Posts tagged "Leader"

10 Ways to Create Disengaged Employees

March 14th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Engagement, Leadership 0 thoughts on “10 Ways to Create Disengaged Employees”

It’s easy to find advice on how to improve employee engagement, some good, some useless. Here are some ways to create DISENGAGED employees. Our advice? Don’t do the things listed here.

Read This Before Joining a Mastermind Group

February 16th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Mastermind Group, Owner, Peer Group 2 thoughts on “Read This Before Joining a Mastermind Group”

If you’ve ever thought of joining a mastermind group, please read this.

I’m Jon Umstead, author of Business is ART and founder of Plan Canvas. In this week’s post, I’d like to speak with you directly from my heart – then invite you to join me.

Several years ago, I became a believer in the power of mastermind groups. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a mastermind is effectively peer-to-peer mentoring in a facilitated group setting. Everyone comes together to help one another solve their problems.

The concept itself was coined nearly 100 years ago by author Napoleon Hill (The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich).

There are all kinds of mastermind group options, methodologies, and platforms. I was trained in mastermind group facilitation by one of the most prestigious CEO coaching companies around. But while I became a fast and firm believer in the concept, some of the core practices promoted by this particular company were not in harmony with my own beliefs.

How can it be done differently?

So I sat things out for a year, thinking about. If I were to create and run my own version of a mastermind group, what would it look like, how would it function, and what would be some of the core characteristics of candidates to join the group?

I then began the task of recruiting candidates – something I will admit is not fun to me. It can be a hard sell. How do you show someone that it is worth their money and time away from work to sit in a room with a bunch of people from other industries, helping them solve their problems, when you’ve got enough of your own?

“My business is unique. I don’t need to talk to people from other industries. I need to talk to people with businesses just like mine.”

Heard that all the time as well.

But ultimately we assembled a group that ran for 2 years. It represented some of the greatest professional experiences I have ever had.

We met monthly at alternating locations and as I’d pack up food, beverages, laptop, projector, tripod and flip charts, and drive off to our meeting, I’d think to myself, “Is this going to be worth it today? What if no one gets any value out of it?”

After the meeting would adjourn, I’d pack up and start driving home, feeling completely good about the day.

There is no more rewarding professional feeling than knowing you were part of helping someone else get through a really tough issue. Occasionally, it would literally bring a tear to the eye.

The group had a lot of successes – here are a few

One of our group members had to figure out how to make massive personal life changes due to the failing health of a loved one. One wrestled with a decision to run for public office – something she had wanted to do for a long time – but how could she juggle the responsibilities of owning and operating a small business with several employees and clients to consider AND be a public servant?

In both cases, the group was challenged with helping these members determine solutions and a plan forward. In both cases, things worked out.

The following is a direct quote from another one of the former mastermind group members, who has given me permission to share it:

“Since joining Jon’s mastermind group, my revenue has increased 31.25% in 10 months. Employee morale and productivity has increased 50% by implementing new processes and incentive programs recommended through the group. As a direct result, our competitors do not even compare to the service we provide.”

Christina Walters, Founder/Owner Night Dispatch

If I could guarantee results like that for everyone, I’d be an occasional guest Shark on Shark Tank and have a private island next to Tony Robbins’

But I can guarantee this.

If you join a well-run mastermind group and show up – I mean REALLY show up – you will find it well worth your time and money. Most members find they actually save time by investing in a mastermind.

For the last 14 months, I’ve missed our group. We shut it down due to the retirement of members – one member actually ran for and won the election to the office she had considered. It was also time for me to focus on the development of Plan Canvas. In short, it had run its course.

And now, I am very pleased to say, it is time to start a new group

This time, I will be leading one electronically. We will meet online, monthly, in the evenings, beginning this month.

This revised format will make it possible to expand the group well beyond geographical boundaries, in multiple time zones, and at a time that does not encroach on normal business hours.

Start for free and let the experience speak for itself

The best way to experience it and start gaining benefit from it is to just jump in.

