Roy's Blog: Leadership

July 2, 2018

Why serving leaders are the new black

Popularity breeds, in some circles, believability. What is a popular notion soon becomes the belief of the day.

It’s the age of populism

Populist topics abound around us and define the conversation around what’s important — #MeToo, illegal immigration, “the wall”, decriminalization of cannabis, the environment, indigenous rights and the charter of rights & freedoms define the social agenda and the priorities people turn their attention to.

In a relative sense, not much attention is given to the people who define the economic agenda of society — the leaders of our organizations whose quality of leadership defines how people live their lives in the other pluralistic society that engulfs them. Their daily environment is shaped by how they are treated; how they are motivated and how they are engaged in fulfilling the strategic agenda of their organization.

And when attention is paid to the topic of leadership it is typically dealt from an academic and theoretical perspective. Studies discovering relationships between leadership behaviours and employee performance are discussed and conclusions reached on the skills people should possess if they want to aspire to be an amazing leader.

Rarely are emotions targeted as the means to hook people to engage in a leadership conversation; certainly the same cannot be said about debates on the environment, oil pipelines and allegations of sexual misconduct. These topics are dripping with emotion — how people feel dominates the position you take rather than the facts presented.

Leadership is ignored

Certainly #MeToo gets a more emotional conversation going than #Leadership.

The practice of leadership, is in my view, every bit as important as #TheWall. People spend most of their life in a working context with a boss they coexist with.
And it is the boss’s skills, capabilities and attitudes that impact the lives of individuals in a relevant way much more than any movement could.


But not the same old leadership taught by people with proud academic pedigrees and theoretical expertise; rather the new style leadership that has grown up in the trenches where real people work and profound performance is achieved. Practical leadership experience grown from knowing what it takes to ignite the passion and emotion in people to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives.

#ServingLeadership is the new black. It must be if people are to have meaningful and rewarding careers and if organizations are to achieve remarkable levels of performance and stand apart from their competitors.

“Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders live to serve. Period.” — Tom Peters

It’s a fashionable notion because it relates to the fundamental human needs of people to feel they have a compelling purpose and that they are needed and cared for.

#ServingLeadership stems from empathy rather than text books. This is what it looks like when it’s in action.


Leaders ask; they don’t tell. They are more interested in what people have to say about what’s going as opposed to directing them on what they have to do. They know they don’t know; that their staff are the experts, so they ask them. These leaders have conversations that are skewed to listening and not transmitting. Their communications style invite commentary, opinion and input.


The key questions they ask are “How can I help?”; “What key changes should be made to enable you to do your jobs easier?”; “What do you think about…?” They see themselves as instruments to make life easier and more productive for others.



They spend most of their time walking about in the trenches rubbing shoulders with the people doing the work required by customers; they dislike their office and boardroom consuming much of their time time at all. If you look at their calendar, they literally have a mobile office.


They act with humility. They don’t create a splash wherever they go and they are more comfortable without an entourage than with one. They are the antithesis of what most people view these days as a stereotypical leader. They don’t need charisma to be effective; that veneer isn’t consistent with who they are.


They believe in simplicity. They understand that success is a function of connecting and engaging with people and that complexity gets in the way. They wrote the book on dumbing stuff down to aid in understanding and with that the commitment to achieve.


They are practical in orientation. They’re unimpressed with theoretical concepts that can’t be implemented. They are more receptive to ideas they believe are both consistent with the strategic intent of their organization and are likely to have strong support by people who would be asked to implement them. Their “would they be emotionally all-in?” filter dominates their decision making on potential innovation.


They’re ok with imperfection. They are not jaded by the notion of trying to achieve the perfect solution. In fact they encourage people to try as many imperfect solutions as they can, and preach that the more tries made the more likelihood that success will eventually be achieved.

#ServingLeadership is the new black.

It addresses a compelling societal need — to create organizations with a human face where people can grow, prosper and be valued.

It’s not a cause or fad that will fade with limited media life. In fact it won’t attract the traditional and social media attention that other current narratives garner.

It is a sustaining force because of its universal — rather than special interest group — appeal.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 7.2.18 at 04:23 am by Roy Osing
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June 18, 2018

How to be a really amazing speaker

You can’t be a premier league speaker overnight, but there some simple things you can do to vastly improve your skills and put you on a path to get you there.

These 7 actions helped me establish “great communicator” as a key element of my personal brand; they will work for you if you give them a try.

