December 2010

Enterprising Leaders have incessantly been engrossed in the bearing of morale on results throughout the ages, but the recent economic degeneration has unreservedly smashed businesses over the skull creating an upshot of gut-punched workers.  Having survived copious rounds of layoffs, unnerving uncertainty for their futures, relentless reactive upheaving change, and fearful atmospheres of overwrought anxiety, many employees are fighting off a recessionary post traumatic exhaustion.  We are experiencing soars in

productivity from a workforce that has been coerced to toil protracted arduous hours for less compensation.  This phantom productivity gain has been compelled by survival instincts rather than tangible productivity improvements generated through process improvement, technology application, six sigma strategies, and the like.   The Gallup Management Journal’s semi-annual Employee Engagement Index puts the current percentage of truly “engaged” employees at 29 percent. A slim majority, 54 percent, falls into the “not engaged” category, while 17 percent of employees are “actively disengaged.”  Just as the workforce is anticipating a respite, Leaders are contriving to exploit the productivity upsurge to gain a jump on the impending economic recovery.  A keen Street Smart Leader will possess the facility to elevate morale throughout this opportunistic fiscal transition, re-engage his team, and leap beyond his competition.

Several years ago I was being interviewed by a mid-range “human-resourcer” for a national executive leadership position I was very intrigued in.  As we progressed through his predictable tedious entreaties, I endeavored to generously respond with the mundane conventional ripostes that would amply check off his questionnaire and propel me forward in their process.  Everything was proceeding smartly and then he hit me with it.  “How do you motivate people?”  As my brain filtered through the imaginable index-card retorts I had stored from the management books, my gut tightened and sent a repulsing shot back to my throat causing me to choke on the “canned” answer.  There I was, a moment of truth.  My brain pushed headstrong with an internal argument of, “Just answer the question and move on.  What are you doing?”  But my guts countered for a grasp of authenticity and challenged, “You are not going to cave-in on this one too, are you?”  With my integrity intact, I innately postponed my quest for employment as I leaned in, looked the neophyte straight in the eye and authoritatively responded, “I do not believe you can motivate others.  People must be motivated for their own reasons.  Without understanding this, you are only manipulating them”.  As he writhed to recoup his speech along with the decision of whether to not drop his pen or not drop his clipboard, I knew my unconventional position had closed the interview.

The first step in having a motivated A-Team is to hire motivated people.  Although this concept may appear sophomoric at first, take a moment and reflect on how many unmotivated people you know.  Motivation is not a given that can be taken for granted.  Motivation is a value which some people possess and act upon and some do not.  As with all values, you cannot thrust motivation upon an individual through mandate.  No matter how strong of a manager you believe yourself to be, the best you can accomplish with an un-motivated player is short-term manipulation.  Constantly manipulating your employees is a trying and tiring methodology for the long run.  Unmotivated workers must be culled from the workforce if there is to be a chance for good morale to succeed.

Although you cannot motivate someone else, you can be diligent in understanding what motivates each motivated member of your team and then support their motivation with an enriched environment for it to thrive.  Thriving motivation equals exceptional morale.  To understand what goes into a moral supporting environment, let us look to the studies of psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who in 1959 published his “Dual Structure Theory”.   Herzberg rejected the prevalent manipulation methodology of “stick and carrot” (which he dubbed KITA for “kick in the ass”) and developed two lists: Motivator Factors and Hygiene Factors.  He believed that Motivator Factors lead to satisfaction and Hygiene Factors lead to dissatisfaction.   He proposed that Motivator and Hygiene Factors operate independently of each other based on their psychological impact and therefore are not opposites of each other.  So the lack of satisfaction does not equal dissatisfaction, it equals “no” satisfaction.

Herzberg’s theory can be summarized as follows:

The understanding of Herzberg’s Theory has been widely adopted and expanded upon.  Managers everywhere have committed to fulfill these necessities with an assortment of policies, programs, and initiatives.   Rages of “new age” thinking to promote cultures of “feeling good” have saturated the workplace in the hope of fashioning “good morale”.  Here is a short list of ill-fated ideas I plucked from the internet for improving morale:

  • Encourage employees to discuss their problems
  • Protect employees from unfair criticism
  • Develop salary and review guidelines
  • Make training available
  • Encourage employees to rotate jobs
  • Implement rewards to show appreciation
  • Use team building games

This partial list could go on with multitudes of formulas for attempting to make people “feel better”.  The problem with them is that their successes are short lived at best and quickly revert back to “carrot and stick” mentalities.   Herzberg contends management not only must provide hygiene factors to avoid employee dissatisfaction, but also must provide factors intrinsic to the work itself in order for employees to be satisfied with their jobs.  Accomplishing all of this with any half dozen initiatives is an impossibility.  Focusing on individual programs to increase morale is a short-lived waste of time.  A Leader must determine how to raise morale with a complete comprehensive approach to Herzberg’s Theory which will deliver long-lasting and far-reaching impacts for his team.

