July 15, 2019 // 0 Comments

Job Descriptions Limit Everyone

Traditional Job Descriptions are written statements that list (generally in great detail) the duties, responsibilities, required qualifications and reporting relationships of a particular job. But here’s the problem, it’s the level of detail contained in most job descriptions that naturally limits creativity and ingenuity. Let’s face it, the more detailed a job description, the more the corresponding employee expects it to include EVERY job task/responsibility associated with the position.  This can not only limit that employee’s ability/willingness to go “beyond” those Job Description “bullets” to support the unique needs of their customers but may also inhibit his/her inclination to go beyond them in order to support his/her colleagues. In this way, Job Descriptions do little to empower employees or keep them engaged in (what could otherwise be) much more purpose-driven positions.  Conversely, True Agile LeadersTM…

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July 1, 2019 // 0 Comments

Is Your Organizational Chart Upside Down?

Most companies still have organization charts that look something like this: Does that “Top-Down” Org Chart look familiar?  Unfortunately, diagramming your organization this way represents archaic thinking. It encourages the notion of a chain-of-command where the managers are the “decision-makers”, who thereby command and control the behaviors of the employees “beneath” them.  Sadly, as universal as this Top-Down Org Chart may be, it completely misses the entire point of business, which is meeting customer needs.   In fact, you’ll notice that the CUSTOMER — the most important decision-maker of all — isn’t even on the Org Chart! Furthermore, that “Top-Down” Org Chart completely ignores the critical need for managers to tirelessly support their Frontline Reps’ efforts to meet customer needs. True Agile Leaders, on the other hand, prefer to have their Org Charts…

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June 17, 2019 // 0 Comments


Let’s first review what we know about the history of annual Performance Reviews:   Annual Performance reviews are artifacts left over from the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.  They come from a time when employees stood in front of a conveyor belt all day assembling widgets.  Back then, you could easily count the “WHATs” as they came down the line, and easily measure which employees were hitting their annual goals.  Today’s KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY, on the other hand, is more complex…and certainly more nuanced.  Knowledge-work isn’t just about the WHATs…it’s about the “HOWs (e.g., the creativity, ideology, curiosity, collaboration, initiative, compassion, etc. etc. etc.) — attributes that are virtually impossible to assign numerical ratings. So if annual performance reviews are (at the very least) an archaic strategy…why do so many companies still struggle with taking a hard look at eliminating…

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June 3, 2019 // 0 Comments

Are You Wasting Time on Your Lowest Performers?

Let’s face it, good leaders want their team members to succeed.  After investing time, energy, and resources in them, it is very painful to concede otherwise.  And servant leaders, in particular, commonly hold themselves responsible whenever their folks struggle to meet organizational standards — ashamed that they are not doing enough to support their underperformers. So…enter a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) – the Hail Mary for most traditional Managers.  And if you’ve ever been through the grueling process associated with PIPs, you know how much time and energy goes into setting up the PIP goals, objectives, deadlines, and consequences with HR, crossing/dotting all the legal t’s and i’s, painstakingly preparing for discussions with the employee, reviewing every detail of the PIP with the employee (often an excruciating process in and of itself), intensive coaching/training…

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May 5, 2019 // 0 Comments

Set Your Employees FREE with “Trust-Based” Management!!

Thoughts From President, Rikki Schwartz Frankly, it boggles my mind that leaders who consider themselves to be Agile, still insist on imprisoning their employees with brick and mortar…and even worse chain them to the clocks that hang on dull gray walls. So in the spirit of this past Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, let’s take a look at what I’ll call the Agile leadership “Trifecta” of “TRUST-BASED” MANAGEMENT…where Agile Leadership Principles “win”, Results-Based Management “places”, and Virtual Management “shows”. The Trifecta of “Trust-Based” Management: 1st– AGILE LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES:  Let’s first review the 3 driving principles by which Agile leaders live:   – EMPOWER your teams – DON’T MICROMANAGE your teams – TRUST your teams 2nd – RESULTS-BASED MANAGEMENT:  Next, let’s review the 3 principles that are key to managing employees based on their results (i.e., “results-based” management), instead…

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April 22, 2019 // 0 Comments

What does an Agile Leader LOOK like?

