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Leadership Optimization

For your Company’s Leaders Today

Author: Ashley

Leadership 9 Box: Quick-start Guide

Leadership 9 Box: Quick-start Guide


How is Leadership 9 Box set up?

There are a total of 4 sections in each module, with a total of 9 Modules (9 boxes, 9 modules!).

Each section contains the following:

  • A short 10-question survey to understand your current skills as a leader. You can choose to give this to your manager/ peers for a 360 review.
  • Goals/objectives of the section to clearly state the purpose. If it is not a section you need, simply move on to the next one!

A section can take between 15 minutes to 1 hour to complete. Some will find it will take them longer to master the content and will choose to go back to the section.

Leadership 9 Box


G. Tactical Operations

H. Business Acumen

Innovation Leadership



D. Communication

E. Strength & Motivation

F. Leader & Conflict



A. Time Management

B. People Management

C. Delegation & Organization


Level of Primary Influence ——>




How should I get started?

Getting started is easy! Follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the course catalog
  2. Choose the course(s) that interests you and challenges your leadership skills! Register for the first section. For example, if you wanted to improve your communications skills, you would register for D: Communications for Leaders
    • Note: You will have two options for each course:
      1. Course only – You will have access to the 4 e-learning sections of the module & pre/ post assessments
      2. Course + SME Access – In addition to access to the 4 e-learning sections of the module and pre/post assessments, you will also have access to all activities & discussion. You will have the opportunity to review & turn in activities to a Leadership SME who will evaluate and give tailored feedback. Upon completion of the module, you will get a L9B Certification for the module, which can be immediately posted on LinkedIn as an official LinkedIn certification.
  3. Take the assessment. Each Section 1 of a module (A1, B1, C1, etc.) has a short 10-question assessment aimed to help you self-identify your current abilities of the topic. Be honest. There are no right or wrong answers. You will get a score at the end.Note: A score of 50 does NOT mean failing (this is NOT a college course, after all) – but it shows your areas of strength and opportunity.
  4. Take the course. Review each section. Learn the material and read the additional information.
  5. Complete the activities. Each section has 2-5 activities aimed at building SPECIFIC skill strengths. Some may require you to talk to others at work, to reflect on a specific time, or to do specific activities.
  6. Turn in the activities. Once you are done with each activity, turn it in via the Activity portal in the section. If you have the Leadership Influence or Elevate (silver or gold) plan, a Leadership 9 Box SME will give you feedback within 48 hours.Note: Leadership SME’s will evaluate your material based on content and how well you completed the assignment. The scores range from 1-5: 
    Score Description
    1 Well done, above average understanding of the activity.
    2 Good job, the leader understands the activity, but could work on specific areas if desired.
    3 Good, but not enough to pass – the leader has some understanding of the material, but may be short on content, or missing a key component.
    4 Fair, not pass – the leader may have some understanding of the material, but is missing large parts of the content or several components.
    5 No pass – the leader has not shown understanding of the material, and is missing large if not all parts of the content and many components of understanding.
    Note If you get a 3, 4, or 5, the SME will give specific instruction on what was missing and what is needed to pass.
  7. Join the discussion! Each section has a discussion board – aimed at sharing specific topics relevant to the discussion. Share your viewpoints and experiences, and give feedback to others
  8. Get your certificate! For each section you complete, you get a certificate automatically added to your Profile. You will be given a choice to:
    • Download the certificate
    • Share certificate on LinkedIn (you will need to login to your account using the credentials of your profile)

What if I have questions that aren’t answered here? What if something is incorrect? How do I give feedback?

Leadership 9 Box, Questions and Feedback on TalentLMS, Steps 1-7
Leadership 9 Box, Questions and Feedback on TalentLMS, Steps 1-7

All you need to do is send a message to the L9B team using the L9B Portal. Follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Sign in to your Leadership 9 Box (L9B) account and point to Messages on the top navigation bar.
  2. On the drop-down list, click Send message.
  3. Click the Recipients field to choose who receives your message from the drop-down list.Note: Select the group that best answers your questions:
    1. System administrators – for LMS Platform issues, courses incorrectly loading, general feedback https://www.squarepegsolutions.org/shop-courses-online/
    2. Course instructors – if you have specific questions about a specific course, feedback on the course, or question on the evaluation that goes beyond one activity
  4. Type a Subject for your message.
  5. In the Body text area, type your message.
  6. If needed, you can also add images or attach external files to your message.
  7. Click Send message.
Leadership 9 Box

Leadership 9 Box

What is Leadership 9 Box?

