Jim Clemmer's Leader Letter

MAY 2009, Issue 74
Growing My New Book Title
What in the World is Happening Today?
Helping You Grow and Lead @ the Speed of Change
Consulting Corner: "Continuous Improvement Strategies to Build Your Desired Culture"
Engage Younger Workers or Bore and Lose Them
Meetings Showcase Organizational Culture
Change Your Meetings and Change Your Culture
The Leader Letter Survey
Reader Takes Responsibility for His Choices
More Reflections on Personal Purpose and Living in the Moment
Thoughts that Make You Go Hmmmm...on the Need for Everyone to Lead
Most Popular April Improvement Points
Feedback and Follow-Up

Permission to Reprint

You may reprint any items from The Leader Letter in your own printed publication or e-newsletter as long as you include this paragraph:

"Reprinted with permission from The Leader Letter, Jim Clemmer's free e-newsletter. For almost thirty years, Jim's 2,000 + practical leadership presentations and workshops/retreats, six bestselling books, columns, and newsletters have been helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His web site is www.jimclemmer.com."


MAY 2009, Issue 74

It's time to grow. As a gardener I have used themes of personal, team, and organizational growth in my work for many years. In the Northern Hemisphere, it's a magical time of year, when there's so much rapid growth I sometimes imagine I can hear plants pushing out of the ground or leaves popping open.

It's a wonderful coincidence that we're busy growing a new book on personal growth during this season of growth! The happy spring news is we've named the new addition to our book family! Please get ready to welcome Growing @ the Speed of Change. Read the first story in this issue for the details.

This month's issue picks up on many of the growth and leadership issues that emerged from writing my latest book (my seventh). Watch for lots more details, excerpts, launch plans - and a special introductory offer - on Growing @ the Speed of Change in the next few issues.

Growing My New Book Title

One of the most agonizing parts of writing a new book is choosing a title. In some ways it's like choosing a name for your new baby; he or she will carry all the associations with his or her name for a lifetime.

I wrote the manuscript of this book with the working title of Thriving in Turbulent Times. But I became convinced that using that title is too current and narrowly focused on dealing with the financial turbulence of a global recession. This book is about dealing with adversity. But it's also about personal leadership and achieving enduring success. So the turbulent times title was in danger of not giving the book longer staying power when we're back in growth times.

So I have spent many, many waking - and some bedtime - hours over the past few weeks thinking, brainstorming, and researching titles. I have also been discussing and seeking input on titles from a small group of publishing, consulting, and speaking associates. Last week our marketing director, Aidan Crawford, the book's editor, Susan Chilton, and our marketing assistant, Cara Tavares, and I spent hours debating the hundreds of title suggestions.

Since this new book is for the same readers as Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success, by continuing and expanding on many of that book's personal themes, it became very clear to us that we should continue to grow the "grow" brand. Growing @ the Speed of Change reflects both the grow brand and the help I am continuously asked to provide by many readers and speaking/workshop/retreat organizers on dealing with change at all levels of their organizations. My upcoming public Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times workshop (the only public/open workshop I have scheduled this year) will feature the material from this new book.

We also chose a sub-title; Your Inspir-actional Guide to Personal Leadership, Conquering Adversity, and Achieving Enduring Success. This is a working sub-title and may be adjusted or changed.

Over the next few months I'll bring you insights, excerpts, research, and progress reports - and an introductory offer - from the latest addition to our growing book family. I'd love to get your thoughts and suggestions on the book and our roll-out plans. As always you can get in touch with me at the usual address, jim.clemmer@clemmer.net.

What in the World is Happening Today?

Last month I introduced the April issue of The Leader Letter by pointing out the world is in the midst of major change. I also suggested that we're seeing glimmers of hope and signs of renewed growth. Richard Kessener, Out-Patient Pharmacy Manager at Feather River Pharmacy in Paradise, California (I got a taste of paradise working with the management group of his organization back in January) sent me this response:

"Not sure what you said in your intro, but maybe the global change you're seeing is global cooling. I'm glad someone is stepping out to give us a different perspective.

Meanwhile here in the states, we have a new perspective of 'hope.' As in 'I hope we don't go broke' or 'I hope we still have an economy to save in a few years.' ...kidding aside, I enjoy your newsletter."

This was in the same week that my colleague, Ravi Tangri, and I had a discussion on the changes we're seeing during these turbulent times. Here's part of what he wrote:

"We're now in an era where the old 'rules' don't work anymore. In the 'old' world, we were encouraged to wear masks and play roles. Now there isn't time for that BS. Things have changed so much that everyone is shaken out of their old ways of doing things - the auto workers are taking pay cuts and working hand in hand with management.

