Archive for the ‘Moxie for Work’ Category

One Vote Determined the Eatontown Mayoral Race… Does it matter when you show up?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

I  love small town politics. I know the candidates. I know the issues. I go to the polls and I state my opinion with my vote. I never vote party line. I vote based on what matters to me and my town. And in that experience, I know that my vote matters to the candidates.

This year every voter mattered in the mayoral race in Eatontown NJ. When the polls closed, the longtime Mayor Gerald Tarantolo had won by one vote. When the five valid provisional ballots were counted the next day, he had officially lost by three votes. Mayor Tarantolo went from winning because one extra person showed up to losing because three other people showed up.

Irrefutably, every person who decided to vote in Eatontown NJ made the difference. It mattered that they showed up.

Do you believe it matters when you show up? Do you RSVP to parties? Do you show up late to meetings? Do you return calls and texts? Do you respond when people reach out? Do you vote?

We only matter if we make ourselves matter. We only make a difference when we show up.


I want to create a culture like Red Robin

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Random acts of kindness… at a burger joint?

Apparently it’s in the recipe at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.

Founded in 1969 with 32,000 “team members” serving “guests” at 450 restaurants, they insist they’re not in the burger business.

They’re in the people business, serving burgers.

But this team takes even that unusual perspective to a whole new level.


Unbridled Acts

Red Robin team members regularly and intentionally bestow random acts of kindness on their guests. They’ve named these above-and-beyond deeds and gestures “Unbridled Acts.”

They’ve even dedicated a section on the company website called “Unbridled Acts” to showcase and spotlight these random acts of kindness, and to gush about how the Red Robin team members make a difference, not just serve burgers.


165 Stories and Counting

Here are just a few of the more than 165 stories spotlighted so far:



Why are hourly employees at Red Robin voluntarily and unabashedly scattering kindness?

Because they can. Because it makes their work matter. And because bosses all the way to the top are applauding them vociferously for doing so.

And why are leaders at Red Robin encouraging this kind of behavior?

Because it makes customers want to come back again and again. Because it makes employees want to keep showing up. And because they get it – we reap the culture we sow.


We can create a culture like Red Robin

Aren’t we all in the people business?

Regardless of what our organization sells, we all serve people. We serve people with our products and with our services. We serve employees with a job. We serve each other
with our leadership and collegiality. We wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for the people.

And don’t we all reap the culture we sow?

We cultivate the environment that we then have to work in. Like Newton’s 3rd law of motion, what we put out comes back in equal force.


Our culture choice

So like the insightful leaders and the enthusiastic team members at Red Robin, every day we get to choose …

1. create a culture riddled with complacency and mediocrity


2. cultivate one rippling with unbridled acts of generosity and scattered kindness.

Dump the New Year’s Resolutions! Change Happens Only with Influence, Mentoring, and a Battle Cry

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

50% of New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 3.


Because the whole ritual is all about fixing something broken.

The most popular resolutions each year: lose weight, stop smoking, and stop spending.

Wow. That’s exciting. You can imagine how thrilled people are to bound out of bed each morning on Jan 1 and Jan 2 to stop doing the 3 things they love most: eating, smoking, and shopping! Yes, sign me up for a whole year of that, they’re thinking. By January 3, they rightly decide that it’s not working, so they give up.

People have the same visceral reaction to Performance Reviews, Performance Improvement Plans, and all other documents drafted to describe what’s wrong with them. Who wants to come running into the office to fix their weaknesses? That sounds uninspiring, dismal, and miserable.

This is the day! You are officially allowed to dump all of those inane exercises on January 3!

You may be mentally protesting. But think for a moment. Has it ever worked? Have you ever changed your behavior or someone else’s by designing a plan to fix what’s wrong with you or them?

No! So, in the words of Bob Newhart from a MadTV skit, “Stop it!”
(Check out the hilarious skit on YouTube.)

So now that you’re done flagellating, thrashing, scolding and berating yourself and others, what is left to help us create change this year?

3 powerful game-changers:

  1. Influence
  2. Mentoring
  3. The Battle Cry


You can influence change in yourself and others by understanding what makes us tick. Two major influences drive action and inaction in every human being: the need to matter and the fear of rejection. Remember only those and you’ll never need resolutions or performance reviews to make the new year a watershed year.