Leadership 9 Box (L9B) takes a hybrid approach to building your leadership skills both online and through a customized approach with real, live subject matter experts chosen for your specific development. You will find Leadership 9 Box will focus on strengthening your core of conceptual, interpersonal, and administrative skills as based on Henry Mintzberg’s management theory.

A leader must have some level of competence in all 3 areas to remain successful, and yet, many leaders continue to fall behind because they have not received, learned, or understood the basics on the skills of leadership.

You determine the pace of your journey, and Leadership 9 Box is here to provide you with the tools and expertise you need to take both your career and your personal development to its highest.

You have the flexibility to alter your subscription plan at any time, whether that is asking for more insight or to scale back. We want you to be successful and can help advise which tier works best for your needs. We can’t wait to join you.


Leadership 9 Box


G. Tactical Operations

H. Business Acumen

Innovation Leadership



D. Communication

E. Strength & Motivation

F. Leader & Conflict



A. Time Management

B. People Management

C. Delegation & Organization


Level of Primary Influence ——>




Why Leadership 9 Box?

Whereas many other leadership programs deliver great content, few have a built-in feedback loop* designed to guarantee** that the material learned is not only learned¸ but the leader also has the ability to immediately apply the skills.

  • Feedback loop – Ever been to a class where you passed just by sitting there? How much did you actually learn? With the L9B course – you will get a real-time evaluation from experts in their field – so you will know how well you can use specific leadership skills.
  • Guaranteed skills – Every leader that has used the techniques in this course has improved their leadership skills. Some say they are better equipped to handle difficult situations or can communicate better. Others say they have up to an hour back in their day (nearly 15% improvements).  L9B is not for everyone, and the leader must be willing to learn new ways beyond their normal areas they typically operate.

What level of Leadership 9 Box is for me?

Three subscription levels of L9B empower you to choose what works best for you:

  1.          Leadership Impact (LI) Bronze Level – You will be able to take part in all sections, modules. You will be able to do all of the activities and join the discussion

  2.   Leadership Influence (LIN) Silver Level – In addition to Leadership Impact (Bronze), you will also be able to take part in all of the activities. Once you complete the activities, you will have a highly experienced leadership SME (subject matter expert) focusing on your answers and evaluating them for leadership effectiveness, understanding the content, and the ability to apply it in a real-time leadership situation.             

    • Upon completion of all activities and discussion in a module, you will receive a Certificate of Completion that you will be able to share with your own leadership team, post on your LinkedIn profile and in your office to confirm your higher level skills as a leader in those areas.

    • Certificates will be given for each module, each course area (Conceptual, Interpersonal, Administrative) and overall “Certified 9 Box Leader.” You have the ability to post this certification on your LinkedIn profile to show others your leadership abilities. 

  3.           Leadership Elevate© (LE) Gold Level– The highest level of opportunity for a leader in Leadership 9Box. You will receive everything in the previous two levels as well as up to two hours of one-on-one training with a highly experienced leadership SME.

    • These sessions can be focused on specific subject areas, or developed and tailored around your specific leadership career needs.


How does Leadership 9 Box work?

There are four sections in each module, with a total of 9 Modules (9 boxes, 9 modules!), provides:

  •           A short 10-question survey to understand your current skills as a leader. You can choose to give this to your manager/ peers for a 360 review.
  •           Goals/ objectives of the section to clearly state the purpose. If it is not a section you need, you can move on to the next one.

The section will take between 15 minutes to an hour to complete. Some will find it will take them longer to master the content and will choose to go back to section. Once you purchase, at any level, you will be able to visit all sections as many times as you wish.

