World Business Forum 2010

world business forum 2010Six weeks ago, I received an invitation to be a featured blogger at the 2010 World Business Forum, which is being held October 5th and 6th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Come to find out, this is an invitation-only opportunity offered to a select group of top business bloggers and establishes a membership amongst the WBF10 Bloggers Hub.

As I read over the invite, I was uncertain if it was actually true. I expressed gratitude for kindly extending the invitation to attend the forum and asked why I was chosen to attend, as for I felt that I had yet to contribute anything of significance to the leadership community. Micheal Singer replied with: “I found your blog on someone else’s blogroll, and I took a brief look and liked what I saw. We’re looking for interesting viewpoints. And while many of our bloggers have institutional ties and recognition, etc., we also want some new voices. This is a great opportunity to stretch your voice and reach some new people if you want the opportunity. It’s that simple.”

Past speakers in the World Business Forum include political figures such as Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Rudy Giuliani, Tony Blair and Colin Powell, CEOs such as Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Herb Kelleher and John Chambers, financial experts Alan Greenspan and Jeremy Siegel as well as management experts Tom Peters, Peter Drucker and Jim Collins among others. This year’s World Business Forum boasts a dynamic agenda and a dizzying array of speakers, including former U.S. Vice-President/Nobel Prize Recipient Al Gore; Avatar director James Cameron; Blue Ocean Strategy co-author Renée Mauborgne and more than a dozen other exciting thought leaders spanning the spectrum of world business.

After inquiring with the management company responsible for putting together the forum, I found that as a member of the WBF10 Bloggers Hub, I will be spending two days with a bird’s eye view of these thought leaders as they explore the latest trends and changes in global business today. The Hub will also offer me an unparalleled opportunity to share their insights with my audience via blog, twitter, etc… something very important to me, as for its readers just like you that keep me at this.

To see a list of the bloggers who participated last year and to read a sample of their posts, visit the World Business Forum’s Blogger Hub; you can find complete details about WBF10, including all the conference speakers and topics here.

Big Dogs That Listen, Get Treats

listen treats“There are times when even the best manager is like the little boy with the big dog waiting to see where the dog wants to go so he can take him there.” – Lee Iacocca.

The man who fathered the Ford Mustang and resurrected Chrysler from financial oblivion wasn’t born knowing how to pull off those magic acts, he learned them. While at Ford, he initiated careful research about how American demographics and the financial wherewithal of consumers would change during the 1960s. He listened to smart people tell him what the country needed and delivered a classic automobile.

Repeat proven results and continue to build on them.

Years later at Chrysler, Iacocca landed at a corporation in turmoil. Careful analysis showed that the company was in such dire straits that extreme measures would have to be taken to save it. Iacocca ended up needing loans from the government to keep Chrysler afloat. But once he got the money, he revived the company.

When we really listen to others, we learn more about ourselves and our abilities to help others achieve their goals.

In each case, the “big dogs” for Iacocca were the demands of the business: the need for new thinking at Ford and the absolute need for a survival plan at Chrysler. These dogs forced Iacocca to listen to them follow them, and ultimately steer him in directions that would benefit both companies.

We gather facts by listening, both with our ears and our eyes. Once the facts are in place, we can then make decisions that help everybody around us.

Managers who wag the dog make decisions without letting the facts tell them what’s right. Managers who take the opposite approach usually get the treats.

How important is it to you for other to listen while you are discussing an important topic? If you sense that you don’t have the listener’s full attention, how do you handle it?

What Can You Do To Impact Employee Engagement?

employee engagement geoff snyderThere’s a lot being written these days about employee engagement and retention. It seems employee engagement levels are pretty low right now, and many experts think we’ll see a significant number of workers looking for new opportunities once the economy improves.

That could spell trouble for a lot of companies. A big exodus of staff means significant recruiting and onboarding costs. But it also means a significant drain on your “brain trust” or intellectual capital. And that more than anything can impact your organization’s competitive position and ability to succeed.

So what can you do to drive up engagement?

From a talent management perspective, there are a few basic things every manager and leader can and should do. They include:

Be clear about goals and expectations, and help employees see how their work matters to the organization.
Reward, recognize and appreciate your employees in a fair and consistent way.
Give employees opportunities for growth and development.
These four things actually cover off a lot of the employee needs commonly recognized as contributing to employee engagement. Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail.

Give Employees Meaningful Feedback on a Regular Basis

For me, the two key words here are “meaningful” and “regular”. It’s about giving each of your employees the feedback they need to succeed. Tell them what you think they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Be specific. Talk about the “what” and also the “how” – this should map to their assigned goals and competencies.

Don’t just give them feedback during their annual performance review. Tell them every day, or at least once a week. This helps them know what’s expected of them, demonstrates that you care about them and their performance, and opens up opportunities for dialogue that can help you both understand the factors that underlie their performance so you can support their success.

Be Clear About Goals and Expectations and Help Employees See How Their Work Matters to the Organization

I think one of the best ways to do this is to clearly link employee goals to higher level organizational goals. Do the mapping for them, so they can be like that famous janitor at NASA who told a visitor that by sweeping the floor he was helping put a man on the moon. This kind of context helps employees know that their work matters.

Make sure their goals are SMART and they can actually be achieved. Employees have to have the knowledge, skills and tools to do their work, but also the control and responsibility to achieve their goals. Often, we assign people goals they can’t actually achieve, then penalize them for it later.

