“What we really need around here is a _________ culture.”

I’ve heard this dozens of times. You probably have too. In most cases, the blank is filled with “leadership” or “accountability,” but it can be all sorts of other things too: communication, collaborative, engaging, development-oriented, execution, work-life balance-friendly – you name it.

Not many things can top being part of a great team with a great culture. I’ve written about culture several times (here are my two favorites on building a leadership culture and assessing the team culture of the champion Kansas City Royals baseball team). Unfortunately, many times I hear leaders lamenting the problems they experience and simply uttering the sentence above – as if the simple prescription will foresee the remedy.

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A decade ago, American organizations were largely unaware of the predicament they faced. The initial wave of Baby Boomers (many of whom occupied senior leadership roles) was set to begin a mass retirement. Many organizations were completely unprepared. Then something curious happened. The recession hit and many would-be retirees stuck around. In one somewhat morbid sense, the recession turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By now, succession planning routinely takes generational demographics into close consideration. Generational-oriented training is mainstream.

So how does your organization or team address generational dynamics from an awareness perspective? Are you at least having the conversation? Given how many employees find themselves at odds with colleagues of different generations, it’s worth thinking ahead. Here are some ways to make the conversation a productive one.

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“I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone come to me with that level of initiative. If they did, I think I’d be blown away.”

I heard these words from an executive at a leadership event a couple weeks ago. His frustrations weren’t anything new. Why can’t employees take more initiative to solve organizational problems?

It’s a common question with a wide variety of possible answers. Unfortunately, we usually get the level of initiative we reinforce. Let’s take a closer look at what initiative really means – and how to inspire the initiative you need to be effective.

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I’ve been thinking about career selection and management a lot recently. When I’m asked how I landed where I am, I’m quick to reply that I wouldn’t wish my career path on anyone but I sure do love where I am now. In all honesty, there has been a lot of hard work, difficult choices and tough breaks along the way. But that’s true for anyone who wants something more.

So what does career management have to do with leadership? It’s a lot harder to lead if you’re not in the right job fit. One of the best ways to excel as a leader is to choose the right context.

Here’s some of the best conventional wisdom I use with myself and others when it comes to charting out a career path – or just making a change.

Your Career Keyboard

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For years I’ve been asked for book recommendations. I always take them seriously because I wouldn’t be the leader I am without my library. It’s been a huge part of my leadership education. As a senior in college, I started reading business bestsellers to see how they compared with my textbooks. When I joined the workforce, I quickly started noticing positive and negative organizational dynamics I had “seen” before in the books – and I knew what needed to change. Several years later I finally landed my first job in leadership development. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity without having my mind stretched by the books I’d read.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is everyone has leadership development opportunities. You don’t need to be the boss or work in HR. And the right book at the right time can make an incredible difference.

If you’re looking for a leadership read, here’s a great place to start.

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I’m constantly surprised at what passes for “leadership training” these days. Then I remember that most leaders work in business operations and their involvement is often extracurricular. I’ve also noted how easily many business operators are impressed with the leadership development support that comes their way. It’s almost as if the simple fact that the organization is investing in them speaks louder than the concepts or structure.

Regardless, if you are going to invest in a leadership event, it’s an opportunity for excellence – whether you are an executive, manager or training expert. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Just having an event doesn’t guarantee success. Incorporate these best practices.

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When was the last time you gave an assignment to one of your employees with the full confidence it would be executed without your active involvement? It just doesn’t get much better than that. Unfortunately, for many bosses, it’s a rare event. The key is empowerment – but it’s not as easy as you might think. Empowering your people takes time, focus and courage.

Let me share a few ways to get started.

Business Team Raised Fists

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If you’ve worked for any length of time, you’ve probably wondered, “Why is it so hard to find good leaders?” You’re not alone. Not only are employers finding it tricky to find qualified help, management & executive roles have become increasingly difficult to fill. These employers can only expect retirement to continue to raid the Baby Boomer portion of their leadership ranks. So who will step up to fill the leadership gap? More specifically, where should we look?

Everyone wants to work for a strong leader and to have dependable people supporting them. But it’s not a given. So if you’ve ever asked where all the good leaders have gone, it may be helpful to tweak your perspective.

Business Man Alone

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One of my all-time favorite leadership values is being proactive. It’s Stephen Covey’s first habit. Taking initiative (and accepting responsibility) is the characteristic that makes all the others possible. But can it be taken too far?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned it can be – mostly because of the challenges I’ve noticed or inadvertently created for myself over the years. So if you’re a go-getter, keep it up. But know when to go fast and when to slow down. Otherwise, you may experience some of these unpleasant reactions.

Businessman Running

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Recently I shared 9 Leadership themes for the new year, including this one: be known positively. I’m realizing this particular theme is harder that it seems. But that doesn’t change the fact that you and I are largely responsible for our public perception.

So how can we build positive interactions and relationships with others? Here are nine distinct strategies I’ve picked to focus on.

Shaking Hands

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In the past, I’ve shared the value of being a “Kamerman teammate” – that is, going the extra mile to make your teammate look good. It’s a mindset shift for most of us, and a complete game-changer at that. I’d like to take this concept a step further and share some practical ways to get started. Over the course of my career thus far, I’ve found that these twelve strategies for extraordinary teamwork not only make your team stronger, they have the power to significantly influence the culture of your organization if others begin to follow your example.

Business Colleagues

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What happens after a big win? For all the focus (and press) directed at planning and executing, what comes next?

Whether your team has achieved a significant goal or is looking to get back on track after a shake-up, here are some basic ways to get everyone back on course.

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