Once you are in the section, you will find three main parts:

  • Part 1- Instruction – 15-30 minute information on section topic
  • Part 2 – Discussion – on various topics on the section topic
  •  Part 3 – Activities – to confirm knowledge of the section topic

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Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars…or let them go

Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars…or let them go

by Ashley Prisant Lesko, Business Executive

Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars – or “promote” them to customer

Summary: It takes a STRONG leader to fix a Rock Star on their team, however those leaders that do find their teams are stronger – and their employees respect the level of accountability the leader has proven to hold every person on the team.

It’s now 2019, the last year in this decade. We’ve seen some tumultuous times, and leaders of all kinds have been challenged in many ways.

What is a leader? A leader is simply one that aims to influence another person’s behavior or actions. You don’t have to have a title to be a leader. Anyone that chooses can become one

I have worked in several companies, and all of them had their share of Rock Stars and Super Stars. As a leader, you want to get away from the Rock Stars as quickly as possible and hope that you can have several Super Stars in your midst.

Super Stars are the ultimate team players. They lead from the sidelines, from the center and anywhere they are needed. Their primary goal is to do what’s best for the company, but they won’t lose what personally motivates them (such as outside of work) to do it. If taken care of, Super Stars are the most loyal employees; they know their job as well the job of several others. They have significant knowledge on their organization, their work to the point that makes their organization more successful by doing their job or feel the pain if they do not. However, even though most Super Stars know how important they are to their organization – they never use it against the company.

Rock Stars, on the other hand, can be team leaders, but many times chose the easier (and more self-serving) path of taking care of #1 – themselves. Like Super Stars, they have significant knowledge on their organization. They know their knowledge is vital – and use it to their advantage as much as possible. This could be in the form of attitude, work load (choosing to work less), or demands (pay raise, position, perks) beyond normal expectations.

The challenge for companies with Rock Stars is that typically, Rock Stars are made, not born. The company has allowed these individuals to grown in the organization as a single point of failure – someone who is more important to the organization – than the organization is to the Rock Star. The organization needs the individual – more than the individual needs the organization. This could even appear to the point of blackmail (“if you don’t give into my demands (as a Rock Star), then I will leave the company, and you will lose XYZ information”) if not kept in check.

How do you prevent growing Rock Stars?

1- Take a look at your team for Single Points of Failure. Is there anyone on your team that is the only person that has knowledge of an area?

2- If so, build a plan for a backup, develop a playbook, create a training plan, set up a bench of individuals that can grow in the job

3- If you find that the Rock Star recognizes their position may be threatened (“knowledge is power! If I have all the knowledge, then I have power”), explain your plan going forward to have backups – to help them and everyone else. Encourage them to become Super Stars – becoming team players in the process. If the Rock Star continues to challenge you – you may be forced to hold them accountable – either they train others, or they have to leave your organization

Some may challenge the advice in #3 – and rightly so. If you get rid of the Rock Star, don’t you lose the knowledge? Digging a bit deeper, you’ll find that most Rock Stars are seen by their peers as a poison pill that gets away with things that others don’t – and unjustly so. By keeping a Rock Star, and allowing him/her to continue – you put your organization at risk with their singular knowledge and your team as a breakdown in teamwork can occur.

I find many leaders struggle the most with the last paragraph – and I have found myself in that category. It does take a strong leader to upgrade a Rock Star into a Super Star on their team, but it can be done.

Leaders that go beyond and hold their Rock Stars (and teams) accountable find their teams are stronger.

It’s 2019. This is the year YOU can make it happen.

Originally published on LinkedIn

Express Yourself: Outside of your comfort zone

Express Yourself: Outside of your comfort zone

We’ve all heard the saying, “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life”. Hopefully, most of us have found ourselves in a career path where we truly enjoy what it is we are accomplishing. But what if I told you that loving what you do, your daily motivation, and efficiency at work, can all be connected to one aspect? Talent engagement. After reading, “To Get More, Try Giving More ” by Ashley Lesko, it was made clear the influence talent engagement has on job satisfaction and work efficiency.

