Jerry Cahn

Is Your Company Feeding People’s Purpose at Work?

Several years ago, the CEOs with whom I work in NYC for Vistage Worldwide (there are 23,000 CEOs globally) began referring to the companies as CILOs- Continuous Improvement Learning Organizations. The focus of a CILO is to hire talented workers and dedicate time for continuous improvement learning as part of the standard job description. With professional and personal growth, many will outgrow their current positions and grow into new ones where they can make higher contributions.

Periodically, we share stories on some of our staff have grown thanks to the CILO culture. We find that people who live their purpose at work are more productive than those who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay. Recently, we’ve noted that the CILO culture is especially effective at this post-pandemic time, because it’s encouraging people to pursue their longer-term purpose at their companies.

McKinsey’s recent report, Help Your Employees Find Purpose – or Watch Them Leave, demonstrates just how important this us for them now.  Their research found that 70% of employees said their sense of purpose is defined by their work. However, two-thirds reporting that the pandemic has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. About half said they’re reconsidering the kind of work, with Millennials three times more likely to say so than older workers. It’s likely that those companies which foster continuous improvement have a better chance of meeting employees’ changing purpose needs by enabling them to adopt new, supportive positions. We will be monitoring this in the future. How are your workers doing? Are they engaged and focusing on taking on new challenges in the company to continue meeting their purpose needs? What challenges are you encountering? Share with us.

Clarity on Employee Coaching

A key practice that Stephen Covey told us to adopt in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is to start with the end in mind. As we return to work as a distributed workforce – working sometimes in the office and sometimes not, without knowing exactly how this will eventually settle (which is why we call this the “fluid” post-pandemic stage), we need to adopt the most effective practices to empower and develop our staff. This especially applies to training and coaching our staff.  Marshall Goldsmith, one of the leading executive coaches, recently noted a number of key leader-coaching strategies. As an executive coach, I found his recommendations valuable – and realized we can apply some of them to coaching our staff. Here they are:

  1. Involve the staff member being coached in determining the desired behaviors. People cannot be expected to change behavior if they don’t have a clear understanding of what desired behavior looks like.
  2. Involve the staff member being coached in determining key stakeholders. Without identifying the company stakeholders with whom they’ll be involved, you can’t help them get them to focus on the right issues nor accept the feedback from the right colleagues.  This ensures their “buy in” to the process, as they will be discussing it with these peers, subordinates and supervisors.
  3. Collect feedback. Marshall personally interviews all key stakeholder for a CEO or gets 360° feedback, because feedback is critical. It is impossible to get evaluated on changed behavior if there is not agreement on what behavior to change!
  4. Reach agreement on key behaviors for change. Don’t try to change everything; pick only one or two key areas for behavioral change with each coaching-client and agree upon the desired behavior for change.
  5. Have the coachee get other input from key stakeholders. As the person being coached speaks with stakeholders, she/he can collect “feedforward” suggestions on how to improve on the key areas targeted for improvement. The feedback provides greater depth, breadth and wisdom.
  6. Enable your coachee to develop the action plans that result from the principles discussed. These plans need to come from them, with constructive feedback provided by you, the coach. They often know what’s the right thing to do; they just need to execute it well and evaluate it for continuous improvement.

As we increasingly use automation and artificial intelligence to take over the “routine” activities with which we’re involved, being coached on how to handle human-interactions, especially effective collaboration when people are working in different offices at different times, becomes more critical.  Use the Presentation Excellence ADAP principles to make sure you’re effective. If you have questions, share them with us!

It’s Time to Increase Your Executive Presence

You’ve always needed a strong Executive Presence to Influence people. Now is the time to make sure your effort is on full-throttle.

Throughout the second half of this year, people are returning to offices based on one of the many patterns that management chooses. During this “fluid” stage of the post-pandemic period, lots of “return-to-work” models will be adopted. Like water that “settles”, this offers an opportunity for company and individual experimentation to determine what  is the best policy for safety, individual lifestyle and corporate performance, team collaboration, innovation, and longer-term profitability. Our team has been monitoring the many changes in prior stages of the pandemic since March of 2020, and will continue to do so.

There are two key things you need to concern yourself with during the “fluid” stage.