And I get it. You’re skeptical. You have enough demands on your hard earned cash. But if you have ever considered joining a mastermind group, give this one a shot.

I am offering a free introduction to it, so there is nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Contact me directly at to discuss it and get you started. There can only be 10 members to a group and some seats are already taken, so, there is no guarantee to fit you in.

This genuinely could be one of the best decisions you have ever made. I am THAT confident in it.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

When Your Boss has the Attention Span of a Gnat

October 25th, 2017 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post 0 thoughts on “When Your Boss has the Attention Span of a Gnat”

Have you ever heard someone say, “My boss has the attention span of a gnat?” Have you ever said it about someone else?

Perhaps you should think twice before ever saying it again. Not only is it demeaning, the very characteristic you are complaining about can actually be a good thing. In fact, it is a very common characteristic in successful leaders.

A post at The Balance entitled The Common Traits of Successful Senior Executives says that one of them, number 13, is as follows:

“They multitask and tend to exhibit short attention spans. Unfortunately, this behavior is often perceived by others as not paying attention or caring. They often have to learn the behaviors of how to listen and show people that they are listening.”

But what if it goes beyond exhibited or perceived behavior, someone you work with or for actually has ADHD, and hasn’t learned to listen or show people she or he is listening?

For a methodical/analytical person, this can be very frustrating. Likewise, it can be a very frustrating proposition for the person with ADHD to work with the very methodical person.

The good news is that both can be very successful and happy in a working relationship by following just a few simple tips.

Start by accentuating the positive

It helps to first understand each other, then accentuate the positives.

For example, someone with ADHD may have many characteristics and behaviors that can be of benefit to the team. An article at Inc. entitled How People With ADHD Can Be Hugely Successful lists 8 “superpowers” of individuals with ADHD as follows:

  1. Unlimited energy
  2. Hyperfocus
  3. Abundant creativity
  4. Simple solutions
  5. Risk without thinking
  6. Multitasking
  7. Stubbornness
  8. Sensitivity

Now that you see the positive aspects in the other person, start thinking about how everyone can use them to the team’s advantage (mutual benefit).

Learn how to work with others who are different from you

You may have to learn how to work with one another. Do a little research. Take a class or attend a seminar. There is a lot of good information available to you if you just take a little time to find and study it.

For example, a blog post at PsychCentral entitled 5 Tips for Working with Someone with ADHD lists these five suggestions for working effectively together:

  • Keep explanations concise, to-the-point and high-level
  • If you’re feeling ignored, speak up
  • If something is time-sensitive, give a deadline
  • Don’t micromanage
  • Don’t make ADHD symptoms about character

Now think of the make-up of the team

Sometimes opposites attract. Sometimes, partnering up a methodical individual and an individual with ADHD can bring about tremendous results. Sometimes it can be a colossal failure. It may very well depend on how extreme the individuals are from one another. If either or both have the ability to be flexible and work outside of their comfort zones, even a little, things can work out. But if neither can, a third party mediator or coach may be required.

The third party would have to be able to easily maneuver from one extreme to the other without frustration or judgment in order to serve as a calming force between the two vessels. But without that balance, one may lead the team to chaotic explosion while the other may lead the team to paralyzing implosion. So give that some thought before building the team and be flexible to change once the team is built.

Set a few soft boundaries

If you work with or for someone whose characteristics and behaviors are different from your own, you have to be very flexible while simultaneously setting some soft boundaries. Here are a few suggestions for doing so:

  • Begin your day early and in isolation in order to get certain things accomplished or to allow someone else to have this same “quiet time” – make these things a priority during this time (don’t get distracted yourself)
  • If you can’t start early, set aside time each day during normal hours for the same purpose
  • Accept that the rest of your day may feel like organized chaos – be prepared for multiple impromptu meetings, calls, emails and requests if someone you work with has ADHD and be prepared for long periods of not hearing from someone if they are a very methodical/analytical thinker
  • In addition to the scheduled quiet time, and frequent impromptu meetings, schedule time together for a specific purpose and stay focused on that purpose when you are together
  • Keep track of things by writing them down or recording them in tools like Plan Canvas – then consistently ask each other which of these items have the highest priority
  • Practice listening – often the other individual just needs to “think out loud” and isn’t really looking for your feedback as they do – don’t underestimate the value of being a sounding board in this way