The more an individual utilizes their natural strengths the more pleasure they will find in their craft. Simply because, who doesn’t love doing the things they are good at? And no, this does not mean if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing to leave and never look back. It just means to find opportunities to engage your talents- even if that includes stepping out of your comfort zone.

For example, I’ve always been good with technology, analytics, and writing. The analytic and writing skillsets I developed from a communication studies background, and technology is something I’ve just always enjoyed. Therefore writing on sporting events for the local paper wasn’t an issue for me, but it became rather repetitive. One day I was asked to commentate some High school football games over the radio; I was excited yet also reluctant. Yes, I knew the language associated and the analytical numbers aspect of the sport and the radio technology was no challenge. But the job was still outside my comfort zone, I am a naturally reserved person until I become comfortable. Therefore the thought of my voice becoming known by thousands of people in my area did not ring well with me, especially the task of developing a radio personality. Yet I went with it; expressing myself and my talents in a new style. Fast forward to present day, and I love every moment of it and can’t wait until this upcoming football season where I will commentate again.  

Therefore, my advice to you; exploit ways to engage your talents at work and you will experience a happier, more productive, you.

By: Brooks Rynders

Are you maximizing the value of your Employee Supply Chain? Three ways to increase your team’s worth by the end of the week.

Are you maximizing the value of your Employee Supply Chain? Three ways to increase your team’s worth by the end of the week.

Former business school students, pop quiz – what’s the definition of a supply chain in an organization? One source talks about supply chain as the system that facilitates the flow (of products, services) through the business. Another explains that managing the supply chain is a must- have because “an optimized supply chain results in lower costs and a faster production cycle”. It includes all of the steps to get it from the producer to the customer.

Have you ever thought of your team as having their own supply chain? If so – knowingly or not, you have worked on your company’s Employee Supply Chain.

Definition: Employee Supply Chain– the end to end operational process of an employee’s impact on an organization:

  • Acquiring – (producer) Stage of hiring decision, intake, onboarding/orientation
  • Developing – Stage of skills training, performance management, and leadership development (transit, in-process)
  • Retaining/Exiting – promotion, actualized leadership, and outplacement (retirement, attrition)

An optimized Employee Supply Chain (ESC) blends operation and HR tactics to maximize employee’s talent engagement, capacity & productivity. An optimized ESC strategically & strategically reduces uncertainty for an organization in employee expenses.

The goal is to optimize your Employee Supply Chain and maximize the value for one of your top organization expenses – your employees. It is a process for recognizing that support in a certain area, the decision to hire, the hiring process, the onboarding process… and then the development, growth, and evolution through the organization’s cycles – reviews and moves, and at some point – either promotion or attrition, to complete the chain, could make the difference in a bottom line by reducing overall expenses by 5-10% or more.

Anyone that has a hand in ANY part of Employee Supply Chain (ESC) as described above – has the ability to grow, influence and enhance the strength of their own Employee Supply Chain.

Business Dictionary notes that producers at the beginning of the supply chain (in the case of ESC, the initial decisions made by CFO’s, CEO’s, CHRO’s and hiring managers of the employee process) can only compete through the supply chain. Unless the rest of the supply chain improves, “no degree of improvement at the producer’s end” can make up the problems downstream in the supply chain.

So… that means – if you own:

  • Initial Decision to hire (capacity, organization need)
  • Hiring process (recruiting, interviewing)
  • Onboarding Process
  • Job Functionality (training, teamwork, interaction)
  • Job Process (development, growth, and evolution through reviews, transfers)
  • End of Job-Life (promotion, retirement, attrition)

… you have ownership of part of your organization’s Employee Supply Chain.

How optimized is your own team’s Employee Supply Chain? Let’s briefly take a look.

  • Ineffectiveness
    The graph above demonstrates how wasted costs is associated with being ineffective in your Employee Supply Chain.

    Having more employees than you need. You hired 5 people, yet you really only needed 3 people…. But didn’t realize that until 6 months later. Perhaps you weren’t equipped with the understanding of the capacity of the individuals – or the job. Perhaps you followed an example of a model that did not match with your business. Ineffectiveness is having wasted costs due to more employees than the organization needs in the business.

