Four Ingredients of a Learning Recipe …

leadershipDoing some thinking around leadership and values today …


Leaders have values … not much debate about that.

However, when you start talking about what values a leader has or how they are expressed, the discussion gets a little more interesting … and sometimes heated.

76,100.000 hits on Google Search in 0.51 seconds for “leadership and values”.  Impressive, even if many of those sources will turn out to have little to do with either leadership or values. 

Factor in duplication of thought or simple resharing of articles and documents. and the number is probably much smaller.  I’ll bet I only have to wade through 30 or 40 million entries. 

Hmmm … not much of an improvement.  How should I proceed?

Research Says …

Well, I could restrict my search only to peer-reviewed articles … that’s solid academic thinking and I preach this to my students.  Only accept sources which appear in academic journals and I’ll get the best thinking on leadership and values available on the planet … or will I? 

Good research is the type that moves our knowledge of a topic or an area forward in small increments and is careful not to generalize about the results.  That job is for the main stream media.

The point is that research on leadership and values will be very specific and offer little of wide applicability in most cases. 

The Street Says …

Maybe the answers and guidance I seek will not come from an academic perception of values, but from The Street.

Plenty of folks are willing to share their thinking on both leadership and on values.  Now I’m looking for thought pieces, where someone is sharing their perceptions and experiences, and not just sterile research results.  Those are always enjoyable to read and chat about.  

Of course, each one is only one person’s viewpoint and you can always find someone else whose viewpoint differs. I may also be sacrificing somewhat in the areas of verifiable evidence and plain old “truthiness”. 

My Friends Say …

I also tend to favor articles by people I like or even know, at least through virtual networking, if not in person.  Because I like them, their words seem to make more sense to me and I am certainly more accepting of what they have to offer than those “other” writers.  This will cut down that Google search list to a much more reasonable length, I would bet.

I will also enjoy receiving reinforcement for my original perceptions and beliefs.  Who doesn’t like that?

… or will restricting my input to what I already agree with blind me to other possibilities? 

I Say …

In honesty, I imagine that if I intend to cover this subject in a comprehensive and thoughtful way, I will probably do all the above, keeping in mind the positives and negatives of each. 

Some research, some opinions, and some diversity make a pretty potent recipe for learning.  I just need to add a drop of reflection in to spice it up and create my personal conception of how leadership and values relate.  

I can weigh and consider all the evidence, come up with a reasonable and supportable idea or two about leadership and values, then test it out in some measurable way.

This IS how Critical Thinking works, right? 

Planning my next move on the road to enlightenment in the Heartland ….



Guest Post: “Contented Workers” by Chris Edmonds

Today’s guest post is by S. Chris Edmonds, whose new book The Culture Engine:  A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace is available beginning this week.  Originally published on April 7, 2014 at

Contented Workers

How happy are your company’s employees?   The Gallup organization recently revealed the results of their research on the US communities with the most contented workers.

The Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index measures respondents’ perceptions in six areas:


· Life Evaluation: Present life situation and anticipated life situation

· Emotional Health: Daily feelings and mental state

· Work Environment: Job satisfaction and workplace interactions

· Physical Health: Physical ability to live a full life

· Healthy Behavior: Engaging in behaviors that affect physical health

· Basic Access: Feeling safe, satisfied, and optimistic within a community


Gallup and Healthways survey 500 Americans each day. They’ve conducted the Well Being Index since January 2008. The Well-Being Index is being updated in 2014 to assess respondents’ perceptions in five areas that analysis showed would be better measures of well-being. We’ll see these new focus areas in results issued next year.

The community with the most contented workers was Provo-Orem, Utah, with an overall well-being score of 71.4 on a 100-point scale. Rounding out the top three communities are Boulder, CO (with a score of 71.3) and Ft. Collins-Loveland, CO (71.1).

The three communities with the least contented workers are Huntington-Ashland, KY/WV/OH (this metropolitan area spans portions of three states) with a score of 59.5, Charleston, WV (60.0), and Redding, CA (62.0).

