• News post

    Prepare Like an Emergency Responder

    26 July 2019

    Emergency medical professionals are trained not only to respond to unforeseen circumstances, but also to prepare for the unimaginable. As such, they become experts in anticipating, preparing for and mitigating risks.

    Disaster planning

    As a health care executive, I had the pleasure of observing leaders, employees, physicians and emergency responders from within hospitals and throughout the community as they simulated unannounced disasters.

    Imagine that a tractor trailer carrying hazardous waste overturns on the interstate, or an airplane crashes with mass casualties. Regardless of the simulated situation, the word “competitor” vanished and was immediately replaced by a collaborative call to function as a team.

    Participants from diverse organizations concurrently activated their respective emergency response plans. They followed the protocols they had practiced in responding to the mock disasters. Team members were given specific assignments with clear instructions on the roles to be fulfilled.

    Following each event, the leaders of the teams held comprehensive debriefings to determine what had gone well and what process improvements could be implemented.

    Such experiences prepared health care providers and community responders to have definitive plans for how they would organize, activate, collaborate and manage their emergency responses. This preparation yielded a keen sense of confidence that they were ready for the unimaginable. The goal, of course, was to minimize the adverse impact of unknown risks.

    How does your company stack up?

    Enterprise risk management across all industries has now taken center stage in the C-suite and in the boardroom. Does your company have a clearly articulated ERM strategy? If so, is this plan mere words on paper, or does it require your organization to prepare actively and systematically for unforeseen risks?

    What would your organization do if your customers’ data were breached? How would your team manage the message in responding to a reputational crisis if an executive were accused of wrongdoing? How would your organization respond if, God forbid, an active shooter entered your facility and killed innocent people?

    How are your C-suite executives and board of directors involved in discerning the most significant risks that could impair your company’s ability to perform at peak? What grade would you give your team’s current performance for proactively mitigating risks? How can you improve your leadership in guiding your team to anticipate and to prepare proper responses for organizational risks?

    There is no better time than now to be purposeful in activating an ERM strategy for your company. Consider simulating your most significant vulnerabilities. Be sure to involve your leaders, employees, board members, vendors and community partners, as applicable, in crafting your optimal response plan.

    Just as emergency responders practice how they would react to unforeseen circumstances, so also should your organization prepare and practice for unforeseen events that may occur only in your worst nightmares. While practice may not make perfect, it certainly can provide a solid game plan and team confidence as you seek to mitigate organizational risk.

    Originally published on July 26, 2019 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Every Person Has a Different Story

    18 July 2019

    My husband and I recently spent a few weeks abroad. While we were touring Berlin, Germany, we saw the popular tourist attractions including the remainder of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Cathedral and more. While each of these sites helped us learn about the city’s history, it was the Holocaust Memorial that most stirred our emotions and led to a time of reflection.

    The Holocaust Memorial was designed by American Architect Peter Eisenman. The Memorial is comprised of 2711 gray concrete slabs. Each block is different: a different width, a different height, a different length or a different angle. By design, no two blocks are alike. The architect was purposeful in building this memorial with one-of-a kind structures. To the architect, the blocks were symbolic of the 3 million Jewish victims who were killed during the Holocaust. While these human beings were barbarically killed en masse, we should never forget that each of these individuals had a different story.

    How easy it is for us to categorize others into large, impersonal groups. Let’s think about the example of immigrants seeking to enter our nation. What if literal or figurative walls had precluded our own predecessors from coming into America at a time when they longed for a better life for their families? Every family has a different story.

    From a business perspective, what about your customers? Depending upon your particular line of business, have you categorized your customers into a handful of prototypes? What opportunities do you have to better meet the needs of your customers if you could understand how their circumstances vary? Yes, customers have different stories to share.

    I remember on multiple occasions challenging our employees to understand that patients were never to be viewed as numbers (such as the 225th patient on a given day in a particular department). Every patient was one-of-a-kind. Every patient had come from different environments. Every patient’s health status was unique. Every patient had differing degrees of support from families or friends. Some patients had positive attitudes while others did not. Because of the different experiences and circumstances of our patients, our staff found that some individuals were “easier to love” than others. Yet, even the most challenging patients were treated with ultimate caring and kindness as though they were the only individuals in our world. Yes, every patient had a different story.

