Archives June 2022

Ambition, Power and Leadership Are Not Dirty Words

The two fundamental dimensions that distinguish people who rise to leadership and accomplish amazing things are:

1) the ambition to take on significant challenges and the skills; and,

2) the capabilities required to obtain the power to turn ambition into accomplishment.


Pursuit of Power

Some pursue power and influence for the sake of having power and influence. These people hope that once they get there, they’ll be able to do something with that power.

By contrast, some have a vision of a better world and are prepared to be ambitious enough to do what it takes to get there. They understand that it takes ‘ambition’ to want to gain power and influence to ‘lead’ towards your vision.


What Role Does Ambition

The word ambition means to have a desire to do or complete something.

In recent years, its meaning has taken on a negative connotation to describe those more interested in furthering their objectives than the group.

Every leader, whether they will admit it or not, is quietly ambitious.

Ambition is necessary for a great leader. For a leader to be great, they need to have a vision for others and themselves.


Great Leaders Are Ambitious

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings” – Salvador Dali.

Ambitious leaders desire increased influence and promotion in the organizational hierarchy.

Highly ambitious leaders strive towards challenging goals, achieving success for themselves and the organization.

They thrive in the face of challenges and tend to devote substantial effort and time towards work, making them good candidates to lead during times of crisis.

Read about leading through crises.


Focus you ambition

The following steps can help you focus your ambition and achieve power and influence to achieve your goals:


Keep learning. The drive to better yourself is linked with an openness towards continual learning experiences.

Volunteer for initiatives at work. Start being recognized for your efforts and ambitious drive at work by volunteering for various initiatives.

Read about being proximate.

Challenge yourself. An excellent way to spark ambition is to challenge yourself to beat past standards you’ve set for yourself.

What Is Heck Is Organizational Health? 10 Questions Answered by Steve

Question: What is organizational health?

Organizational health is essentially about making a company function effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization, and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward. Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.

Read about the ‘First Team’ Model

Question: Why does organizational health offer a company its greatest opportunity for competitive advantage?

Addressing organizational health provides an incredible advantage to companies because, ultimately, health becomes the multiplier of intelligence. The healthier an organization is, the more its intelligence it can tap into and actually use. Most organizations only exploit a fraction of the knowledge, experience and intellectual capital available to them. The healthy ones tap into all of it. Addressing health helps companies to make smarter decisions faster, without politics and confusion.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Question: Why are so many of today’s smartest companies losing to underdogs?

I have found that some of the underdogs are more apt to shed their preconceived notions about running a business and allow themselves to gain an advantage around a different set of principles. The key ingredient for improvement and success is not access to knowledge; it is really about the environment’s health.

I have worked with many great, healthy companies led by men and women who attended relatively modest colleges, people who would admit to being just a little above average in intellectual capacity. When those companies made wise decisions that set them apart from their competition, journalists and industry analysts incorrectly attributed their intellectual prowess’s success. The truth of the matter was that the underdogs weren’t smarter than their competitors; they simply tapped into the adequate intelligence they had and didn’t allow dysfunction, ego, and politics to get in the way. Conversely, smart organizations don’t seem to have any greater chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence. In fact, the reverse may actually be true because leaders who pride themselves on expertise and knowledge often struggle to acknowledge their flaws and learn from their peers. They typically aren’t as easily open and transparent with one another, which delays recovery from mistakes and fuels politics and confusion.

Question: Having worked with companies for so many years, is there anything that still surprises you?

Yes, I still get surprised by what I see in companies I work with, even after all these years. Some of that surprise is just a function because no two people, and thus, no two organizations are exactly alike. The nuances are interesting and keep me on my toes. But ironically, the biggest surprise I get is being reminded repeatedly that even the most sophisticated companies struggle with the simplest things. I guess it’s hard for me to believe that the concepts I write and speak about are universal. I don’t know that I’ll ever come to terms with that completely.

Question: Why are so few companies skilled at overcoming dysfunction?

Leaders often complain about worker productivity, politics, turnover and other signs of dysfunction but feel addressing the problem is either a hopeless endeavour or too touchy-feely. Even if the leader understands the need to address dysfunction, more often than not, they tend to naturally gravitate right back to the parts of the business they feel most comfortable with (usually in areas like strategy, finance, marketing, etc.).

Question: What’s “the wuss factor,” and how do you overcome it?

The “wuss factor” happens when a team member or leader constantly balks when it’s time to call someone out on their behaviour or performance. Many leaders who struggle with this will try to convince themselves that their reluctance is a product of their kindness; they just don’t want to make their employees feel bad. But an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don’t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness. After all, there is nothing noble about withholding information that can help an employee improve. Eventually, that employee’s lack of improvement will come back to haunt him in a performance review or when he is let go.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Question: What’s the best way to run an effective meeting?