There is no greater tool for transformation than mentoring. One person who has been-there-done-that shares institutional, tribal knowledge with someone who wants to go-there-and-do-that. The sharing of knowledge, wisdom, and lessons learned inevitably accelerates the success of the other person.  It’s brilliant. It can be a strategic advantage to individuals, teams, and organizations. However, it is often overlooked and then becomes a missed opportunity.

The Battle Cry

If you do nothing else after you dump the New Year’s Resolutions, declare a Battle Cry for your year. What will get you excited to jump out of bed each morning? What will have you excited to run into the office to start working? What will have your team jazzed about showing up?

A battle cry is bigger than a goal, a mission, or a vision. A battle cry has goals and it aligns with missions and visions, but it’s more than those. A battle cry is the deep-seated, heartfelt, emotional reason we show up big.

Some examples of a Battle Cry:

  • * to constantly surprise and delight my boss with my contributions
  • * to make every moment with my kids a fun learning opportunity
  • * to be the company’s innovation expert
  • * to shock and awe my doctor at each visit with my great health
  • * to form partnerships with each of my colleagues and my clients
  • * to be kind without exception to everyone I meet

Without a battle cry, your resolutions and performance improvement plans are designed for demise. And without the power of influence and mentoring, your battle cries will become sad, wistful whimpers.

It’s January 3.

What resolution are you throwing out the window today?

In its place, what will be your battle cry for the year?

And how are you going to leverage influence and mentoring to drive that battle cry and make 2012 a game-changing year?

10 Influencing Tenets that Drive Us

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

There are 10 Influencing Tenets. Each one is hard at work influencing our behaviors, our actions, and even our failures to act.

Sometimes they drive us to success, sometimes they drive us to distraction, othertimes they drive us crazy, but they are always driving us.

Master these and you’ll master people – the ones at the office, the ones at home, and the one in your shoes.

10 Influencing Tenets

1. We all think the world revolves around us.

2. We desperately need meaning in our lives and our work.

3. We are dying to make a difference.

4. We want to win, not lose.

5. We crave control.

6. We urgently want to feel as though we are important.

7. We have an insatiable appetite to be respected, appreciated, valued, and heard.

8. We are at risk of succumbing to the herd.

9. We allow our beliefs and thoughts to dictate our ambitions and perseverance.

10. We dreadfully fear rejection.

You can read more about these in my new book:
Moxie for Managers: The Secret to Evolving from Manager to Leader

The Moxie Behind the Mocha Frappuccino – Howard Schultz

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

It was unprecedented. It was controversial. It was risky. It was unexpected. It was unwarranted. It was grounded in passion, and it was moxie leadership at its finest.

The Letter

On September 2, 2011, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, emailed a letter to the hundreds of thousands of diehard coffee drinkers on his mailing list. And his letter had nothing to do with the coffee.

Schultz wrote a letter expressing his disappointment in Congress for the partisan gridlock that he believes is cementing the recession. [Click here to read the Letter.]

The Challenge

In the letter Schultz also shared the challenge he has presented to other business leaders to join him in urging the President and the Congress to take action immediately. More than 100 leaders joined him in signing a 2-part pledge:

(1) “to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly and fairly sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security,” and

(2) “to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.”

The Invitation

He finished the letter by inviting the diehard coffee drinkers to join him on a national call-in conversation on Tues. Sept 6 hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to a more effective government centered around issues, not labels.

The Moxie

Starbucks is wildly successful. Schultz does not need Congress or the President to help his company continue to thrive. The company has done superbly well over the past 40 years of crazy politics and erratic economies. He did not need to send this letter. And many business leaders and politicians probably think he’s foolish to do so. So why did he? Because he passionately believes he can make a difference and he is willing to make that difference in the face of disagreeing people, situations, and circumstances. It takes guts. It takes determination. It takes tenacity. It takes perseverance. (Can you imagine the pushback from some risk-averse advisors?!) It takes moxie.

Making a Difference

The belief that we can make a difference, and the action we take to start making that difference in spite of what others think of us, is what distinguishes a moxie-leader from a managing-leader. Schultz sent the letter, rallied other business leaders, and promoted a nonpartisan conversation because he believes he can make a difference and he is taking action to do just that. Schultz is no different than the rest of us. We all just want to make a difference with our work and our lives. That’s the only reason we will ever show up big instead of just show up to fog a mirror.