Numerous studies of well being and employee engagement prove that employees with high engagement and well being produce more, innovate more, and serve customers better.

What can leaders do to boost employee well being in these six areas?

Company leaders can influence communities to enact policies that inspire residents to engage in healthy activities. Getting communities to enact policies might take awhile.

Company and team leaders can certainly work to ensure job satisfaction and healthy workplace interactions. Check out my free Change This manifesto to learn how.

Team leaders don’t need a formal mandate. They can enact informal approaches that inspire team members to embrace healthy activities. Arranging lunchtime or mid-afternoon walks with interested team members can inspire physical activity. Enrolling a team in a charity walk can inspire bonding, service, and physical health.

Bringing in a yoga teacher and providing space for interested team members to do a class before or after work is increasing in popularity.

Learning new and interesting things can be as simple as bringing in outside experts for lunchtime presentations. A nutrition expert can demonstrate simple, healthy meal preparation or inform about the season’s freshest produce.

Team leaders are only limited by their own assumed constraints. If they think healthy living is something team members must do on their own, they won’t try some of these approaches. If they believe that everyone (including themselves) can benefit from exposure to healthier practices, they’ll be creative with some of these approaches.

You want to create a variety of healthy approaches for team members. Don’t mandate these activities – simply make them available, easy, and interesting.

By arranging participation in these and similar activities, your own well being – and that of team members – will grow, right before your eyes.

What do you think? How contented are you? How contented are your work peers, today? How can leaders inspire healthier opportunities daily to boost well being and engagement?




clip_image002Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. Since 1995, he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies.

Chris has delivered over 100 keynote speeches to audiences as large as 5,000, and guided his clients to consistently boost customer satisfaction and employee engagement by 40+% and profits by 30+%.

He is the author or co-author of six books, including “Leading At A Higher Level” with Ken Blanchard.

His next book, “The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace” will be published by John Wiley & Sons in September 2014.


The Problem With “ A World Gone Social” . . .


I have this really great problem … I cannot decide what I like most about A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt.

This book has so many helpful and well-written sections that I cannot decide which is the most important or useful to us.   Should I emphasize that …

… the authors “get” the impact of social on our society and on business in so many ways, large and small?

… the ongoing and detailed focus on real engagement (top down and personal)?

… the the wide variety of real-world examples of how we are living into a social world, whether we recognize the ongoing transformation or not?

… this is a well-researched and organized summation of how the business and social landscapes have changed over the past few decades and years?

… the inclusion of well-defined concepts, such as the rules for social engagement listed on page 60 and referenced throughout the book, provide extra value?

… the tools, such as rules for community engagement in the social era (pages 68-72) or the diagnostic question list for organization readiness to be Social (page 147), either of which would easily and quickly return value to the organization way beyond the price of the book?

… that they talk not just about the business applications of social for recruiting, customer service, and engagement, among other functions, but also talk about the strong potential for doing good in the world?

… that the authors eschew the terms “Social Media” and “Social Networking” by using the more widely applicable term “Social” to describe this world change?

… that they include some of my favorite horror stories about customer service nightmares, such as the United (Airlines) Breaks Guitars on YouTube  fiasco and Target’s Very Black Friday (actually the Thanksgiving Thursday they “asked” employees to work) to illustrate the power of online communication for customers and employees who feel mistreated?

… that they are even-handed enough to point out the dangers of Social, including an excellent dissection of “trolls” and an emphasis on the need to verify online information (think critical thinking skills)?


share_13No, my favorite thing about A World Gone Social is that I could continue to list important points raised in this book until the cows come home … 


If you already feel the change and understand the reality of our increasingly social world, you will find your head nodding often in agreement with what Ted and Mark have to say. 

If you are not yet convinced of the impact that technology is having in the areas of recruiting, marketing, selling, customer service, and engagement, you will find ample information that will help you understand better. 

Bottom Line:  Wherever you are in the knowledge curve around the impact of social on business, this book will better equip you to roll on down the road to our future.