Potential outcomes… Employees in this group could be underutilized, overutilized undertrained and could have a sense of loss meaning/ understanding of their place in the company

Ask yourself…. How can you determine if you’ve hired effectively? What can you do to help to reduce ineffectiveness in the future?

  • The diagram above exhibits the role inaccuracy plays in the Employee Supply Chain. Hiring at an inaccurate moment leads to wasted time/costs.

    Inaccuracy – Accuracy deals with timing – which can be everything. You know you will need to hire a business analyst to help shoulder some of the work – so you hire in Q1… but realize later that two other employees had the ability to do the work, at least until Q3. As a result, Inaccuracy and wasted time/ costs evolved you hired earlier than needed, as you could have delayed the hires, reducing employee expenses for the year.

Potential outcomes… Employees in this group may also feel underutilized if hired too early, or overutilized if hired too late (“you need me to do too much at once, I don’t understand!”). They may feel like a “5th wheel” and a lack of connection to the company.

Ask yourself…. “What is the capacity of my team that I already have? How much do I know about the job needs that I’m hiring?”

  • Inaction – Whereas the first two elements of loss in the Employee Supply deal with the hiring itself, the final one deals with the results when those have happened
    As you can see above. When employees are not working at full capacity, there can be severe lost opportunities and costs.

    , or if the employee loses the drive to complete the job. Typically, an employee initially begins a job with 100% effort – once (s)he is trained, they perform (or generally want to) at 100%. Over time, due to many reasons (manager, lack of motivation, engagement, etc.), this effort decreases, resulting in a 70% or 80% output (productivity). Multiple this by a number of employees… and you suddenly find yourself with much less employee productivity… and paying the same price in employee expenses!

Potential outcomes… Employees in this group feel disengaged, unproductive – and may or may not know it. They tend to have multiple strengths or talents that are not being utilized and may be considered siloed into their current job instead of being able to contribute in other areas of their work.

Ask yourself “At what capacity do I think my team is? If they are not 100%, do I know why? Can we help them?”

How are you maximizing your employee supply chain? Share this… and share your story.

In additional news:

  • Last month, I asked you how to “make” it as a manager. Thank you to the many of you that contributed and congrats to Curt from Dallas TX on his $25 Amazon gift card! Be on the lookout for the summary and results in upcoming months! Thank you!


Are you too “big” to care… as a leader? 3 ways to help you reset… before someone does it for you

Are you too “big” to care… as a leader? 3 ways to help you reset… before someone does it for you

  • Have you been in your position for more than a year? More than 2? 10?
  • Do you have trouble remembering the last time you sat down with someone from your team and talked about something OTHER than the next project or task that is due?
  • Could you share 3 facts about each individual on your team – that is NOT work related?
  • Do you know what your employees want to do next in their job? For their careers?

Take a look… if you answered “yes” to more than one of these, you may have (knowingly or not) become too big to care as a leader. (Picture by Abbey Pansy)

Or… does this classify someone that you know? Someone… that you WORK for (or try to) on a daily basis? In one of the lowest points of my work career, I became “too big to care”. I focused more on what I needed to do to fix the overall problems – then on my team that could actually fix the problems.

It’s 2017. No time for lamenting where you are. Let’s move forward and get it done.

So how do we tackle our situation here? We now have managers that have potentially grown so big in their job that they have become comfortable, complacent, callous, careless, confused, or even just cranky … too big to care as a leader. Leaders have been recognized as those with the responsibility to lead others. Here is a few ways to help you (or a leader you know) get back to what’s important.