Manager-Leader vs. Moxie-Leader

Being a Manager-Leader is like coloring in the lines in a color-by-number book. Simply follow the instructions, use the right colors, and don’t draw outside the lines. Being a Moxie-Leader is seeing the whole picture, discovering that Crayons just released 10 new colors that would make the picture pop, ascertaining that the picture could use a different shape, and then applying those new colors and new shape to create a superior picture.

Moxie Leadership Inspires Moxie Followers

Schultz is using his prominent position to contribute to others, to make a difference, to drive a bigger vision. When we act with moxie, like Schultz, we influence the people we lead to lead similarly. That’s the amazing ripple-effect of moxie-leading. It’s no wonder Starbucks is as successful as it is. Schultz is inspiring moxie-leadership with his own.

Are you too busy managing in your leadership position? Is it time to make a difference instead? What have you done lately to moxie-lead instead of manager-lead?

Trying on Super Bowl Rings Helped Green Bay Packers Act Like Champions

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The night before the championship game, Coach Mike McCarthy had each player and coach fitted for a Super Bowl championship ring. The next day the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

Did Coach McCarthy predict it? Or did the fitting somehow make them win the game? 

The Coach’s Moxie
While other coaches are busy navigating football superstitions and encouraging “one day at a time” mindsets, McCarthy’s moxie is a breath of fresh air

By putting those Super Bowl rings on their fingers, Coach McCarthy was leveraging some cognitive biases that nfluence every human being. In doing so, he evolved from a manager of a football team to a leader of people. Let’s explore these so you too can leverage them and influence champion behavior.

(1) Diagnosis Bias
We listen to what other people say about us, especially people we admire, respect, and value. They are diagnosing us. We then tend to mold our behaviors to match their diagnosis, which then confirms that diagnosis and makes it our own.

By fitting the players with Super Bowl rings, the Coach was diagnosing them winners before they even walked out onto the field. The players then molded their behavior to be that of Super Bowl champions.

Green Bay Packers guard Daryn Colledge said of the fitting, “It just set that mental mindset that you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got something to accomplish.”

(2) Framing Effect
We approach the same situation differently depending on how that situation is presented. In effect, we’ll make inconsistent decisions when presented with the same situation just framed differently.

Coach McCarthy could have said, “The game is going to be tough. I’m proud of you. Just go out there and do your best.” But more likely he said, “You guys are champions! In fact, let’s go try on your rings so when you win tomorrow, you are ready to wear them.”

Linebacker, A.J. Hawk said of Coach McCarthy’s brazen move, “It made things real for us.” Of course it did. Coach McCarthy was framing the situation for the players.

(3) Spotlight Effect 
We all think that people are closely watching us to see what we do. And when we think people are fixated on us, we conform to what we think those people expect of us.

By putting those Super Bowl rings on their fingers, Coach McCarthy was ingeniously reinforcing for the players that millions of people would be paying close attention to them at the game the next day and that those people expected the players to win.

Coach McCarthy was also communicating his expectations. “We respect the Pittsburgh Steelers and the way they play. But we fully expected to win this game. This is our time.”

Your Turn to Influence Champion Behavior 
Are you ready to apply these cognitive biases to influence champion behavior in others? Some ideas to experiment with:

  • Hand out great big titles, better yet, ask them to write their own
  • Dish out juicy, audacious challenges and opportunities to contribute in big ways
  • Discover what people are passionate about, then let them work on a Passion Project
  • Ask everyone’s opinion in meetings
  • Invite people to participate in a task force to help you solve a problem, even when you know the answer (they may think of something you haven’t)
  • Put people in front of your best customers
  • Make people try on success – tape their name on a plaque or on a top producers list, have them research the vacation they’ll pay for with their commissions, employ vision boards
  • Introduce them with a flattering comment
  • Gush about them as if they’re not there
  • Call them winners

You may be concerned that these ideas will fuel people’s overconfidence, pride, and superiority. But rest assured, it is much better to peel people off the ceiling than to pick them up off the floor.