For a little more, here’s a short video about A World Gone Social:

In the meanwhile, I plan to kick back and finish reading this book … I sense more learning lurking in its pages.

Enjoying a book that is making converts while it preaches to this choir in the Heartland ….




Ted Coiné is co-founder of Switch and Shift, a leadership community that believes organizations – in order to thrive in the Social Age – must build trust-based relationships, lead with purpose, and enable employees to do work that matters.

A noted blogger and speaker, Ted was recently named a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer.

Ted lives with his wife and two daughters in Naples, Florida.



Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates and young professionals that Mashable calls a Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career.

A prolific blogger and speaker, he is also President of Switch and Shift and a co-founder of

Mark is the father of five and a grandfather; he and his wife call Seattle home.


Disclaimer:  Yet another book received to review as part of a book launch.  I continue to do a little happy dance every time I receive another title and this one is no exception.  The value of this title and its reinforcement of what I deeply believe as the future of business and leadership make me smile.  I was under no obligation to make positive comments or even like the darned thing … but I do.


“Awesome” … With Four Plus Reasons Why

promo_03Awesome” is not a word to be used lightly, especially as part of a book title …

Fortunately, in this case, it fits quite nicely, as does “Interesting”, “Honest”, “Focused” and “Helpful”.


Alexandra Watkins is all about naming things, but not in the cutesy way that has given us some of the oddest brand and company names I can imagine.  Alexandra is strategic and all-business, although she skewers our preoccupations and clumsy attempts with wit, grace, and a dose of whimsy.   I would guess  that collaborating with her would be both energizing and exhausting .

“Hello, My Name is Awesome” is not a long or heavy book.  It’s deceptively short, light, and about an airplane flight’s worth of reading … the first time.   You might grab this book, thinking “Great … something quick and easy to kill some time” … but you would be so wrong. 

We have become somewhat insulated as we are repeatedly confronted with names that are not helpful in understanding what a company or product is about, or even how to spell or pronounce the name.   She is laying bare one of the larger mysteries of our current business environment:  Why we put up with naming protocols that do not make sense.

The book itself has several well-organized main sections, each of which brings distinct value to our table.  First, Alexandra lays out her “Do’s and Do Not’s” in three well-written and enjoyable sections, even as she hits uncomfortably close to home for many of us:

SMILE:  Five qualities of a “Super-sticky” name

SCRATCH:  Seven deadly sins of naming things

DOMAINS:  Should be required reading for anyone who has a business identity or may ever have one

You will have no doubt of Watkin’s approach after reading these sections.  She starts with full energy and candor and does not slow down.  Her words are forceful, intentional, and loaded with practical wisdom about business today. 

Watkins then proceeds to tell us exactly how to follow her system for creating memorable and useful names in three more well-crafted and engaging chapters:

CREATIVE BRIEF:   The single most useful part of this very useful book.   I like strategic thinking and you have to engage in that when you complete one of these very valuable forms.  

Designed to help you think it out before you act it out, this section is worth doing, even if you love your current company name and do not ever plan on changing it.  Just stick it in your briefcase or keep it handy to remind you of what you want to be about.

The thinking and discernment that is required to complete the creative brief will force you to think more clearly and deeply about who you are, your customers, and what you are about.  Alexandra calls this an “ingredients list” and if you follow the directions, you will be cooking up a real treat for yourself.

BRAINSTORMING:  Again using the creative brief outline, Alexandra gives us some useful tools to spark our creativity in very original and engaging ways.  She makes brainstorming sound like fun again.

NAME REVIEWTwelve rules for tackling the real-world issues around getting everyone to agree on a name.  She is honest and pulls no punches.  One quick example:  “Do not use focus groups.” – naming your company or product is something you should own, because you know what you are trying to do better than your customers.

NAME  CHANGES – PROS AND CONS:  Finally, a candid discussion around some necessary considerations before we launch into creative renaming.

If you care about your business, your products and services, and want to thoughtfully and strategically plan into a better future, you will find much of value in this book.  I am willing to bet you will refer toAwesomeoften, both for the business advice and because Alexandra is so darn entertaining as she teaches you how to think clearly and usefully about who your are and what words you use. 