  • Have a real conversation. One that doesn’t include work. It can be difficult, and for some, it seems remote to talk about things other than work but don’t forget – they are people too. They aren’t just a number. You hired them because they added value to the company – at some level. What value can they add to you? Your team? What are their interests? Find a few ways to help them open up and the work may open up too.
  • Find out what makes them tick. Really. Pop Quiz. What is the motivation style for each of your employees? Is it the carrot? Stick? Do they do their best work alone? With periodic checkups? Take a few minutes to find out. Ask them to complete the free assessment the Talent Engagement Zone (TEZ) or buy the book Strengths Finder – and talk about the results. How can you give them more of what they already have… and one? How can you build that into the goals and critical needs of your organization and team? Ask.
  • Share about what makes you tick. REALLY. It’s important to know the things that make your employees want to work harder – but your interests, strengths, and motivations are just as important.  Where do your interests and theirs align? Where do they want to go… that’s similar (or even parallel) to where you want to go? How can you go there together?

 It’s understandable that not everything will align. You may want to run the company, and an individual may just want to do a good job (and securely KEEP the good job). What doesn’t go together? How do you break the two up and resolve those differences? Sharing stories about yourself makes you a little vulnerable, but it also opens your employees to the REAL you… which will help them better understand and better relate to you. No one’s perfect, right? It’s ok to let them see it, too.

The year is young and the snow is still cold. Focus on your 10% and show you’re not too big to care.


2016 in Review: 15 reasons you are better (at work) now than you were in 2015 

2016 in Review: 15 reasons you are better (at work) now than you were in 2015 

It’s time for the Company Holiday Party, and figuring out how much you’re actually going to get done before the end of the year. For many, this time of year is when you look back on all of the successes, the failures, the ups and downs, the hires that came in that made you laugh and the fires that you were glad to see go (well, most of them). It’s the time to wind down – or wind up (if you’re in retail or anything remotely related to holiday shopping) and New Year’s Resolutions.


But… for many others – it may also be the time that makes you question “What am I doing here (in this job, department, company)? What did I even do this year?”

 You did. A lot. Run through this “I didn’t wait for anyone to get it done” checklist and see how many items you actually addressed in 2016.

  1. Saving your ass-ets at work
  1. Getting it done
  1. The Strengths you didn’t realize you weren’t using

Did more than you realized? Perception is reality – recency bias helps you forget about the things you did at the beginning (of the year) – so you more than likely did more than you realize.

What represents 2016 to you? Share your link or story below… the ones that resonate the most in the group will be mentioned in next month’s article!

Roadblocks and Dynamite: On initiative and why saying no may be hazardous to your health 

Roadblocks and Dynamite: On initiative and why saying no may be hazardous to your health 

Last month, we talked about the impact of a direct manager and leadership team can have on an individual (I fired my company!)….  over 60% of employees leave your organization because of the manager and 90% because of the leadership team in general.  Many of you responded with your own viewpoint, and continue to share on your personal experience.

However, leaving your job doesn’t happen overnight (well almost never) – and, for the most part, it may take a while for you to decide to pull the plug….

What if there was a way to prevent you from making that decision? From having to find something new – that could be better, but may be worse?

What if there was a way to dynamite the roadblocks that are slowing you down at work?

Several years ago, a corporate director came to my building to do a walk through inspection and evaluate us on how ready we were for our peak season. We walked him through the building, pointing out all the things we had done well over the year since he had been there last, skipping over the things we hadn’t addressed (or, to be honest, didn’t want to bring his attention to).

Of course, he didn’t get to his position for accepting what he was told, and after a few times, he asked about one of our processes. We explained that the process was a one-off – we were different than other buildings, so basically we couldn’t be compared to other buildings.

He stopped us right there and asked if we did the basic process (similar to “do you breathe every day?”). We did. Then we were asked if it made any difference how we “breathed” – we still did it, and needed to figure out a way to get it done – in this case, in a faster, more efficient way.

We needed to take initiative.

Our team had been hiding behind all of the excuses of why we were different, how we shouldn’t be compared to anyone else – instead of realizing we were just “variations on a theme” and took initiative to find a way.

In the survey, over 80% of employees said they left their company because of a lack of advancement, not feeling connected to an organization, or problems with the work environment.

Is it possible that you could find a way around some of those roadblocks that could be very real – and make your own dynamite to take a different path, make a different road?