What Ideas Do You Have for Tasting Success? 
What ideas have you implemented for having people taste success as they head out to achieve it? Share them with us on our facebook page or on this blog.

84% of People are Ready to Look for a New Job When Recession Ends. That’s Fabulous News!

Monday, January 31st, 2011

This month it was reported that 84% of employees claim they will look for a new job when the recession is over. While it makes for great drama, let’s drill down and glean 3 observations and identify a fresh idea from this melodramatic number.

The Reality – People Need to Work
During the past few years, many people have lost their jobs but not their financial responsibilities. To continue making money they have accepted jobs that are either lateral or rearwards in career and/or pay.

3 Observations: 84% are Potential 16% are Stagnant
(1) Resilient people do what they have to do to keep working and get their foot in the door for the next opportunity. Pay attention to them. They are your company’s future leaders

(2) “Looking for a new job” means people want to find a new role for their skills and strengths; it means they are ready to grow their careers and paychecks. And they should. Stagnation kills.

“Looking for a new job” does not necessarily mean that people will be running in droves for the door. People don’t leave companies; they leave managers. Make managers matter and people won’t leave.

(3) The 16% that claim they aren’t going to be looking for a new job are the ones that should scare you – they are the complacent ones. Happy to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Not eager to grow, change, improve, develop. We will rue the day they are in charge.

A Fresh Idea: Mentoring the Manager
Want to make managers matter? Compel them to be the Mentee. Typically we look to the managers to do the mentoring and guiding of individual contributors in their career development.

But who is mentoring the mentors? Managers need to learn how to be extraordinary managers; how to lead so people want to follow. They need to learn this from senior leaders, from their peers, and from individual contributors.

Turn mentoring on its head! Obligate every manager to work with a mentor to discover how to be great middle leaders.

That’s how you elevate the importance of mentoring and the impact of managers. That’s how you address such crazy-making statistics.

Only managers can embrace the 84% or disdain it.

What are you going to do about the 84%? 
What’s your perspective? Know any managers who are excited that 84% of their people are ready to be over-employed? Share your experience with us on our facebook page or on this blog.

Motorola Manager Prepares his People to Take his Job – That’s Moxie!

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A Motorola manager was promoted to manage a new team of individuals, 4 of whom had actually applied for the job. In his first act as their new boss, he committed to helping these manager-wannabes get ready to take his job.

That’s moxie.

Richard’s promotion
Richard was recently promoted to manage a new team at Motorola, a position for which many people at the company had interviewed, including 4 guys on Richard’s new team. Richard knew he might face some resistance from them.

Reject Richard or reject themselves?
Of course Richard’s 4 guys would be reluctant to embrace Richard as their new boss! They just got turned down for the job that he got. This creates conflict in their minds. If they support the selection of Richard, it would mean they agree with being rejected for the job. And the only thing worse than being rejected is agreeing with the person who rejected you!

Addressing the pink elephant
Immediately after taking on his new role, Richard met with each one of them to address the obvious. He said, “I know you interviewed for my job. The reason that you were not chosen has nothing to do with your skills and everything to do with your lack of exposure to senior management. So here’s what I’m committed to doing this year as your new boss. I want to help you get that exposure so that senior management gets to know you. I want you to be in a position to take my job when I move on.”

Who does that?
A manager with moxie.

Amazed, they each accepted Richard’s observations, thanked him, and agreed to be mentored by Richard to gain that exposure and prepare themselves for a future opportunity.

It’s called a career path for a reason
Richard is cognizant that he is developing his career, not obtaining a job for life. The reality is that his job as a Manager of this new team is only temporary, like all jobs, until he is ready for the next role on his career path. Part of being
ready is preparing his successors so Richard can welcome a new opportunity without hesitation.

Hardwired to hold ourselves back
What do most managers do? They allow their egos to dictate their actions. They need to be needed, like all humans. As a result, they cling steadfastly (and shortsightedly) to their current job, failing to recognize that this is but one role on a long career path. In addition, they cannot imagine that someone else could possibly do their job as well. Wouldn’t that mean that they aren’t as important as they had convinced themselves?

Bottom line: we are each hardwired to hold ourselves back. We sabotage success when we allow our ego and fears to reign.