Finally, when you feel frustrated, take a deep breath and remember that while you are thinking the other person has the attention span of a gnat, that other person is probably thinking that if you were any more anally retentive you couldn’t sit down for fear of sucking up the furniture.

And most importantly, in neither case, is it about character. It is about learning to effectively work together and utilizing each others’ strengths in ways that are most positively impactful for all concerned.

Modern Business Failures Part 3 – Polaroid

May 31st, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Leadership 0 thoughts on “Modern Business Failures Part 3 – Polaroid”

polaroidEvery consumer industry has a few huge brand names that are synonymous with it. For fast food burgers, there’s McDonald’s and Burger King. For discount stores, there’s Wal-Mart and Target. The list goes on.

These companies are massive, and they’ve been around so long, it seems like they’ll be around forever. But there are no guarantees in the world of business.

For most of the 1900’s, there were two brand names that dominated consumer photography (and the film market, as well):

Kodak and Polaroid.

These giants created their industry, and yet, at the turn of the millennium, both hit hard times. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Kodak in 2012. While Kodak eventually recovered, Polaroid never did.

At it’s peak, Polaroid employed around 21,000 people and had a annual revenue of over $3 billion. So what exactly happened?

The Company (and the Founder) that Steve Jobs Idolized

Polaroid was the “Apple” of its industry four decades before Apple even existed. It brought cutting edge technology that disrupted the current market and packaged it with a marketing vision that had personality its competitors lacked.

Much like Apple had Steve Jobs, Polaroid had its own larger-than-life mastermind: Edwin Land.

There was one key difference; unlike Jobs, Land actually was an inventor and engineer, developing the technology that brought his company early success in the late 30’s and early 40’s.

According to Steve Jobs himself, Land “saw the intersection of art and science and business and built an organization to reflect that”.

Today, he’s considered the father of instant photography. Land would lead his company for 43 years as CEO, creating attractive and useful products while filing numerous patents that they fiercely defended. Some would say Apple took inspiration from this as well.

A Failed Product and a Lost Founder

In 1977, Polaroid attempted to repeat its success with instant photography in the video camera market. They launched the Polavision, an instant movie camera system. Unlike its previous cameras, however, the Polavision was lacking in both convenience and quality.

Polavision could only be played back on special Polavision viewers. To create a copy, you had to actually break the cartridge that held the film and then run it through an 8mm system.

This might have been worth it if the Polavision produced a quality picture, but recordings were described as flat and murky.

It also couldn’t record sound.

Meanwhile, VHS and Betamax cassettes were on the rise, providing easy storage and playback on modern TVs. Polavision was dead in the water, resulting in an $81 million loss for Polaroid and the resignation of Edwin Land.

The Beginning of the End

In the years following, Polaroid would attempt to reinvent itself and even had a few minor successes such as disposable cameras, not to mention bringing one of the first mainstream digital cameras to market.

But they hit another snag along the way. In an attempt to fight off a hostile takeover in 1988, Polaroid bought back a significant amount of shares, creating an employee stock ownership plan.

This resulted in significant amounts of debt from which it never managed to escape.

Staff grew bloated as well. According to a report by the New York Times, sales tripled between 1972 and 1998 while staff increased five-fold. For every sales representative, there were two back-office workers.

In 1991, it won $925m in a lawsuit against Kodak, but that wasn’t enough. As the market moved away from film, sales took a serious hit and Polaroid’s patents began to either expire or just stopped mattering.

Today, Polaroid exists as a brand name only.

