Monday, May 29, 2017

5 Steps to Creating a 21st Century Organization:

Step 2 of 5

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2: Create a 'Truth Telling' Environment

Watch Office Space if you really want
to understand the viewpoint of today's workforce.
Too many companies place weight and authority on title and position; ignoring the front line employee who didn’t get an MBA or even a Bachelors Degree.

 The reality is, front line workers KNOW exactly how to make the company more efficient. But if telling the truth can get you fired, why bother speaking up?

Software workarounds are a good example of this. When your workforce is consistently trying to find solutions because the new software is incapable of producing the desired effect, they create a workaround. Which is corporate jargon for "we gotta create a solution that gets the work done without blaming the software."

Some companies have entire workbooks filled with "what to do" when the software fails expectations. If there are 15 different workaround solutions, it may be time to admit the truth; "the software is bad. We need something new."

But what if the software was forced on the company because one of the C-Level Executives plays golf with the CEO of the software company? Well now you are looking at a real problem that will never get solved.

And that is the point of this article...

"For progress to be made, people need to be able to tell the truth; even if that truth is uncomfortable to leadership." — Brad Szollose

I have listened to story after story of employees keeping their mouth shut so they could keep their jobs simply because it was an executive decision. Decisions from the top down will fail when leaders are disconnected from the company culture.

And that is why they hire consultants; to do the icky work of actually talking to low-level workers. If you still believe in this method of leading, go sit in the corner and be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Create an environment of truth telling and you will see a company that is cutting edge, willing to face facts, and a company filled with employees who are so passionate about what they are creating, they are willing to tell you something so uncomfortable it could get them fired in any other organization.

Think about that for a moment. They would have to love the company more than their job to speak up wouldn't they?

And just an FYI: Millennials get a bum rap in most organizations for one simple reason; they will be the first to call you on your own BS.

That should scare you. It scared me when I had to face facts in my own companies.

See you at my next step...


Brad Szollose
Global Management & Leadership Development Consultant
Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Executive Coach  •  Keynote Speaker

Monday, May 22, 2017

5 Steps to Creating a 21st Century Organization:

Step 3 of 5

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3: Modern Organizations Support Creativity

Without consistent creativity, there can be no innovation. So why do so many companies ignore creativity? Because you have to let go of control.
— Brad Szollose, Liquid Leadership, page 38

K2 Design 20th Anniversary Party NYC 2013.
Our Art Directors.
One way to be innovative and pull ahead of the pack, is to entertain new ideas that are employee driven. 

That doesn’t mean you abandon what works for something new and sexy, but it does mean that what works needs to be supported while incubation is also supported.

At my own company, K2 Design, we had a policy; employees were encouraged to submit any and all ideas that they believed could be a great addition to our products and services.

We had dozens and dozens of ideas. Three we turned into new divisions of K2—K2 NetMedia, VisaTrack, and CliqNOW!

CliqNOW! was sold off for a few million dollars and a stock swap. The employees who managed that division wound up going onto the new parent company.

But this isn't some kind of anomaly. This requires the leadership to create an environment of trust. Trust that is built into the corporate culture from day one. Try new employee orientation with the idea that all creative ideas will be supported.

And then put your money where your mouth is.

"Creativity, innovation, and breakthroughs WILL BE REWARDED HERE." Print that on a poster and put it on the wall of your office.

Everyone is complaining about Millennials these days. But managing these new wunderkinds is actually an easy task when you give them a chance to unleash their creative nature.

Imagine discovering the next Mark Zuckerberg right inside your company. That would be an astounding achievement. But it starts with the structure of the company. From the bottom up, not top down. Creativity should be the cornerstone of your company.

Look at companies like Zappos and ValvE Software. Creativity CAN be managed. But it requires a new set of rules.

See you in Step 2...


PS: At K2 we were always trying to be cutting edge:
K2 Design Branches Out Into The Risky Realm of Wireless Services...