Work on your form

Work on your form; the mechanics of your delivery. Practice varying your tone of voice and the cadence of your presentation. There is nothing more boring and sleep inducing than a monotone presentation with little variation in volume.
Present your material to yourself and listen to how you come across.
Remember it’s not a speech; it’s a performance. Your job is to create a memorable experience for everyone in the room. People will likely forget most of what you say but will remember how you made them feel.

“Open, honest communication is the best foundation for any relationship, but remember that at the end of the day it’s not what you say or what you do, but how you make people feel that matters the most.” – Tony Hsieh


Be one with your audience

Lose the comfort tools; try it without a podium and notes to speak from. Embed yourself in the crowd so you can feel their energy and they can feel yours. Your end goal is to be “au naturelle” on or off stage.
Try rubbing shoulders with your audience and see the reaction you get. I would always wander through the crowd while presenting my material speaking directly to people and engaging them with my material; it was amazing how everyone responded.

Emotionally connect with your content

Live and breathe your material; it should ooze from you when you speak. A presentation is not like giving an academic treatise; if you are not emotionally connected with and get excited over your stuff you won’t be believable and no one will listen.
If you’re not turned on about what you are saying, why should anyone else be? They will actually turn off if you speak your words — we know you can read — as opposed to FEEL your words.

Keep your energy high

Get and keep your energy up. No one enjoys listening to someone who drones on as if they will die any moment. Take a deep breath before going on, say out loud “energy up!” (I did this every time) and say it to yourself throughout your performance.
If you must work from a script, bold the key points you want to emphasize and “punch it” when you get to them. The bold highlighting will give you a heads up to the piece requiring emphasis as you read the script — take a breath when you see it.


Be different from the speaker crowd

Study other speakers, not from the perspective of trying to copy what they do, but to determine how you can be different from them. The “boilerplate speaker” has no unique identity and is soon forgotten. You want them to say after your event “Wow! (s)he as not like any other speaker I’ve heard before”.
The performers who are distinctive and who stand out from the crowd, on the other hand, earn return engagements and accolades from their audiences.

You’re NOT a speaker

Treat yourself as a “subject matter expert” who happens to have amazing communications and engagement skills. You don’t want to be known as a “public speaker”.
The nuance here is one of emphasis. You want to be recognized first and foremost as someone who is an expert on their content and an amazing storyteller who can bring their material to life and excite people with it.
People who tag themselves as great public speakers, on the other hand, tend to be limited in the content they have to share. They are satisfied with being orators and not experts on any one subject.

Let your content flow

Let your material “flow from your veins” flawlessly and be one with you. It’s more about having a conversation with people as opposed to delivering a message in a one-way transmit mode. A conversation has the benefits of being informal and casual and more likely to attract fans than any other presentation method.
If you can achieve the ability to “stream” your material to your audience in this manner, you will be able to practice the actions mentioned above; if not, you will have to focus on your message content, perhaps depriving your audience of having a memorable moment with you.
Speaking success is not just about perfecting the mechanics of the discipline.

It’s about creating new rules of engagement where the prime objective is to connect with and dazzle every person in the audience.

Remember, every person you engage expects two things from you: to learn something new and be entertained while they are learning.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 6.18.18 at 04:19 am by Roy Osing
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June 11, 2018

This happens when you have a strategic disadvantage

Every organization seeks to gain a strategic advantage over their competitors.

However in my experience I find that many of the more common practices used by organizations are actually counterproductive to the intent of achieving an unmatched position in the marketplace — they work against the intent of standing out from everyone else.

These practices are typically followed by most organizations today. I find it somewhat ironic that their stated purpose is to help differentiate the organization from their competitors yet they don’t work — they have the opposite effect.
The very fact that they are followed by the multitude means that they can’t possibly create uniqueness, they create sameness. They serve no strategic driver; they typically are a response to either internal interests — keeping costs down — or with the belief that if the experts — academics or strategy advisors — advocate them, they must surely work.

They don’t.

Copying best in class

Copying others; looking to another organization for new ideas.
The copy process is quite simple: find a best in class organization and incorporate what they do into how you do business.
The problem is—strategic advantage is achieved by innovating and by being different than the competition.
The best practices approach may help improve operational processes but it will never produce strategic benefits.
All copying does is increase the size of the herd who does the same thing.


Snubbing the frontline

Treating the frontline as if they were at the bottom of organization.
Applying modest recruiting standards. Accepting minimum skill and competency requirements.
The problem is—strategic advantage is determined by how well an organization executes, and this is largely in the hands of frontline employees.
Treating them as second class citizens encourages them to deliver second class results.
On the other hand, honour them and they will catapult any organization ahead of any competitor.


