Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Year's Wish For Leaders

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better man or woman.”

~Benjamin Franklin

Oh, if we could all just follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice, what a wonderful world it would be. Why must we all find fault with each other while carrying anger and hatred into the world? Why do so many of us want to see others fail so that we can succeed and why do we defend our lies as if they are truths?

Why are human beings so flawed, and why is each one of us so tragically human?

During the Christmas season the world is full of love and goodwill toward all mankind. Almost immediately after that, the New Year comes along and millions of folks make resolutions that most will never comply with. For those two days of the year we practice universal love and make conscious decisions to be better men and women.

For the rest of the year, most of us simply go back to being the people we are and have always been with the inevitable consequences…wars rage on, crime rates escalate, court room waiting lists get longer, people die in alcohol related accidents, ordinary people die from substance abuse, others die from lung cancer, strokes, heart disease and violence; obesity levels grow and we all continue our race to self-induced oblivion.

It seems that most of us cannot sustain a conscious effort to be better men and women for more than a couple of days each year.

This year, why not become a leader to everyone in your life?

Why not set the example by overcoming your vices, putting aside your anger, adopting an attitude of pure positive thoughts and actions and by making a concerted effort to be a better person?

Can you do it? Can you be the one person who will make a difference? You probably cannot change the world single-handedly, but you can make a difference in your environment and you can make improvements in your own life that others will notice.

Forget about societal, cultural, employment related, success driven, peer pressure-induced urges and just do what you know is right. Resist the vices that you know are not helping you succeed, always put on a smile for everyone you meet, reach for positive thoughts in every situation and always do your best. Most importantly, make a deliberate effort to be a better person. If you do that, you will never suffer from guilt of any kind and you will be a model for everyone you meet. In some way, large or small, you will be a leader of mankind.

Benjamin Franklin lived from 1706 to 1790 and yet he observed the same human behaviour that we all live with in 2011. Take a page out of his book and be someone who leads others to a better world.

It is never too late and it will always be noticed and appreciated.

All the Best!

Wayne Kehl

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We Should Honour Christmas All Year Long

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

~ Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English author. From, “A Christmas Carol”

I was quite taken by this quote from Charles Dickens. This line from “A Christmas Carol” reminds us of the fact that for most people, the true spirit of kindness and giving is with us for only one day of each year. As much as we might like to honour the spirit of Christmas throughout the year, it is not long after December 25th that we return to our old habits and vices…we return to being normal, flawed human beings.

People of many lands have chosen Christmas as a reason to be kind, generous, and warm to all others.

Large scale wars all over the world will have cease-fires during the Christmas holiday. People who seldom speak take the time to write and send greeting cards to each other. Everywhere you go people of all races, creeds, colours and genders can be heard shouting, “Merry Christmas!” to almost anyone they come into contact with. Despite the commercial implications of it, Christmas genuinely brings peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women. Smiles abound and anger is put on hold for two or three glorious days. Everyone seems to want to impose the best part of mankind on everyone else during the few days surrounding December 25th.

How sad it is that we cannot carry those good feelings, thoughts, emotions and actions with us 365 days of every year.

If we could just remember the deep seated emotions that flood our hearts, souls, and minds on Christmas morning; if we could only treat everyone the way we treated our friends and family during Christmas dinner; if we could just feel that way and treat everyone with that much kindness all year long, the world would be a glorious place indeed.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, try to honour the Christmas spirit all year long. You will be rewarded with the gift of joy and the precious present of a peaceful mind.

Merry Christmas to one and all!
Wayne Kehl

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hey Leaders, "Life Is A Balancing Act!"

Do you have some amazingly energetic, hard working, loyal employees who work long hours and never complain? Do any of your staff members handle additional roles in the community, on non-profit boards, or with service clubs in addition to juggling work and family duties? Do you have some folks working for you who never want to take holidays and even when they do, they continue working from the beach or airplane while their families are forced to amuse themselves without the presence of their breadwinners for hours at a time?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, trouble might be just around the corner!

Every person on earth needs a reasonable and suitable work/life balance. While they might impress you with their industriousness and loyalty and your firm might be reveling in the fruits of their labors, they are probably working toward an eventual, total meltdown.

Every person has a different level of stress that they can comfortably absorb or disregard before they hit an emotional wall.

• Some people love their work so much that they do not even consider it work. Those are the people who are constantly smiling while they do their jobs.

• Others simply press the outer edges of their emotional control because of insecurity or fear. They are afraid they might let someone down or fail altogether.

