Author Archives: Joel Hebdon

United Way Turns to Advocacy


In 2010, United Ways across America provided $53,160,856 to 291 of 296 Boy Scout councils. This figure represents 7.22 percent of all local council income, a significant amount of support, but a 7.4 percent decrease from 2009.


 In 2000, United Way of America announced that it would shift its strategic focus from being a Fund raiser to becoming an advocacy and community-impact organization. United Way of America has since promoted the Agenda for Community Impact model, and local affiliates have adopted and implemented that model. United Way of America has promoted issues that included education, income stability, and healthy lives.

At the heart of the Community Impact approach is that United Way organizations are free to select and focus on local issues, raise funds for those issues, and make grants to organizations that demonstrated the capacity to affect issues. The greatest implication of this decision was to move the United Way from being a collection of funded agencies working together to an organization that funds selected issues and advocates for the issues deemed a high priority.

The other significant implication is that by funding causes rather than member agencies, dollars are being reallocated in directions you may not be aware of or agree with.  In many cases the Community Impact approach has resulted in funding previously committed to United Way’s traditional agency base being drastically reduced. In others, zero funding is now provided, and in several communities, the member-agency model has been abandoned altogether.

National agencies with local affiliates seem to have been most affected by the Community Impact model. The American Red Cross has been defunded or has seen substantially lower allocation by United Way organizations serving New York; Portland, Oregon; Dallas; and Palo Alto and Orange County, California, to name a few. Salvation Army funding was cut so severely in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Boston that the organization withdrew from those United Way affiliates. Examples of other groups feeling the impact of the new United Way approach and allocation of funds include the Boy Scouts of America, Girls Inc., the Girl Scout USA, YMCA, and Goodwill Industries.

But not all United Way organizations have adopted the Agenda for Community Impact Model just yet. Many still retain member agencies (now referred to as partners) alongside the priority causes or issues representing each community’s needs. While this responds to local needs, it means that organizations like the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts or regional agencies that cross multiple local United Way organizations may be funded by one Untied Way jurisdiction and not by an adjacent United Way.

United Way organizations collectively raised $3.91 billion in 2001, and $3.85 billion in 2009. While United Way’s strategy of diversifying its funding sources has not achieved an increase in revenue, it may be a necessary strategy given what appears to be the deteriorating appeal of the United Way in the workplace.  Please, when you give to the United Way, if you do not wish to have your donation distributed to advocacy groups or to support a cause, designate your donation be given to a specific “partner”.  If that partner agency does not appear on the donation form, contact your United Way affiliate to find out how your money can be directed to the charities you wish to support.

How to Introduce Yourself to Your New Staff

Introduction Speech

Introduction Speech

So how do you introduce yourself to a room full of strangers who also happen to be your new staff?  They may welcome you.  They may have already made up their minds in a negative way, for any number of reasons, before they even knew your name.  You want to come across as a strong leader and skilled manager.  But you also want to be approachable and human.  My philosophy is to play it straight, as in, 1) tell them who you are; 2) tell them what you expect: 3) lay out the roadmap.

The tone you strike will be the most important part of your introduction so consider long and hard the where, when and how of  your introduction.  May I suggest that you should do this in a meeting called by your boss for the express purpose of introducing you?  Your new boss MUST empower you in this introduction meeting by telling the staff what he expects of you and what he expects of them.  If you have to call the meeting yourself, and if you stand up alone, the message your staff will get is that there is no senior management commitment to you and your success.

The following is the Introduction that I prepared for my last new job.  I memorized it and I practiced in front of a mirror.  Afterward, several of my staff told me that they appreciated the thoughtful preparation and clear statement of expectations. I’m presenting it here because I hope that it will perhaps be useful as a template for your own Introduction sometime soon.


It is an honor and privilege for me to be here today.

I’ve heard much about this project and it’s exciting for me and my family to become part of the team. I don’t know most of you, but from what I’ve heard, you’ve done some amazing work.  Let me tell you a little about why I took this position and my leadership philosophy.

When I was approached about taking this position, I had four primary interests: first, working on a challenging project where I could continue to grow and develop my skills; second, working for a dynamic growth-focused company; third, capitalizing on great capabilities that would allow me to reach my career goals, and; fourth, working with great people.

My view of the nuclear decommissioning market is that it has tremendous potential.  The skills that we build here are very much in demand and highly portable.  This project can become a springboard for long-term growth and success for us as individuals as well as for our company, if we seize the opportunity.

