#35 – Creating an Owner’s Mindset

Almost every CEO I know eventually asks, “How do I get my people to act like an owner? To commit to making contributions that are in the best interest of the whole organization and take full responsibility for their choices and outcomes?

My answer is, “Tell me how you lead your organization.”

The leader responds, “I make sure the roles and responsibilities are clear. I establish a clear vision, so everyone knows where we are going and why. Then I am careful to establish clear goals so that everyone knows what they need to do to ensure we get there. After all my people are the most important part of our organization and I want them to be successful.”

I ask, “And when there are difficult situations that come up or a conflict between two of your departments, how does that got resolved?”

“Well, that is what I am here for: to help remove obstacles and sort things out.”

I reply, “Can you begin to see why your people are not acting like owners as you would like them to? If you treat them like young children, they will respond like one. And unconsciously that is what you are doing.”

To be fair, this is not totally the leader’s fault. It’s the way the game of business is set up; it’s embedded deep in our culture. The expectation of a leader is to do exactly what this leader described, which in turn causes people to respond exactly like they do. Most organizations are “like a family”, which implies that the parents (leaders) make all the decisions, and the rest of the organization (the children) aren’t mature enough to be given authority or handle the responsibility of decision-making.

Let me be clear, as a leader it is your responsibility to ensure the organization creates the results required for success. This will never change. And this responsibility naturally leads you to feel the pressure to make sure others do what is required.

What if there was another way? What if we changed the rules of the game and set up a different relationship?

Imagine the leader interacting with their team as if each team member was “CEO” of their own company “contracting” with the parent organization about the contribution “their company” will make to the success of the organization.

Imagine that this group of “companies” understands they are part of an ecosystem, no longer independent entities, and each one depends on the others, and they know their contribution matters only if the whole organization is successful.

This will shift the focus from making people get the results to having them want to achieve those same results – making their contribution something they choose. Since they choose it, they will be committed to it and naturally drive to be successful.

Instead of using your people to get the results, you use the journey of getting results to develop, grow, and mature your people. Encouraging them to resolve the challenges and conflicts themselves will develop their level of maturity and the sense of being the “CEO” of their lives. You coach and guide them to self-reflect and self-improve.

This shifts the role of leader from overseer to coach helping each “CEO” become successful in running “their business,” freeing the leader to focus on more strategic concerns, because they know the ship is in good hands.

Personal experience: When I was a consulting manager at KMPG Peat Marwick, my partner-in-charge challenged me to think of myself as my own consulting company, in a network of other consulting companies. How would I act? What would I do? My mindset shifted; how I interacted with clients and prospects and my fellow consultants shifted. I became an entrepreneur instead of an employee, all because of that one question.

This is based on a blog that was originally published by Vitaly Geyman of Quantum Leaders May 17, 2023. Their website is https://quantumleaders.com/

Want to talk about this? Give me a call (971) 221-8155

#34 – Engaged is NOT enough!

Engaged is not enough! You’ve got to get married! (Sorry; just couldn’t resist 😊)

While engagement is absolutely critical, engagement alone is not sufficient for an organization to thrive. The workforce also needs to be aligned and cohesive. Let’s examine those more closely.

Workers can be completely engaged in their workplace. BUT, in addition to being engaged they need to be aligned:

  • Their efforts need to be aligned with the organization’s mission,
  • They need to collaborate across work groups, and
  • They need to focus on meeting the needs of the customers.

Likewise, they need to cohere with their workgroup and the organization. Cohesion has 3 attributes:

  • Adaptability:
    • Continuously improving how they work,
    • Using mistakes as learning opportunities, and
    • Providing upward feedback to leaders.
  • Inclusion:
    • Feeling like they belong, and feeling like a valued member of their workgroup,
    • Being well informed about how the organization is doing, and
    • Being told “why” decisions have been made.
  • Teamwork:
    • Receiving support from others,
    • Trusting their people they work with, and
    • Working together.

Each of these attributes is essential for an organization to accomplish its objectives. One survey that includes these as well as engagement is Vantage Point™. If you’d like to know more, check it out at https://vantagepointsurvey.com.

#32 The Real Patriot’s Day

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”

Paul Revere’s Ride – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Around Boston, revolutionary re-enactors celebrate Patriot’s Day on the 3rd Monday in April. The morning of April 19th, 1775, 700 redcoats marched to Concord to try to seize cannons and other munitions. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode toward Concord to warn the colonists; they were stopped before they reached Concord, but Samuel Prescott, who joined them partway through their ride, was able to take the news to Concord and beyond. Having been warned earlier, the colonists had removed and hidden the weapons. When the British soldiers reached Lexington, they encountered a group of 77 minutemen standing on the village green with their muskets. A British major ordered “Throw down your arms! Ye villains, ye rebels!” Then somebody, nobody knows actually who, fired a shot. Several British volleys were subsequently fired. When the smoke cleared, eight minutemen were dead and nine wounded, with only one Redcoat wounded.

