Posts by George Brymer

George is the author of Vital Integrities: How Values-Based Leaders Acquire and Preserve Their Credibility, founder and president of All Square, Inc., and the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®. He has nearly three decades of leadership experience, including nineteen years working for a Fortune 500 bank. He lectures on leadership, communications, business ethics, and board governance to corporate, nonprofit, and association audiences around the country.

I Heard the Boss On Christmas Day (apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Mean Boss

I heard the boss on Christmas Day
A familiar call at home to say,
And in text and tweet
The words repeat
Of cease your mirth, get back to work!

And thought how low the boss had come,
The bottom of all leaderdom,
It seemed so wrong
This forlorn song
Of cease your mirth, get back to work!

“We have no time for merriment,”
I heard my Scrooge-like boss lament,
“Much work awaits
Your job dictates,
You cease your mirth, get back to work!”

For weeks and months, I’d seen my way,
To be at work both night and day,
Alas, this call,
Stuck in my craw
Of cease your mirth, get back to work!

Now in despair I lost my head;
“There is no work today,” I said;
“So take this job,
You joyless snob
With cease your mirth, get back to work!”

That’s when I heard the chuckling
“I’m only pulling on your string,
Just called to say
Enjoy the day,
Not cease your mirth, get back to work!”

Then from my boss, much heartfelt cheer
Still ringing, singing in my ear,
And, finally
Our mutual plea
For peace on earth, good-will to men!

Now came laughter more loud and deep:
“I’m not that bad, nor such a creep;
See, for this prank
I need to thank
The folks at Linked 2 Leadership!”


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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

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Occupied With Ethics

Occupy This

The following comments, spoken by a once-prominent business executive, appear to be a warning for graduates about the ethical challenges awaiting them in the business world. As it turns out, his words provide a hint that the speaker is a crook.

“You will be confronted with questions every day that test your morals. Think carefully, and for your sake, do the right thing, not the easy thing.” –Commencement Speaker to St. Anselm College’s Class of 2002

The Story Unfolds

That speaker is Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco International, who is currently serving a prison sentence for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from his employer’s coffers.

You might remember seeing news stories about Kozlowski’s lavish lifestyle—a vintage yacht, millions in artwork, a $2.1 million birthday party for his wife in Sardinia—all paid for by the money he looted from Tyco.

What in Kozlowski’s seemingly helpful commencement remarks should have alarmed us to his lack of ethics? He played his hand by suggesting that doing the right thing is a choice—one that requires careful consideration.

“Truly ethical leaders know that behaving ethically is not an option to be weighed day-by-day, or question-by-question.

You’re either ethical or unethical. If you have to stop and think about how to respond to life’s moral tests, odds are you’re the latter. And that’s what should have tipped us off to Kozlowski’s true character.

“Doing the right thing should be an automatic reaction. But is doing the right thing always enough?”

Too Big to Fail?

Government BailoutsWhen a handful of New York City protesters first took to the streets to Occupy Wall Street, they were calling attention to an obvious injustice: the Wall Street leaders whose greed and corruption caused the Great Recession managed to escape the crisis largely untouched.

Taxpayer bailouts restored their companies’ damaged balance sheets—along with their outrageous personal bonuses—while ordinary Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their faith in fairness.

In a sense, the Wall Street Occupiers are modern-day revolutionaries who, by standing up to corporate misbehavior, have fired a symbolic first shot in an emerging class war between the haves and have-nots.

“What took so long for the rebellion to begin?”

Why is it that, nearly four years into a devastating economic downturn, someone is finally pointing out that Wall Street institutions were not victims of the financial crisis—as many of them would like us to believe?

They were, to a large extent, the perpetrators who created it.

Occupy This

To be sure, critics of Occupy <your city name here> say the “movement” is too unorganized, too unfocused, or even too irrelevant.

But regardless of how you feel about them, these grassroots demonstrations are providing a needed reminder that ethical leadership requires a greater commitment than simply behaving ethically.

As leaders, we have the added duty to confront the unethical behavior we witness—to call out those people involved, lest they go unpunished.