Thoughts from President, Rikki Schwartz The problem with our beliefs is we tend to believe them. Once accepted, beliefs can become a reality that is hard to alter. Agile leaders constantly challenge their beliefs and assumptions so they can meet the needs of the moment, versus clinging to a cause that is perhaps already lost.– Gary Bradt, Bradt Leadership, Inc. That quote from Mr. Bradt resonates deeply with me…and should resonate with all Agile Leaders. So, since I’m often asked “What is an Agile Leader?”, I thought I’d use that quote as a kind of reflective surface with which to break down what it LOOKS LIKE to be a leader that is 100% COMMITTED to inspecting and adapting. Remember – it’s not just about what you DO…it’s what you LOOK LIKE while you’re…

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April 8, 2019 // 0 Comments

Emotional Transparency – Friend or Foe to Leadership?

One of the key tenets of Agile Leadership is transparency…and that includes emotional transparency. But for most people, including me personally, this particular principle almost always brings with it some internal conflict. I’ve always known that keeping secrets inherently divides humans, and erodes trust in any given relationship. Conversely, however, I wasn’t confident that “emotional nudity” has a role in business relationships.  And to complicate matters even further, I’m a female leader, against which just the potential for emotional “instability” is the weapon most commonly wielded. I mean, vulnerability is the enemy of chicks-in-charge…right?  Needless to say, it’s a topic on which I’ve done research for quite some time. Recently I found a 2017 Study published in The Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies that I found profoundly interesting. It concluded that when leaders express their true feelings and…

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March 27, 2019 // 0 Comments

Building a Culture Out of Core Values

How would you describe your organization’s culture? Are you satisfied with it?  What would your team members say if you asked them the same questions? Defining and building a culture is hard. So hard that most people don’t even know where to start. But it’s as important as it is difficult!  Culture is the difference between doing Agile and BEING Agile. Last week we delivered our class, Becoming a True Agile CultureTMin Nashville, TN.  We had two full days of great conversations around the significance of organizational culture.  We talked about setting a cultural baseline (evaluating your organization’s current culture), and then using a 5-step Change Management Model in order to influence our cultures to be more intentionally Agile.  It was an amazing experience with a great group of students….

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March 10, 2019 // 0 Comments

The A to V List: Aspire to keep Victims from Ruling your Organization

As a University of Michigan (U of M) alum, Ann Arbor MI was my home for 4 years. And without question one of the highlights of my college-years was dining at Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli. Back then, of course, regularly dining on their enormous fatty sandwiches did not pose a threat to my girly figure the way it would today.  [Ah the youthful bliss of metabolic ignorance]. This month marks 37 years since Ari Weinzweig co-founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a radical vision to replicate a New-York style deli in a college town. Today, Zingerman’s is a $40 million brand that serves 500,000 visitors every year (including me!) at its iconic Delicatessen & Bake-House, in addition…

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February 18, 2019 // 0 Comments

The Evil Genius Syndrome

photo of two inches of a measuring tape

The Evil Genius Syndrome:  Rewarding the WHATs…while the HOWs are killing us. -by President, Rikki Schwartz When I sat down to write this blog, I decided to ask myself a question that would lead to a confession: “What is the biggest leadership mistake I’ve ever made?”.  And the answer jumped right off the blank page:  “I had kept everyone on my team who’d contributed to financial success”. No.  That wasn’t a typo.  Rather, much like my decision to do so, it was a sadly intentional mistake. In my 25+ year career (prior to coming to the Center for Agile Leadership), I led multiple teams of Project Managers. And my (sadly chronic) mistake was keeping folks around who met/exceeded our company’s productivity metrics, but who left a trail of collegial destruction behind in the…

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