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My curiosity about leadership & management led me to connect with Don Shapiro of First Concepts Consulting.  We had a great conversation about our mutually favorite topic...leadership!  Here's his site where you can find out more about his offerings, thought leadership, etc...

First Concepts Consulting

During our conversation, he had two important insights...

*Over the last 20 years (or so), there has been an almost exponential increase in the focus on leadership.  Ok, maybe exponential goes a bit too far, perhaps a 10,000% increase is more accurate.

*Over that same time period, we haven't gotten significantly better at employee engagement & retention.


The Gallup organization has been surveying for employee engagement for many years now.  While the trend in recent years is going in the right direction, this still shows 6 out of 10 employees report being disengaged.

2020 Gallup Engagement Survey

It's interesting to note that leadership development program spending is massive, but largely ineffective. What?  Wow!  This debate could be as lively as 2 football coaches having a chalkboard war over the best offense/defense!


Regardless of the leadership focus number, our collective perception tells us that it has been a lot!  Let's start by looking at the difference between retention & turnover.

Retention Rate vs Turnover

Onboarding new employees can take primary job focus away from veteran employees to help train others.  Shouldn't this be the case?  The folks at NextJump have created an environment where once you've been hired you can't be'll be coached!  Such a great concept that fits with Jim Collins book "Good to Great" of first getting the right people on the bus then figuring out where they should sit.  This has led to employees feeling safe to bring their whole selves to work while encouraging team collaboration.  Fear destroys human initiative and leads to coping behaviors to just be safe. Our leadership behaviors should support an environment where people actually feel safe!

They also developed an app to provide consistent real-time feedback for employees.  This supports their coaching culture & commitment to it.  It's available for free here...

NextJump Feedback App

This app is a wonderful tool with great analytics but (you knew it was coming) nothing should replace truly human interaction.  Less complicated relationships follow because eyeball to eyeball is better...period.  Even today, as we develop our digital leadership skills, our physical distance shouldn't keep us from socially connecting.


Back to my conversation with Don!  Leadership is about influence.  He emphatically stated: "True leaders seek joiners, not followers."  When the environment encourages employees to lead using their individual "super-powers" everyone's growth journey can begin.  Figuring out your leadership influence talent(s) can be the key to unlocking the team's potential.  In our conversation, Don shared his realization of "voluntary influence" which details how great leaders influence people to voluntarily join with them...NOT follow them.  The age of gaining "followers" as the measure of effective leadership/management is coming to a quick end with knowledge work dominating the job market.


So then, does the structure of the organization really matter?  The short answer is that most of the time it does but the environment matters more!  By in large, people don't leave company structures they leave because of poor management/leadership.  When employees feel as though they work "for" someone engagement/retention can suffer.  Likewise, when leaders have the courage to care about others who work "with" them the numbers trend in a more positive direction.

When we connect the best parts of our diverse human talents & create an environment where people feel safe, the extension of their collective gifts can be realized.  Next Jump, Whole Foods & Chick-fil-a don't hire better people, they get the environment right to support their desired "everybody matters" culture.  These efforts attract & retain great people who can, in turn, become great leaders themselves.  This also has a very positive impact on employee engagement as they realize there isn't work & life...there's just life & work is a part of it.  Being part of something bigger than ourselves to make the world better engages passions toward team success.  Isn't this the place we'd all like to work?


It's interesting to note that leadership development program spending is massive, but largely ineffective. What?  Wow!  This debate could be as lively as 2 football coaches having a chalkboard war over the best offense/defense!


Why has the increase in leadership development focus not yielded more positive results?  There are just as many reasons as there are companies, but behavior change is the main reason.  The actionable aspects of any leadership development/training program remain the most difficult and employees aren't typically exposed to this content until they're in their 40's. This is more than enough time to develop & practice habits that may or may not be congruent with the person we'd like to be or the leader the organization needs.  We have (on average) a 65% chance of improving on a goal when we share it with someone but that jumps to 95% when we work with some kind of success partner.

No matter the angle we look at these challenges it all starts with each of us getting 1% better each day.  In the words of Dr. Seuss...

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."  *from The Lorax

Will the you of tomorrow be better than the you of today?  Reach out, we can help!

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