Ironically, Dennis Kozlowski’s plummet from sought-after commencement speaker to convicted criminal symbolizes the wave of corporate corruption that made Business Ethics:101 a must-take college course.

For its part, Occupy Wall Street offers a lesson not covered in most business ethics classes: the willingness to speak out against unethical behavior—at work or on the streets—is a requirement to being an ethical leader.

And, like always doing the right thing, there really is no other choice.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

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Leadership According to Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Human resource directors who watch the hit television series NCIS must cringe at the leadership style of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Special Agent Gibbs, played on the long-running show by actor Mark Harmon, is the fictional head of a team of federal agents who investigate crimes involving U.S. Navy personnel.

His methods result in plenty of solved cases, but in real life, they would undoubtedly get him fired.

2-4-6-8 Everyone Intimidate

Gibbs is a former marine sniper who leads by intimidation.

Gibbs-SmackAs a manager, he’s demandingimpatient, and highly intolerant of mediocre effort.

He often interrupts his employees while they’re talking, seemingly eavesdrops on their private conversations (how else does he always know what they’re talking about when he’s out of the room,) and often sneaks up on them from behind.

Gibbs barks orders; He never asks.

From the way he treats his employees, it would seem that Gibbs hasn’t cracked open an employee manual in the past twenty-five years. Seriously, he won’t hesitate to give his investigators an occasional head-slap when they mess up.

Nor does he think twice about kissing his forensic scientist on the cheek whenever she uncovers helpful evidence.

My Way or The Highway

Instead, he prefers to follow his own list of rules, even if they might conflict with ordinary HR policies

Rule #9: “Never go anywhere without a knife.”

Rule #7: “Always be specific when you lie.”

What’s more, despite his military upbringing, Gibbs doesn’t even try to respect authority. He barges into his boss’s office, talks back to his superiors (even presidential cabinet members), and blatantly disregards directives with which he disagrees.

Question is—ignoring the fact that he’s a fictional character—why hasn’t his boss tossed Gibbs out on his ear?

On the Brighter Side

I Love Gibbs

As it turns out, in spite of his shortcomings, Special Agent Gibbs also has some admirable leadership qualities.

First of all, Gibbs is a hands-on, lead-by-example manager. He eschews a private office and occupies a cubicle along his field agents.

An investigator first and a boss second, Gibbs is not averse to getting his hands dirty—or getting himself shot at—in the trenches (rule #15: always work as a team).

In the process, he sets an example for his agents to follow.

Along those lines, more often than not, Gibbs is the smartest person in the room. That’s important when you’re leading highly talented employees. Top performers respect technical knowledge far more than where a person resides on an organizational chart.

The more proficient the boss is in applying that technical knowledge, the higher that leader’s status is among skilled workers. Furthermore, Gibbs is smart enough to surround himself with people who know what he doesn’t (technology, for example, is not his strong point).

Leading With Clarity

Next, although he’s quick to point out their mistakes, Gibbs insists that his employees never apologize for the ones they make (rule #6).

Apologizing, in his view, is a sign of weakness.

Better to learn from your mistakes and move on, than to grovel for a pardon.

Gibbs also recognizes the loyalty of his team members, and, in return, he always has their backs. It’s one thing for him to criticize his employees, but he won’t stand for anyone else—including the agents themselves—second-guessing their actions.

Inspiring Vision

Finally, Gibbs has a simple leadership vision: catch the crooks. His strongest leadership trait, perhaps, is his ability to inspire that desire in those who work with him. He might not be a touchy-feely kind of leader (head slaps and kisses, notwithstanding), but his passion for getting justice is contagious.

If you’re looking for a leader to emulate, and you have aspirations of moving up the corporate ladder, I suggest you turn the channel.

However, if you’re looking for results that only a heart-felt leadership approach can produce, watch and learn from Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

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How The Boss Found Christmas

How the Boss Found Christmas

How the Boss Found Christmas

By George Brymer (with apologies to Dr. Suess)

All the workers
Down at Who’s Corp.
Liked Christmas a lot…

But the manger
Of the Who-town division,
Did NOT!

The chief thought that Christmas was too much of a drain
On the productivity he strived so hard to maintain.