    With the drive for efficiency and the increasingly important role of technology in delivering value to key stakeholders, how easy it is to view our employees as one collective body. Yet each of our employees also has a different story. When we as leaders can appreciate their differences, we can know how best to relate to them and in so doing, to derive maximum utility from them because they are highly engaged .

    As I think about our time in Berlin, I remain dismayed regarding the tragic loss of lives during the Holocaust. And I am grateful for the challenge put forth by the example of this touching Memorial.

    May we never forget the significance of every person’s circumstances. May we also be inspired to appreciate that whether we are contemplating a persecuted race, an aspirational immigrant, an everyday customer, a struggling patient, a neighbor, a friend, a family member or even a complete stranger, every person has a different story that needs to be heard.

  • News post

    Don’t Underestimate the Power of Apology

    28 May 2019

    Risk mitigation is a hot topic within C-suites and boardrooms. Corporate risk presents in diverse ways, from compliance issues, regulatory violations and sexual harassment to poor customer service, data breaches and more. Organizations are increasingly susceptible to financial and reputational risk when stories go viral regarding ethics and performance failures.

    Risk mitigation has become a significant responsibility for leaders within many industries. As such, it has found a seat at the table within routine meeting agendas for the C-suite and board. Why? Because unmanaged risk can harm organizational results when it derails strategic and financial performance.

    Most leaders should have a process to identify and rectify known organizational risks. By using proven process improvement techniques, the root causes of the problems may be identified. Action plans can then be created and monitored to rectify the issues in a systematic and accountable manner that facilitates sustained results.

    A case in point

    I am aware of an organization that did a good job of identifying its material, known risks related to suboptimal customer service. The organization’s leaders discovered a recurring pattern as they analyzed customer complaints.

    They found inconsistencies in how their managers responded to these concerns. Even when complaints were voiced directly by consumers, these complaints were not consistently “heard” by leaders. In fact, some unaddressed complaints ultimately resulted in lost sales and legal action.

    As the company analyzed the problems their customers encountered, its leaders realized they needed to teach their team the importance of rapid response to complaints. As part of this process, they coached their leaders and managers to receive complaints by respectfully expressing regret and empathy in a safe and constructive manner. They accomplished this task through teaching leaders to master “the power of apology.”

    Making things right

    In situations where suboptimal products or customer experiences were involved, the leaders were taught to apologize and to “make things right” for the customers. In situations where a misunderstanding existed, but without performance failures, leaders were taught to say, “I’m sorry you experienced disappointment. Please share more about your concerns and help us learn from your experience. We really want to do better for you and for our next customer.”

    The results were phenomenal as once-disgruntled customers believed they had been heard and, as such, felt valued. Over a reasonably short span of time, few complaints escalated to the C-suite because leaders had mastered the power of apology in the moment. Their actions closest to the customers had a material, positive impact in mitigating risk for this company. And, most important, they retained customers and avoided costly expenses.

    As you contemplate the different ways to mitigate known risks for your company, I encourage you to review the processes you currently utilize to address these vulnerabilities. Perhaps the power of apology might have application for you and your team as you build your risk mitigation strategies relative to customer service.

    Originally published on May 28, 2019 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Leadership Without a Title

    13 May 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in a second episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on May 13, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.


    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part two of my two part interview with her.

    Here’s a link to her website, and her LinkedIn page.

    This is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.

    For more information, go to the Resources page at Brady Ware and Company.

    Remember to follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.  And forward our podcast along to other Inspiring Women in your life.

  • News post

    Mixed Messages

    19 April 2019

    Some time ago I attended a banquet with hundreds of energetic participants. In the midst of the keynote address, the fire alarm was activated. An emphatic, automated message directed everyone to “Evacuate the building immediately!” Participants looked at each other with confusion as a property representative quickly proclaimed, “There is no need to leave the facility.”

    The automated alarm brazenly repeated its earlier message to evacuate the building. Seconds later the property representative again said, “Do not leave; this is a false alarm”.

