Monday, October 30, 2017

Leadership Lessons #2: Establishing Your Own Management Style

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Originally Published February 21, 2008

Part 2 of 4 in my Leadership Lessons Series:

I have worked for over 30+ years in various areas of the design business - from advertising to branding, from corporate events and the early days of slide production, to high-tech screen configurations and audience response systems.
The styles of management that worked best seemed to respect the culture, the skills of their workforce and the environment they expected people to work within. Those that did not, went out of business.

Case in point: one of the first jobs I had in New York City was at a slide production house. The new owner, Mr. G (not his real name), came in and bought the business lock stock and barrel. As a former executive with Otis Elevator, he felt it was high time some corporate structure was brought to the design field. Somehow he assumed that production artists and designers were not as structured as the corporate world he came from (Perhaps the Mr. Potato Head on the 20" monitor may have been what did it).

Mr. Ron G would walk around the office twice a day like the commander of a ship wearing his Otis Elevator tie clip to remind us all where he came from and how powerful he used to be. Nevertheless, his twice-daily jaunts were always at the slowest times of production but at the peak time for sales calls. Work would slow down as his Australian accent pierced the office and he forced everyone to listen to his tales from the "real" corporate world. His opinion was forged by what he saw from us when on these walks. To him, we weren't working very hard. And we weren't...we were talking to him!

Since he never integrated himself into the company culture, he never found out that every 8:00 AM shift change was filled with mounds of paper work, double tracking, and a check list that only the CIA could have invented, all for the sole purpose of keeping track of billings. Between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM chaos reigned as messengers arrived to whisk the slides to their destinations. This was long before Power Point and Macintosh. Slides were produced on a Genigraphics machine, and the night shifts' hard work was rushed to most clients' desks between 9:00 and 9:30 AM.

Where was Mr. G during all this chaos? 

In his office with the door closed only 50 feet away from the production station. I guess he was strategizing his big walk.

The second time everything heated up was at around 4:00 PM when production prepared to pass the day shift production over to the night shift personnel. Paperwork was meticulously checked and discussed with each designer. Nothing could be left to chance. Each color had a number, each typeface, and, of course, a set of full color comps. Designed, programmed, photographed and processed for the following day.

As the year went on, Mr. G added a memo policy. With 10 day-shift employees it was really not necessary to pass a memo to the person sitting next to you. But that's what he wanted. He never understood that the business of slide production was a multi-billion-dollar industry because he had never seen a full-scale meeting, with staging and lighting and giant sets. Slides were a tiny component of that industry and he slowly began to wonder why his company was not profitable. Because he did not respect his staff, no one helped him make the leap from production to full-scale meetings. Why bother with someone when you know they don't appreciate the work you do? People began to show signs of insubordination out of frustration.

Mr. G began to micro-manage his company into the ground and, in a last-ditch effort to shake things up, he fired his top sales people. The company went under less than a year after I left. People were happy about it. If only he had asked his staff what was going on, they could have shown him another side of the industry. The more profitable side.

What did I learn? Here are my top three lessons:

1) Integrate Your Management Style into Your Workforce Culture.

In the printing industry, yelling on the main floor is considered the norm, whereas yelling in an accounting firm would get you fired. Integration will command respect and allow you to institute changes that seem organic.

2) Never Assume Your Staff Doesn't 'Get It.'

They see more than you, because they are on the front lines everyday. Trust me, they know why there is a problem in shipping. Ask their opinion and respect it. You may see the bigger picture, but they are the ones getting their hands dirty.

3) Loosen Up.

We have entered a new era in business. People like to collaborate with each other both at home and at work. The norm used to be that employees tolerated each other during lame team building exercises just to make management happy. Bonding took place only at work when necessary...usually at the company Holiday Party.

Not anymore. Fortune magazine Feb. 4 2008 did a cover article on The 100 Best Companies To Work For. Today, many a workforce hangs out together, join hockey teams, go on vacations and even form rock bands. The corporation is now becoming a socially acceptable peer network were each shares in their work, hobbies and just plain fun. Milton Hershey did the same thing for his workforce at the Hershey Chocolate Factory. 100 years later, that became Hersheypark.

So lighten's the new trend. And it doesn't hurt production, it enhances it. Imagine people getting jazzed about coming to work. Try stopping that group from being more productive.

Thanks for reading,


Brad Szollose
The Art & Science of Leadership
Creative Director • Designer  •  Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Keynote Speaker

Former Dot Com Executive and Baby Boomer Brad Szollose, is an award winning leadership strategist, author and professional speaker who shows people managers and entrepreneurs how to win big in the Information Age.

For more info, go to

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Leadership Lessons #3: Work on Being Respected, Not Liked

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Published February 21, 2008

Part 3 of 4 in my Leadership Lessons Series:

Hersheypark in Hershey PA.At 18, I was promoted to a new Assistant Manager role at Hersheypark in the games division. Although I was young, I knew what I wanted and how to get it done. It wasn't always an easy road, but I learned to respect my staff and get them motivated. Barkers are expected to entice people all day to play games for extraordinary know, stuffed animals.