It could be that HIS boss was a mean, nasty jerk.
It could be, perhaps, that he hated his work.

But the most likely reason that could explain why
May be that the home office set his goals much too high.

Whatever the reason,
His goals or his boss,
He fumed every Christmas about efficiency loss.

Staring out of his office with a frustrated look
At the now-empty cubicles, his head he just shook.

For he knew every worker at Who’s Corp. was sharing
A Christmas Eve noontime full of laughter and caring.

“And they’re having such fun,” he said sounding dire.
“They’re enjoying their lunch, while the work piles higher.”

Then he growled, “I have an idea to teach them a lesson!”
“I MUST make their work HARDER, let me think for a second…”

He slipped into the workroom
Where he lurked all around,
The desks of his workers
Without making a sound.

He slithered and slunk, like a Grinchy old fool,
Around the whole office, and he took their work tools.

Cell phones! And laptops! Keyboards! And mice!
Flash drives! And shredders! He took EVERY device.

He hauled out the server. But here’s the real rub:
Why, that boss even took their beloved Bizhub.

It was quarter past lunch…
When the people he called “staffing”
Returned to their desks and continued their laughing.

As he stared at the workers
The boss questioned his eyes!

What he saw them all doing
Came as quite a surprise!

Every worker at Who’s Corp., with jobs big and small,
Was working their hardest! Without any tools at all!

He HADN’T stopped productivity.
Even with no Bizhub, it came just the same!

And the boss, with his boss-look froze to his face,
Stood puzzling and wondering how they kept up the pace.

He wondered awhile, looking out of his door.
Then the boss thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe productivity doesn’t come from an Office Max store.
“Maybe productivity…perhaps…means something much more!”

And what happened then…?
Well…at Who’s Corp. they say
That the boss took the goals
And he threw them away.

That very minute he felt his heart lighten,
And his outlook on Christmas? He allowed it to brighten.

And this part…is true…I swear to our readership:
For the rest of the day…

The boss read Linked 2 Leadership!

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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

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10 Unthinkable Lessons For Your Employees


The Top Ten Things You Never Thought You’d Need To Teach Your Employees

In a collaborative investigation into workforce readiness, HR executives reported that new workers are entering the labor pool lacking overall professionalism, written communication skills, analytical skills, and business knowledge.

While we have the best-educated workforce in our country’s history, many employees have not learned the basic skills they need to succeed at work – and as a result, their employers have to teach them those lessons.

Here, then, are the top ten things you never thought you’d need to teach your employees:

10. What “quality” means.

QualityWhile it’s likely that most employees know the dictionary definition of quality, they might not know how to recognize it at work. Why?

Quality is a personal thing, dependent on our training, upbringing, and life experiences.

Therefore, what’s just okay for you might be excellent in an employee’s eyes. You need to educate workers about your company’s standards, or else they’ll defer to their own acceptable levels of quality.

9. Workplace citizenship.

CitizenWhat undesirable workplace behaviors frustrate you most? Employees showing up late? People texting their friends while working on the production line? Workers “calling in sick” without actually calling?

Certainly, employees know these actions are wrong; don’t they? Maybe not.

Workplace citizenship is not taught in schools today. Consequently, you’ll need to instill the group norms that you desire, or your employees will establish their own.

8. Right from wrong.

Right and WrongPeople differ in their opinions of right and wrong. Some think all actions are categorically right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

Lying is wrong, period!

Others believe that the consequences of their actions determine what’s right or wrong. Hurting someone’s feelings by telling the truth is worse than telling a lie to protect that person’s feelings.

Ethically mature people have reached the point where they carefully consider the consequences of – and take responsibility for – their decisions. So in addition to enforcing the rules, you need to show employees how to recognize the consequences of their behavior and, in the process, pull them toward ethical maturity.

7. How to play together.

Playing NiceConflicts arise when employees disagree, especially when those involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests, or happiness.

When you put people together in the workplace, conflict is likely to occur.

Our tendency as managers is to treat employee conflict as a problem that we must solve, rather than taking time to teach workers how to resolve their own differences. With conflict inevitable, unless you show employees how to work together, you’ll be spending a lot of time refereeing their battles.