A Leader acknowledges the absolute answer to achieving incomparable morale through a team of motivated people comes down to one unconquerable action –WINNING!

This lesson was brought home last weekend when my wife and I were lunching at a deli-counter and she leaned over to me and asked what kind of ring the gentleman next to her was wearing.  I recognized it, but encouraged her to ask him.  As she inquired, the seventy-something year old man, who had been fixated on the behind the counter action, softly left his trance and proceeded to take off his Superbowl Ring for my wife to adorn.  As she slipped the humongous golden hoop onto her slender finger, Pro George Timberlake

began to tell us of his days as a Green Bay Packer in the mid-1950s.  He became animated and enthusiastic as he shared his tales of the pre-facemask, pre-Lombardi, and pre-money days of football.  I noticed him straighten up slightly as he pointed out how he played both offense and defense in those days, never coming off of the field.  A light beamed from him as he chronicled his contribution to the genesis of the National Football League and the bestowment years later of his honorary ring.  As his story extended and he described his trade to the Washington Redskins, his shoulders began to faintly slump again.  He became more solemn and dismayed as he spoke of departing football to “get a real job”.  Expecting to hear of a horrific injury, I asked him why he left the game.  With his head sagging a bit and his eyes downcast he slowly returned the prized ring to his finger and explained, “…the Redskins could not win a game and after a few years of continuously losing, the situation was just miserable.”  So he left what most would consider the dream-job of a lifetime.

Show me any winning team and I will show you exceptional morale.  Reflect back on those champagne-flying locker room celebrations you have witnessed after championships … that is what morale looks like and feels like.  Good morale is simply about winning and there is no substitute for it.  It has been said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser”.  I will also show you a demoralized person.

Your responsibility as a Leader is to win!  Motivated people give everything they have with the expectation that they will win.  If they don’t, they will leave.  Remember, you need to begin with motivated people.  But once you have them, you must win with them.  Winning is contagious and builds a self-realizing momentum which creates successive wins.  Winning is not an easy goals to accomplish.  It takes intelligence, strategy, goals, planning, execution…but most of all, it takes winners.

Tough Leaders face the contest of re-energizing their teams during these threatening transitional times.  As excited as you may be to hear of an economic recovery, it sounds like more work and stress to your employees.  You must not wait for the “win” if you are to leap ahead of your competition at this key moment.  Begin winning now!  Start acting like a winner; start talking like a winner; find ways every day to make your team feel like winners.  Winning is as much a philosophy as it is an action.  A Street Smart Leader accepts he cannot be Herzberg’s everything to everyone, but he knows deep down that if he can take a motivated team of people and win, exceptional morale will materialize and everyone will want to stay on the field and keep playing at their best!


I was nurtured in a moderately magnanimously Italian family which congregated habitually for what appeared to be the single-minded duty of crafting and devouring epicurean delights.  These occasions were bursting with hustle-bustle and passion in all things from the door-flying-open greetings to the seniority driven kitchen disputations.  Everything somehow remained in motion as the family settled in.  An outsider would have perceived the intensifying aroma filled cacophony as chaotic, but to us it was just another Sunday dinner.   Throughout years of tables amassed with lasagna, braciolettine, cioppino, eggplant parmesan, and hundreds of other top-button dislodging courses, I innately grew cognizant that our banquet was only a concealment for our family’s real communal function.  What my family revered above all else was talking!

Discussions on everything from family issues, politics (this was the contentious ‘60s), movies, religion, and work were openly thrown into battle between the tastes and praises of

food.  As children we were encouraged to sit-up and heed the engaging rants and arguments of our elders regardless of the issues intricacy.  I am certain the majority of my value and belief system was formulated while feasting.  One persuasion you could not elude was that of my Uncle Mario’s.  He was one of the Tough Leaders in the family.  Not very tall, and more rounded than any Italian General, he carried a force of conviction that could heat up any matter.  Uncle Mario was fervent, compassionate, arduous, resilient, intellectual and the most successful businessman at the table.  I was enthralled, enchanted, and loved by him.

In my early teens an intense conversation developed around the talking table involving my Uncle Mario.  He had been exceptionally successful in his management position and was being promoted to Vice President.  Customarily, this would have been a celebration but a controversy spun around the reality that he and his family would have to relocate to the East Coast for the new situation.  It was a heartbreaking prospect which defied any purpose.   Then, between one of the courses, I heard the magic figure driving the decision.  He was to be paid $50,000 a year, a tremendous amount at that time.  He accepted the position and moved a few months later leaving a momentous void at the table.

