To Lead Others Effectively, Articulate Your Legacy ASAP

When it comes to those ubiquitous motivational posters you see in so many offices around the country, my favorite has always been the ones that deal with legacy. The poster’s image, often an open stretch of beach, is usually captioned with a question that reads something like:

“What will your footprints look like when you move on?”

Now I realize in our modern, cynical world it might be strange to admit I have a favorite motivational poster. But the reason the ones on legacy have always stood out to me is because in all my working experience I have found few things more powerful when it comes to leading and growing others. In short: legacy is not just how you are remembered, but how you lead every single day.

For the first thirty years of my career, thoughts about my legacy would disappear as quickly as they came to mind. It took a confluence of three events within a period of 5 months in 1991 to help me grasp the powerful influence the concept of my own legacy would have not just in how I was remembered but how I worked with my people (and still do) on a daily basis.

The first event could be described as routine: a cardiologist on our staff, “Dr. Z.”, met with me to lobby for the incorporation of a new approach – then called “alternative care” – to caring for heart and cancer patients. It included Eastern medicine approaches, like yoga, meditation, Reiki, and other methods, to be encouraged along with traditional Western medicine. It sounded interesting, so I approved the creation of an exploratory team of hospital leaders to examine the feasibility of such a program.

The second event was much more dramatic: five months after Dr. Z approached me about bringing alternative care to our hospital, my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

At the crossroads of these two events, I found myself starting to reflect on life and our individual impact on it. It was at this time that I also found myself noticing those “footprints in the sand” posters and lingering on their imagery, although the word “legacy” hadn’t become articulated in my mind.

It was the third and final event that sparked my legacy epiphany: one month after my wife’s diagnosis, the exploratory team researching alternative care convened for a three-day conference to review their findings.

One of their findings on alternative care revolved around the importance of legacy articulation for severely ill patients as a healing tool. On the second day of this conference, the meeting facilitator demonstrated its impact by asking all of us present to write down our “legacies” in three distinct categories:


After we had a chance to get some thoughts down on paper, each one of us had to present our answers to the group while sitting in a rocking chair at the head of the room.

To this day, more than twenty years later, that experience was the most powerful event of my business career. For it was in that moment I connected not only to my own living legacy, but also heard about the living legacies of those I worked with. It brought an entirely new perspective to how I interacted with and led the individuals in that room, as well as how I managed my own behavior.

One month later, in December of 1991, we integrated the legacy as an integral part of our Leadership Development program. And against the odds, my wonderful wife is by my side and enjoying our family, twenty three years after a terminal sentence.

Now I am retired from my role as a hospital CEO, but I still integrate legacy articulation in those three areas – professional, personal, and societal – into my work with individuals and teams as a Cleaver Resource Executive. No, articulating a legacy doesn’t replace the value and insight some of our other diagnostics provide, like the Cleaver DISC, but in my experience it can become a capstone to the process.

If you are a leader, I highly recommend you carve out some time today to jot down some ideas about your own legacy in these three areas. Once you have had a chance to do that, encourage your people to do it as well and create an environment where those legacies can be shared. You might be surprised at how it changes your own behavior, and the success of your team.

Here are some examples of Legacy within those three categories:

Professional: Inspirational leader who made a positive difference for his company, his team & his peers.

Personal: Dedicated loving son, husband, father, grandfather, & friend who loved & cared about people in his life & made sure they knew.

Societal: Honest, committed, determined man who made a difference & stood up for his beliefs, even in the face of significant opposition.

Photo by Christine Mahler courtesy of Flickr

Why You Experience Too Many Mis-Hires (And What To Do About It)

We all know that getting the wrong person in the wrong job is costly all around: on the company side, it costs money, time, and productivity while on the incumbent side it costs time, confidence, and engagement.

So then why, after all the effort your organization has put into attracting talent and creating a great company culture, do you experience mis-hires?

The answer is simple: your interview process is focused on the wrong information.

Most Interviews Have Become Contrived

The sheer amount of information available on hiring best practices ­on both the organizational and candidate sides ­ has made most interview scenarios feel contrived and superficial. The candidate’s resume typically serves as the script from which the interviewer draws questions and candidate responds with prepared answers.

Even seemingly edgy or unconventional interview questions, such as hypothetical scenarios and logic problems, have lost their ability to rattle the carefully prepared candidate, thanks to a world of online resources and spotlight features on companies that utilize unique screening tactics (think Apple).

The truth is I believe that on some level, most of us know that interviews have become less about fact finding and fit assessing and more about auditioning for the opportunity to actually audition: hiring managers and candidates alike realize the real interview process will happen once they are in the job and performing Šonce the polite facades created by the artificial nature of hiring are removed.

Of course, this is the very reason why mis-hires are so costly Šbecause we’ve become complacent in our expectation that the interview process will help us truly determine fit in a significant way, meaning mis-hires are only caught after they¹ve started in the role.

If that seems as unacceptable to you as it does to me, I¹d like to turn your attention to the concept of setting Job Standards before you interview any candidates.

Catching The Mis-Hire ŠBefore It Actually Happens

My good friend and founder of Cleaver Company, John Cleaver, once asked if I ever experienced the pain of a “mis-hire” in my 30 years as bank CEO.

He then immediately followed that question by asking which interview questions had failed to inform us that the candidate was a mis-hire: did it have to do with education, previous work experience, personal projection, or any of the other dozen or so things interviewers ask about?

It was a trick question: mis-hires almost never have to do with any of those dimensions individually.

They have to do with all of them together in the context of the Job Standard.

In the simplest terms, a job standard is how the requirements of a job are weighted in importance and how each candidate measures against them accordingly.