The other thing we need to do is identify the competencies that are important for an employee’s role, as well as for the organization overall. This again helps to set clear expectations.

Finally, keep employees informed about organizational progress. Let them know, on a regular basis, how the organization is progressing in achieving its goals. This too will give them a sense of contribution and help them better understand what’s expected of them and why.

Reward, Recognize and Appreciate Your Employees in a Fair and Consistent Way

This doesn’t just mean money. There are lots of ways to reward and recognize employees. The experts tell us one of the most effective ways is with verbal praise. This is part of the feedback thing too. Find out what your employees value in terms of rewards, then cater to their preferences. And make sure your rewards and recognition are rooted in performance. That’s the only way they work as motivators.

Give Employees Opportunities for Groth and Development

Discuss your employees’ short and long-term career goals with them, and put development plans in place that give them opportunities to improve their current role and prepare for future advancement. Keep them learning. This is another great way to demonstrate that you and the organization care about the individual, but also that you’re committed to them over the long term.


While some of the things that contribute to employee engagement are outside of our direct control as managers and leaders, most of them can be fairly easily addressed with good talent management practices.

Are You A Selfish And Judgmental Manager?

business manager employee“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

It’s often tempting to judge employees at every turn. Managers often feel they are not doing their jobs if they are not judging. But good judgments require foundations. In a changing economy where knowledgeable workers now play the most important roles, Drucker believed that employees should be treated as well as you would treat volunteers because they can take their knowledge and go elsewhere anytime they want.

If you remember that your employees are the ones who came to you because they believed in what your business does for others, you’ll learn to appreciate why they are there every day.

But too often, employees are treated like possessions that can be stockpiled or discarded at management’s whim. To keep them and help them thrive, Drucker said, management needs to appeal to their interests. They will stay — and produce — when they have a clear understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish when they have responsibility for results, and when they feel they’re gaining more of the one thing no one can take away: knowledge. Anytime management makes it difficult for an employee to understand the mission (by not sharing it), to be accountable (by failing to give consistent feedback), an organization suffers. The employees might be blamed in these circumstances, but Drucker would say that management needs to look in the mirror and judge itself first.

A great manager lets his or her employees know what the organization’s game plan is. By doing this, it allows for ideas to be expressed and shared with other employees. How are you allowing this to happen within your organization?

The 80/20 Principle

80/20 principle“The best people are always underpaid and the worst people overpaid.” – Richard Koch

Over the years, I’ve found that many people settle for being mediocre at their jobs. According to Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, mediocrity is rampant. The 80/20 principle is based on statistical analysis that you can measure anything and find that 80 percent of the results are produced by 20 percent of the effort.

Take a look at your current workplace and observe who is or isn’t pulling their weight. If 80 percent of the work is being done by 20 percent of the people, what can you do about it? If you are one of the 20 percent, chances are you are being underpaid. If this is the case, learn as much as possible in your job and start looking to move on. If you aren’t enjoying job enough to provide the company with real value, chances are you are in the nonproductive, unhappy part of the 80/20 equation. In this case, it might also make sense to look elsewhere for work.

Many of us are currently in a very interesting situation. As with any economic cycle, there are upsides and downsides. Currently, most employees are feeling very disengaged at their current workplace. This is why we are going to see a lot of job shifting take place, as well as new entrepreneurial ventures begin. Employers and their management will begin to grow more and more frustrated and will start to ask “why can’t we keep any good help?” – realizing they no longer have the upper hand in today’s job market.

Apply the 80/20 principle to your workforce if you are a business owner. Determine who are the 20 percent “rockstar employees” and compensate them by giving out bonuses for productivity. Productive employees will feel grateful that their performance is acknowledged. If you don’t, someone else will. Next, weed through the 80 percent that are overpaid and don’t pull their weight. The entire value of your business will grow exponentially.

Income vs. Wealth

income wealth“The average American millionaire realizes significantly less than 10 percent of his net worth in annual income.” – Thomas J. Stanley, William D. Danko

I’ve come to terms that most people think that once you become a millionaire, all your worries will be over.

Until I had the privilege to work with some of the wealthiest professionals in the country, I too used to think the exact same thing. It wasn’t until after sitting down with and having talks over coffee about what it means to have a sense of financial freedom that I realized it’s not about how much income someone has come in, it’s about having the wisdom to handle it. With that said, it reminds me of a talk from Randy Haugen where he said: “If you can’t manage your finances with 40k a year coming in, then you are going to be flat out dangerous if/when you have a million!”

Stanley and Danko, authors of the best selling business classic, The Millionaire Next Door, conducted a twenty-year study of how people become wealthy in America and found some surprising results. Annual income does not translate to net worth automatically. Smart entrepreneurs use their income to give their company the resources it needs to grow. The average millionaire then looks for ways to decrease income, pay lower taxes, and use what money is left over to increase net worth.

A story is related in their book about a Texan who had done so well in the business of rebuilding diesel engines that he was taking on British partners. The Brits flew to Texas to meet him and were rather taken aback by his ten-year-old car, his worn jeans, and his modest home in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. In fact, on meeting him, they thought he was one of the company’s truck drivers. Then he showed them his spreadsheets, and they were blown away!

Besides hard work, accumulating wealth requires discipline and sacrifice, and that might mean living below your means. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t be influenced by keeping up with the Joneses.