  • With a distributed work pattern – some at home and some in the office, micro-management of individuals won’t work. Instead workers should adopt self-management systems so they are “accountable for success” in their jobs. We have to execute on the company’s strategy for performance, culture and leadership. We also need to keep our eye on professional and personal growth by improving our skills in areas where we want to make more valuable contributions.  (We’ll soon be posting information on the web about our “Accountable for Success” (A4S) system that gives the worker-supervisor team tools they can use to do so. (To request advance information, send a note to
  • Second, this is the opportunity to step-up your Executive Presence, so you can make a larger difference in your company and industry. Now that we’re going to interact with others both virtually and digitally, this is the time to make sure you’re projecting your expertise and forge important new relationships.

Dr. Brooke Vuckovic, a clinical professor of leadership at the Kellogg School recently noted in a podcast, that “Executive presence doesn’t measure your merit. It doesn’t measure that intellect or horsepower; it measures your capacity to translate out all of your creativity, all of your good ideas, all of your deep expertise.” She offers this formula: “Executive presence is equal to credibility, plus ease, divided by ego.”

For those of you who have been following us for years know, our formula for winning presenters is to deliver ADAP: Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Once you’ve developed expertise, you always need to present it authentically. To influence each audience, you need to control the content and format of the message and the format, style and power of delivery to resonate with the audience’s ability to receive the message and perceive you as trustworthy, credible and expert.

Listen to the podcast and use this opportunity to increase your executive presence!  Attend one of our workshops or request coaching if you think it will help. Remember, often you only get one opportunity to make a superb first impression!

OnBoarding Presentations: ADAP Wins Again

Based on our experience with over 5000 presentations, the Presentation Excellence team created a simple guiding formula to help presenters become more effective. ADAP – Audience-Driven Authentic Presentations. Over the next decades, our clients consistently report that understanding the audience’s real needs and meeting them with an authentic presentation is the key to success. 

In a study cited by Jon Levy in You’re Invited: the Art and Science of Cultivating Influence, he demonstrates that it also applies to how we onboard new recruits. Given the Talent Management challenges of post-pandemic 2021+, it’s something every organization should heed.

Wipro BPO, an Indian-based provider of telephone and chat support, noted in 2010 that turnover was reaching 50-70%. Committed to reducing this disruptive result, they hired 605 new employees and created an experiment, by dividing them into three groups, two experimental and one control. 

  1. First Experimental: the Individual-Identify Group spent an extra hour of training focused on the person. It included both individual work and group discussions on how they solve problems, how they describe themselves, what makes them happiest and perform best at work, and how they can bring their best self to the work group. At the end, they received a badge and sweatshirt with their name on it.
  2. Second: the Organizational-Identity Group. The extra hour focused on “pride in their organizational affiliation and (acceptance of) the organization’s norms and values. It included a discussion of Wipro values, why the company is great, and star performer discussing the same. Then, employees reflected on what was shared and discussed it. At the end, they receive a bade and sweatshirt with the company name on it.
  3. Control group: They received the standard onboarding process without an extra hour intervention.

What differences, if any do you expect?   

The Control group’s turnover rate was higher than the experimental groups (no surprise); but it was 47% higher than the first group and 16.2% higher than the second. Additionally, they found that turnover was 26.7% higher for Group One than Group Two.

Driving home the general perks offered by the company had a minor effect. What had the most impact was the one hour conversation, just once, “about you, what matters to you and what you can bring to the team’s success.” In other words, the one hour audience-driven communication that the company truly cares about the individual had the greatest impact.

If this single experience can have that much impact, then it is likely that a culture that continues to communicate caring about each individual worker’s growth is going to make a big difference!  So make sure that your corporate messaging elevates the importance of each individual and her/his growth while with the company in years to come!

What are your experiences?  Share them with us. 

Become a Transformational Leader

Do you want to be a Transformational Leader?

Recently, Vistage Worldwide featured a story about a CEO with whom I have the pleasure of working.

See Perspectives Magazine, Vistage is launching its own podcast program and asked us to participate. It should be available this month on iTunes. You can hear it here: Transformational Leader Podcast

As you know, leadership is the art of mobilizing a group of people to act toward a common goal. The ultimate standard for leadership, as former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower explained is the art of getting someone to do what you want done because he /she wants to do it.

