global applications across regions.

* Over 8,000 colleagues are now using an improved, web-based, global remote access solution that provides a seamless experience around the world.

* All of our colleagues are now using our standardized Global Audio Conferencing solution, with toll-free dial in numbers available in over 40 countries.

* We have standardized organizational structures and begun the process of creating job descriptions for everyone within the TSS organization, enhancing opportunities for job sharing and cross-training, but also better supporting career conversations and talent management.

* Web conferencing with Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting are now available with a web portal to manage all colleague conferencing needs.

* The majority of our office phones (over 70% of heritage Aon) are now utilizing Voice over IP technology to place phone calls, saving money and improving options and usability.

As I transition from Aon, I will be taking time to reflect on the past few years and taking a bit of time to help out in areas I previously could not. Passionate about supporting others and ever thankful about those who have helped me through the years, I recently formed ALS Professional Services LLC. Through this organization, I am providing technology, operations and organizational strategy advisory services to non-profit, civic and governmental organizations on a pro-bono basis. I am currently working with the Chicago Public School system and also supporting technology improvements for a local charity here in Chicago.

Will I be back to Corporate soon? Most likely! It’s in my blood. Am I happy to have this opportunity to take a brief hiatus and give something back? Absolutely!!!

I want to sincerely thank each one of my TSS team members for the passion, hard work, and commitment they brought to me, to our organization, and to Aon. I know personally how much each of them feels committed to their work and how time and time again they deliver with excellence. Every day I am deeply appreciative for the incredible team that we built, proud of the work we did, and confident in a bright and successful future for each of those I am leaving behind.

TSS was to me like a long-distance relay team. Everything we did, we did as a team. We worked that way because it made us stronger. When someone got tired we propped him up. As it should be, in the end the team was strong enough for me to leave the rotation. But I’m still on the other side of the field looking on. I’m still cheering. I’m still proud of how much value you are generating. How much goodwill. How much positive energy despite the challenges.

Keep running. Keep helping each other. Keep getting stronger.



Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ALSWharton
Or see my snapshot at http://www.alswharton.com/in

Adam at Sunset

Thanks TSS. I miss you already!

My 12 Favorite Quotes on Leadership

Search the net and you will find thousands of articles, books, and blogs about leadership.  And throughout the ages, men and women have written and spoken about leadership. So there is a treasure trove of quotes out there on leadership.  I still feel the best way to learn to be a better leader is to be a leader and that successes, failures, and time are the best teachers of leadership. That said, I’ve done my searching and found my top 12 quotes on leadership. I wanted to share them with you.

Top 12 Quotes on Leadership

Adam’s 12 Favorite Quotes on Leadership

12. “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

11. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” ~ Nelson Mandela

10. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
— St. Francis of Assisi

9. “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” Eric Hoffer

8. “To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!'”
— Lao-tsu

7. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

6. “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
— Stephen R. Covey

5. “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Colin Powell

4. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

3. “Trust men and they will be true to you: treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. “Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” — John Kotter

1. “We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and are tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”

— Admiral James B. Stockdale

Listening to what others have said and applying their basic ideas to your specific circumstances is like having a “cheat sheet” in your back pocket. Look at this list and see if any of them resonate with you. Do they look familiar to you as a leader or a team member working with a leader? Would your team, as in the comic below, laugh when discussing your leadership skills? Or are you gaining authority by giving it away, leading with trust, vision, and integrity.

Be Well! Lead On.


Leadership Skills - Does your team laugh at your leadership?

Leadership Skills - Does your team laugh at your leadership?