To answer that question fairly, it is important to be clear about what kind of meeting you are in. I find that all too often, leaders have one meeting a week where they put all issues into one big discussion, usually called the staff meeting. They combine administrative issues and tactical decisions, creative brainstorming and strategic analysis, and personal discussions into one exhausting meeting. The fact is the human brain isn’t meant to process so many disparate topics in one sitting. This exhausts people. For a meeting to be effective, there needs to be greater clarity and focus, which means there needs to be different kinds of meetings for different kinds of focus. So, being clear about what kind of meeting you are in helps everyone understand the purpose and what they can expect for outcomes. The four meetings include:

  • Daily Check-ins – administrative information exchange
  • Weekly Staff – tactical issues and goal-related activities
  • Ad hoc Strategic- strategic meeting that takes on one single big topic
  • Quarterly Off-site Review – developmental meeting and review of business fundamentals

Question: How can someone who’s not in the upper levels of their organization make an impact on its health?

While it’s true that no one can influence an organization like the leader and that without a leader’s commitment and involvement, organizational health cannot become a reality, there are many things that employees deeper in an organization can do to make health more likely. First, they have to speak truth upward in the organization. Most leaders, even the struggling ones, want to get better. When an employee is courageous and wise enough to come to them with respect, kindness and honesty, most leaders will be grateful. Without honest upward feedback, a leader cannot get better. Beyond that, people deeper in an organization can focus on making their own departments healthier and not getting too distracted or discouraged by their inability to change things outside of their “circle of influence,” as Stephen Covey says. By focusing on their own departments and their own areas of influence, they provide others with an example to follow.

Question: What’s something I can do tomorrow morning to get started?

The first thing anyone can do immediately to begin the process of making their organizations healthier is, to begin with, themselves and their team. A leader has to understand and embrace the concept of being vulnerable, which inspires trust in the leadership team. That trust is the foundation for teamwork, which is one of the cornerstones of organizational health. If a leader cannot be vulnerable, cannot admit his or her mistakes, shortcomings or weaknesses, others will not be vulnerable and organizational health becomes impossible.

Question: What’s the first step any company can take to start achieving organizational health?

The first step in becoming healthy is to get the leadership team together, offsite, for a couple of days of focused, rigorous, honest discussion. Nothing touchy-feely, but rather a practical session around everything from how the team behaves to how it will succeed to what its most important priority needs to be. That first session will provide the momentum a team needs to lead the organization to health.

How healthy is your organization? take the free survey!

Working from Home is a Wonderful Option – But Remember Proximity Equals Your Success

“City’s [of Calgary] 5,000 inside workers will keep splitting their work time between home and the office … for the foreseeable future.’

– CBC headline


Some employers will need to, or insist on, all employees reporting to a workplace. And others will move to a 100% distributed and remote workforce. But, like the City of Calgary, many will land somewhere between those two points and on a blended model.

There is no way on earth that our post-pandemic workforce won’t look the same as before the pandemic. This isn’t a prediction; it is a reality.

NYU business professor and author Scott Galloway warns that a distributed workforce will create unintended consequences. He is concerned about an “erosion of empathy.” He means that as people spend less time with one another in person, we can lose the opportunity to engage with people who have different backgrounds and experiences from our own.

On the good side, our employees spent the last year learning how to work in new ways. It’s unlikely all of them will want an immediate return to the pre-pandemic workplace. Some may thrive in the freedom, productivity and flexibility that remote work offers. Others may want to work in a more traditional office atmosphere.

But be forewarned that, on the other hand, there will likely be a cost to your career and lifetime earnings because you are not proximate to decisions makers and power.

Read More About Invisible Bosses

Proximity bias is real. Proximity bias is the idea that employees with close physical proximity to their team and company leaders will be perceived as better workers and ultimately find more success in the workplace than their remote counterparts. That bias often looks like on-site employees having access to better perks and getting more time with executives. In contrast, remote employees may get left out of meetings, inadvertently silenced on calls, and potentially paid less than their co-located peers.[i]

In a recent podcast interview with Donny Deutsch, Professor Galloway commented that people need to, or should make every effort to, be in the office as much as they can.

Why? Because your career trajectory is a function of proximity. He says that for every promotion or job opening, at least 2 or 3 people are fully qualified for that job. The person who gets that job is often the one with the best relationship with the decider.

Fundamentally these relationships are a function of proximity.

While some companies are still getting used to hybrid and remote arrangements, you can take control by negating any bias by asking for face-to-face mentoring, intentional communication and self-advocacy.

To limit the impact that proximity bias may have on your career, here are some actions that you can try:

Being in the office as often as you can.

If you can’t be physically present, be visible through regular video conferences with your team and boss.

Ask for work or projects to support your partnership with your boss.

Read More About Partnering With Your Boss

Increase your visibility by joining the meetings early and active on your designated work channels.

Value and encourage high-quality internal communications and listening campaigns, including sharing constructive feedback.

Endorse, praise and celebrate your co-workers and their achievements.

This will make a difference in your well-being and engagement levels and, most certainly, in your career.