Brad Szollose
Global Management & Leadership Development Consultant
Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Executive Coach  •  Keynote Speaker

Monday, May 15, 2017

5 Steps to Creating
a 21st Century Organization:

Step 4 of 5

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Step 4: Give Employees Responsibility For The Success of Your Organization

As a leader, when you let your workforce know they are responsible for the outcome of the success of the company, suddenly something magnificent happens; they put their entire self into the work they do.

Sounds too easy doesn't it? But I've actually done this and it works like magic.

But here is where it gets scary: employees get to control the quality of the product as well. 

Harley-Davidson Official Website
When Harley Davidson decided to turn the company around after buying it back from AMF, they realized the number one complaint from Harley Owners Groups HOG, was that the quality had slipped. The AMF Harley's would lose a bolt on a highway. Dangerous To Ride became Harley's middle name.

Quality HAD TO became a priority.

So what did they do?

Here is an excerpt from my award-winning book, Liquid Leadership: Page 116...

Rebirth of the Badass Bike

Early in the seventies, the name Harley-Davidson became synonymous with junk. American Machine and Foundry (AMF), the bicycle and sports equipment manufacturer, had purchased Harley back in 1969, assuming that the Harley name would assure a profit center.

Unfortunately, over time AMF drove the octogenarian company into the ground by streamlining production, cheapening the manufacturing process with inferior parts, and firing employees in an attempt to squeeze every penny out of its acquisition. At the same time, Japanese imports began inundating the United States with cheaper, café-style racing motorcycles. Harley-Davidson became the laughingstock of the motorcycle industry, and even die-hard HOGs (members of Harley Owners Groups) were having trouble supporting a company whose motorcycles could come apart on the highway.

Something had to be done, or else Harley—at the time America’s only motorcycle company—was about to go out of business. In 1981, a conglomerate of investors and thirteen company executives led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson, grandson of cofounder William Davidson, bought back an almost-bankrupt Harley-Davidson Motorcycles from AMF for $80 million, and the Milwaukee-based headquarters had to get to work restoring the tarnished Harley name.

The “new” owners had been with the company for years, so they knew the Harley brand and what was needed to turn it around. The first mission was to change how their bikes were made—increasing quality while keeping costs low.  

One way they did this was to shift decision making from the top of the organization to the front lines, putting quality control in the hands of assembly workers during any and every stage of the manufacturing process. If a part or a weld didn’t meet the new Harley standard, any worker could stop the line and correct the final product.

"Innovation can thrive only in environments where it is safe to tell the truth." - Brad Szollose

Harley faced the truth quickly and implemented a quality-over-quantity attitude. Pride in workmanship and a sense of purpose returned to the factory floor and the work that employees were involved in. Word began to spread that Harley made great bikes again. Once the internal part of the company was reworked, it was time to change customer perception about the Harley-Davidson brand.

The executive team at Harley is rare for another reason: They don’t just work for the company, they live the motorcycle lifestyle. By participating in racing events and HOG rallies in Daytona and Pennsylvania, they could meet their customers face-to-face. This is not an easy thing for a company to do if its customers feel angry and abused. Yet even though it hurt to listen to painful and honest complaints from customers, it helped give the company still more direction for recovery—and clout.

Meeting Harley owners head-on helped these executives for another reason: It let them show off new products while building brand loyalty. After all, if the guys at the top were riding these cycles, they had to be good. This went a long way to bringing the brand back to life.

As a result of all of this, Harley’s demographic evolved. What had been an affordable motorcycle for a small group on the edge of society became a high-end brand that started to attract doctors, lawyers, and college-educated wannabes who could afford the new bike lines but also wanted to get back in touch with masculinity. The affluent who worked in homogenized offices and courtrooms were suddenly interested in dabbling in the rugged Harley-Davidson lifestyle on weekends. The nine-to-five office worker became a weekend warrior Friday at 5:00 pm.

Since Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda had chosen to inundate the United States with their modern café racer look, Harley did the opposite in order to recapture their brand—they deliberately returned to the macho, “retro” look of the past.