When the British reached Concord, they only found the wooden carriages for the transporting cannon, which they put into the center of the main street and lit on fire. Then they fanned out looking in vain for stored weapons. More than 500 minutemen (the town of Stow, where I lived, sent more than 80, and other surrounding towns did likewise) watched the blaze from Buttrick’s mansion on the other side of Old North Bridge, which spans the Concord River. They thought that the redcoats were burning the town down. As the redcoats recrossed the bridge after searching in vain for munitions in the fields on the west side of the river, the minutemen started advancing toward the bridge. The redcoats fired, killing two minutemen from the town of Acton. The minutemen responded, killing three British soldiers and wounding nine more. This return volley is the “shot heard round the world.” The outside wall of the Colonial Inn in Concord still bears the holes made by musket balls that day. The minutemen continually harassed the redcoats all the way back to Boston – 18 miles! – hiding behind stone walls and trees. At least 2000 minutemen joined the fray – some estimates are as high as 3500. They killed or wounded 250 redcoats, compared to 90 minutemen killed or wounded.

Notice that we did not file for divorce from King George until July 4, 1776 – 15 months later!

When I lived in Stow, Massachusetts, I was captain of the Stow Minutemen for 5 years. When you visit Boston, be sure to see Old North Bridge in Concord, then walk the hallowed roads and fields, wondering who took cover behind this stone wall or that building.

Here are more resources:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbrbORjrYUE – 11 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQtkw2tCLyU – 5 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pt9CNfdM2g – 15 minutes

Photo courtesy of the Maynard Beacon, Maynard, Massachusetts

#31 R.I.P. or Engaged?

Are your employees R.I.P. (Retired In Place) or engaged? And does it matter?

A recent Gallup survey** shows that organizations with engaged employees outperform their non-engaged counterparts as follows:

  • 23% in profitability
  • 81% in absenteeism
  • 10% in customer loyalty/engagement
  • 18% in productivity (sales)
  • 64% in safety incidents (accidents)
  • 18% in employee turnover for high-turnover organizations
  • 43% in employee turnover for low-turnover organizations
  • 28% in shrinkage (theft)
  • 41% in quality (defects)
  • 58% in patient safety incidents (mortality and falls)

How would your organization perform if your employees were truly engaged? The first step is to measure how engaged your employees are. Oregon Organization Development Network has created an organization health assessment that includes engagement. You can learn more at: www.VantagePointSurvey.com.

* Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay


#30 Invest in Your Employees

Why invest in your employees? To help your people grow. And to encourage the best and brightest to stay with you (and attract the best and brightest to join you). They are the ones who are most interested in growing, so whichever organization invests in them will be highly attractive to them. What might this “investment” look like? Here are some ideas – I’m interested in hearing what you’ve done.

  • Professional skills training, including trade schools. To help them become a master electrician (for your maintenance personnel, or for an electrical contractor), certified supply chain professional (for a manufacturer or distributor), or certified therapist (for a social services agency) whatever is appropriate for their field of interest.
  • Continuing education at a local community college or university, including advanced degrees. Suggestion: Reimburse their tuition, fees, and books as long as they earn a grade of B or better. Does this study or degree need to be directly applicable to their current position? Your choice.
  • Life skills, such as budgeting and financial planning, or parenting, or relationships. Some people have been fortunate to learn these skills from parents or others as they grow up; others have not been so fortunate. The classes should be after hours with snacks furnished. You could also open these free classes to family members. How do you know what to offer? Ask your people.
    • For budgeting and financial planning, you can bring in a banker. You can start with an informal survey to learn what specific topics would be of greatest interest. For example, how to manage credit cards, how to reduce debt, how to save for a house, how to improve a credit score (and why that matters), how to make a financial plan (and how to stick with it).
    • For parenting, perhaps someone from a local social service agency or a group of parents and grandparents could lead the sessions. The topics can be targeted at the ages of the children, plus family dynamics.
    • For relationship improvement, you can bring in a therapist. Topics could include how to disagree constructively, how to make decisions when different values are involved, how to regain trust when it has been broken, how to communicate (and how to listen to the other).
    • ESL classes also fit this category.

I really like “life skills” category – the gain is so great, and the cost is so small! Even if only 5-6 people show up, the rest of your organization (and the community) will be aware that you’re offering these classes – and you’ll earn one more plaudit as “an organization that cares about its people”.