Identifying your successor takes moxie
When we rewire ourselves and identify people to succeed us, we are committing to helping them be bigger, bolder, and smarter. This makes us bigger, bolder, and smarter.

Anne Mulchay, former CEO of Xerox, identified her successor when she formed a partnership with Senior Vice President Ursula Burns and mentored Ursula to step into the huge role of running the company. Upon Anne’s inevitable retirement, Ursula seamlessly assumed the role of CEO of Xerox.

Putting ego aside for others’ success takes moxie
Let’s dissect Richard’s actions so we can learn a few things from his moxie in motion:

(1) Richard made it all about them. Richard put his ego aside. He didn’t talk about his new role as the manager or his plans for the team, and he didn’t ask their opinion about what Richard should do differently as their new boss – that would have been just a roundabout way to talk about Richard the new manager.

Instead, Richard made it about them. He focused on their goal of being job-ready for a manager role. He made the world revolve around them in that first conversation. In doing so, Richard made each one feel important, respected, and valued.

(2) Richard didn’t dance around the issue. Richard addressed the issue immediately. He didn’t pretend that they hadn’t applied and been turned down for the manager job. He didn’t delude himself that he could just win them over with his personality. Instead, Richard confronted the issue head on.

(3) Richard freed the failure demon. Because these guys took a chance and didn’t succeed, they are likely to hesitate before taking chances in the future. We all loathe failure because in our minds, rejection follows. Richard refused to let these chance-takers paint this situation as “failure.”

(4) Richard taught them to bounce. Most people react. They get defensive and fling excuses, quick to blame other people and circumstances for why they didn’t succeed. Reacting is easy. It’s responding that takes moxie.

By addressing the reason they were not successful in their bid for the manager role, Richard was encouraging them to understand what they need to do next time to be successful. Extraordinary managers help people to respond instead of react.

(5) Richard gave them a battle cry. Richard distinguished between work-effectiveness and job-readiness. The 4 guys are effective in their jobs, and now just need to become job-ready for their next job. This was their battle cry and Richard committed to working on it with them.

A battle cry is the heroic exclamation we call out as we run onto the battlefield. People wage many battles every day when they come into work, and they need a battle cry to rally them to victory. Extraordinary managers help people to create their battle cry.

Richard, the manager with moxie
Richard clearly operates with a moxie mindset. He is committed to the people on his team being bigger, bolder, and smarter than they were before they met him. He is determined and relentless in this commitment, gutsy in his approach, and spirited and enthusiastic in his interactions with them.

The moxie mindset
When a manager fosters a moxie mindset, he becomes a manager with moxie, and a manager with moxie always expects the same mindset from others.

Managers with moxie don’t tolerate excuses, blame, compromised commitments, lack of accountability, or failure of integrity. They scoff at the status quo and never settle for complacency or mediocrity.

Richard is already a breath of fresh air for his new team, but they are in for a cage-rattling experience, one that raises the bar of expectations for everyone and guarantees the victory of battles.

Know any managers with moxie?
What’s your perspective? Know any managers with moxie? Share your experience with us on our facebook page or by commenting on this blog.

11-year-old Uses her Leader Moxie to Benefit Project Mobility

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Last year, Riley Christiansen raised $12,000 to purchase specially-engineered bicycles for kids with disabilities through Project Mobility. This year she organized a bike ride to raise awareness, participation, and even more bike money.

That’s moxie in motion.

Riley’s moxie
While shopping on the Bike Rack’s website for her dad’s birthday gift, Riley discovered a video about Project Mobility. The video reveals the joy that kids with disabilities experience when they ride a bike for the first time in their lives thanks to customized, specially-engineered bicycles. (

Riley was so moved by what she witnessed that she resolved to surprise a kid with one of these bikes for Christmas. When she learned that each bike costs about $3,500, she was not deterred. She just picked up a pencil.

Through an avid letter-writing campaign, Riley raised $12,000 – enough money to surprise 3 kids with adaptive bikes on Christmas Eve. That’s moxie!

Project Mobility
Hal Honeyman, owner of The Bike Rack, started Project Mobility in 1997 because he saw the difference an adaptive bike made to his son who was born with cerebral palsy. Project Mobility, a non-profit organization, provides customized, specially-engineered bicycles for people with disabilities to feel the freedom, independence, and hope that comes with riding a bicycle. The people who benefit suffer from debilitating diseases such as cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, and muscular dystrophy.