I’m working to develop an initial view of our capabilities and performance. You obviously do some things very well. The important thing is that our future is within our control and I look forward to working hard with you to continue the journey toward making this a best-in-class team that others will look to as a benchmark for excellence.  I’m impressed that you will be the best people I’ve ever worked with.

I’m going to take about three months to get to know you all, to understand the project and to get my head around the context we work in here.  During those 90 days, I’ll be making my own assessment of the strategies being used here and how we deliver work product. Unless I become aware of something urgent that needs immediate change, I’m going take these first ninety days to determine what we all need to do to take this organization to the next level.

Some notes about the way I like to work:

  1. Starting with me, I expect us to manage ourselves. I practice what I preach and will expect the same from all of you. I expect everyone to be trustworthy, honest, ethical, and competent.
  2. We will work as a team and so we will have both individual and team goals. Reaching our goals will require individual excellence, but we won’t be working in competition with each other. We will be working in collaboration with each other. Over time I expect us to build a reputation, a brand if you will, for our radical approach to collaboration.
  3. I will praise not only results, but also good effort. If you give your job your best effort with a good attitude, but still make a mistake, its not the end of the world. We all learn from mistakes. I reject the idea that you can punish mistakes out of a system.  I believe that safety, compliance, and quality precursors are the same.  In the DOE system, recurrences in these key areas are currently between 30% and 60%.  Accordingly, we will work together diligently to improve our performance by focusing on systems, processes and procedures.  In return, I’ll only ask that you learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. The unpardonable sin will be not giving your work your best effort, not caring about the quality of your work, or not getting better as we strive to be the best we can be.
  4. We spend a third of each day at work or thinking about work. My goal is that we will enjoy our work so much that it won’t seem like work at all. If we are going to be working hard, it better be fun and meaningful. Unfortunately, in the real world work can’t always be fun, so it better at least be meaningful.  We will celebrate our successes along the way and we will build each other up.
  5. Our job is to deliver results. Everything we do will add value and contribute to our customer’s and stakeholder’s goals. I expect that we will be recognized for our contributions, respected and rewarded by our customers, envied by our competitors, and loved by our senior managers.

I’ve talked enough. Let me answer any questions you might have. [take questions]

In closing, I want you to know that I am anxious to get to know each of you.  Please stop me or drop by my office and introduce yourself over the coming days.

Thank you.

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Be a Better Leader–Take a Test

Leading from the Front or Domineering?

Leading from the Front or Domineering?

Good leaders make their work look easy.  The reality is that most have had to work hard on themselves by managing or compensating.  You must recognize and manage your strongest tendencies in order to grow.  Recent research has identified five personality traits, commonly called the Big Five, that tend to be found over and over as key factors in executive success or failure.  The list includes: need for stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Surveys of top business leaders and coaches have rated self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders to develop.  We all need to become more aware of our tendencies and learn how others perceive us in order to become more effective today but also to enable us to evolve and remain effective as our roles and work environments change.  An excellent place to start becoming self aware is with the NEO PI-R five-factor instrument, the dominant framework for researching personality and a staple  ingredient in many leadership development programs.  You can assess yourself free on a noncommercial version of the test available at

Cookies and Power


Three Cal Berkeley students. Five cookies.

Two students brainstorm while the third evaluates their ideas. Those with power tend to …

Take the fourth cookie.
Eat with their mouths open.
Leave more crumbs.

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How to Run a Good Meeting

clip-art-meeting-721862Raise your hand if you think the majority of meetings are a complete waste of your time — not to mention your organization’s time. You don’t need to look far for confirming evidence. Consider the data on how one company’s weekly executive committee meeting rippled through the organization in a profoundly disturbing way, ultimately taking up to 300,000 hours a year.

We could all use some of that time back. But, what can we do about the seemingly endless cycle of meetings that we’re all caught up in? I reached into HBR’s archives to find some of our best advice on meetings — how to have fewer of them, and how to make the ones we must have more productive. Here’s a summary of what I found: 

The best place to start is to address your, and everybody else’s, addiction to meetings. Many of us fall into the trap of attending a lot of meetings because it makes us feel important. But before you accept that next invitation, ask yourself: “If I was sick on the day of this meeting, would it need to be rescheduled?” If the answer is “no,” you probably don’t need to be there. When in doubt, follow this handy decision tree from author and time coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders:

If you truly can’t attend fewer meetings, try to at least reduce their length — instead of 60 minutes, start with 30, or even 15, and set a goal to finish early. Or, try to schedule your part of the discussion for the beginning of the allotted time, then excuse yourself from the rest of the meeting. This is especially important for conference calls — there is no reason that all attendees should be on the call from start to finish. All it takes is a little advance planning around which topics will be discussed when. When you consider what people are actually doing on conference calls, it’s worth the upfront time and effort:

There are, of course, times when meetings are necessary. These are the three reasons that warrant a face-to-face get-together:

1 To inform and bring people up to speed.
2 To seek input from people.
3 To ask for approval.

Don’t schedule a meeting for something that can be addressed in a phone call, and don’t make a phone call for something that can be communicated via e-mail. If you need to schedule a meeting to accomplish your goal, challenge yourself to make it quick and efficient, and keep these best practices in mind:

• Start with a focused agenda. At HBR, many of us follow this rule: No agenda, no meeting. A well-executed agenda sets the tone and direction for a productive meeting. Speak with colleagues informally ahead of time to determine the most important discussion items. Be as specific as you can, and include a timeline that allocates a certain number of minutes to each item (then, be sure to stick to it during your meeting). Send the agenda to people in advance, so they have time to prepare for the meeting.

• Limit attendees. When you’re scheduling a meeting, start by asking yourself what the priorities are, and who absolutely needs to be there. It’s important to control the size of your meeting and to have key decision makers in the room. (Don’t fall into the trap of sending out blanket invites just because online calendars, scheduling apps, and email distribution lists make it easy to do so.) If you need an important senior manager at a meeting, confirm the best time with that person first, and then schedule everyone else around it. And it should go without saying that if you’re holding a client meeting, always put the client’s calendar first.

• Keep it on track. Once you have the critical players assembled, keep your meeting from getting derailed. This starts when you send out the agenda and any background materials. If people are logging on for a video conference, it’s imperative that you’re well-trained and comfortable using the tool’s features. If you’re not, be sure to bring someone who is; you don’t want to waste the first 20 minutes figuring out how to work the audio or the webcam.

• Manage attendees. No matter how well-defined your agenda is, there will always be behind-the-scenes dynamics that can throw your meeting off track. After all, everyone comes with his or her own goals and those can influence the tone and direction of the meeting. Some will be highly engaged in the topic at hand, while others are there just because it was on their calendar. It’s up to you to be a steward of all the ideas in the room, striking the right balance between encouraging all voices to speak up and be heard, listening, and not letting people go off on tangents.

• Set the right tone. Be cognizant of what your body language is communicating to people — how we say things is just as important as what we’re saying. For example, notice whether your pose is attentive or whether you’re leaning back with your arms folded, which can indicate impatience or withdrawn skepticism. If you’re shifting in your chair, drumming your fingers, doodling, gazing out the window, or looking at your phone, then you can be pretty sure that people will think that you’re not interested in what they have to say. Body language is especially important when you’re the boss, because everyone else will be following every arch of your eyebrow.

• Define next steps and responsibilities. Never end a meeting without defining next steps, deadlines, and individual responsibilities. Keep a record of who’s responsible for what — and by when. If the meeting uncovered items that need to be further explored, set up a time for a follow-up discussion.

Of course, certain types of meetings require more strategic planning and execution, for example:

• Teleconferences: Teleconferences can be a huge time suck. But, when conducted well, they can be even more productive than face-to-face meetings because they are a quick, easy, and relatively cheap way to bring people together. They also lend themselves well to being recorded, and it’s easy to patch people in and out as needed.

• Off-site meetings: Most management teams set aside a day to a week every year to get out of the office and do strategic planning. But too often, planners and participants assume that the off-site is just another meeting in another location. It’s really not, and needs to be approached very differently.

• Leadership summits: Many large and midsize companies bring leaders together for a summit once a year. But too many squander this rare opportunity to harness the collective knowledge and energy of their top executives.

Remember that the first — and most important — meeting you should be scheduling everyday is with yourself. Block off time on your calendar each morning to get clear on priorities and to focus on what absolutely needs to be done that day. No matter how many meetings you have on the calendar, this is the one that will position you and your team to make the most productive use of your time.

Andy Grove


“I think it is very important for you to do two things; act on your temporary conviction as if it was a real conviction; and when you realize that you are wrong, correct course very quickly.

And try not to get too depressed in the part of the journey, because there’s a professional responsibility. if you are depressed, you can’t motivate your staff to extraordinary measures. So you have to keep your own spirits up even though you well understand that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

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How to Succeed in Staff Meeting Without Really Trying

Beards of Humboldt

Many leaders see staff meetings as vital to the success of their organization but most employees see them as a waste of time. As a result, employees arrive or leave whenever they wish; check their emails; doodle; or use the time to make to-do lists of all the things they’re not getting done in your meeting.