I'd schedule an early Saturday morning meeting for my team. Saturday was known as D-day because this was the busiest day of the week. Four of the eleven barkers I supervised worked incredibly hard and the rest were just showing up for a paycheck. It was a summer job and most didn't care.

Those four became my backbone for collection and banking. At 18, I was in charge of collecting over one hundred thousand dollars in revenue per month. I needed people who were reliable, worked fast, and had earned the two-hour break to get out of a booth and work with me one-on-one. After we finished, I treated them to ice cream sodas before they hopped back into a booth for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, I couldn't use them all at once, but I rotated them as frequently as possible.

During one beautiful Saturday morning, during our meeting, the leader of the disgruntled blurted out,
"You play favorites." They all chimed up in unison. 

"Yeah, you play favorites." Chatter ensued.

I shot back immediately..."You're right, I do."

They were stunned. They expected me to deny it, or placate them, or worse yet, pretend to feel bad and win them over by trying harder to make them happy. Instead, I went on, "And I will continue to hand pick these four until one of you steps up to the plate and shows me you want it bad enough. I reward those who go the extra mile. You do that and I will give you the shirt off my back. If you don't, I couldn't care less."

The results of that little speech were astronomical. Within two weeks, I had seven employees with new attitudes. It was like the Stepford Wives. They worked harder, complained less and competed amongst each other. The increased revenue showed. Of course, I backed up what I said - extra effort was rewarded with cash bonus awards and, what they all craved, getting handpicked for collection. Within two more weeks, everyone was pushing the envelope to see who would get in my good graces. What I learned was invaluable. In my own naïve and untrained way, I learned that respect came from the consistent application of my management style. Fair, approachable and firm, seemed to work for me.

One little speech turned a lack luster staff into a dynamo. In today's work environment, people are far more dynamic than our parents, they have to be, each generation has learned double the information of the previous one. Speed, multitasking and global connectivity are the norm.

Here is what have I learned in 30 years of managing people:

1) Respect Your Team. 

People work harder for those who respect their contributions and in today's technology-driven landscape you want the best people working for you. A general is only as good as his army. So, respect the accomplishments of even your part-time workforce. Rewarding everybody equally is a form of socialism. Creating an environment of healthy competition and reward pushes your office to another level of productivity and creativity. It will also help you maintain your cutting-edge status.

Merit-Based Work, Results Only Work Environments work best in my book.

2) Be Firm, Fair and Consistent. 

I have tried all kinds of styles over the years and, yes, I've tried Mr. Nice Guy in order to compensate for a business partner who was a bulldog to our staff. What begins to happen is the staff will go to the "parent" they think will give them the better answer. It doesn't work. Try getting someone to stay late and work on something. Which manager do you think they'll stay for - the one they like, or the one they respect?

3) Reward Winners. 

I was working with one of the top pharmaceutical companies in America last year. Their executive vice president of sales stepped forward and placed a challenge before them: The top 9 sales reps will be flown to Costa Rica for an all expense paid vacation for the winner and their spouse. All they had to do was blow the doors off their previous sales records. The crowd went crazy. Big gains require big steps, and she planted the flag for them to follow.

Most of you do not have the budget to fly people to Costa Rica, but try some sort of 'effort gets rewarded' program. 

Establishing healthy competition within your organization is paramount to success. But most importantly, the rewards must be worth it. Get creative, make it fun, and most of all, give big.

I hope that helps those of you looking to motivate your best people and win them over. Work on gaining respect, it pays off quite nicely.

And by the way, once you are respected, you'll be liked.

Thanks for reading,


Brad Szollose
The Art & Science of Leadership
Creative Director • Designer  •  Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Keynote Speaker

Former Dot Com Executive and Baby Boomer Brad Szollose, is an award winning leadership strategist, author and professional speaker who shows people managers and entrepreneurs how to win big in the Information Age.

For more info, go to
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May I suggest the following:

No More Mr. Nice Guy
No More Mr. Nice Guy! by Robert A. Glover

Originally published as an e-book that became a controversial media phenomenon, No More Mr. Nice Guy! landed its author, a certified marriage and family therapist, on The O'Reilly Factor and the Rush Limbaugh radio show. Dr. Robert Glover has dubbed the "Nice Guy Syndrome" trying too hard to please others while neglecting one's own needs, thus causing unhappiness and resentfulness. It's no wonder that unfulfilled Nice Guys lash out in frustration at their loved ones, claims Dr. Glover. He explains how they can stop seeking approval and start getting what they want in life, by presenting the information and tools to help them ensure their needs are met, to express their emotions, to have a satisfying sex life, to embrace their masculinity and form meaningful relationships with other men, and to live up to their creative potential.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Leadership Lessons #4: Become a Resource, Not a Know-It-All

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Published February 21, 2008

Part 4 of 4 in my Leadership Lessons Series:

I recently accompanied a friend of mine to the doctors office, but she was not the patient - her son was. The young 15 year old was having weight gain issues. Naturally the mother was worried. The reason I was there was she had voiced her frustration with this particular doctor.