Riley’s leader moxie
While Riley used her moxie last year to make a big difference, this year she used her moxie to enroll her community in making a bigger difference. To do so, she had to become a moxie leader.

Riley decided to organize a bike ride for the community. But she was cognizant that she needed more than a great letter and a few stamps to pull this off.

Riley partnered with her school’s Builders Club, the Bike Rack, Project Mobility, and her own friends and family. Together they organized “Bike for Bikes,” a 20-mile bike ride in St. Charles, Illinois.

While they will continue raising money throughout the holiday season, they are on track to gift 5 bikes on Christmas Eve!

Defining a moxie leader
Let’s look at the remarkable qualities and actions that catapulted this 11-year-old from someone who uses her moxie to accomplish a goal into a leader who sparks the moxie in others to accomplish something even bigger.

(1) Riley is not a one-hit wonder.
Make no mistake, one-hit wonders are better than no-hit duds. The world was better off because of Riley’s moxie last year. But for her to create more marvel this year requires even more moxie.

(2) Riley used her passion to create a battle cry.
Riley was inspired to help someone get an adaptive bike. Using that inspiration, she raised money last year. This year she had to create a battle cry in order to spark the inspiration in others and cause them to take action.

The battle cry: for the community to know the joy these kids experience on bikes and to surprise more special kids with special bikes this Christmas.

(3) Riley rallied people with the battle cry.
Riley used this battle cry to rally others to act. She shared it with the Builders Group, the Bike Rack, the families who received bikes last year, and her own friends and family. They all took action.

(4) Riley made it about everyone else.
Last year, it became as much about a young girl’s generosity as it was about the bikes. This year, Riley has intentionally involved so many other people that it is not about her at all. It is about the community coming together and gifting independence and joy with these special bikes.

Even Riley’s brother who had lived in the shadow of her fame last year had an opportunity to shine this year. At the bike ride, he created a raffle which raised $380 in just a few hours.

Another little boy, who was so appreciative of the adaptive bike his sister received last year, sold lollipops door to door in the weeks leading up to the ride to raise $1,200 for another kid’s bike.

(5) Riley was contagiously resilient.
It was a dreary, rainy, and chilly day for the bike ride. But that didn’t dampen Riley’s commitment for a successful event; which in turn strengthened our commitment. We got muddy and we were cold, but we rode on.

(6) Riley’s spirit and enthusiasm were infectious.
Riley never stopped smiling. Her laughter and excitement caused the rest of us to laugh at the mud and cheer each other on.

(7) Riley recognized and acknowledged everyone.
Riley’s appreciation was endless. She relentlessly gushed about everyone’s contributions. Whether it was a dollar, a volunteer job, or food for the riders, she recognized the human being behind the effort.

(8) Riley made waves, not just ripples.
Last year, Riley used her moxie to change the lives of 3 families on Christmas Eve. This year Riley used her moxie to change the community.

What do most people do when they feel moved?
When most people feel moved or inspired, they emote, they pause to reflect, they may even talk to about the issue or donate a few dollars. Very few people take action and even fewer people cause others to take action.


We’re busy. We’re caught up in our own drama and crises. Ultimately, we question whether we can really make a difference.

But we can.

We can be like Riley
It takes moxie for us to act like Riley and do something.

We must resolve that our action will not solve the world’s problems, but we must know that it will solve a few. We will be confronted with obstacles and setbacks, and our own lack of time, money, knowledge, and resources, but we must move forward anyway. We will risk failure, judgment, and ridicule, but we must persevere, more focused on our goals than we are on what others think of us. We will be inspired
and inspiring. We will act with passion and cage-rattling guts. We will be relentless.

We all want to be that passionate about something.

When someone like Riley inspires us with her passion and sparks our own passion and ability to make a difference, she becomes a moxie leader … even if she hasn’t hit high school yet.

One man emailed this message of of awe with his donation: “Pretty cool what today’s kids can do if they put their mind to it. When I see something like this I worry a little less about the future.”

What do you think?
Share your inspiration and spark our passion.