#29 No FEAR Performance Review

Most people dread giving and receiving performance reviews. The process is painful and does not produce good results. Jathan Janove has created a 3-step alternative, published by SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management*.

Step One: Craft a Star Profile (SP) for each position reporting to you. This is not the job description, but it can draw key components from a current job description. Have a real-time conversation with each employee about what you wrote and why. When review time comes (I’m partial to 90-day intervals), the SP will anchor the discussion.

Step Two: In the review discussion, use the No-FEAR technique. Your Frame is a candid, succinct summation of how the employee has done with respect to each prong of the Star Profile. (I recommend taking one prong at a time.) Then switch to active listening (EAR). The discussion will include both feedback (what happened) and what Marshall Goldsmith calls "feedforward" (expected future action). Use this discussion as an opportunity to celebrate successes and accomplishments, as well as to constructively address developmental needs.

Step Three: The last step is the Same Day Summary (SDS) that you’ll write and give to the employee. It captures what you consider to be the key takeaways from the discussion you just had. This is a great tool for every important discussion you have with your employee, including the performance discussion.

An Example

Let’s assume I’m an HR director whose direct reports include HR business partners (BPs) who work directly with company managers and employees. Here’s what my SP might look like:

  • Maintains a thorough working understanding of applicable human resources-related laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Works with our managers and employees primarily as a coach, not a cop.
  • Collaboratively supports fellow members of our HR team.

Prior to the performance review, I will have met with each of my Business Partners to discuss the Star Profile and ensure a shared understanding of what’s most important.

When review time comes, I will employ a technique developed by Goldsmith for Stakeholder Centered Coaching that I call the 3-3-1 assessment. I’ll confidentially ask a representative sample of managers, employees and members of the HR department what they think the Business Partner has done well regarding the Star Profile and what practical improvement suggestions they have for moving forward.

Next, I will meet with each of my Business Partners and review how they’ve done using the No-FEAR methods described above. Lastly, I’ll write a Same Day Summary for each meeting and preserve it for future review and discussion. Here’s an example:

To: BP Sarah

From: Jathan

Today’s date: ___________

Re: Summary of Q1 2023 performance discussion

Hi Sarah,

Here’s a summary of key takeaways from our conversation this morning. Please let me know if I missed anything.

  • Regarding the first sentence of your Star Profile, all parties agree you that you have maintained a solid understanding of applicable law and policy. To keep yourself up-to-date, you plan to attend the online program "Employment Law for HR Professionals." I expressed my encouragement that you continue to seek out these types of opportunities.
  • Regarding the second sentence, we discussed that although your goal is to be seen as a coach, you are sometimes perceived as more of a "cop." You and I agreed to spend more time together doing some role-plays on how to effectively blend compliance with coaching in your interactions with managers and employees. Also, we talked about you benefitting from additional training in coaching and that we’ll work on this moving forward.
  • As for the third sentence, everyone considers you to be a great team player who’s always willing to lend a hand. As I said, I personally appreciate and am grateful for the wonderful service you provide!



* * * * * *


This performance review process has several key advantages:

  • It’s efficient and user-friendly, which lends itself to being done more often than annually.
  • It promotes constructive candor. The focus is on progress and solutions, not finger-pointing.
  • There’s no money involved (bonus or pay increase), as money tends to skew things in the wrong direction. The focus remains on the needs of the job and on the relationship.
  • Above all, the process says, "I may be your boss, yet in reality I’m your partner and coach as we work together to make this organization a better place."

Jathan Janove is a former state bar "Employment Law Attorney of the Year," author of Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches (HarperCollins, 2017), Master Coach & Practice Leader with Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, and faculty member, University of California San Diego Masters Series.


#28: Workplace Ritual Revival – a Gen Z Primer

For Gen Zers who started new jobs remotely over the past couple of years, the concept of an in-person happy hour may be as foreign as using a rotary dial phone. But as employers nudge people back into the office, there’s something to be said for the revival of the workplace ritual.