Job standards help interviewers and hiring managers prevent mis-hires by focusing on the information that really matters in the application process and prevents them from 1) getting distracted by cool but irrelevant credentials and 2) changing their ideas of what they are looking for mid-application process.

John Cleaver taught me how to use the Job Standards tool 25 years ago, and I can honestly say it transformed the interview experience. Today, I am working to pass on the methods Cleaver taught me about Job Standards and so much more through the Cleaver Management School, a three-day intensive leadership program. Because from where I sit, in our modern economy, no company, regardless of how big and resourceful it is, can afford a mis-hire.

To learn more about the Cleaver’s concept of Job Standards tool, click here, and click here to learn more about the Cleaver Management School.

Balancing Stewardship and Innovation in Established Companies

When I took over the Cleaver Company in 1992, I felt a keen responsibility to steward the decades of work that had preceded my tenure. Since the mid 1950s, this firm had been producing, validating, and implementing a diverse range of management diagnostics that were (and still are) used in thousands of companies around the globe. All the products we feature have been built in business, for business.

The commitment to high quality, effective, and easy to utilize diagnostics stemmed from the company’s founder; John Cleaver, also known as “Clipper” to his friends, was a Princeton educated industrial engineer. He approached management challenges at client sites with the precise and incisive eye of an engineer, and the company’s reputation was built on the back of the integrity of his non-subjective assessments.

So what became my question as I took the reins here is how to honor and preserve that reputation. This engineering-inspired approach to people development is what drew me to Cleaver Company in the first place, but I also wanted to innovate and expand on what we did here. My own background in counseling and entrepreneurship has provided me a with development-focused perspective: while diagnostics are essential to identify challenges and take the temperature of where things might be, they are really the starting point of a larger dialogue about growth, change, and advancement. I wasn’t just interested in analyzing the data and feeding it back to clients, I was interested in helping them develop and increase their results because of the analysis.

My goals centered around one core vision: people, teams, and organizations have the power to improve – where they are today isn’t the end of the story or the only story about their potential.

The process of taking the helm at an established company really highlighted for me the tension leaders can feel between stewardship for what has been and innovating what will be in an organization. I still feel that tension today, as Cleaver Company continues to evolve and work with clients in new and exciting ways: does where we’re going have integrity to Clipper’s foundation? Does it have integrity to what I have done with the organization thus far? Does it lay a foundation for future innovation and the right legacy?

As much as I don’t want to be bound by the past, I realize that this tension between stewardship and innovation keeps me focused on creating consistency in our client experiences and brand presentation.

How do you address the tension between stewardship and innovation in your organization?

Contact us to learn more about how Cleaver Company can help your company and teams succeed.

Photo by Mark Robinson courtesy of Flickr

If Your Leaders Can’t Do This, Your Team Results Will Suffer

The concept of motivation has become ubiquitous in modern leadership, so much so that for many it has gone the way of other buzzwords and lost all real sense of actionable meaning and impact.

I know, because I have spent my entire career – first as a turnaround CEO and now as a Cleaver consultant – working with executives and companies who have a hollow appreciation and grasp of the role of motivation in leadership…and are paying for it in team results.

However, in my experience, motivation of teams is a timeless foundation of leadership success. No matter how many new, shiny, buzzworthy, or technology savvy strategies emerge (my LinkedIn Pulse feed seems to be full of them), motivation will never lose its place at the heart of leadership. This is why it has remained a core Cleaver Leadership Skill for decades, and why – in my experience – most successes (and failures) of leadership can be boiled down to motivation.

But how can we bring substance back to the motivation dialogue and identify practical approaches?

To answer that, I’d like to share an example from my days as a CEO.

A Case Study on the Impact of Motivation

The real impact of motivation became clear to me in 1979. After three years as the CEO of a turnaround situation at the largest 501[c] [3] VNA-Public Health organization in New Jersey, I was proud to see that the organization was finishing its 2nd year in the black after 4 years of running increasing deficits [1973-1977]. My mentor, Ozzie Nestor, PhD. a Dean of the Graduate Business School at Monmouth University, and I completed a debriefing to try to identify what went right, what did not , and why these contributing factors were imperative to this successful turnaround.

We examined the various actions taken with an eye not only on the actions themselves, but moving outside of the box to who the affected parties were for each action. One of the questions we asked was “Why did the staff commit themselves to moving the initiatives forward to success?” After all, several actions were negative (layoffs, no raises for 2 years) in nature and impacted them in a very direct fashion.

What emerged, clear as a bell, was motivation. Specifically, motivation in three distinctive areas:

Factual – Motivate Teams with Information: the exhaustive efforts to share data (financials, cash flows, rationales for actions) and remaining trust worthy/truthful in our actions, inspired the staff to analyze the data, etc. with an open mind.

Reasonable – Motivate Teams with Wisdom: once we had their attention with the data, we understood that their wisdom, which resides in the heart, assisted them to see the value of the actions to move forward.

Behavioral – Motivate Individuals with Self-Knowledge: many companies find this the hardest one to capture, because they lack the tools for understanding and discussing it. Really, it’s about tapping into what drives them or, what I often referred to as the “soul.” If you succeed here, it will not only move them forward, it will propel them forward & commit them to the organization.

Motivation and Results

It is possible for a leader to be successful if they are able to motivate in one of these three areas. However, the shelf life of that success will likely be short, or until the next problem arises and you start all over with the motivation process.

However, if your leaders can capture all three areas of motivation, success will not only be accelerated, it will endure.

As a responsible leader, this was a lesson that I have never forgot. It has guided me towards success throughout my career, and in turn has allowed me to facilitate the success of others