Culture & Structure

Don’t Micro-Manage; Inspire Your People

As a manager, you manage tasks; as a leader, you influence people.  It’s time to focus on the latter role.

In the old work of command-and-control, managers could walk around and help people manage their tasks.  Sometimes it was constructive; too often it deteriorated into micro-management.

One of the positive after-effects of the pandemic is that we need to jettison micro-management which does not elevate workers and drains supervisors.  As Steven M.R. Covey notes in Trust & Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others, as leaders, we can inspire workers to be the best they can be, through mutual trust and serving as role models. We need to take some time to understand each worker, and how to help her/him unleash their potential for personal and professional growth. By doing so, we communicate that we care – and that’s the key to building a trusted relationship. Especially post-pandemic, workers want purpose; “they want to contribute their talents, skills and time to something significant and meaningful.”

To help  workers grow, leaders need to identify the (1) responsibilities for which workers are responsible, (2)  standards of performance to meet, and (3) ways they can acquire new skills, mindsets and talents to improve in order to increase their contribution to the company mission. Using the (A4S) system, each manager and worker have regular feedback discussions on job performance, contributing to the company’s culture, and learning new leadership skills.

The result is more employee engagement and greater productivity: two other potential after-effects of the pandemic!

How Well Do You Know Your Current Culture?

How well do we really know our cultures?

As we think about the migration of traditional companies from ones where most employees work in the office daily to the new hybrid and virtual work – where a sizable proportion of workers do not have to come to work every day, it is likely that we will experience changes in our culture.  

It would be good to catch changes early, so we can respond to the new headwinds. Remember, Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and Gustavo Grodnitsky’s book title tells us that “Culture Trumps Everything”,   Recently, Alisa Cohen wrote an article, It’s time to Identify and Reset Your Company’s Culture, and suggested asking the experts : survey your employees. 

Rather than asking everyone to answer generic questions, start with the people most affected by the changed: people experience the greatest changes personally (e.g., they’re working virtually a lot) and collectively (e.g., they collaborate with others and aren’t able to do so in live, face-to-face interactions such as onboarding, brainstorming, meeting, etc.). 

The questions could focus on several issues, including the worker’s:

  • Changed experiential expectations (e.g., for onboarding, group decision-making, being considered for new opportunities) etc.
  • Perception of how it’s affecting the others, including those most and least successful
  • Description of the company in a short phrase (e.g., three or six words phrases)
  • Predictions for how changes might develop positively or negatively in the future.

Collecting the data from a large enough sample of people with different roles and experiences, may allow you to determine where changes in culture are taking place. And if they are, you can now adapt and respond!

If you do this, share your non-confidential results with the rest of us at Presentation Excellence!

Are You Committed to Continuous Improvement?

Is continuous improvement a core value for your company?

Over a decade ago, I was asked by Vistage Worldwide to launch a CEO Peer Advisory group. My objective was to find successful CEOs who wanted even more success – by learning from other members of the group, other Vistage members (there are now 27,.000 In 20 countries), subject matter experts, and me. One of the goals we set for each of our companies was to turn them into CILOs- Continuous Improvement Learning Organizations. 

Over the years, many members sought a better system for holding staff accountable for their jobs and evaluating their success so they could help workers improve in whatever ways the worker and his/her supervisor thought would benefit the employee and the company. That led to the development of the Accountable 4 Success (A4S). The centerpiece is a clear and measurable Job Description with objective metrics which is used to evaluate job performance and culture commitment as needed – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Most important, each area of responsibility includes a section  in which the supervisor and the employee specify an area for improvement, and the ability to measure success.

Carolyn similarly takes individual continuous Improvement to a higher level by linking it to the culture. In Is Your Company’s Culture Relentless about Improvement? She notes that just as companies aren’t satisfied with complacency – they want things done better, cheaper and faster – neither are employees satisfied with the status quo in their job. They want to acquire new skills in order to grow both personally and professionally. She notes that when some employees are improving that sparks ideas for others. The goal isn’t personal achievement or out-performing co-workers; the goal is to elevate human talent so people can contribute more to the company and be rewarded for it.

Does your company already have a CILO culture? If not, what systems are you using to create a relentless culture for continuous improvement? If your system is successful, share it with Presentation Excellence members. If not, feel free to check out and learn more about how you can develop a corporate wide mindset and culture of improvement and growth for all. With all the headwinds to facing companies today, you’ll need peak performance from everyone within a CILO culture to thrive!