    By this time, some attendees left the event while others opted to stay. The mixed messages led to mixed results as attendees did not know which directive to follow. Thankfully it was soon proven that the automated message had indeed been a false alarm.

    I was one of the many attendees who opted to stay, and I’m so glad I did. The memorable keynote was inspirational; the event was very well executed by its sponsor; and attendees enjoyed wonderful conversation with colleagues… all of which were desired results that could have been derailed due to the mixed messages of evacuate versus stay.

    In the midst of the confusion, it occurred to me that similar situations frequently take place in Corporate America when leaders send mixed messages to their employees. These mixed messages contribute to teams’ falling short of achieving the right results.

    One of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership is that “Gracious Leaders Require Accountability”. Within this chapter, I share my conviction that:

    Accountability starts and stops with leaders as it is the leaders’ responsibility to be crystal clear with employees regarding expectations.

    When leaders send mixed messages to followers regarding the work to be completed, it’s like blindfolding employees, spinning them around, giving them darts and telling them to hit the targets. The desired results are not likely to occur.

    I have found that when employees receive clear messages regarding what is expected of them, they are actually relieved because they know exactly what they are to accomplish. There is no confusion about the work to be done… no evacuate versus stay… no peddle-brake, peddle-brake which can cause employee whiplash in the workplace.

    When expectations are not clearly expressed, leaders should not be surprised when employees are frustrated and teams fail to deliver. In these situations, it is actually the leader who has failed the team because he or she was not purposeful in defining expectations in advance.

    Let me be crystal clear. Mixed messages prevent us from optimizing our most precious and expensive organizational assets … our employees!

    As you communicate with your team every day, I invite you to embrace the reality that accountability really does start and stop with the leader. Avoid mixed messages at all costs and be completely clear with your team members regarding the work you need them to accomplish.

    For more information about accountability tips that are applicable within organizations of all types, please see Chapter 12 in Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before available on Amazon or on my website.

  • News post

    Leadership With a Title

    8 April 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in an episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on April 8, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.


    Everywhere today you see people are looking for great leadership. When you’re a leader, you can influence. You can change your world around you.

    You can impact people in your life and organizations. You can be part of success because of your leadership and influence. And you can use that title responsibly for yourself as well as for others.

    Leadership, influence, AND the title are all one package deal.

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part one of my two part interview with her.

  • News post

    You Got This!

    19 March 2019

    As a leader, you need to make the most out of every precious minute. Oh, if only all of our days would go according to plan. But, let’s face it: they don’t. On many days, we are presented with unanticipated challenges, or as I prefer to call them, unexpected “opportunities to serve.”

    Just when you set aside time to think strategically or to complete a project with a pressing deadline, your inbox flashes an invitation to a new, “must attend” meeting that starts in thirty minutes. Or you receive an urgent call regarding a Human Resources issue that requires your direct involvement, right now!

    Even when all appears to be running well internally, external factors can change in the blink of an eye. To capitalize upon unexpected opportunities or to minimize disruption from adverse environmental or competitive activities, you act with immediacy, once again sacrificing your much-needed quality time.

    And what about the many little distractions that can also impede your best efforts to be maximally productive?

    How many times have you found that, in the midst of quality time, an employee appears at your office door and inquires, “Do you have a minute?”  The employee proceeds to share what he or she perceives to be a hot topic problem. And then the individual asks, “What do you think we should do?”

    It is at this point that you have a choice. You can either allow your time to be robbed by being a problem solver, or you can begin to reclaim the lost time that is consumed when employees bring you their issues to resolve. If you answer the employees’ questions in the moment, you have fostered upward delegation as you have taught your employees that problems are yours to fix and that they should not seek to resolve their own concerns.

    When employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, except in urgent or emergent situations, the better approach is to answer the question with a question. Instead of telling employees what you think they should do, ask them, “What do you think you should do?” In reversing the question, you are signaling to your employees that you believe in them, that you have confidence in them and that you respect them. In essence, you are telling them, “YOU GOT THIS!”

    I have found that through using this approach, employees become more empowered. They take pride in the fact that their leader trusts them to solve their own problems. And they will learn that if they do bring an issue to you, they need to be well-prepared to offer a recommended solution!