But that didn’t stop the development team from looking into the future. Today’s Harley-Davidson brands encompass traditional touring bikes such as the Fat Boy, female biker–focused brands like the Sportster, and cutting-edge bikes like the café racer–style and retro-inspired V-Rod, along with a macho-inspired apparel line of jackets, T-shirts, and helmets. This is part of the strategy that made them strong enough to go public.The lesson here is to give the customer a lifestyle-changing product that is built to last, and support the hell out of that choice.

It’s an amazing turnaround story, but it couldn’t have gotten off the ground if the executive team hadn’t taken a good hard look at their company and faced the truth about the internal and external problems of the Harley-Davidson brand—it was dying a slow and miserable death.

They didn’t live in the glory days, and they neither blamed nor complained. They simply faced the reality of what had destroyed their products and took steps to turn it around and make an even better product that would keep customers coming back.

Truth is the cornerstone of great leadership, and great leadership faces the truth—head-on.

Even if it is uncomfortable.

I am always astounded when companies refuse to face facts. Making money during boom cycles in an economy is easy. Making money during a down cycle requires brilliance.

See you next time for Step 3.


Brad Szollose
Global Management & Leadership Development Consultant
Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Executive Coach  •  Keynote Speaker

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 Steps to Creating
a 21st Century Organization:

Step 5 of 5

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Step 5: Create a New Set of Rules for Talent Recruitment
Netflix (The online streaming media company a.k.a. TV on the go), is thumbing their nose up at tradition Human Resource methodologies by setting the bar higher; they expect people to be fully formed adults. 

Their controversial hiring and management practices have made the cover story in the Harvard Business Review. Check It Out: Netflix--A Great Place to Work

One of their tactics is to put their money into hiring winners. Netflix discovered that two mediocre employees could be replaced with one A-Player.

"Sprinkles are for Winners." - Flo from Progressive Insurance
For those of you who grew up believing there are no winners and no losers, welcome to the real world. "Sprinkles are for winners."

What do A-Players expect from other A-Players? Intensity in all they do.  

Yes you have to pay that person a bit more, but you get one self-starter instead of having to pay two for the same output.

Now there's a caveat to hiring a company full of A-Players; at some point, they will want to kill each other. Not literally, but figuratively.

So that means you need a new way of managing people's behavior and workflow.

Which I will explore in the next part of this series.

Create your own rules for hiring. Rules that fit YOUR workforce culture.

See you next time...


Brad Szollose
Global Management & Leadership Development Consultant
Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Executive Coach  •  Keynote Speaker

Brad Szollose Bio:


Who Is Brad Szollose?: 

Cofounder of Another Big Production. Host of Awakened Nation™. Award-Winning Author. Creative Director. Leader. Visionary. TEDxSpeaker. Web Pioneer. C-Level Executive.

First things, first. How do you say Szollose?
It’s pronounced zol-us.

From founding partner and CMO of K2 Design, Inc. the first Digital Agency to go public on NASDAQ to international leadership development expert, Brad Szollose has worked with household names like MasterCard, American Management Association and Tony Robbins, to create leadership training programs for a new generation.

As an award-winning creative director, he has been the creative force behind hundreds of high-end corporate events, personal and consumer brands, and website launches. Brad is the recipient of the Corporate Identity Design Award and the Axiom Business Book Award along with various awards for website and print design.

As a C-Level executive at K2, his unique management model was awarded the Arthur Andersen New York Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation Amongst Employees (Workforce Culture).

Today, the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on next-generation leadership development, branding and modern Management Strategies, and he has been featured (both print and online versions) in Forbes, Inc., Advertising Age, USA Today, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, International Business Times, Le Journal du Dimanche (France), and The Hindu Business Line to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CGTN America, CBS, Roku Network and other media outlets.

Brad continues to challenge the status quo with his new book, Liquid Leadership 2.0, and his new podcast, Awakened Nation.

After 35 years in New York City, he now calls Las Vegas home. In his free time, he enjoys hiking in the mountains, working Star Trek and Dune quotes into everyday conversation, and painting and drawing the stunning landscapes of the American Southwest.