A few years later I activated my work-life in an unpretentious shipping department making $105 net per week.  It was a sufficient commencement, managing to pay the rent, put food on the table and gas in the car.  I worked harder than most, learning all I could and with the help of my first mentors, gained promotion after promotion increasing my compensation approximately 150% every two years.  I was driven to be a “Success”.  Then it materialized!  I was about 25 or 26 years old and my W2 hit $50,000.  “Wow!  What a milestone, what an accomplishment”, I thought to myself.  “Yes, I believe I am able say, I am a Success!”

Enjoying my success, the next year I earned about $50,000 and the following year, again $50,000.  And as I was on-track for another replication, I grappled with the realization that I was no longer attaining those substantial year-to-year compensation increases.  I had stagnated and was falling behind.  As I tried to gain an introspective answer to my flat-lined prosperity,   I realized the “subconscious” definition I had set for success so many years before.   I had accomplished my goal of success without an awareness of it.  And success had supplanted my inner drive to accomplish more.  With this awareness, I quickly established a new “cognizant” goal to double my earnings and achieved the new benchmark over the next several years.

As a Leader you need to accept that success is only a momentary accomplishment.  Success is the favorable outcome of a goal.  It is the termination of something sought.  Winston

Winston Churchill

Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  He appreciated that success was a temporary state and that without continued effort it would fade away.  Success does not guarantee a secured entitlement for your future.  It only measures your achievement up to that moment.

We have all witnessed great successes mutate into complacency and then plummet towards disaster.  History is bursting of fallen men, companies and countries that became comfortable with their success.  The aggressive action orientated values and culture which created the success becomes effortlessly replaced with the minimum determination necessary to maintain the status quo.  Success becomes a detriment to continued progress.

Much attention is spent on instructing the unsuccessful to become successful.  Many Leadership endeavors are focused on turn-around situations where failure must be replaced with victory.  But as a Leader you must also learn how to build success upon success.  You must be able to reprogram your thoughts to comprehend success as a potential impediment to your future.  “Resting on your Laurels” is an easy way to crumble the foundation of your success.

Take a moment and evaluate the current success of your team, your company and yourself.  How long ago was your current level of success achieved?  When is the last time you shook things up with real challenges for new and forward leaping goals.  Do you recognize complacency anywhere in your world?  If so, it is time to recapture your inner drive and move into aggressive action again.  First, set fresh goals over past achievements that will defy and stretch the normalized comfort zones which have developed.  Become uncomfortable with the current state of affairs and terminate your success.  Focus on the untapped potential that continues to exist and create new opportunities.  Secondly, return to the 1996 book “Built to Last” by James Collins and Jerry Porras and refresh yourself with the concept of BHAG Goals.   BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal that change the very nature of a something’s existence.  Dig deep and become serious about integrating a BHAG goal into your life.

Business Leaders are approaching dangerous times.  Recent years of economic downturn have shifted focus from “thriving to surviving”.  And although surviving may indeed be a success story in these turbulent times, it is a lethal formula for lasting prosperity.  As many are feeling successful for surviving tough times the opportunity peaks to grasp the future with innovative goals and expectations.  As many wait for a 2% economic upturn to replenish their severely diminished revenues, courageous leaders will take charge of their destiny and focus on the achievement of double-digit growth while increasing productivity.


Be vigilant and recognize success for the impostor that it is.  Strong Leaders must constantly and consistently “raise the bar’ on prior accomplishments.  Remember that complacency and comfort are your enemies and must be rooted out if you expect your achievements to grow over the long-term.  And although there is much to be proud of after turning around a bad situation, a Street Smart Leader learns how to build “success upon success”.  Today’s Leaders, who refuse to be subconsciously flat-lined and remain highly challenged, will be ready to savor tomorrow’s opportunities.  It is time to upgrade your Goals!

About 15 years ago, as my wife and I were embarking into the realm of horses I was exposed to a truly awe inspiring happening. My wife, Myrna, had been working with training horses and I regularly watched her ride and assisted with the barn chores.  I believed I had acquired a certain familiarity with this newly discovered creature, but my elementary indoctrination had not adequately primed me for my first unforgettable encounter with the impassioned unfeigned Equus.  For the first time in my life, on what was to be a predictable visit with my Uncle Jay and Aunt Donna, I came face to face with two perfect creatures sent from the mythical gods.


The event was the Annual Jdon Farms Open House which they held to showcase their Andalusian horse breeding vocation.  After seeing over a hundred beautiful horses, Donna said she had something special to show me.  Since she was a woman not known to exaggerate excitement, my anticipation leapt as we moved through the barn passageways towards the back of the barn.  As we advanced, my own heartbeat was overtaken by the rhythmic sound of a triumphant trotting.  We rounded the corner and I was presented to the stallion Excalibur, and with a gasp I divulged a whispered “Oh my God!”  I stood open-mouthed as this glorious creature shook the atmosphere through the casual sauntering about his stall.  I stole a step back as he approached.  Soaring high over me, he shook and set his unyielding mane flying, letting me know this was his world I had interloped upon.