Managing call centers as a cost center.
Maximizing throughput and productivity. Rewarding employees who take the most number of calls and spend the least amount of time on each call.
The problem is—strategic advantage is achieved by creating memorable experiences for customers; this is rarely achieved by imposing internal productivity constraints on the customer transaction.
Rather a WOW! experience happens when the customer is amazed with the outcome of the call.
Treat the call center as a customer loyalty center to create an advantage.

Pursuing mass markets

Searching for opportunities in mass markets.
Pushing solutions to as large a market cross section possible. Looking for lowest common denominator solutions that apply to the masses to maximize competitive market share.
The problem is—strategic advantage is earned by discovering and satisfying the unique wants and desires of individuals not by flogging products to the masses. It’s gained by maximizing share of wallet not share of market.
It’s the result of serving the chosen customer group so they never leave.

Mass markets

Acquiring new customers

Prioritizing new customer acquisition to fuel revenue growth.
Trying to gain new customers by enticing them from their current suppliers through special deals and promotional offers - “With every purchase of our internet service you will receive a free flat screen TV.”
The problem is—strategic advantage requires a healthy base of existing customers who are loyal and willing to be an active source of new business referrals.
Offering deals to new customers while ignoring current ones can lose business and destroy market position.

Honouring the strategy

The strategy doesn’t deliver results; brilliant execution does. Yet so much time and attention is paid to formulating the perfect plan using all of the sophisticated tools available, with the underlying belief and expectation that if the strategy uses the rigour of the state of the art toolbox then it must somehow be right — and get closer to perfection.
I have been involved in many a painful planning session where we have tried to squeeze another 10% more accuracy out of our plan to no avail rather than use our time to determine how to implement the imperfect plan that we had created to that point.
Absolute rubbish. Strategic advantage is achieved by organizations that can execute imperfection brilliantly not by the efficacy of their strategic intent.

Take a close look at the portfolio of tactics used in your organization to gain strategic advantage; make sure you’re not fooling yourself.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 6.11.18 at 04:04 am by Roy Osing
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June 4, 2018

How a leader can really engage people

Much has been written on how organizations can engage their employees more successfully and create a competitive advantage.

The advice offered tends to be of a program nature: company-wide initiatives promulgated from above that all functions “down below” are expected to participate in.

My 33+ years of leadership experience suggests a different way of looking at how to “hook” every employee in the goals and strategy of the organization.

People relate more to other people, not “corporate programs” offered by human resources or business planning.

This requires that every team leader take personal responsibility to see that the employees who report to them are pumped up and engaged.


I didn’t wait for an “employee engagement program” to help. I chose to lead in a very specific way that led to turned-on employees and constantly improving performance.

Here are the simple things that worked for me.

The greater purpose

Ensure every employee clearly understands the strategic game plan of the organization. They can’t contribute if they are hazy about what results are expected. People can only be engaged if they understand the context for their actions — the greater purpose they serve.

Their specific role

Define the specific role of every person in delivering the strategy. This is where detail matters. Everyone needs to know EXACTLY what to do day-in and day-out to execute on the chosen company direction.

Tools for their job

Equip them with the tools to perform their responsibilities — training, systems and processes. People can’t support the organization without the wherewithal to deliver.
A mundane point, perhaps (“everyone knows this is important!”) but one that is often forgotten.
It’s a basic hygiene factor for engagement. They can’t engage if their toolbox is empty.

Constant feedback

Constantly - WEEKLY - let them know how they’re doing. Real honest feedback (and help to allow them to improve) is essential along with 3 key actions they can take to improve — any more than 3 things to do will overwhelm them and no progress will be achieved.

Rubbing shoulders

Rubbing shoulders

Be in their workplace WITH them. If they know you are there to help them succeed they will engage with you on an emotional level which is what you need to move the yardsticks forward.
People who intellectually understand and agree with what is required are motivated to DO something only if the are “all in” emotionally.
People need to see the leader in their workplace sharing the messiness of execution. It shows caring and concern; vital elements of triggering emotion.

Doing battle

Fight for them internally. Protect them from the internal politics and b.s. that gets in the way of them doing their job. If they know you have their back they will go the extra distance to perform.
And take the initiative to eliminate the dumb rules, work barriers and grunge that get in the way of employees doing their job. They can’t engage productively if their feet are stuck in the mud of bureaucracy.

Achieving greater employee engagement requires people to emotionally connect with the goals of the organization and execute accordingly to achieve them.

Look to leaders, not corporate programs to create the energy necessary to make it happen.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 6.4.18 at 04:44 am by Roy Osing
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