• Some employees just look stressed-out, weary, or frustrated at all times. These people are on the edge and close to a complete collapse.

You might think that those folks who energetically ply their trade with smiles all day long because they love what they do, don’t need or want down-time or an actual holiday. You might think those hard workers who apply themselves with dedication to everything they do are well adjusted and simply more capable than the average human being. You might think that the weary, frustrated people are just lazy or ill suited to their work. In each of these cases the bottom line is that all of these people needs reasonable work/life balance and time off to get their minds, and more importantly, their emotions off of their work.

It is up to managers, supervisors and leaders of all kinds to recognize the symptoms of poor work/life balance and find ways to deal with them.

Leaders must always keep track of over-work situations and must never make any employee feel bad or negligent for taking their fair share of time off. Not only will they be doing their employees a favor by assisting them with this chronic, twenty-first century problem but also in many cases, they will be saving themselves and their companies a lot of lost time and lost revenue.

Even those happy, smiling people who love their work and never seem to tire out need time off.

They might be energized by their work, but their total dedication to their jobs is often damaging to the health of their family and personal lives. Without a happy, healthy life away from work, human beings become unfilled and ultimately, unhappy or depressed. Sometimes the pressures placed on them by their neglected families and friends might be more than their psyche’s can handle. If you ignore a happy, hard-worker you might suddenly be faced with an unexpected sick leave, performance dip, or even a resignation from them. The toll taken by total dedication to work has proven to be the undoing of many a potential superstar employee.

Companies of all types and sizes should insist that employees at all levels work reasonable hours and that everyone take the holidays they are allotted each year.

If employees want to work additional hours on a special project, they should be granted additional time off at a more convenient juncture. If they are doing community work that enhances the image of their employer in the community, they should be allowed time during working hours to do it. If they are on holidays, they should be prevented from taking work home with them or from communicating work-related information back to their place of work.

Time off should be considered as important as “time on” in order to assure that employees are happy and healthy well into the future.

If you haven’t spent some time reviewing the down time of your employees and you want to keep them on staff and working to peak performance, you should do so now. Have a staff meeting specifically to discuss the human need for time away from work. Emphasize the fact that there is very little honor in diligence that goes so far beyond the norm that it becomes hazardous to future performance. Let everyone know that it is not only the right, but also the responsibility of every employee to take the time off that they are provided. Tell them there will be no extra credit for time-off-not-taken. Most importantly, let all of your employees know that you care about their emotional and physical health.

Good work/life balance is a predictor of longevity and good future performance.

Help your employees to stay emotionally fit by assisting them in finding and retaining the balance they deserve.

All the Best!

Wayne Kehl

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can A Woman Be A Great Leader Of Men?

If we are going to have an intelligent discussion about women in leadership positions firstly we must accept that women and men do not, and should not lead in the same fashion. Women think differently than men and their natural tendencies are driven by different motives than men. In short, women and men are different!

Women who want to be great leaders should not devalue their femininity by emulating the leadership traits of men. They should instead, celebrate their femaleness by bringing all of the amazing female qualities that they have at their disposal to their leadership positions. They should think like women, act like women and look like women at all times. Women who change their inherent style to become more like men when they move into leadership positions are fooling no one. We all know they are women and we become uncomfortable when they appear to be moving away from their natural female roles.

Women make up fifty percent of the population. Because of the plethora of ladies around us, men understand what makes the fairer sex tick. Most men have undying love and respect for their mothers and would do almost anything to support and protect them. They will step in front of a hurtling freight train to save their wives from harm and would fight a grizzly bear with a small stick to defend their daughters. Men are hard-wired to treat women well and to do everything they can to make their lives better.

Despite the natural tendency of men to protect women from harm, bullying and sexual harassment are not uncommon in the workplace.

When the testosterone-driven positions of power that men hold dear are threatened by the scent of female hormones, they tend to drop their naturally protective instincts and go into fight-mode. If a woman in a superior position takes on an aggressive, demanding stance, many men will see her as the enemy and will do any number of unspeakable things to engineer her demise. Even women will see a dominant, masculine leadership style from another woman as foreign and unpalatable.

The best way for me to illustrate a good female leadership style is to provide an example of a great female leader that I have actually worked with...I will call her Debbie for the purposes of this story.

Debbie was known to be intelligent, knowledgeable and conscientious. For decades she performed well in important project management and product development positions. She was a great resource for a large number of employees, managers, and executive leaders. She was well regarded, well liked and highly valued for her work. The day she was promoted to Vice President of Sales however, marked a change in the way almost everyone in the company viewed her and in the general expectations everyone had of her. It is very important to note that this was a position that had only been occupied by men in the past. Debbie was given responsibility not only for the overall sales of her division, but for the day-to-day sales activities of a large number of aggressive, mature, crusty salesmen who were set in their ways. They had never been lead by a woman and they had no idea what to expect.