Nobody knows what the new 'rules' are - or even what the new 'game' is, but what seems to be emerging is that the path to uncovering these comes from connecting with our authentic selves. This ka-ka that we're experiencing is, in my opinion, an opportunity for all of us to go deep inside, connect with our personal senses of purpose and meaning, and find a way to bring that forth in the world."

What do you think is happening around us today? How big is the shift? What are the new rules of this rapidly emerging new game? Are you doing anything differently to prepare for change?

Helping You Grow and Lead @ the Speed of Change

With less than a month to go, seats are filling for Navigating Turbulent Times, my  workshop on June 2nd and 3rd here in Kitchener, ON (just forty-five minutes from Toronto's international airport). Some organizations are interested in booking a customized in-house version of this highly practical and timely professional development event.

The content for this new workshop is based on my research and writing from my new book, Growing @ the Speed of Change: Your Inspir-actional Guide to Personal Leadership, Conquering Adversity, and Achieving Enduring Success. An in-house and customized half, one, or two-day workshop is especially a great option if you might be thinking of bringing six or more people from your organization.

There are still spaces available in the June session (the only public one scheduled for the next year). I'd encourage you to take advantage of the $100 discount offered to Leader Letter subscribers and book your spot today. Click here to download a brochure.

At "Leading @ the Speed of Change: Navigating Turbulent Times" you will:

  • Develop the skills to navigate the choppy waters of fear, cynicism, and negativity
  • Learn to leverage today's economic upheaval to become a high-performance organization
  • Find out how to balance "hard" systems and processes with "soft" people issues like morale and culture
  • Increase the strategic focus of your team and organization

Special Rate for Leader Letter and Improvement Points Subscribers

The regular price for attending this valuable professional development event is $1095 (plus GST).

As a subscriber you will receive a $100 discount by using the code LSCLL when registering.

Register Online Now!

Consulting Corner: "Continuous Improvement Strategies to Build Your Desired Culture"

Part Five of Five in a Series

Growing a high-performance culture is key to team and organizational success. In his fifth and final installment of the series, Continuous Improvement Strategies to Build Your Desired Culture, our Senior Vice President of Consulting and Training, Scott Schweyer, outlines what he and his group of specialists have found are the keys to success.

In all my years leading The Achieve Group/Zenger Miller and now The CLEMMER Group, I have worked with dozens of consultants. Scott is exceptionally strong in his intuitive ability to help Clients make the changes that need to happen in order to dramatically shift their culture toward higher effectiveness. You can find out more about our customized consulting services here.

Read Scott's other articles:

Steps to Culture Change

What Impacts an Organization's Culture?

Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture

Business Practices to Support your Desired Culture

Engage Younger Workers or Bore and Lose Them

Recently our son, Chris, sent me a link to an article pointing out what a major waste of time meetings are in many organizations. Chris is twenty-six years old and getting ready to go on someone else's payroll. In a few months he finishes law school and starts his articling position with a law firm here in Waterloo Region (we're sixty miles west of Toronto.)

He sent me the meeting article link with this comment:

"Again, there is another shift going on. Basically, my generation is saying to your generation: 'if you bore us, we will ignore you.' I am noticing that my generation has very little patience for time-wasting and we have short attention spans."

Chris and his cohorts grew up in a hyper-connected world full of technology and fragmented attention spans. His message underscores a key leadership challenge; engaging younger workers and harnessing their high energy and shorter attention spans.

The article Chris referenced showed that participants "zone out" when meetings wander off track. And many meetings get very badly off track! A major and long standing pet peeve of mine is the incredible waste of time that's blandly accepted as inevitable by so many managers. I am rooting for impatient younger workers to push their managers into sharply improving meeting effectiveness.

Meetings Showcase Organizational Culture

"Engage Younger Workers or Bore and Lose Them" (above) got me thinking further about how meetings most clearly showcase the organizational or even division/department's mini-culture. I was running a two-day offsite planning retreat recently where the disconnect between the culture the leadership team wanted to build, and their group behavior, was huge. One of the research and writing projects on my long-term list is to explore this connection much further.