Millennials, Gen Xers, and boomers have loads of experience with after-work activities. Before the pandemic, the boss or the office social butterfly would organize happy hours, trivia nights, or—if you were really unlucky—karaoke. The idea was to create relationships with colleagues outside the office that would translate to stronger professional ties.All of that changed when the pandemic hit and work for many people went online, causing the humble (if not totally spontaneous) midday coffee run with your coworker to devolve into a scheduled, 30-minute virtual catch-up. Even when people returned to the office, they found that some of their cherished coworkers had moved out of the cities where they had once worked; others who grew accustomed to the flexibility that working from home afforded them have yet to return. For as much as life has rebounded since the beginning of the pandemic, many Gen Zers (and likely a millennial or two) who work remotely report feeling lonely, making the workplace ritual a newly compelling idea.
The best of these rituals helps define workplace culture. As McKinsey senior partner Bill Schaningerobserves in a recent episode of the McKinsey Talks Talent podcast, “Rituals are what make us us.” When they’re done well (that is, when they are inclusive and meaningful), they can help employees feel a sense of purpose or kinship with their colleagues, both of which can help reduce instances of depression and anxiety, as well as quiet quitting (see our blog #25 January 16).
So how do you convince Gen Z—or anyone who now prefers to work remotely—to engage in these office rituals? For one thing, some of these rituals don’t have to happen in the workplace at all. Sending a weekly email or direct message that focuses on mindfulness or gratitude, for example, can help create the kind of goodwill fostered from in-person get-togethers.

And for those of us who do want to get back to in-person activities, rituals can be centered on milestones like welcoming a new team member, acknowledging a promotion, or holding a send-off for someone leaving the team.

A final word of warning: let “forced fun” be a lesson to anyone reading this—think twice before making these rituals mandatory. Instead, take the pulse of what your team actually wants to do together. If you’re a Gen Zer, feel free to offer your own ideas and even take charge of planning something, making any rituals explicitly optional.

McKinsey Mind the Gap Monday February 6, 2023

Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound

Recent Gallup survey findings: after trending up in recent years, employee engagement in the U.S. saw its first annual decline in a decade — dropping from 36% engaged employees in 2020 to 34% in 2021. This pattern continued into 2022, as 32% of full- and part-time employees working for organizations are now engaged, while 18% are actively disengaged. Active disengagement increased by two percentage points from 2021 and four points from 2020.

The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is 1.8-to-1, down from 2.1-to-1 in 2021 and 2.6-to-1 in 2020. This is the lowest ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees in the U.S. since 2013, almost a decade earlier. The record high is a ratio of 2.7-to-1 recorded in 2019.

The decline began in late 2021. The 32% of engaged employees in 2022 is equivalent to the percentage in the second half of 2021. The engagement elements that declined the most from the pre-pandemic record-high engagement ratio in 2019 to 2022 were:

  • clarity of expectations
  • connection to the mission or purpose of the company
  • opportunities to learn and grow
  • opportunities to do what employees do best
  • feeling cared about at work

Gallup found a six-point decline in the percentage of employees who are extremely satisfied with their organization as a place to work. These are all indications that employees are feeling more disconnected from their employers. Clarity of expectations was lower across many demographic groups including age, gender, managerial status, remote working status, and job types. Other engagement elements were affected differently across demographic groups.

  • Age: Younger workers’ engagement was impacted more than older workers. Engagement for those under age 35 (young millennials and Gen Zers) decreased by four points and active disengagement in this same group increased by four points compared with before the pandemic. Engagement among older workers (those 35 years and older) decreased by two points and the percentage actively disengaged in this group increased by one point.
  • Gender: Women experienced more of a decline in engagement than men. Engagement among women declined by four points and active disengagement increased by three points. Engagement among men declined by only one point and active disengagement increased by the same amount.
  • Job Type: Engagement declined the most among individual contributors and project managers — the same group that saw the largest increase in the percentage who are actively disengaged. Engagement among project managers declined by six points and active disengagement increased by four points.

Among job types, engagement declined the most among healthcare workers (seven points) from 2019 to 2022. White-collar workers saw a four-point decline in the percentage engaged. For both healthcare and white-collar workers, nearly all of the shift from engaged employees was into the “quiet quitter” (aka not engaged) category as opposed to actively disengaged.

  • Remote and On-Site Jobs: For those in hybrid and fully on-site work locations, employee engagement declined from 2019 to 2022. Regardless of work location (including fully remote employees), organizational satisfaction, clarity of expectations, opportunities to do what you do best, and feeling connected to the organization’s mission or purpose declined substantially.

The largest decline in employee engagement was among those in remote-ready jobs who are currently working fully on-site — this group saw a decline of five points in engagement and an increase of seven points in active disengagement. It’s worth noting that exclusively remote employees saw an increase of four points in “quiet quitting” (aka not engaged in their work and workplace).

Where do we start? Focus on clarifying expectations. The most concerning decline has been in the lack of clear expectations for employees across all demographic groups when comparing engagement pre-pandemic with the latest findings. This element is the most foundational of all engagement elements. A lack of role clarity makes all other engagement elements less impactful — employees cannot perform at a high level when they are confused as to what they are supposed to do.