Initiative is about taking responsibility for your work, and making it your job to make it excellent (Millikin, 2016). Instead of “What am I required to do at work”, you say “How I can best help my peers, managers, company be the best they can be?”

So… let’s do it, you’ve said. How do I blow up these roadblocks that’s holding me back?. 

  • Put yourself in YOUR customer’s shoes. Who is your customer? It may not be the external customer at all – but the accountant that needs your report by Thursday, so she can meet a deadline – and you get to it when you can. Your customer isn’t happy – but could you change that?
  • What problems exist? You probably already know several in your workplace. What are the issues? What do you just put band-aids on because you feel you are engaged or your team doesn’t support you? It doesn’t matter. If  you can get it done – then do it. Don’t wait for support from someone else if you have the power to make it better (See #1 above). You’ll be surprised at what gets done when YOU start it.
  • Find a better way. If you do a number of tasks you find menial or boring – brainstorm. Understand the reasons the tasks need to be done, and if so, find ways to make them more efficient. There could be a chance that you are NOT the best person to do it – and if you took on something that was more suitable to your strengths and job requirements, then you can get back to taking care of #1 (your customer, of course!)

Note this does NOT give you the right to march into your boss’s office and say I’m too important to be doing data entry. It DOES mean you should think about the implications, the cause and effect of your actions, and think about how you can better impact the team and organization.

Take a chance. Take initiative. Blow up those roadblocks that are keeping you from being what you know you’re capable.

About the Author

Ashley P. Lesko, PhD is a navy veteran and President of Square Peg Solutions, which is focused on helping companies discover (and take advantage of) their greatest unknown assets – their people. She also teaches at Queens University in Charlotte, NC and Harvard Extension School, based in Boston, MA. Her growing body of work on new and front line manager leadership and talent engagement has been presented to the Society of Human Resource Management, Charlotte Business Journal, Elite Training Day Loss Prevention Executive Conference, and will be featured in February 2017 at the Innovision Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Dr. Lesko can be reached via e-mail at: ashley@squarepegsolutions.org and welcomes your ideas and challenges about what getting more out of your people by giving them more means to you.

I didn’t quit my job, I fired my company: Lessons to leaders on saving the best assets you didn’t know you had

I didn’t quit my job, I fired my company: Lessons to leaders on saving the best assets you didn’t know you had

A few months ago, I asked a simple question – have you ever quit a job? The responses came in fast and furious – but what was more interesting – were the reasons why people quit their jobs – and how many of them would have stayed if given the chance. In the pilot study, one of the key statistics that stuck out was….

92% of people said they quit because of management.

Think about it. It wasn’t the food, the benefits, the salary, or even their coworkers. The top reason that people quit was because of the management team. What’s even more scary than that? (Artwork by Rachel Christine Nowicki)

60% said that they quit because of their immediate manager.

Think about that for a second. Let’s say that you and 9 other people in your company have a $50,000 job. Your company is large, greater than 10,000 employees, and 10 of you quit in the year. No big deal, right? The average cost of turnover for someone in your range is about 150% – so that’s going to cost the company $750,000. If the average turnover in a company is 15% – meaning up to 1500 people would leave in a same year – well, you get the picture.

In the pilot survey, it didn’t matter what position the individuals were in (approximately half managed others, and half were individual contributors) or how long they had been with the company (20% had quit with less than 1 years’ experience with the company, > 50%  had been with the company 2-4 years, and 25% had been there more than 5 years).

I hear what you’re saying… I know this. I don’t want my (good) people to leave my company. What can I do about it?

First, congrats. No, I’m not being condescending but the fact that you actually want to do something about it – from your chair, from your position right there – puts you ahead of half of the crowd. There is a lot you can do about it…. And the first step is recognizing that your employees may not feel like they NEED you as much as they used to.

  1. Participate in Career Advancement with your employees = developing Career Engagement

Employees don’t want to be another cog on the wheel, something slightly better than a glorified robot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a manual labor construction job or a VP. More than 25% of employees said they wanted to have career engagement – an ability to engage at different levels of their career, and have both input and output about what they can do.