Here are a few examples of the link between meeting behavior and organizational culture:

Meeting Behavior

Organization/Department Culture

Potshots, "humorous" zingers, and putdowns

Turf protecting and silos

Meetings rarely start and stop on time

People feel overloaded and overwhelmed by constant urgencies and crisis

No agendas or prioritizing of agenda items

Goals and priorities are unclear and conflicting

Participants deal with their e-mail, take phone calls, and wander in and out of meetings

Respect and engagement/morale levels slip and many people don't feel valued or that their opinions matter

Participants cut each other off and engage in side conversations

Low trust and cooperation levels

If you're interested in the connections between management team behavior and culture here are some further links to follow:

Change Your Meetings and Change Your Culture

Continuing the theme of meetings, here's a great list of suggestions from Seth Godin's March 27, 2009 blog post, "Getting serious about your meeting problem" at http://sethgodin.typepad.com:

  • Understand that all problems are not the same. So why are your meetings? Does every issue deserve an hour? Why is there a default length?
  • Schedule meetings in increments of five minutes. Require that the meeting organizer have a truly great reason to need more than four increments of realtime face time.
  • Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don't, kick them out.
  • Remove all the chairs from the conference room. I'm serious.
  • If someone is more than two minutes later than the last person to the meeting, they have to pay a fine of $10 to the coffee fund.
  • Bring an egg timer to the meeting. When it goes off, you're done. Not your fault, it's the timer's.
  • The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short e-mail summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting.
  • Create a public space (either a big piece of poster board or a simple online page) that allows attendees to rate meetings and their organizers on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of usefulness. Just a simple box where everyone can write a number. Watch what happens.
  •  If you're not adding value to a meeting, leave. You can always read the summary later.
  • This is all marketing. It's a show, one that lets your team know you're treating meetings differently now.

Seth provides some provocative and creative ways to improve meeting effectiveness. Increased meeting effectiveness will ripple through your team, department, or organization and will help you to develop a culture of high performance.  Agree on meeting ground rules with your team. And then follow them through.

For a large selection of past blogs, Leader Letter items, and articles with my research, application ideas, and ways to improve meetings, type "meetings" in our site search box at:

The Leader Letter Survey

Last month I provided a link to a survey and asked readers to take a few minutes (certainly less than five) to let me know how I'm doing.

Considering that there are about 5,000 subscribers, and we've collected just over 130 responses so far, I obviously have a very busy readership:-)

You can still participate in the survey by clicking here:

If you're curious about how the responses are going, you can follow along in real time and read through the results yourself here:

It's completely anonymous and the results will help to provide some direction going forward.

Reader Takes Responsibility for His Choices

Don Semple from The Royal Bank recently left a comment at the bottom of my article "Leaders Take Responsibility for Their Choices." I was intrigued and asked him what were the major changes he made that changed his life. His response below is a classic example of moving from a below-the-line Victim to an above-the-line Navigator. It's also a strong illustration of the critical Self-Control cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence. This is leadership in action.

"My first big change was deciding to control my temper. For many years I thought I was being passed over. I blamed my managers for not recognizing me. When something went wrong I went on a tirade, first in my head then into a manager. I couldn't communicate with anyone once I let my temper get out of control.

So I talked to friends for help on curbing my anger. It was a lot of tough work. But eventually I changed my '10 second rule' to 'a 24 hour rule' (or more). I learned to walk away; rant in private; rip apart 'anything' figuratively, in seclusion; then I would return. I was able to get my temper under control to the point of not saying a word, then getting a drink of water. I introduced, slowly - oh so slowly - that maybe just maybe 'I' could do something different to change a situation; take responsibility. This appeared to work for me.

The second change I made was learning how to say 'no.' I used to take on every task managers asked of me. After taking on too much, I would end up blaming others for my work not getting done. Saying 'no' to managers is especially difficult if they are aggressive. I've found that timing is everything. I have to take a close look at the duties already assigned to me; then I make the decision to say 'yes' or 'no.' I now realize that I am not responsible for anyone's reaction, just identifying the facts for everyone concerned.

Since making these changes I am much happier. My work gets completed on time. And I have received two promotions since May of 2006. I had been in my previous position for 13 years. I now have a different outlook on how to take responsibility and to stop the blame game."

If you're interested in this topic, here are few more articles for you to check out:

More Reflections on Personal Purpose and Living in the Moment

In last month's issue I featured a reflective comment from Gregory Knight, Department Head, Laboratory Services, U.S. Navy, that he posted at the bottom of my article "True to Our Souls." That prompted Linda Morelli, Michael Darmody, and Ravi Tangri to add their insightful thoughts and feedback to the bottom of the article. In doing so, they recharged some of my own purpose and meaning.