    Over time, employees will likely bring fewer problems for you to solve. It is at this juncture that your performance can be vastly enhanced. Yes, through empowering your employees to resolve their concerns, you can have more time to focus on the priority issues and opportunities that truly do merit your attention.  

    No doubt, unanticipated challenges and interruptions are simply a fact of life at work. However, when employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, I hope you will teach them “YOU GOT THIS!”

  • News post

    Do More With Less

    19 February 2019

    While many things in life appear to be constantly changing, one pressure point for leaders seems to remain ever-present. 

    We are all required to do more with less!

    Across many industries, margins are tight and expenses continue to increase. The requirement for leaders to produce targeted bottom lines no doubt contributes to much of the stress that exists within Corporate America. This push for elevated profitability remains true within for-profit and non-profit organizations alike.

    Techniques such as LEAN are clearly helpful in seeking greater efficiencies within the workplace. Broad-based strategies to cut costs are often implemented and can sometimes result in lay-offs with corresponding declines in overall employee morale.

    Although not reflected as a line item within financial statements, a disengaged workforce carries a very high price tag. A recent Gallup survey reported the cost of employee disengagement associated with lost productivity alone is $7 trillion.

    The imperative to do more with less is likely here to stay. Yet in lieu of focusing solely upon cost reduction strategies, I have always believed you cannot cut your way to sustainable prosperity.

    What is it that leaders can do to achieve maximum utility from their most expensive organizational resource… their employees?

    Within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before, I share practical suggestions for unleashing the potential of your workforce by taking a few simple steps.

    Within the chapter regarding the Head-Heart Connection, you can read about the difference between what employees are required to do based upon their job descriptions and what they are inspired to do from within their hearts.

    While I was working within the Finance Industry, hospital employees who were complete strangers transformed my life. They did so much more than meet my clinical needs. They treated me like I was the only patient in their world. I can guarantee their job descriptions did not require their seemingly small acts of kindness that far transcended my clinical needs. It was from within their hearts that they were inspired to “love” me through what was the deepest valley of my life. Four months after this experience, I left the Finance Industry and entered the field of healthcare. These employees were role models of the Head-Heart Connection, and they changed my life forever!

    Not only is it a leader’s opportunity to unlock the potential of the Head-Heart Connection, but it is also our responsibility to optimize our organizations’ most expensive and most precious asset… our people!

    It is the leader’s responsibility to help employees see the connection between what they do every day and the organization’s mission and goals.

    When employees realize the value of the work they do and, more specifically, how “what” they do really does make a difference, their hearts can take over and release the untapped potential that has been dormant for years.

    What will you do differently as a leader to achieve more with less by unleashing the potential of your employees? It’s not hard. You just have to be purposeful and sincere as you help your team discover the Head-Heart Connection and understand how each and every one of them is making a difference. 

    Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before includes an easy to use exercise to guide your employees in understanding the true impact of their work. For more information about the Head-Heart Connection and other strategies you can implement as you aspire to do more with less, visit www.graciousleadershipbook.com.

  • News post

    Gracious Leadership Far and Wide

    24 January 2019

    I can’t believe it! This week marks the one-year anniversary of the official launch of Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.  While the introduction of the book seems like yesterday, the year has been incredibly fruitful. I am happy to share that the message of fully respectful leadership is spreading far and wide.

    Healthcare organizations from coast to coast have embraced the book to infuse its principles throughout their leadership teams. Leaders from community hospitals, faith-based healthcare systems, academic medical centers, physician organizations, healthcare professional membership organizations, senior living entities, and organ procurement organizations (among others) have been enthusiastic as they seek to bring to life the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership.

    A large financial services company started a Book Club for leaders to study the book together and explore the Conversation Starters at the end of most chapters. Another large financial services organization was so enthusiastic about Gracious Leadership that its market leadership hosted a special event and also sent a communique regarding Gracious Leadership to its Women’s Network across the nation.

    A CFO from the transportation industry is spreading the word about the impact of Gracious Leadership across all industries and organizations. Why? Because the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership are equally as applicable in organizations of all types: for-profit and non-profit, community groups and even governmental entities.

