Published by Scott Neilson on 21 Jan 2014

Get it right!

Here is a good article on improving the performance of your team…see the link below for a quick read and reminder!

It is just good basics, but my observation, as you know, is that organizations often fail at doing the basics right.

In addition to the better use of progress reports and meetings, improve your skill at giving feedback and coaching in those settings.  You cannot refine the performance of your team if you cannot make it clear to them the ways in which they are missing the mark.

Sometimes people find these types of conversations to be difficult because of the inherent elements of judgment and confrontation assumed to be buried in the conversation.  Check out this post from some time ago about some tips on being good at giving feedback…

It is just good basics, but my observation, as you know, is that organizations more often fail at doing the little things right.

Published by Scott Neilson on 07 Jan 2014

Delegate this! :-)

Following on my last post, I have received numerous requests for ideas in building leadership skills.  In response, I have decided to dedicate one post per month to development ideas.  Stay tuned for more to come.


There are a couple of important things to keep in mind about skill development in the workplace.  First, and most important, is that you should never expect any help from anyone else in developing your skills, not even your employer.  I have seen very few organizations that are good at this.  I have seen HR organizations come up with great ideas, designs and materials for developing employees, but it is rare when they are well executed.  Line managers simply are not motivated to make it happen.  If you want to develop your skills, you better make it happen yourself!

Secondly, the best skill development comes from in-job opportunities…such as job swaps, special projects, etc.  There does not have to be any company or personal expense involved.  This is an important consideration to keep in mind when trying to make your own development happen.


So, to start, let’s talk about Delegation…since that was the subject of the last post.

I know that a lot of HRD organizations will tell you that to be better at delegation you must first understand your reluctance to delegate, and then address that in your own personal make-up.  While intellectually I agree with that notion, I kind of feel as if it is the long way around.  It reminds me of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, when he awakens after being asleep for 200 years and remarks that he has missed 200 years worth of therapy, and that if he had gone to all those sessions he might ALMOST be cured by now.

Anyway, here is a more direct approach that I have suggested to several people and heard of good results.

  • For a couple of weeks keep a list of every activity in which you find yourself involved at the office…such as reading and replying to emails, attending meetings, sending out follow-up action lists from your weekly staff meeting, etc.
  • Rank the list of activities from highest to lowest in-terms of what requires your knowledge, experience, and/or professional qualifications to perform the tasks.
  • Take the one task at the very bottom of your list and assign it to someone else.
    • Meet with the person or people to whom you plan to assign this new responsibility and discuss it.
    • Be clear about what exactly needs to be done, what your expectations are, and what good results look like.
    • Encourage them to ask any question they have.
    • Work with them through a cycle or two of completing the task and clarify any aspect of it.
  • Once you have worked through this process and have gotten comfortable with it, try it again with another task.  Work through the same process as described above to be clear on what needs to be done.
  • Continue until you have handed off all the tasks that should be handled by others, and can be handled correctly.  Take it a little at a time and be careful not to over-delegate.

The benefits go far beyond those which you personally will realize.  You will get the most productivity out of your team, you will improve efficiency/profitability, and, finally, and perhaps most important, it will energize and motivate your team because they will see that they are growing and developing themselves.

Published by Scott Neilson on 02 Jan 2014

New quote for the New Year!

“You can’t delegate responsibility, you shouldn’t delegate control, but you must delegate authority.”  Scott Neilson

Effectively delegating is difficult for many people, but it is an important skill to develop in yourself as well as your team.  It is essential to having a swiftly moving, high performing organization.  Without it, your organization will be limited by your own personal bandwidth.


Published by Scott Neilson on 19 Dec 2013

You talkin’ to me?

My observation is that we are getting worse and worse in communications in the business world.  We do not talk WITH each other…we seem to talk ALONGSIDE each other.

Here is what I mean.  Try this the next time you are in a group of people talking.  Observe the conversation rather than participate in it.  Count how often people actually follow a discussion as opposed to start new ones…generally about themselves.  For example, one person will say something like “I have decided that I am going to move to France for a year.”  Following the conversation would mean responding with something like “Really, where are you thinking of living?”  Or, “That’s such a great idea, France is a beautiful country.  Why are you going to do that?”  In other words, building on what the other person has said and developing the subject…striving for greater content and understanding.

My observation has been that there is an increasing tendency for people to talk alongside each other…to reply with a statement about themselves rather than follow the conversation.  In this example, talking alongside would mean responding with a statement like, “I have travelled to France a thousand times” or, “I lived in Italy for six months”…statements that do not build on the subject that the individual has raised, but rather turn the conversation toward themselves.

The problem is that this is not communicating.  Responses like that do not help to progress the discussion.  People are not listening and trying to truly understand what the other person is saying.  It reflects a craving for attention.  It reflects a focus on oneself.  Most importantly, it results in a low level of understanding about what is being said and what the implications might be.

In a business setting  it can also be a means for people to push their own agenda, or direct the flow of the conversation in that direction.  Be aware of this.  It can be a very specific and conscious tactic to control the discussion and the progress of the team.

As a leader you need to be aware of your group dynamics…who is dominating the conversation…who is pushing the conversation in their desired direction…who is being left out or overpowered.  Your facilitation skills need to be very sharp.  Picking up on issues like these and bringing people back to the subject under discussion will not only keep the team focused on the issue at hand and making progress toward it, but it will help ensure that personal agendas are kept under control.


Published by Scott Neilson on 14 Dec 2013

S’il vous plait?

Here is an establishment that is putting it’s money where it’s values are!  Rude customers pay more for a cup of coffee.  Right on!

cafe rude prices

Photo Courtesy Fabrice Pepino

Check out the article and pass it around!!!



Published by Scott Neilson on 10 Dec 2013

Change Back!!! Another take on leadership adaptability.