Just as I caught my breath, I felt Donna’s hand on my arm as she beckoned, “If you think he is unbelievable, come see this.”  As we headed towards a stall in a dimly lit section of the barn, I heard jostling and commotion.  Coming closer I became aware of two men with arms waving attempting to control what I could only make out as a pair of flashing flaming eyes.  As I peered deeper into the lair, I saw the embodiment of a raging beast.  Donna told me they were getting ready to take him out now and we should go outside where he will be shown.  I sat alongside two nuns, as I waited by the bridle path for this colossus to appear. Moments later, led by his fearless trainer, Genio, a glistening black stallion with a white stared forehead began his vigorous march towards us.  With nostrils flaring, he stormed forward memorizing the attention of everyone.  As he high-stepped within inches of us, one of the nuns looked up and unconsciously murmured, “Holy Shit!”


Even more amazing was that as each of these unconquerable stallions was asked to perform, they immediately gained composure and lightness as they focused on their tasks with commanding precision and adeptness.  Their restless heroic agitation metamorphosed into a graceful ravishing dance and seized the heartbeat and breath of everyone present.  Excalibur and Genio amassed an incontestable presence of greatness incarnate.

I have spent 30 years observing, interacting, trying to manage and leading Salespeople.  As I reflect on these legions of sellers, I am easily able to sort them into two groups: “the average” and “the great”.  Although many of the typical run-of–the-mill Salespeople have definitely made a steady and reliable contribution towards results, it is the “great ones” who I recollect.  Often unsung heroes of the business world, these rare individuals possess the qualities to create breakthrough growth and new identities for a company.  They are the Stallions of Industry.

You might be able to manage an ordinary Salesperson, but you must be prepared to “Lead” if you desire to maximize the yields of a Top Salesperson.

The average Salesperson is elementary to ascertain. They attend meetings on-time, pay close attention following the agenda and take notes.  They accurately fill out your sales reports and submit their expense reports on time.  They follow the plan laid out for them attaining their goals on a regular basis.  They always have time for a friendly chat and are remarkably skillful at making you feel important.  It is comfortable to dedicate time to them as they become moldable images of your direction.  There is nothing wrong with this group of performers and often they make up the substance of your sales force.


Then there is the other breed.  They reject the imposition of structure at every turn. If meetings are not for their direct advantage, you are wasting their time.  They are show-boats and flaunt their presence with unobvious means. Your reports, your rules and your plans are viewed as harnesses averting them from running their own path.  They
produce extraordinary results which set them apart from everyone else.  They have inadequate time for your agendas and will push back on direct intervention.  In short, they can drive you to the brink.

Look around your next sales meeting.  Do you detect several pairs of fire breathing eyes, ready to defy convention, shifting in place and chomping at the bit to get out of the room so they can sell something?  Do you see any astonishing Salespeople?  If not, you have serious recruiting work to do.  Scott Lazarus, the owner of Office Furniture Group and one of my current mentors, has a philosophical mantra for hiring Top Salespeople.  It is simply, “Hire the Studs!”  As a Sales Leader you must acquire the skills, campaigns and facility to identify, attract, engage and hire the best Salespeople in your industry.  Without Top Salespeople you will find yourself in a very “comfortable” position managing a middling sales group creating average results.

With the attraction of Top Salespeople to your team, you must discard any hope of managing them.  Pulling or pushing a Stallion will only induce a trampling or a kick in the teeth.  Leading them involves walking alongside them with advice, guidance and support.  Top Salespeople who are the best in their field, regardless of titles, are comparable in skill and talent to any upper level executive.  Any attempt to subordinate them will only drive them to your competitors.  Their personal goals are always higher than the organizations.  You only need to help them focus and maintain perspective in the face of the difficult challenges they face every day, to realize unparalleled successes.

A Street Smart Leader knows when he has a Stallion on his hands and how to lead him to championship performance.  Rather than concentrating on management principles, your job is to bring out and usher the talent of Top Salespeople. The interaction with these Top Salespeople can be challenging, but master the skills of a fearless trainer and you will own the show.

And for those of you who are wondering the about the lasting impact Excalibur and Genio left with me – we’ll let’s just say I was inspired to integrate the equine experience into my life!  Below is a picture of my wife riding my faithful steed, Amador.  Uncle Jay, Aunt Donna and Amador are no longer with us, but I carry with me the unforgettable exalting sensation of riding mountaintops with a divine Charger.

Myrna riding Amador



Excalibur and Genio paintings by Leslie Harrison