Confused employees are more likely to look for other work and eventually leave the organization. What could be causing this consistent lack of clarity?

  • Leadership not clearly communicating the organization’s intended cultural values and strategy in the new world of work.
  • Young workers who are in remote or hybrid settings are the most vulnerable — the increased frequency of physical separation may contribute to this.
  • Managers not being in touch with the ongoing work-life challenges.

Next Steps:

  1. Conduct an organizational health assessment. This can be done quickly and provides a road map to your highest productivity ever. One such assessment is Vantage Point™. More details on www.vantagepointsurvey.com.
  2. Embrace hybrid work for remote-ready employees. Do this or you will have an uphill battle in attracting and retaining star employees.
  3. Establish on-site days as Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday. These days match with most employee preferences, but don’t make it a policy. Announce it as your new way of working. It is a promise employees make to each other, not a promise they make to management. Employees need to know which days people are in the office together for the highest collaboration and innovation. Customers and suppliers need to know when people are in the office, too.
  4. The manager must now hold one meaningful conversation per week with each employee

#26 Compassionate Termination

We encourage a compassionate approach to termination.

We know that many of our clients hire employees, work with them for years, and still want the best for them after the relationship has run its course. Compassionate termination attempts to preserve dignity, self-esteem, and connection — even in the midst of a challenging process.

There isn’t one right way to compassionately terminate someone, but we have some recommendations.

6 best practices to keep in mind:

1) First and foremost, the termination should not be a surprise. To the extent possible, the employee and their manager should have had multiple conversations about the situation or individual issues, in as close to real time as possible.

2) Before termination, take care of logistics. Have a final paycheck ready and a plan for collecting equipment, removing access, returning personal possessions, etc. Be ready to communicate about severance (if applicable), continuing health insurance options, and any resources you’d like to provide (information on applying for unemployment, professional outplacement help, etc.).

3) Make it a graceful exit. Before the termination conversation, create a plan for communicating about the termination, both internally and externally. Know which exit logistics you’re comfortable ceding control on. Clarify how you can support their career in the future (are you open to providing references or introductions to other firms?).

4) During the termination conversation, be both straightforward and direct at the outset: “I have some bad news — we’re terminating your employment.” You can discuss reasons why but may want to speak with an attorney first.

5) Provide space for the employee to speak and be heard — but focus the conversation on acknowledging and appreciating their contributions, their strengths moving forward, and next steps in the process. Ideally, this conversation is short. Much more than 20 minutes or so and you’ve lost control of the conversation.

6) Prepare a follow-up communication regarding details. Know that a person being terminated is often not in a mental state to hear or remember these details during the initial conversation.

Know that it might not go well, and that’s okay. You’ve done your best provide a dignified end to a working relationship.

Thanks to Abby Enders at Boly:Welch for this blog.


Gary Langenwalter

Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is not really about quitting. It’s a philosophy about not going above and beyond. And, with a historically tight labor market leading to increased job security in many industries, many employees are now feeling empowered to reevaluate the way they work.

A 20-something engineer named Zaid Khan aired a 17-second video on TikTok, during which he says, “I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not — and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor."

This trend has recently emerged in the news with a shift in perspective: as the economic outlook worsens and outright quitting becomes less feasible for many, this quiet alternative is likely to become increasingly common. A recent Gallup survey found that quiet quitters comprise at least half of the US workforce!

Recently, Elon Musk gave Twitter workers a choice between working until the job was done (e.g. lots of overtime) and quitting. Many Twitter employees chose quitting. Our younger son, an engineer, made the same choice several years ago at a local company.

What would happen if we examined our expectations of workers? Let’s look at the math. If a person works 9 hours a day instead of 8, where does the additional work hour come from? The rest of a person’s workday has several major blocks, such as commuting; sleeping; “personal stuff” such as shopping, doctor’s visits, etc.; and family time. The only two categories that are somewhat flexible are sleeping and family time, so that’s where the one hour per day gets taken from. And sleep reduction is, at best, a short-term strategy. That leaves family/personal time as the block from which the overtime gets drawn. And for many (most?) employees, family/personal time is a precious commodity.

So instead of designing our organizations to expect and assume unpaid overtime, what would happen if we design them to have everyone be as effective as possible during their 8-hour workday? How about that for a radical idea? It’s possible, you know. We can use Lean thinking to eliminate wasted time and effort. Additionally, studies have shown that over the long run people get as much done in an 8-hour workday as they do in a 9-hour workday, because they don’t work quite as intensely during a 9-hour workday (pacing themselves so that they can be at work for the full 9 hours).

What do you think? Would this work in your organization?

Gary Langenwalter