Debbie had a big choice to make.

She could continue to be the intelligent, kind, nurturing female she had always been or she could morph into a hard, demanding, command and control leader. If she had betrayed her natural tendencies to care for and nurture her direct reports, she might have failed. However, she had enough faith in herself to avoid becoming something she was not and instead led her division with kindness, caring and a nurturing spirit. She held her direct report accountable but instead of making demands and finding fault, she offered support and encouragement. When things went badly, she proactively offered her help and rather than criticizing, lecturing or disciplining, she coached, counselled and assisted. When things went well, she provided acknowledgement, praise and celebration. At all times, she exuded pride in her team and she fought for them like a mother bear. Her devotion to her work-family was obvious to all and it was rewarded with true loyalty and almost universal respect.

In fairness, it is safe to say that Debbie had to work harder and put in more effort than any man in the position before her in order to win over the men who reported to her.

However, within a year she had gained their respect and admiration. Once she had made her mark as a serious leader, it was not uncommon to hear her male reports singing her praises and making it clear that she was the best sales manager they had ever worked with. They knew that she cared about them and that she was there for them no matter what happened. She also became an icon for female employees who admired her and considered her a role model for all other women in business.

She thought like a woman; she acted like a woman; she looked like a woman...and she succeeded like a man!

Can a woman be a great leader of men? Yes she can but only if she remembers to always be a woman!

All the Best

Wayne Kehl

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are Willing to Risk Your Life?

On Remembrance Day and Veteran’s Day it is important for us all to reflect on the sacrifice and devotion to duty shown by so many of our brave men and women all over the world. But, what does the observation of past and present wars mean to you?

November 11th is not about poppies, wreaths or cenotaphs. Those are only symbols to remind us of our brave military men and women. What November 11 is really about is courage and raw, unshakeable allegiance to a country. Veterans of all wars offered something that most of us have never and will never have to consider as an option. They offered their lives. They offered their countries the right to use them as corporeal weapons of war. When they made that offer to their Governments, they knew full well that they might never return from whatever theatre of war they would ultimately enter. They knew the enemy forces they would encounter would show them no mercy and that they too might have to make the definitive, irrevocable decision to end another person’s life.

Because it is neither natural or normal for human beings to deliberately end the lives of other human beings, our Veterans made another sacrifice. They put their integrity, their morals, and their spirituality on the line along with their bodies. They chose to overlook their natural predisposition to saving the lives of others in favour of protecting their fellow countryman from enemy forces. As much as killing did not come easily to them, they did it for the love of their homeland and the people back home they so desperately wanted to protect. Most importantly, they did these incredible things while asking nothing in return.

Members of all branches of the military were (and still are) asked to fight in unbelievably unpleasant and dangerous conditions, thousands of miles from their homes and families. They ate bad food and were paid very little for doing the most dangerous and important jobs on earth. And yet they fought selflessly until the war was over. Each time a war began, our Veterans finished it. Some came home...some did not. Some came back unharmed...others came back broken, torn, shell-shocked, and emotionally distressed. All had offered up the ultimate price...their personal right to life.

“Lest We Forget” has two meanings for me:

Firstly, we the non-Veterans of the world must never forget the sacrifices our Veterans made for us.

Secondly, we must all accept that our veterans will never forget what they were forced to do in service of their country. Veterans never forget the places they fought, the weapons they fired, or the enemy soldiers they killed and wounded. How could they? No human being could possibly forget the horrors of combat.

Our Veterans gave all they had physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

Wars are started by politicians but they are fought by fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and family members. We must always remember that our fighting men and women must be honoured for their service and that honour must never be tarnished by politics or protest. Veterans are heroes who do their duty at their own behest and for the most excellent of reasons. They are the best part of war and the best part of our humanity.

My dad fought in World War II and still carries a piece of German Shrapnel in his back to this very day. He is 88 years old now and he has never forgotten his service to his country. In fact he speaks of the war years with more clarity than perhaps anything else in his life. Unlike my father, I have never had to offer my life for virtually anything. Because my dad and millions of other Veterans fought for my freedom I have lived a very comfortable and secure life. At age 59, I find myself wondering what I would do if I was in their position and what my life would have been like if I was forced to experience what my dad experienced.