In today’s fast paced world, most leaders focus on fixing the problems their companies now experience and are likely to confront tomorrow. When the pandemic began, leaders reacted immediately to meet the needs of their companies, employees and customers. As the pandemic winds down and we begin the next phase of forming a “new normal” (which will not be returning to the old one!), leaders are focused on tomorrow.  Similarly, as automation, AI and robotics eliminate or change people’s jobs filled with routinized work, leaders are focused on “upskilling”- helping employees to acquire new skills for a job that they to which they can be transferred. Leaders’ focus on today and tomorrow is the result of the “Tyranny of Now”.

Transformational leaders have a longer-term growth mindset with a wider-angled lens.  They focus on the “Day After Tomorrow”; they adhere to Stephen R .Covey’s second habit: “begin with the end in mind”. They engage with the entire ecosystem – their employees, customers, communities served, etc. and use their wider-angled lens to test alternatives scenarios for what might happen. Only by aligning sets of solutions for the longer-term can they achieve the transformative vision that drives them.

We see this all around us. In the earliest days of mankind, we learned to mobilize people to fetch water and bring it to the site to douse the flames. Transformational leaders took a longer-term, wider-angled, ecosystem approach to save more lives and spare more property through fire prevention codes and use of fire-retardant products.

Think about the “side-effects” of industrial processes that create “pollutants” which are reducing the habitability of our planet for our children and future generations. As Bill Gates recently noted, we’ve focused on address the “low-hanging fruit” solutions, such as recycling, reducing gas consumption with electric vehicles, etc. In his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he shares more difficult, long-term approaches that can have greater actual impact.

We see this in the companies led by transformative leaders. Henry Ford believed we could speed up horse-and-buggy-type transportation. Instead of raising faster horses or building faster carriages, he created an assembly line system to manufacture the “horseless carriage”. Then he realized he needed to change its availability to make it a financial success; so he increased the workers’ pay so they could afford to buy cars and serve as “influencers” to popularize the new industry.

The CEO I mentioned at the beginning of this article is Ed Bosco, a Managing Partner of ME-Engineers, who developed a transformative company that, simultaneously, attracts high quality employees to work on long-term projects by clients who have exciting and engineering challenges. Imagine creating habitats not only for people in offices, schools and other buildings, but also iconic facilities, such as large sports stadiums around the world (e.g., major tennis, basketball, soccer facilities); imagine working on the science behind a zoo’s habitat for gorillas and another for butterflies; in addition, he focuses on the environment needed by one of the world’s largest space telescopes that needs to peer into space clearly, 24/7. With his expertise and reputation for being able to handle such “Extreme” projects, it’s not surprising that, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic , he was asked to join a global task force focused on opening up large venues. He knows that with this expertise  he can help people re-open safely their offices, restaurants and other establishments, etc. Moreover, he knows that it would truly engage his staff and excite them to take on other challenging projects, like addressing the impact of climate change.

Key to the success of his business is his understanding of the ecosystem in which he lives. He works with schools and scholarships that advance STEM training for students as early as high school.  By maintaining long-term relationships with them, they become referral sources for future top-notch employee candidates as well as employees.

Unlike other companies that focus on transactions with clients rather than long-term relationships, his employees don’t leave after a few years. They stay to work on the long-term, challenging and exciting projects presented by great clients. Moreover, since the company views itself as a “Continuous Improvement Learning Organization” (CILO) – facilitating the professional growth of employees – they stay to use their new skills and experiences in new and often elevated working positions.  In other words, the company, which uses a Team of Teams organizational structure to foster creativity, agility, and teamwork enables its employees and clients to mutually reinforce long-term, professional growth through long-term relationships taking on more challenging jobs.

In sum, there are many rewards to being a transformative leader and working with them. If you want to become one and/or improve at being one, let me know.  For instance, the transformational leaders with whom I work had the opportunity to learn from two experts at recent CEO Meetings. 

  • One is self-exploratory: “Your Extraordinary Why”. Who we are? What are we passionate about? What is it that we and our companies are uniquely gifted to accomplish?”    
  • The second is: “Action Dialogue: Piercing Conversation”. Since decision effectiveness dependent on information others provide to solve problems, how do we overcome their reluctance to speak candidly and directly about tough issues? The results can be information cover-up, distortion and misinformation. How do we facilitate honest, direct and authentic conversations?

Vistage AWorldwide, serves 23,000 CEOs in the US and 20 countries. If you want to learn about a local Board, email me ( and I’ll make an introduction!

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August 2021