    I have been touched to hear the stories from rising leaders who read the chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders are Courageous” and, in particular, the section regarding the need to advocate for others and for ourselves. These individuals have already been successful in landing expanded roles that they are confident might not have materialized had they not raised their hands and asked for advancement. Just this week I heard from a medical practice manager who shared that as soon as she learned of her new, broader responsibilities, she reread the book and is focusing upon a few pragmatic steps she believes will help her be successful. I even had a reader share that the book helped her know how better to manage her elderly mother’s caregivers as she was reminded of the power of recognition. The examples go on and on.

    It is both humbling and exhilarating that Gracious Leadership has already made a positive impact. Yet, we are just getting started.  Why? Because never in the history of our country has high profile, toxic leadership been so persuasive and destructive. It has been reported that 30% of leaders are toxic! Why is it that negative leaders are the ones who seem to receive the most attention in the media? What are “we” going to do to shine a bright light on a better way to lead and to serve as role models who can breathe life into and stir the passion that resides within the hearts and souls of employees at all levels?

    Thank you for your support of Gracious Leadership during the book’s first year. For those who have already joined the Gracious Leadership Movement, I am grateful for your proactive stance in helping to restore respect, decency and civility within the workplace. For those who have not yet read the book, I encourage you to learn more and start your journey today to become a Gracious Leader who can guide your team to peak performance.

    Please continue to share with me your stories about how Gracious Leadership has made a positive impact on your professional life, your organization and those with whom you serve. Feel free to contact me at jmeeks@graciousleadershipbook.com.

    With sincere gratitude,

  • News post

    We are Different and Yet the Same

    2 January 2019

    Several years ago, as I was making a presentation to a group of rising female leaders in Columbus, I encouraged the participants to ask questions. I further shared that any question would be welcomed, regardless of the topic.

    After I had completed my material, I opened the floor for Q&A. While I expected the queries to relate to some aspect of leadership, I shall never forget the first question posed by a young woman who was sitting in the front row. She wanted to know what guidance I might provide as male colleagues in her office whose wives were stay-at-home moms were openly critical of her because she chose to work outside the home.

    My immediate response was, “Has this scenario not improved since the early 1980’s?”

    I immediately had a flashback to my own experiences as a young mother who chose to pursue a professional career. I recalled the hurtful, open criticism I received from some mothers who opted to stay home after their babies were born. I vividly remembered that, shortly after the birth of my older daughter, a 70-year-old single, female consultant admonished me, stating that I couldn’t be an accomplished professional AND concurrently be a great mother. Of course, hearing what sounded to me like heresy further fueled my passion to excel at both.

    In the midst of the negative memories that the young woman’s question stirred, I also remembered with great affection a friend who remains special to me. This particular friend had chosen to stay at home with her children whereas my aspiration was to pursue a professional career while also striving to be a wonderful mother.

    Early mornings were not my friend’s favorite time of day. As an Early Bird, I was typically up before 5:00 AM to jog prior to getting my daughters ready for school. While my friend and I could easily have fallen prey to the “all too common “ trap of criticizing other people to justify our own respective choices, we instead found a way to support one another. As a result, I drove the early morning carpool (which helped my friend), and she picked up the children after school (which certainly helped me).

    I was recently thinking about this special friend and our mutual respect for our different convictions and corresponding support for one another. This led to my reflecting upon how, in 2018, our nation has become more polarized than we could ever have imagined. Regrettably, the crescendo of angst is accelerating as myriad individuals with different political and social convictions believe they are right and to @*#& with people who have different points of view. Hatred and divisiveness appear to be encouraged on a daily basis.

    In short, this has got to stop.

    As we begin the new year, may we all be challenged to communicate our passionate convictions (including spirited debate) with civility, decency and respect. May we look for common ground through which we might support one another. May we be reminded that other individuals are not necessarily bad or wrong because their views are not in lockstep with ours. May we embrace the possibility that it’s ok to agree to disagree so long as we do so with kindness. And lastly, may we be resolute in knowing that as different as all of us may appear to be, at our very core, we are all the same.

    Oh, by the way, I did share some guidance with the young woman who posed that sensitive and vital question.  More about those thoughts in a future blog!

    Have a kind and respectful new year! Blessings to you all… or should I say… to ya’ll!?!