Basic Business Principles We Can Learn from Polaroid

There are a number of smaller lessons that can be learned from Polaroid. Even in a very successful company, one poorly executed idea can set off a devastating chain reaction.

When a market begins shifting quickly, you have to be ready to move even faster, knowing that the main revenue streams you have today might not always be there to bring in money.

And lastly, a company reaches a point it needs to be bigger than its founder. Polaroid never truly recovered after the exit of Land. Even today, with Apple Computers, many would say that it hasn’t shown any true innovation since the passing of Steve Jobs. Yes, they’re still a very successful and healthy company, but the gears have been slowing.

Though Polaroid is gone, it left behind a legacy of innovation. Recently, Polaroid-style instant cameras have made a resurgence, particularly among younger consumers, for their novelty factor and ability to create immediate memories.

When the app Instagram launched, many of its photo filters carried borders and effects that paid homage to classic Polaroid cameras.

And for entrepreneurs, Edwin Land left behind some great quotes. For example:

“If you are able to state a problem…then the problem can be solved.”

“Optimism is a moral duty.”

“If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess.”

4 Simple Ways to be a Better Leader

November 2nd, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Leadership 0 thoughts on “4 Simple Ways to be a Better Leader”

LeaderMany say they want to be a better leader but few will actually follow through with it. To become better, you have to grow and change, and changing your ways isn’t always easy – especially for many leaders. After all, “the way they are” is part of what got them to “where they are.”

But in order to become the best leader you can be, you must first become a better leader than you are now. Becoming better isn’t as difficult as you might think. It just takes a conscious effort.

Here are four simple practices you can put into place to become a better leader.

Utilize People Who are Better than You

One of the great telltale signs of a poor leader is that they always hire and manage people who don’t have as much growth potential as the leader. This stems from insecurity and results in mediocrity. To be a better leader, you must find people who are better than you in certain areas. People that understand things that you can’t understand or who have strengths that you don’t have.

Then you have to trust their opinions in those areas. You need to be confident enough in yourself to know when you don’t know or you can’t do something. Just because you’re following someone else’s guidance doesn’t mean you’re not leading, because at the end of the day, it’s still your decision and your team.

And let’s face it, when you allow your team to do great things, you look great.

In Business is ART, I put it rather bluntly: “For the boss to be scared that one of their employees will look great is idiotic. When the team looks great, the boss looks great. A boss who tries to do it all or take all the credit looks silly.”

(get your copy of Business is ART at Amazon)

Be Positive. Always.

No one wants to follow a negative person in the professional space. It’s soul draining and demotivating. If you are positive, the people under you will become more positive. If you’re encouraging, they will be encouraged.

Yes, this seems obvious, but think about your past week or two. Have you been positive in your actions and statements? Do those following you believe you have a good attitude about things?

Never underestimate how much your attitude affects those under you.

Get to Know Your Team Better

Now, there often needs to be a buffer between a leader and those following them, particularly in a professional workspace. But that doesn’t mean your people should be foreign to you. They’re not just titles and responsibilities. They’re people with names and friends and hobbies and struggles.

Interact with them. Understand them. Let them know that you’re paying attention, and that you care. If they know you value them as more than a position, but as a person, they will naturally become more committed in following you.

Never Stop Learning

When a person starts off in leadership, they’re hungry and eager. They want to learn and mimic and be inspired. But once you begin to find some success in what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, that drive to learn might start to die.

Don’t let it.

Listen to other leaders. Read books. Go to speaking events. Check out podcasts. Soak in leadership, not just from big corporate names, but anywhere you can access it. Find leaders you can relate to. Get a mentor. Try mentoring someone below you. You’d be surprised what you might learn in doing so.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself to be a much better leader.

Leadership Legacy

January 10th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Entrepreneur, Inspiration, Leadership, Owner, Relationships, Significance 0 thoughts on “Leadership Legacy”
Leadership Legacy

Leaders Have Vision

This week in my personal blog – #Significance – I discuss three local men who did very well in life, but still made it a priority to give back to their community, each one leaving a legacy for generations to come.