6. How to be productive.

ProductivityStriving for improvement, most of us do the same thing: we take our strengths for granted, and concentrate all our efforts on overcoming our weaknesses. Not surprisingly, many organizations appear to believe that the best way for individuals to grow is to eliminate their weaknesses.

A Gallup survey revealed that employees who get to do what they do best at work are 38 percent more likely to work in business units with higher productivity. If we put too much focus on what people do poorly, we’ll miss opportunities for them to contribute what they do best.

5. How to work in spurts.

Taking a BreakThe average length of time that employees work on a task before being interrupted is just over eleven minutes. Then it takes them more than twenty-five minutes to resume what they were doing before the interruption.

Multi-tasking is not innate; you must teach it.

By the way, managers experience 50 percent more external interruptions than their employees do.

4. What to do next.

Next StepAs managers, we often assume that our employees know, or ought to know, that we want them to take initiative. Therefore, when they finish a task, we expect them to find something else to do.

Unfortunately, a generation of “helicopter parents” scheduled their children’s lives for them, and today’s young workers need to be taught how to work without constant instruction.

3. Spelling and grammar.

In today’s increasingly remote workplace, many employees spend more time communicating via emails and text messages than they do Spell Checkin person. Inevitably, our growing reliance on written communication highlights our workers’ poor spelling and bad grammar.

The fact is, if you’re cringing when you read your employees’ writing, so are your customers. It’s too bad their teachers didn’t teach them spelling and grammar, because now you’ll have to.

2. How to fail.

How To FailIn our society, the word failure has a bad connotation – there’s a sense that failure is an indication of personal incompetence. So, after a few setbacks, most employees avoid taking initiative because, feeling incompetent, they expect to fail again.

But people who have tried, failed, and returned to try again, are better qualified to know what – and what not – to try next. Therefore, teach your employees that it’s okay to try and fail by celebrating their efforts – successful and otherwise – to take initiative.

1. How to see the big picture.

See Big PictureHere’s an old story: Two stonemasons are working side by side when someone asks them what they are doing. The first mason replies, “I’m cutting stone.” The second one responds, “I’m building a great cathedral.” The latter sees the big picture and, as a result, understands how cutting stone contributes to the final goal.

Good leaders understand the big picture; great leaders help employees understand it, too.

You can do what most leaders do, and complain about how unprepared today’s newest workers are for entering the professional world. Or you can accept the fact that it’s your job as a leader to teach workers of all ages how to be successful.

So get started. School is in session.

George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

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Raise Your “Voice”


Organizational behaviorists define voice as a means for employees to communicate dissatisfaction with their work situations in an effort to make their work environments more congruent with their self-interests and goals.

Progressive leaders, not surprisingly, are encouraged to welcome their employees’ voices with open-door eagerness and gratitude.

However, studies reveal that employees intentionally distort the information they convey to their bosses to avoid reporting bad news. In one study, 85 percent of respondents said that – on at least one occasion – they were hesitant to give undesirable information to their superiors despite the issue’s importance.

Experts call the reluctance to pass bad news upward the “MUM effect.”

Reasons for Keeping Mum

Employees are most likely to withhold bad news when they have:

  • High career aspirations
  • Low trust in their supervisors
  • Limited experience with their current employer
  • Perceptions that the organization does not tolerate passing problems upward
  • Weak relationships with their bosses
  • Insecurity about their standing in the organization

The most frequently cited reason for staying mum is the fear of being labeled or viewed unfavorably by others. In other words, employees are afraid of becoming outcasts within their organizations. Other employees are concerned with upsetting or humiliating their co-workers, or being punished for disclosing bad news.

Most alarming, perhaps, is that many employees believe that it’s simply not worth taking the risks associated with telling management that something has gone wrong. In fact, 20 percent of workers believe that management will fail to act on the problems and issues they report.

So why bother?

Getting More Voice

Fortunately, there are things leaders can do to encourage upward communication. First, managers must refrain from assuming that employees know, or should know, that they want to hear bad news.