This article looks at leadership adaptability from a systems perspective…How do organizational systems adapt, and how can we as leaders enable our organizational systems to adapt and grow?  It is submitted by Christy Holland, Business leader in Strategy Development, Execution and Transformation.

In the 1960’s Family System’s therapists promoted a theory which stated that each family member was part of an inter-connected system. Any change in one member of the system, would cause a ripple effect throughout the entire system. As the ripple made its way through the system, members within the system became uncomfortable and would direct their persuasive power get the person to “Change Back.” These theorists discovered that families rejected both “positive” and “negative” changes with the same fervor because what they wanted was homeostasis. Members interpreted the therapeutic advancements of one family member as a threat to the family’s survival. Consequently, though perhaps unknowingly, the system would reject the potential to thrive.

Systems theorists saw the similarities between the work organization and family systems.  People in the workplace also desire to predict behavior and feel stress when people do not behave in accordance with their role. When someone behaves in a way we do not expect, we frequently say that are “acting out of character” or “throwing us a curve ball” or coming at us “from out of nowhere.” When we make these statements, they are not meant as a compliment. We are telling the person to “Change Back” and follow the rules of engagement.

So how do we, in our organizational systems, allow the turbulence of a new idea among our teams and look for ways to adapt and grow?

We know that “Change Back” mentalities will ensure extinction rather than growth, and we encourage innovation as a strategy for success. Those who thrive are collaborating across the company, utilizing technology to improve processes, and looking for new ideas in the customer experience. Our organizational systems can withstand change and the ripple can be positive. Innovation depends on sustaining the turbulence of change.  It demands we let go of the fear of uncertainty and when we hear a new idea, say “Yes and…” to build on that idea instead of persuading someone to “Change Back.”


Published by Scott Neilson on 03 Dec 2013

The China Sin-drome?

It is inconceivable to me that some leaders feel that the best way to maintain order is with force, and when resistance appears, increase the force.  Here are some accounts of a recent incident in China!


Tiananmen Square

Photo from Reuters and,

“On October 28, an SUV driven by a Uyghur man and containing two members of his family rammed into a crowd at Tiananmen Square, killing two tourists. The vehicle’s occupants then lit themselves on fire.

This is a serious problem because it may portend a cycle whereby violence triggers repression and tighter repression begets additional violence.

Violence in Xinjiang appears to be worsening significantly, despite Beijing’s large commitment of money and manpower to… preempt social disorder.

A gaping socioeconomic divide helps fuel violence in Xinjiang and such gaps exist elsewhere in China as well, raising the specter of additional attacks throughout the country as unhappy groups without a real political voice turn to violence as an outlet for their grievances.

The recent attacks point to a future in which repression alone will no longer be enough to guarantee stability.

The current problems emanating from Xinjiang increasingly point to a future in which repression alone will not be enough.”


There is a great lesson in this for societies of all kinds…including businesses.  It speaks to inclusion, involvement, and participation.  Failure to include all people/groups in the goals, actions and opportunities/rewards of an organization, leads to a state of repression or oppression that tears at the basic fabric of that organization, and lead to its ultimate failure.

Dickens quote from “A Christmas Carol”…

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both…but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom”.


Click the link below to read the full article…very interesting!

Published by Scott Neilson on 22 Nov 2013


Follow this link…

I am stunned!

Published by Scott Neilson on 20 Nov 2013

Afraid of failure?

I am going to bombard you with quotes on this subject…

People marvel at how great leaders have overcome huge obstacles and personal failures to achieve greatness…and yet they allow their own fear of failure to render them powerless…to freeze them into inaction.

My Father once said to me, “The question is not whether or not you will ever make a mistake, but when you do, how will you respond?”

One thing in common with many great leaders is that they are not afraid of failure.  They recognize that there will be obstacles and setbacks, but have confidence that they will find a way to overcome them.  They even look at their failures, and how they responded to those failures, as the key to their ultimate success.

MJ Picture 2

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  24 times I’ve been

trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.

  And, that is why I succeed.”  Michael Jordan



“The only way to avoid failure is to do nothing…but, that is not leading.”  Scott Neilson

On many occasions I have observed that people are afraid of making decisions or taking action for fear of getting a “blemish” on their record if things do not go perfectly.  They believe that it will tarnish their records and damage their careers.  Failure must be avoided at all costs…everything must be safe.  So, they do nothing.

Leadership coaches and gurus regard resilience as an essential leadership skill.  Resilience means encountering obstacles and experiencing setbacks, and overcoming them.  Well, you do not develop resilience if you do not have setbacks, and the only way to avoid setbacks is to do nothing…but that is not leading.


“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”  Benjamin Franklin

How many times have you undertaken a task and had it go perfectly?  Aren’t the situations in which you have had to overcome unforeseen circumstances and obstacles the best examples of your strengths and abilities?  So, what is there to fear?

At the end of the day, fear of failure is as much about worrying about what other people will think of you as it is about the actual consequences of being wrong.  If you worry about what people will think, you will not try.  If you do not try, you will not succeed.

Now think about this.  If you were to interview a dozen people about their opinions of an event or an accomplishment, you would get a dozen different opinions…and some of those will be good!  So, which one are you worrying about?


“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.”  Marilyn Ferguson

Great leaders are said to have great confidence.  They are confident in the clarity of the direction they have chosen and what it takes to get there.  They are confident that there will be setbacks, but that they will find a way to achieve those goals.  They are not afraid of failure.  They are free to make it happen.

“Where there is no fear there is no danger.”  Grasshopper (Kung Fu Television Series)



Published by Scott Neilson on 18 Nov 2013


Here is a recording of the webinar I gave for the Lehigh University Alumni Association. Watch below or follow the link to view it full screen.

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