EMBA Assignment

It reminds me of a passage from Business is ART in which I discuss an assignment we received as part of our Executive MBA course curriculum. This particular assignment was for each of the 50 members of our cohort to stand up in front of the others and give a 5-minute presentation entitled “My Leadership Legacy.”

The presentations ran from very funny to deeply moving, but in every case, we came to understand each other on a much greater level than we had the rest of the entire time we were in the program together.

Applying What We Learned

It was such a powerful experience that I brought the exercise back to my business and asked each of the approximately 40 leaders that reported to me to complete the same assignment.

When all was said and done, the same results experienced in the EMBA program occurred – each leader left feeling more connected to one another than before.

But this time, as each leader stood up and presented the leadership legacy statement to the rest of us, I took notes. Later, I went back through the notes and noticed distinct trends, so consolidated them into a series of 11 leadership legacy statements. These statements were subsequently presented back to the team. We then printed and farmed the statements and hung them on the office walls to remind ourselves that this is who we are.

Here are the 11 statements we developed from our exercise, but I highly recommend you come up with your own, whether it’s just you or your collective team that does it. You’ll get to know yourself and others like you never have before.

Be open. Be honest. Have fun! 

Our Leadership Legacy Statements

  1. As a leader, it is my responsibility to own and communicate a vision
  2. As a leader, my actions speak louder than my words
  3. As a leader, I am empathetic to others
  4. As a leader, I instill trust
  5. As a leader, I teach others
  6. As a leader, I am flexible
  7. As a leader, I never stop learning
  8. As a leader, I contribute to the growth of others
  9. As a leader, I recognize the strengths of others
  10. As a leader, I create and promote teamwork
  11. As a leader, I celebrate our success

As a leader you are always on display

December 21st, 2015 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Manager, Owner, Relationships, Significance 0 thoughts on “As a leader you are always on display”
Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Portions of this post appear in the book Business is ART. The post in its entirety previously appeared at the former Business is ART Blog site on November 4, 2014. I was recently reminded of it from a post by fellow consultant and blogger Matt Monge (@MattMonge) of The MojoCompany and thought it bears repeating.

As a leader, you are on display at all times.  How you behave sets the tone for your business or organization. This goes for general behavior as well as momentary behavior.

Always be cognizant of how others are reading you; because they are.  Every second of every workday, your employees (and clients) are reading you.

One morning, after having had a significant disagreement with someone in my personal life, I let that disagreement influence my workplace behavior.

When I got to the office, instead of the usual, “Good morning.  How are you?” type of greeting to which people had become accustomed from me, I entered the break room with a scowl on my face.  I didn’t look at or engage with anyone. I simply poured a cup of coffee and hurried back to my desk.

Later, one of the most trusted members of my leadership team, and someone I am proud to still call a friend, knocked on my door and suggested that we needed to talk in private.

He closed the door and asked in a very concerned tone, “Are we going to announce layoffs?”

The question stunned me. We were growing. We were profitable. I didn’t know where this was coming from.

“No.  Why?”

“There’s a rumor going around.”

“How did THAT get started?”

“Some employees were in the break room this morning and said you wouldn’t even look them in the eyes, so, they started speculating on what was wrong.  Then they concluded you couldn’t look them in the eyes because you are going to lay some of them off.”

I started the rumor.  I did.  Not knowingly or intentionally, but, because I was not paying attention, it led employees to speculate as to what was causing my “unnatural” behavior, and they “naturally” concluded I was about to chop some heads…probably starting with anyone lounging about the break room!

The good news was, we dramatically cut back on the cost of coffee that day. The bad news was, we lost a lot of productivity due to gossip and worry.  Worse, I lost at least some degree of the faith and trust of some of my employees.

That is a very, very hard thing to win back.  Who knows how long after I tried to assure everyone that cuts were not on the horizon had they assumed I was not being honest with them?

It was probably a long time.

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