Leaders must demonstrate to workers that reporting problems and issues is encouraged and, indeed, expected.

Management by Walking AroundNext, leaders should provide a vehicle for employees to use for openly sharing concerns. Simply put, employees must understand the procedures involved in elevating bad news. Who do I tell? How do I tell them? A formal reporting process should be spelled out in the employee manual.

In addition, management should consider balancing the costs of reporting to not reporting bad news. Employees should face repercussions for failing to report serious problems (harassment, theft, violence, etc.). As a result, workers who fear punishment for telling the boss bad news would need to weigh the consequences of keeping quiet.

Finally, leaders must make it easy for people to tell them bad news. Despite the common proclamation that “my door is always open,” few workers are courageous enough to walk into a senior manager’s office to report an issue. Therefore, leaders must make themselves available to employees where they work – in others words, bosses should “manage by walking around” and ask workers about their concerns.

Because most employees withhold bad news, positive information reaches management much more readily than negative information. The prevalence of good news might distort the knowledge on which leaders base their decisions. Therefore, leaders must encourage workers to raise their voice.

So what are you doing to encourage a healthy environment where bad news can flow through proper channels at your organization? How do you personally deal with unpleasant information from your team? Do you encourage open and professional dialog with your teams? What have you done recently to reward someone who reluctantly came forth with honest bad news? I would love to hear your comments!

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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

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The Power Struggle: Part Three

Leadership Power Struggle: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a newcomer to the center stage of the national civil rights movement in 1955, Martin Luther King, Jr. was not overly powerful. In a country that generally tolerated oppression against minorities, King lacked the positional power easily afforded white leaders. What’s more, as a young man, he had yet to establish the referent power that experience and history would bestow upon him. Nevertheless, the Montgomery Improvement Association’s organizers elected King their group’s president.

The MIA was a hastily formed organization created in the wake of Rosa Parks’ arrest to stage a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama public bus system. Under King’s leadership, the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted thirteen months and resulted in 90 percent of African Americans in Montgomery refusing to ride city buses.

In 1956, after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that bus segregation is unconstitutional, King led his constituency back onto Montgomery’s buses.

So how did a relatively unknown civil rights leader persuade his followers to boycott buses, while at the same time compelling the Court to end bus segregation? By harnessing the most potent power he did possess.

Nonviolent Resistance

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an advocate of nonviolent resistance. Having studied Gandhi’s Law of Suffering, King believed that voluntarily enduring the torment inflicted by an opponent enables the sufferer to eventually transform that adversary. Such unearned suffering, King told his followers, has redemptive value when in comes to persuading rivals to reconsider their views.

For that reason, he insisted that boycotters in Montgomery resist without violence.

King’s commitment to that belief was tested in January 1956 when his young family narrowly escaped the bombing of his home. While an angry crowd gathered outside the house intent on seeking revenge on his behalf, King calmed them with a plea to stay steadfast to nonviolent resistance.

In this moment of truth—when many of his followers would have forgiven him for resorting to physical retribution—King exhibited what would prove to be his greatest source of power: his integrity.

Integrity as Power

Followers perceive their leaders as having integrity when they see them taking actions that are consistent with the values they champion. Simply put, leadership integrity results from consistently acting in accordance with your stated moral values. In King’s Montgomery experience, integrity meant demonstrating unwavering support for nonviolence under even the most trying circumstances.

The good news for power-hungry leaders is that the power derived from integrity is available to everyone. In contrast to legitimate power, integrity is not dependent on a leader’s position within the organization. And unlike coercive and reward power, integrity does not stem from a leader’s ability to punish or incentivize behavior. Furthermore, integrity does not need an especially engaging personality like that needed to achieve charismatic power.

To acquire and keep integrity, all you need to do is live by the values you profess.

True power as a leader comes from possessing integrity. And when you have it, you can—as Martin Luther King, Jr. proved—harness it for greatness.

So how are doing at understanding and knowing your top values? And how are you at living by what you profess to be important to you? Do you have the personal integrity that can stand up against forces that infuriate or demoralize you? How do you use your power for the good of your team and your beliefs? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Leadership Power Struggle: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

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