Linda's reaffirmation of "I must find the courage to follow my heart" could be taken right out of all the recent happiness research. She's right on track; living a life of meaning and fulfillment is one of the golden keys to happiness. It's a reminder we all need occasionally when financial, prestige, power, or external factors tempt us to mute our heart's still small voice.

I have certainly had my share of those "doubt days" that Michael refers to in his comment. As he experienced, that's when we most need to stay refocused on our vision, values, and purpose. And this is especially critical during these times of economic turmoil and uncertainty.

Ravi's point about these turbulent times being an opportunity to start looking at things in new ways is excellent. I sure agree with him. And I hope more people will resist jumping right back into the "mad dash" when our economies pick up again. By training, Ravi actually is a rocket scientist. His "Life is Not Rocket Science" blog at http://ravitangri.typepad.com/life/ is thoughtful and insightful.

You can read Linda, Michael, and Ravi's comments at the bottom of the article at:

Please add your own observations, experience, or advice about this conversation.

If you're interested in this topic, here are a few more articles for you:

Thoughts that Make You Go Hmmmm...on the Need for Everyone to Lead

"Our only chance for contributing is to quit waiting and wondering and do something. We serve ourselves and others best when we do not wait. Initiate, with the organization and all involved people in mind. No, we are not in charge but we can act. No, we are not formally designated leaders. But we can lead."
- Geoffrey M. Bellman, Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge

"Everybody can lead at every level; there are no excuses. It doesn't matter if you're on the front line or the top line...do you excite and motivate people? Do you bring excellence and vision...everybody should be good at leading, whatever their level in the hierarchy."
- Michael Useem, director of Wharton's Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of many articles and books on leadership

"Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don't go to the ocean with a teaspoon. At least take a bucket so the kids won't laugh at you."
- Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author, and professional speaker

"'There is a set of skills and capabilities that are useful at the lowest levels; you exert it through your peers and in team settings,' (Wharton management professor Anne) Cummings says. Leadership in the lower ranks can involve everything from prioritizing tasks and managing time to getting people to accomplish goals and resolving conflicts. Such commonplace actions are important because they help an organization at any level meet its goals."
- Special Report on Leadership in collaboration with McKinsey Quarterly entitled "Why Everyone in an Enterprise Can - and Should - Be a Leader"

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself but each one of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."
- John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Most Popular April Improvement Points

Improvement Points is a no-charge service to bring timely and inspirational quotes from my articles to subscribers three times a week. Built around our new topic index, Improvement Points are crafted to help you become a better leader of yourself, your team and your organization. Each Improvement Point links directly to a full article on our web site. If you'd like to read more about the point being made in that day's Improvement Point, you simply click on the "Read the full article now" link below each IP. Many subscribers circulate especially relevant Improvement Points articles to their team, Clients, or colleagues for further discussion or action.

Here are the three most popular Improvement Points we sent out in April:

"Many people are eager to have soothsayers predict their future. Fewer are willing to take responsibility for writing their own fortune. Your future is a blank sheet of paper waiting for you to create what is to come."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "When Choosing Our Thoughts We Choose Our Future"
Read the full article now!

"Leadership deals with the world of emotions and feelings. It is more of an art than a science. Like artists, leaders have the ability to share their vision of the world. Leaders influence our perceptions and help us look at situations in new ways."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "Soft Skills, Hard Results (Part 2)"
Read the full article now!

"A major international company studied their worker compensation claims and attitude surveys and found that where supervisors and managers are perceived to be more caring about people injuries and compensation, claims were much lower."
- from Jim Clemmer's article, "Leaders Make The Difference"
Read the full article now!

Feedback and Follow-Up

I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@Clemmer.net.

Keep learning, laughing, loving, and leading - living life just for the L of it!!



10 Pioneer Drive, Suite 105,
Kitchener, ON N2P 2A4
Phone: (519) 748-1044
Fax: (519) 748-5813
E-mail: service@clemmer.net

Please post or forward this newsletter to colleagues, Clients, or associates you think might be interested - or on a 'need-to-grow' basis. If you received this newsletter from someone else, and would like to subscribe, click on the link below: www.jimclemmer.com/newsletter

10 Pioneer Drive, Suite 105, Kitchener  ON  N2P 2A4
Phone: (519) 748-1044 ~ Fax: (519) 748-5813
E-mail: service@clemmer.net

Copyright 2009 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group