Back to those four words I mentioned at the first: 

INTERESTING:  If you are a marketing wonk, you will love this book.  If you are a branding “guru”, you may feel a little uncomfortable, because Alexandra pulls no punches as she skewers some very popular current naming practices.  Even if you have absolutely no interest in any business applications, you will still find the information in this book interesting, because it speak to communication … and we all communicate every single day, even when we do not say a word. 

HONEST:  Early in the book, Alexandra warns us she is “not afraid to name names.” (p. 2).   She goes on to prove this point time and again, by using numerous examples of current names for companies and products, fearlessly highlighting the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.   I found myself tremendously entertained by her banter, except for the times she skewered some products I use (i.e. Grammerly).    Fortunately, she also lauds some companies I enjoy patronizing (i.e. Amazon)

FOCUSED:  This book is about one thing:  What we name our business.  Alexandra has an immense amount of practical experience doing that for organizations and products and she obviously loves what she does.  Focus always requires passion and such is well in evidence here.

HELPFUL:  The Resources section at the end is a veritable bonanza of advice and websites connected to the topic.  Like the content in each of the sections mentioned above, every page of this book seems to have some relevant, clear, and useful information.

share_05BONUS POINT:  The woman has attitude and gets her point across with a dash of humor.  How many authors do you know who would use the graphic to the left to help sell their book. 

This is not your everyday business marketing book… and I like it.

Loving this Awesomebook and looking forward to a long shelf-life with it in the Heartland ….



Alexandra Watkins is the founder of Eat My Words, a San Francisco naming firm that specializes in creating names that make people smile instead of scratch their heads. Some of her successes include the robotic vacuum Neato, frozen yogurt franchise  Spoon Me, and the Church of Cupcakes. Her clients include Disney, Microsoft, Wrigley, Frito-Lay, and Fujitsu.

Ever since eighth grade, Alexandra knew she wanted to be in advertising, like her TV hero, Darrin Stevens, on Bewitched. She skipped college and talked her way into an internship with an ad agency, eventually becoming a senior copywriter with Ogilvy & Mather. When she discovered her talent for naming things, Alexandra switched gears to become a professional namer. She got her first big break, freelancing for branding powerhouse Landor, through a date. (The entire experience was rated-G.) That was 10-years ago and she’s never looked back. Learn more about Alexandra and Eat My Words here.

DISCLAIMER:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  No apologies … one of the best gifts ever in terms of business usefulness and enjoyable writing.

The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

MorgueFile tabletThis morning’s inbox includes a well-written article via Fast Company, which reinforces something I have noted before about the difference between being familiar with an environment and understanding the strategic realities of that environment.

Digital natives may know how to do something easily and quickly online, but that does not mean they are doing the right thing.  

For some painfully instructive examples, just watch the flow of Facebook posts or Twitter streams from young professionals who ought to know better how to add value. 

Leaders who do not understand this will continue to wonder why they are not getting full value from the social media arena.

This all speaks to two things near and dear to my heart:

1)  The growing awareness in business that older professionals may have much to offer in a strategic sense in our current business environment.  

For example, we may not know how to create and publish a six-second Vine, but we may just understand how to influence customers positively through online interactions.

The tools and environments may change, but the ability to think strategically and create workable actions to execute that strategy tends to stay a constant.

2)  Social media is not just a toy or a way to kill time, and not work or study.  Rather, social media is becoming HOW we work and study.  

Whether you enjoy spending time in social online environments is simply not the point anymore and those who insist on treating social media like hula hoops or other short-lived fads may be very sad going into the future.

Yes, I am talking to my peers who continue to perpetuate the myths around the inability to use of social media and other technology by anyone older than a certain age.  If you look around, you will see people of all ages accomplishing impressive things, while living and working fully in today’s environments.

Read more about all this here:  The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

I will continue to sip my coffee and enjoy the shrinking awareness gap in the Heartland ….