Please welcome William Powell to my blog. William is a candid, witty, and passionate professional who is known for his work over the last decade as an advisor for leadership development, organizational culture development, and employee engagement. He is known internationally by for-profits, non-profits, and individuals for his valuable insights not only in the area of self-leadership, but also as a valued consultant, dynamic speaker, and trusted coach. Bottom line, William Powell knows leadership and how to do it well. We recently discussed a variety of leadership topics, and I would like to share William’s compelling observations. For more about William, visit his blog and follow him on Twitter.HOW CAN A LEADER (CEO, PRESIDENT, CHAIRMAN, ETC.) CREATE A CORPORATE CULTURE?
WILLIAM POWELL: One of the most important things in creating a healthy culture is to start with the values that will support the culture you want. Culture is based on behavior, behavior is driven by decisions, and decisions are governed by values. You can't micro-manage a culture. It must be organic and natural.
Starting with values will easily provide clarity for vision and then mission. Most companies already have a vision and mission, but if a company doesn't create the desired culture, it’s pretty much pointless. It's a mixed message and not only will the culture not happen, but there will be even less employee engagement. Vision and culture must match, and if you begin with values, it minimizes the chance of having culture and vision fight against one another.
WHO DO YOU THINK ARE THE 5 STAND-OUT CEO’S IN CORPORATE AMERICA TODAY, AND WHY?
WILLIAM POWELL: Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos: Tony has redefined business for the 21st century. He has set a precedent of customer service and employee engagement that has quickly become the new standard for market industry leaders. Through his workshops and training programs, Tony continues to support the development of other leaders.
Douglas Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup Company: Douglas and his executive team have decided to make their employee engagement efforts “world-class,” in his own words. He has seen the measurable difference in their bottom line by enabling leaders throughout the organization to improve the emotional commitment from their teams.
James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte: Jim is a passionate leader who models and advocates mutual trust between employees and leadership. He encourages members of the leadership team within his organization to respect their people, help employees find their authentic voice and leadership style, and to demonstrate a genuine advocacy for their professional development.
John Noseworthy M.D., CEO of The Mayo Clinic: John has found an amazing way to protect the confidentiality of patients while simultaneously embracing social media in the area of health care. Recently, The Mayo Clinic has begun allowing patients to post their stories on the clinic’s blog. This allows Mayo Clinic customers/patients to have a voice, evangelize the Mayo Clinic brand, and advertise simultaneously.
Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy: Brian is focused on creating a fun and inspiring workplace while still maintaining sustainable solutions. He doesn’t buy into the pressure of Wall Street because he has a different view of Wall Street’s purpose. In his words, “Wall Street doesn’t care what a company is doing unless it is a means to a better outcome. Best Buy believes that its sustainability strategy will lead to a better outcome.”
HOW CAN A LEADER ENCOURAGE HIS/HER EMPLOYEES TO BECOME BRAND AMBASSADORS, AND WHICH COMPANIES HAVE SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISHED THIS?
WILLIAM POWELL: In short, position your brand in a way that allows the employees to emotionally connect with it. What does the brand mean to the employee? Does that brand represent a place that is the bane of their existence that they tolerate in order to get a paycheck? Is it a place where they stay because it’s familiar even if they don’t feel very valued there? The lower the level of employee engagement, the lower the chance of an employee being a brand ambassador.
If your brand represents an organization that cares about people and values their voice and contributions, then people will be quick to share that brand with others. There’s a reason that the people at Zappos, who are incidentally being paid similar to other call centers, love their brand. Just look at Apple, Zappos, Southwest, and Google.
WHAT IS THE ONE MISTAKE YOU FIND LEADERS MAKE THE MOST?
WILLIAM POWELL: A too-common mistake made by leaders is viewing leadership as external to the “team.” One of the things I consistently see being done poorly is the erroneous perception that being the leader somehow excludes someone from the team. Being a leader is still being a member of the team – just with different responsibilities. When a leader begins to view him/her as external to the team or work group, his/her behavior changes and those who are “led” will pick up on it immediately. An atmosphere of distrust develops and slowly erodes productivity. Usually the problems remain hidden until they fester into a giant mess – and no one knows where to begin to fix the mess. It either devolves into a command and control leadership style or one with little-to-no accountability, because no one has the courage to point out the 300-pound gorilla in the room.
WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE LEADERSHIP BUZZWORD?
WILLIAM POWELL: My least favorite leadership buzzword is “tolerance” because it implies judgment. There is this sense of “My opinion/way/idea is superior or better than yours, but since I am the leader and try to promote a good atmosphere, I will tolerate your inferior thoughts.” I believe the word “acceptance” is much more appropriate. I can disagree with the premise of what someone may say or do but still accept him/her and his/her actions. No judgment, just acknowledging the differences and choosing to accept things as they are. Some may scream semantics, but I think there’s more to it than that.
WHAT FIVE LEADERSHIP BOOKS DO YOU CONSIDER MUST-READS?
WILLIAM POWELL: What, I only get to pick 5? Well, if I must...
It’s so common for leaders to read only leadership books, but leadership requires so much more than just a focus on leadership. What I mean is that having influence with others is important, but so is creating an environment that allows others to flourish with their gifts and talents. I can influence people all day long and never give them the opportunity to be who they were created to be. That being said, here is my list...
1. The Orange Revolution, How One Great Team Can Transform An Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton
2. As One, Individual Action Collective Power by Mehrad Baghai & James Quigley (CEO of Deloitte)
3. The Power Of Positive Deviance, How Unlikely Innovators Solve The World's Toughest Problems by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin & Monique Sternin
4. Start With Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek
5. Personal Ecology, Self Management and The Art Of Cultivating Healthy Relationships by William Powell
WHY ARE SO MANY CEO’S AFRAID OF SOCIAL MEDIA?
WILLIAM POWELL: Two easy answers: fear and ignorance. Nothing is more frightening than having the wrong news go out at the wrong time and then spending time and money cleaning up a PR nightmare. If you’re a CEO, you probably just got a cold chill down your back. Relax! We hear of a news story where an employee put the organization in a very compromising situation and we freak out. How often do we hear about those...once every 3 months? Once every two months? Once a month? You have a better chance at winning the lottery than having to deal with some rogue employee - who thinks he is acting on behalf of the company when he is most definitely not. But here’s the key: your organization hired employees – so start trusting them. If you don’t feel you can trust them, you may want to re-think your recruiting process!