A staff meeting is a different kind of beast altogether. And it’s usually a monthly or weekly recurring meeting. But there are some common meeting pitfalls that are especially problematic in staff meetings. Avoid them, and you’ll make your staff meetings more useful and energizing:

Mistake 1: No clear objective.
The luxury of a recurring meeting lets busy leaders get their teams together without having to think of a reason to do so. Yet each staff meeting should have a clear purpose: discuss a strategic issue, share information on business development activities, identify causes for poor performance and collaborate on ways to do better, brainstorm on how to seize an opportunity or address a challenge, or to discuss options and make a decision. Participants then know what to expect and how to prepare.

If the meeting has no objective – or the only objective is that the leader hasn’t seen his team in a while – cancel it. If you constantly find yourself trying to think of something to discuss 10 minutes before the meeting, use your next staff meeting to create a meeting schedule in advance.

Mistake 2: No focused agenda.
Even when the objective is clear, you may not issue an agenda – a clear schedule of how the meeting will proceed – or you may use vague agenda items (eg, “updates”). Some leaders cannot resist the temptation to clutter up the agenda with other small items that are better handled one-on-one or in a different meeting with a dedicated agenda.

Preparing for a quality staff meeting requires some forethought and serious planning. Based on the objective of the meeting, force yourself to limit the agenda to the items that are most crucial to you, your team and your business. To do this right, have some informal discussions beforehand with relevant colleagues to identify what is important to them. Then email the agenda — with a timeline that allocates a certain number of minutes to each item — to people well in advance, so that they come prepared.

Once you’re in the meeting, stick to the agenda items and time schedule. This prevents participants from wandering off topic and helps the team to finish the meeting on time.

Mistake 3: Not hearing from everyone in the room.
Leaders often allow the usual suspects to dominate the discussions, while others remain largely quiet. You can do three things to get more people engaged:

1. Get serious about participants who talk more than their fair share. You know who they are. Tell them you appreciate their input but that their dominating the discussion discourages other people from participating. Interrupt them (nicely) if necessary: “Excuse me George, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I want to make sure we have time to hear from everyone.”

2. Give the podium to different participants. You can create air time for quiet team members by giving them a specific slot on the agenda.

3. Ask direct questions and get opinions from different participants as you go. Are we missing something? Have we thought this through from all possible angles? Cold call people who don’t speak up.

Mistake 4: Debates that don’t go anywhere.
When leaders fail to guide discussants away from subjective perspectives, or participants haven’t come prepared, people end up leaving the meeting without a clear course of action. Encourage attendees to come prepared and present their arguments backed up by numbers and facts. For instance, you’ll get more and better ideas out of participants if you send around a memo ahead of time, and tell them they’re expected to read it, than if you make them sit through your browbeating diatribe and then tell them to brainstorm.

Mistake 5: Not reaching consensus on a course of action.
After all that talking, it’s important that people know what to do next or they’ll feel like the meeting was a waste of time. Set aside time at the end of each meeting to agree on an action plan and decide who is accountable for what. Keep a record of the actions to be taken, who is responsible for them, and what the deadlines will be. If the meeting identified any new issues to be further explored, schedule follow-up discussions as needed.

Mistake 6: Missing the opportunity to remind people of the big picture.
A staff meeting can be an opportunity to offer public praise, reiterate a corporate goal, inspire people, and remind them of our strategic vision. Once the agenda has been covered, or your prearranged time is up, and actions have been agreed, wrap up the meeting by recognizing participants’ hard work and reminding all attendees how they contribute to each other’s success and how they link to the bigger picture.

Remember that staff meetings are extremely expensive when you account for everyone’s time. Treat them with the attention and care you would any major investment, and you’ll find that your team soon takes them more seriously.

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What to do when you’re in trouble???


Be vague and boring to distract attention away from the “wrong” things

BTW–that’s crawdads, sushi, chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookies from the casino buffet in Las Vegas.  Most of that meal stayed in Vegas…

Don Peterson, CEO Ford

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Leadership and Seeds…


“When you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.”

William Coyne, EVP 3M


George Patton on Leadership…

Peter Vintoniv and Karl Freytag rope up for the cool north face of Tides of Mind, Valley of the Gods. Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Peter Vintoniv and Karl Freytag rope up for the cool north face of Tides of Mind, Valley of the Gods. Cedar Mesa, Utah.

The Best Leaders:


Ask Questions.

Give lots of Feedback.