One senior level manager mentioned that he had been moved several times into positions that he had “no input or choice”.  He didn’t feel in control of where he was going, and thought leaving for higher ground was better than staying and waiting for what happened next


  1. Listen to your employees. That’s it. Just listen.

It’s amazing what someone will do when they know someone else is listening. When someone is paying attention to what their strengths are, where their problems are, and whether the manager really understands what they are saying.  One person said she quit because the manager had unrealistic expectations, and were not given the tools needed to succeed, despite repeated requests of the employees.  Another mentioned the regional managers couldn’t “effectively communicate company goals” and instead of listening to understand what was going on, they “blamed local managers for performance”. It can be uncomfortable to hear what your people have to say. It is even more uncomfortable to lose the person because they fired YOU, their manager.

  1. Know who you are. And know who your people are.

This may sound a bit wishy-washy, but it’s not. Nearly 40% of those polled said that the environment and/or the culture of the firm led them to handing the shoes to their companies and saying “fill these”.

You hire people for a job description. Accountant, buyer, sales rep. You may even have several – 20, 30 or more in each position. Each one of them are different. They have their own talents, their own strengths – and ones that are outside of their job description, but INSIDE the company’s strategic goals and values. Finding out what their strengths and talents are and using them to the company’s (and employee’s) advantage is called Talent Engagement and it is a very powerful tool that helps you as a manager and leader of your company get more out of your employees by giving them more.

Most of the time, people do not look forward to quitting their jobs OR firing their companies…. And are looking for ways to stay.

Understand your assets – help them stay – help everyone win.

Do you know how to celebrate your birthday?

Do you know how to celebrate your birthday?


So… this month is my birthday. And it has been…. For a few years

Each year, we celebrate the passing of one more year. One more year that we’ve lived 525,600 minutes (thank you, Rent), drank milk, ate our lunch, worked, had some fun, worked some more, thought about vacation, had some fun, and a few other things.

What about the other things? The peaks and the valleys, the highs and the lows? The breakups and the successes, the OMG and the Holy $#%^? The new friends and the near misses?

How do you celebrate your birthday?

For me, a birthday is a celebration. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what’s going on in your life. It’s a time for others to celebrate YOU. Whether Facebook or their iPhone tell your friends, family and colleagues that it’s your special day, or if they just plain old fashioned remembered – it’s a time to celebrate you.  You get taken out to dinner. You receive a gift, maybe even have a Chucky Cheese party (if you’re that kind of person) – all for you. People tell you “Happy Birthday”, and you say “Thank you”. You may even hear from friends you haven’t heard in a while, to see how you are.

For one day, it’s all about you. And making YOU feel special.

Which leads me to the question – do you know how to celebrate your people’s “birthdays”?

I’m not just talking about cake and flowers, and maybe a bottle of wine if you’re a REALLY nice boss. I’m talking about the celebration part. The “thank you for doing a great job” part. The “today, you should be special, because you did this” part.  The “I don’t even know what kind of sacrifice you made to get this done, but I recognize it, and I thank you for it”.

Get my drift?

Celebrate successes. Make them feel special. Even little baby successes – like learning how to complete that first power point without correction by the VP –  that may not seem much to you. THANK your people. It’s the basis of TWO of the 3 pillars of NOT having a miserable job – Anonymity AND Immeasurability (Lencioni, 2007), so obviously if you’re not doing it, then I won’t even charge you for the guidance and tell you that your people probably think you suck a little bit (ok, giving it to you straight, probably a lot).

And you’ve probably already seen this coming … why stop at birthdays?

For the people that work for you, day in and day out – that get it done every day – CELEBRATE successes. Finish a project that was 90% great, but 10% needs improvement? DO NOT only focus on the improvements (and yes, I’m honest, I still struggle with this!). Sing Happy Birthday to those that made it great (aka “make them feel special and appreciated”) and then the next day (when it’s NOT their “birthday”) tackle the 10% and raise the mark.

Try it. It won’t hurt. It may feel a little funny at first, but your people will like it.

Have your own way you celebrate “birthdays”? Share them with me – would love to hear them. (As long as you’ve said it to your team first!)