After reading the young man's info the doctor began chastising him for his diet. We assured her that he eats less than 2000 calories per day and eats healthy - salad, fruits and vegetables, no butter occasionally soda and, being a teenager, he eats one cheeseburger with fries at least once a week. He confirmed all this and told the doctor when he cheats at the mall. The young man was embarrassed, but honest. Pizza was very rarely on his diet.

This didn't satisfy the doctor.
She laid into him for not working out enough. She just assumed that someone who gains weight is lazy and eating junk. This was not the case, so again we corrected her, explaining that the young man was a black belt in Karate and works out 5 times a week for 4 hours each night. "Well he needs to do more sit ups." as she pointed to his distended belly...I burst out laughing "He does 600 sit-ups every night at Karate, that's 2400 sit-ups a week, and he's in better shape than kids half his now your saying more sit-ups?"

Then the doctor went back to complaining about his diet. Clearly she wasn't listening. At that point I lost my temper..."Are you even reading his chart? If it's not his diet and definitely not exercise then it must be glandular. You can't eat less than 2000 calories a day and exercise the way he does and not be skinny. It is physically impossible."

And then I realized what had taken place. The doctor had assumed the role of the One Who Knows All
and stopped listening to the patient. 

As far as she was concerned, this kid was lazy and eating junk food 24 hours a day in front of the TV. To her, our input was a waste of time.

How many times has this happened in your life? How many times have you done it to others?

Being a know it all shuts down communication and makes an executive, manager, parent, doctor or coach look like a world class jerk. But I can see where this behavior comes from. Since the Industrial Revolution, most management has been autonomous and hierarchical. One rose to management status by gaining knowledge and keeping that knowledge to themselves. Authority and power marked the executive. One didn't rise to this height in the business world by listening to the little people. But, somewhere around 1985, a shift took place that would start the doubling of knowledge that would keep pushing the understanding of what it meant to learn and to manage.

New generations started coming up through the ranks capable of handling mounds of data in a way that the Boomer mind can barely handle. After all, Boomers didn't learn about computers until they were well into their careers. Today's younger workforce grew up with computers in their homes since they were children. They also grew up with video games.

This tiny shift has created a workforce that is capable of speed despite distraction, efficiency despite transience, and global understanding, despite localized location. The platform doesn't matter, and if you the Baby Boomer thinks you can keep are sadly mistaken. Data crunching is normal to anyone born in the mid 80s.

Got Game: How The Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever by John C. Beck (2004-10-01)
In their book Got Game? by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, the biggest difference between Boomers and Gamers is Parallel Thinking. Let me explain - Boomers see a task as linear- a beginning, middle and end. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials see everything with Parallel Thinking - five ideas at once with no end in site. This is why they multitask so easily. They were raised in it.

But are they getting any work done in this multitasking world?

I don't know why, but somehow I got lumped in with the Boomer Generation despite being so close in age to Gen-X. Baby Boomers listened to the Beatles. They were defined by Woodstock, Jimmy Hendrix and Vietnam. I was defined by John Travolta, KC and the Sunshine Band and Jimmy Carter. However, marketers seem to call the shots these days, and I have been put into Boomer territory.

The workforce I created at K2 Design, to tackle the interactive world, was filled with Gen X. They were trained to dive in and be fearless with new tasks. I realized that a Boomer was incapable of keeping pace with this kind of methodology: data immersion, multitasking and a chaotic work ethic. To a Boomer, this is crazy. To Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials, there is no cooler way to work.

My solution? I become a resource for talent and knowledge. Moving people around to meet our clients' needs: A structured interface design for Citibank would require Jason to manage the project. When AOL wanted a more organic and feminine style for one of their divisions, I chose Renée. Chris could handle interactive video and Vinton could do it all.

The old way of hierarchy does not work anymore. 

Today's young workforce is very savvy and very aware of things that may have taken you your entire career to learn. This generation was expected to be an adult at a very young age, so don't think you can fool them. Instead, manage their expertise. They think like entrepreneurs, not employees. So when you pretend to know more, you may find yourself talking to an empty office.

Leadership is not something one learns by reading a book or a Blog. It's about doing it. Much as studying aerodynamics does not make a great pilot, leadership is about learning by doing, and, most importantly, learning from one's mistakes. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials were trained as children to think this way through in-depth video game play during childhood. Respect that.

Too many people are promoted to management because they were the best salesperson or the best scientist or the best assembler. This doesn't necessarily make them the best at leadership when offered the position. Leading people is another set of skills altogether. Great speakers may not be very good at Power Point, and great CEO's may not know anything about how to build a car, but they do know how to motivate and inspire. Those skills may come in time. So if you've been recruited from within, remember, it may be because you were the alpha member of your team. To become their leader may require another set of skills.

But whatever you do, try not to be a know it all. They are predicting that by the year 2010, Technological Information will double every 72 hours. So, you can try to know it all, but physically it will be impossible.

Thanks for reading,


Brad Szollose
The Art & Science of Leadership
Creative Director • Designer  •  Author  •  Workshop Facilitator  •  Keynote Speaker

Former Dot Com Executive and Baby Boomer Brad Szollose, is an award winning leadership strategist, author and professional speaker who shows people managers and entrepreneurs how to win big in the Information Age.

For more info, go to

Article Source:

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.