I offer my heartfelt gratitude to my dad and to every other man and woman who ever risked his or her life for their country. They represent the best of us!

Are you willing to risk your life?


Wayne Kehl

That is my dad, Dave Kehl with his head sticking out of the hatch as he drives his Sherman tank in Normandy France 1944.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ten Ways To Make Your Employees Adore You (video)

Please do not confuse adoration with lovability or even likeability. Effective leaders have a mystique about them that sets them apart from other mortals. They have an ability to garner respect, admiration, reverence, and generally high regard wherever they go. Those are the elements of adoration that we will be dealing with in this video.
No two leaders are the same. They all have their own distinct style. Some exude kindness and warmth while others reek of authority and influence. Some lead by example while others lead through delegation.  Some do things on impulse and immediate action while others are methodical and unhurried. These are products of individual personalities and no one style is better than another. They can all create success when fused with the essential elements of leadership.
No matter what style you might have, you can earn the adoration of your employees.
1.       In order to be adored as a leader you must listen to the people who work with you. Listening is an indication of respect. It shows that you are interested in them and that what they have to say matters. Most importantly, it shows that they have so much value that you will give up your most precious leadership commodity for them...your time.
2.       If you want adoration, talk to your people. Tell them what you are thinking. Tell them about yourself. Let them know that you are human and that you have the same fears, feelings, problems and concerns that they do. If you make yourself human to them they will be compelled to support and protect you when the need arises.
3.       You must control your emotions if you expect true adoration from your followers. Angry, depressed, impatient, sad, giddy, or moody people cannot gain respect and will not be taken seriously by anyone.  A calm, even demeanour with moments of obvious excitement (at appropriate times) will show followers that you are in control of yourself and therefore more likely to be someone of good character and a strong mind.
4.       Adorable people have a sense of humour. A dour, humourless demeanour might seem appropriate in some situations, but a regular diet of it in a leadership position is a morale killer. When people say things to you that they think are funny...laugh! It is not a hard thing to do. Only laugh at appropriate things and when offering your own humour, make sure you do not cross the line of inappropriateness. Work should not be punishment and it follows that a joyful workplace is a productive workplace. If you are not exhibiting humour from time to time, you have not realized your full leadership potential.
5.       Make yourself available and adoration will follow. If you are truly leading, you are visible, available and transparent. Stop making excuses for not spending time with your followers. Get up from your desk and talk to them. When they want to speak with you in private, stop what you are doing (if possible) and talk to them. When they have a problem, listen to them with an open mind and do everything in your power to help them through it. Be their omnipresent symbol of strength.
6.       Trust your employees and they will adore you.  The greatest display of respect you can show an employee is to trust him or her to do the job properly, on time and on budget. Once the training phase is over and you know they are competent, leave them alone and do not meddle. Ask for progress reports and occasional performance evaluations but during the course of the workday, leave them alone and only attempt to help when they ask.  The only interference you should present is a pat on the back for a job well done or a celebration for a special success.  Your trust in them will be returned with respect and admiration for you.
7.       Communicate with your people and they will adore you. One of the most common complaints from employees is that they have little or no communication with management. What they want is more than idle chat. They want to know what is going on, what the vision of the company is, what your personal vision is, the financial strength and growth of the company, and where the company is going. They want to be an integral part of the organization and the more you tell them about where the company is taking them, the more they will admire you.
8.       To be adored you must always be cognizant of how you present yourself. Unlike some other human beings, leaders must always dress appropriately, clean and groom themselves appropriately, speak clearly and concisely and act in a politically correct fashion. Sloppy, slovenly, smelly people seldom make good leaders.  People who mumble, speak too softly, tell dirty jokes or use a lot of foul language have difficulty gaining respect from followers or superiors. If you are having trouble finding adoration at work, give yourself an honest personal evaluation and make the necessary changes.
9.       If you fight for your employees you can become the most adored leader of all. Followers want their leaders to be bold, courageous, loyal warriors who will support them, protect them and speak highly of them at all times.  Leaders who put their own success and safety second to that of their employees will be held in high regard. Leaders who get involved when employees get into conflicts or bravely put themselves into the middle of customer confrontations are the most revered of all. If you make it clear to your people that you will be the last person into the life raft if the ship starts to go down you will be adored beyond your wildest imagination.
10.   Honesty is an adorable trait. Dishonesty is not!  Big lies, small lies, promises not kept, and promises conveniently forgotten are all reasons for leadership catastrophe. No one wants to be lied to. If you always do unto others as you would have them do unto you and never tell an untruth you are on the path to adoration and leadership success.
Leadership is not easy, but by practising these few simple tenets you can enhance your leadership style and move to a higher level of success.
All the Best
Wayne Kehl

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Love My Levi's And I Will Not Change!