What’s Your Company’s Trust Rating?

Trust is earned.  When someone says they “trust” you or your company, they’re telling you that they believe in your truth, reliability, ability or strength to deliver on your claim/promise. It’s the conclusion you reach based on your past history and how you presented it. If you’ve earned trust, then you or your company is likely to outperform your “competitors” over the long-term.

Trust Across America found last year that the stocks of companies deemed more trustworthy have greatly outperformed others. After quantifying the value of trust by looking at 10 stocks of the most trustworthy companies 10 years ago, they discovered that 5 were bought by other companies and the other five gained an average of 868% vs. 278% for the SP 500.  Similarly, the 10 most trustworthy companies from five years ago and three years ago also handily topped the S&P 500.

How would you measure trust?  Studying companies like Microsoft, Nike, Nvidia and Starbucks, they focused on seven traits including:

  • Clarity of corporate purpose, values and culture. Employees know how to practice them, bring strategy to life and have systems in place to support what’s important and values
  • Corporate integrity. Leaders act in respectfully authentic ways, consistent with purpose and values
  • Culture of transparency and truth-telling, even when it hurts
  • Communication within the company as a priority before other stakeholders
  • Belonging – which is more than just diversity and inclusion
  • Focus on relationships vs. transactions, internally and externally
  • CEO serves as Chief Communications Officer to meaningfully connect internally and externally.

How do you measure trust? Which traits do you see most important in building trust among employees, customers and shareholders?  Do you use a Net Promoter Score, is it time for a trustworthiness Score?

How Empowering Is Your Culture?

At this stage, we all know the importance of culture. Peter Drucker told us how important it is that your company is founded on the right-set of values and behaviors for superior service to customers and relationships among workers. As he said: “It eats strategy for breakfast”. 

In every presentation opportunity, success isn’t just the message content; the style in which it’s presented is also critical. In the case of culture, is it adoption empowering employees to proactively go beyond expectations.   One story first shared in Practical Wisdom (by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe) (and later retold by David Brooks in The Second Mountain) demonstrates this point well. As I read both books prior to a podcast for corporate leaders, I thought I would share it.

Luke, a janitor in a major teaching hospital, is sharing how his job is structured with some social scientists. While doing so, he shares an incident concerning a comatose young patient and his father who had been keeping vigil for months. The custodian cleaned the comatose young patient’s room while the father stepped out for a few minutes. When the father returned, he snapped at Luke for not cleaning the room that day. Luke then chose to clean the room again. Why? 

Luke explains the situation. The son had been in a fight and when brought into the hospital was in a coma. Everyday, Luke would clean the room while the father stayed in the room. Today he was out smoking a cigarette. When he returned they met in the hallways and the father “freaked out” telling him he didn’t clean the room. At that point, he was about to reply defensively – and then stopped himself. “I’m sorry. I’ll go clean the room.” Why did he clean it a second time?

“I cleaned it so that he could see me clean it… I can understand him… It was like six months that his son was here. He’d be a little frustrated and I cleaned it again. But I wasn’t angry with him. I guess I could understand.”

While the job description of the custodian detailed all the things that had to be cleaned in the room and the standard of care, it did not address the cultural elements: who are the “customers” in when the purpose of care involves patients and caretakers.  But the culture of the hospital made it clear that it was not just the patient but also those caring for the patient and empowered the custodian to do the right thing: give the father peace of mind. It may not have been “efficient” to clean a room twice, but it was more “effective” to do so.

As you know, one member of the Presentation Excellence Group is (A4S) that develops job descriptions that address job performance, cultural behaviors and leadership skills. This is especially important in the hybrid working world when people have to manage themselves and members of their teams, rather than the hierarchical staff “below” them. Key to creating an effective culture is empowering people to take on those behaviors which enable them to go “beyond the call of duty” to meet customers’ needs. 

Just as Ritz Carlton empowers employees to spend extra money on guests in order to ensure that they are pleased with their stay if something goes wrong, every service company should empower its workers to invest extra efforts to make sure customers are pleased. And the story shows that if done correctly, it can make a significant difference for companies involved with life-and-death issues.

How are you empowering your employees to fully actualize your company’s values?  Share with us. (To learn more about A4S, contact

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