CEO of ING Direct Asks His People if He Should Stay – That’s Moxie!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Arkadi Kuhlmann has been the CEO of ING Direct USA for 10 years. In December, he’s giving ING employees the opportunity to vote anonymously whether he should be CEO for another year.

That’s moxie.

Why does he ask?
Kuhlmann shared with The New York Times recently, “I don’t want to serve here unless I’ve got the commitment of people genuinely wanting me to serve.” He admits that if the ING people are as important as he says they are, then they should have a say in whether Kuhlmann continues to lead.

Not a popularity contest
Kuhlmann clarified that the vote is not about being popular. He stressed that a vote in his favor is a vote of confidence for the company’s mission and a vote of confidence for his ability to lead the accomplishment of that mission.

What he communicates with the vote
By calling for the vote, Kuhlmann is communicating two important things to his people: (1) he doesn’t take his job for granted, and (2) he is accountable to them to walk his talk. Most leaders fail to remember these points altogether.

Serve with him
“Would you vote for me to serve with you for another year?” Pay attention to the words he uses in this annual voting ritual. He doesn’t focus on his position as the CEO. He doesn’t mention anything about “running the company.” He sincerely sees his role as one in which he has the privilege to serve with people in the accomplishment of a mission.

Associates vs. employees
It is also interesting that Kuhlmann never uses the word “employee” when interviewed by The New York Times reporter. He refers to the people who serve with him as “associates.” An associate by definition is a partner, a colleague, a co-worker, a comrade. That distinction breaks down the wall that separates them vs. us. It acknowledges that we work with people who contribute and solve problems instead of creatures called “employees” who need things and create problems.

Kuhlmann must be nuts!
His colleagues and the directors on the ING board think he’s nuts. He’s well aware of this. But he is nuts in furtherance of his battle cry – to serve with people to accomplish the company’s mission. ‘Being nuts’ separates the moxie leader from the mediocre leader. In spite of (or arguably, as a result of) ‘being nuts,’ ING stock has gone up by 55% in the past 6 months.

The typical leader
Most companies run hierarchically. Leaders are in charge of people below them, but they don’t operate as if they are accountable to those people. Instead they operate as if they don’t owe their people anything – not communication, not recognition, not appreciation, and certainly not comradeship. This mentality usually starts with the typical CEO who answers only to Wall Street and the Board of Directors, and merely tolerates everyone else.

When did leaders forget what it was like to follow?

Have you ever asked?
Have you ever asked your people what it’s like to work with you? What you could be doing more of, better, or differently? Has your leader or any leader ever asked you what they could be doing better to serve with you? If it ever does happen, will you instinctually look for the hidden camera?

Why it takes moxie to ask
It’s a vulnerable place from which to stand. What if your people tell you something you don’t want to hear? What if they point out one of your weaknesses that you thought you had beautifully veiled? What if they tell you, in so many words, that you don’t have what it takes to be their leader? Ultimately, leaders fear being rejected by their people… so they don’t ask.

It takes moxie – guts, courage, perseverance, determination, and a little ‘being nuts’ – to feel this fear and ask anyway out of a commitment to something greater than ego.

Three reasons to be like Kuhlmann

(1) People support that which they help create.
When Kuhlmann asks his people if he should serve, he is valuing their opinion. When they vote for him to lead for the 11th consecutive year, they will support him as the CEO because they voted for him. This is a behavioral phenomenon in action called “irrational escalation bias.” 

(2) Asking builds trust.
By asking Kuhlmann is being vulnerable. The people know this and appreciate it. This fosters trust. People will trust him even more going forward because he is so willing to be vulnerable with them today.

(3) It is impossible to succeed on our own.
The leader’s ego tells us that we have all the answers, but we don’t. And even when we do, it’s entirely exhausting to carry the weight of the company, a department, or a team on our shoulders.

What is your commitment?
As the leader, what are you committed to? If you are committed to generating the highest stock price possible, you will get it, people-be-damned! Just ask Jeff Skilling of the Enron scandal or Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom disgrace. If you are committed to accomplishing something great that changes the world in some way, you will need others to serve with you. The choice is yours. 

Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” Let’s borrow this in our quest to ignite our moxie leadership and say, “My leadership is my message.”  

What do you think?
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