When I was a teenager, I became very attached to Levi’s jeans. Most of my friends wore Levi’s Red Tab jeans and we all thought we looked pretty darned cool! In those days Levi’s were made of heavy, dark blue denim that eventually faded to a very pleasant lighter indigo hue. The pungent odour of the blue dye was almost overwhelming until the first time they were washed. Those were tough jeans; unstoppable in almost any situation and resilient to every sort of soil or stains. We wore the boot-cut or regular-cut varieties because those were what all the hip young men of the day wanted to be seen in. I never stopped wearing my Levi’s jeans and they are still the jean-of-choice in my wardrobe today.

As a young man, I had not considered that my Levi’s might become a matter of contention in my family when I became a father.
My teenage children wanted “designer” jeans, created by a variety of high priced cloth-cutters with odd sounding names. Gone were Levi’s, GWG, and Lee jeans...In were Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and Tommy Bahama, all of whom made jeans that cost much more than my Levi’s. My kids made a point of letting me know that I was totally out of step and needed a complete denim makeover in order to move from fuddy-duddy to cool dad status. Sadly, I never made it to that lofty level of youthful social acceptance.
Much to the chagrin of my kids, I doggedly stuck with my Levi’s. I refused to change. I was determined to stay the course and wear my Levi’s in the face of humiliation and potential ridicule from every teenager and cool dad in the world. I was set in my ways and nothing short of a mugging at gun-point could force me into designer jeans.
Just as I failed as a cool dad, many managers and executives continue to fail as successful leaders today.
Too many leaders believe that the old ways are the right ways or the only ways. A lot of Boomer and Generation X leaders believe that we need to get back to basics; return to sanity, and bring back the good old days.
Guess what folks...The good old days are gone...They will never return!
Successful leaders in the twenty first century understand that in order to be successful they must drop many of the old ways and move to a new style of people-management. Change is difficult and the older we get, the more difficult it becomes for us to accept new things. That is human nature and it is not likely to change any time soon. However, if we stand in the way of the steam-roller of change, we will surely be flattened like the pavement of a highway leading to the oblivion of bankruptcy.
Young people eventually become old people and when that happens they take over the world.
Because we will have so many Boomers leaving the workforce during this decade, we will have a faster than usual transition to the new guard...As the holders of the purse-strings and the possessors of the thrones-of-power move to retirement, they will be replaced by younger people who will demand a new world order.
When the young power-brokers take over, gone will be command and control management and gone will be the hierarchical class structures that govern most North American businesses today. Gone will be the concept that the boss is always right and gone will be the idea that employees have to do what they are told unconditionally. The new-guard will wear tee shirts and designer jeans on Wall Street and because letter-writing will be a lost art, they will text their way to success. They will eliminate boring board meetings where a few grey-haired men decide the fate of thousands and they will distribute their company’s wealth in a more equitable, almost quasi-socialistic manner.
Ironically, the new-guard were trained as children by the same old-guard that is currently resisting the changes that are as inevitable as a morning sunrise.
We, the Boomers taught our children to be fair, to stand up for themselves, to take their rightful place in the world, to distrust corporations, to detest Governments, and to make the world a better place for everyone of every race, creed, colour, gender, religion, height, width, sexual bias, from any social circle and from either side of the tracks. We have changed our children’s perceptions of social order and they will soon run their corporations with the values that we so vehemently drummed into them.
If we want our businesses to be strong and live into the future, we need to start changing our management styles now. We need to adapt to the new world order and allow our future leaders the freedom to bring their new ways into our companies. Many companies have already started this new way of doing business and have been very successful with it. They understand that corporate hierarchy, executive superiority and grey pin-striped suits are no longer necessary for success.
Forward thinking leaders understand that in the very near future most of their customers and employees will be members of the much-dreaded Generation “Y” and that they must change their ways of thinking, managing and leading now if they want their brands to live on into the future.
I am a Boomer, very near the end of my career. I still wear my Levi’s and I am still a proud fuddy-duddy. As much as very little has changed about me, I understand that the designer-jeans-wearing leaders of the future will be every bit as successful as the Levi’s wearing crew that I grew up with. I also accept that with or without my help, they will create a new social order that will be completely appropriate for its time. The future is inevitable and in my eyes, it looks bright!
I have officially stopped standing in the way of progress but I will never change my jeans!
All the Best
Wayne Kehl