Markers of Meaning

“The startling truth is that 70% of the workforce is disengaged – their bodies may put in long hours, but their hearts and minds never punch in.  You may even be one of those that’s searching for ways to make work really work for you.  This is a terrible dilemma for organizations trying to motivate employees to do more with less. So how to motivate the disengaged, and further engage the engaged?  It’s not pay, perks, or promotions.

The answer is to foster meaning at work, that is, give work a greater sense of personal significance, and thus, make work matter. “    Scott Mautz

Through his research, Mautz has discovered that specific Markers of Meaning exist, or unique conditions that create meaning in and at work. It’s possible to learn how to trigger each Marker of Meaning and inspire elevated performance and fulfillment that sustains over the long haul.

Markers of Meaning:


  1. Doing work that matters


  1. Being congruently challenged
  2. Working with a heightened sense of competency and self-esteem
  3. Being in control and influencing decisions/outcomes


  1. Working in a caring/authentic/teamwork-based culture
  2. Feeling connection with and confidence in leadership and the mission
  3. Being free from corrosive workplace behavior

Looking at this list of markers, I can see why such conditions would be motivators for engagement in any company or work environment. But how do we foster these markers of meaning in our organizations?

Join us on July 7th to learn how. We have invited Scott Mautz to present his findings and answers at our Soundview Live webinar How to Motivate By Creating Meaning. You’ll walk away equipped with a host of specific ideas, insight, and practical tools to help do so.

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers


Welcome to the Real World

“The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal,” writes Silicon Valley veteran Ben Horowitz, co-founder, with Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, of the venture capitalist firm Horowitz Andreessen. “The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things.” In other words, most business and management books might offer some basic advice, but according to Horowitz, they don’t really help the “hard things” about a situation. “The hard thing isn’t dreaming big,” he writes, ending his litany of examples. “The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.”

No Recipe

Horowitz, who was also co-founder of the software firm Opsware, knows a thing or two about nightmares. The stories of his Silicon Valley adventures can best be described as harrowing. There was the time, for example, that Opsware was about to lose its largest customer, EDS, which accounted for an astounding 90 percent of its revenue. The loss would have meant sure bankruptcy. The Opsware team transformed the EDS account decision-maker, a bitter man who thought life was against him, from a sworn enemy into an ally by responding to his personal needs.

The EDS rescue and many other cliffhanger experiences make Horowitz eminently qualified to write a book about how to take on the hard things. He is quick to point out, however, that The Hard Thing About Hard Things doesn’t offer a recipe for dealing with challenges: “There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations,” he writes. However, “there are many bits of advice and experience that can help with the hard things.” Horowitz intersperses detailed stories from his experience with straightforward advice on such topics as “when things fall apart,” “take care of the people, the products and the profits — in that order” and “how to lead even when you don’t know where you are going.”

One of the first bits of advice in the “when things fall apart” section that Horowitz offers is to forget positivity. Like many CEOs, Horowitz thought it was up to him to shoulder all the bad news alone. Then he asked his blue-collar brother-in-law about a senior executive in the brother-in-law’s company. “Yeah, I know Fred,” his brother-in-law said. “He comes by about once a quarter to blow a little sunshine up my a**.” “At that moment,” Horowitz writes, “I knew that I’d been screwing up my company by being too positive.”

Other lessons in the “when things fall apart” section include the right way to lay people off, how to demote a friend, and how to fire an executive. Firing an executive, he writes, begins with the recognition that, with the exception of ethical transgressions, you are firing the executive because you have made a bad choice in the first place. “The reason you have to fire your head of marketing is not because he sucks,” Horowitz explains. “It’s because you suck.” He then lists a series of mistakes made in the hiring process and suggests paying attention to them for the next executive hire.

Many business books have quotes at the beginning of chapters, and this book is no exception. But don’t expect to find Sun Tzu or Winston Churchill; Horowitz draws his inspiration from hip-hop artists who “aspire to be both great and successful and see themselves as entrepreneurs.” And indeed, a quote from Kanye West captures the no-nonsense, grounded wisdom of this insightful read: “This is the real world, homie, school finished…”

How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time

Laura Stack makes an amazing claim in her book Execution IS the Strategy. She states that strategy must emerge out of execution, and she provides four premises for this approach.

  1.  Interdependency – strategy and tactics are part of the same over-arching process, with an inherent relationship.
  2. Fluidity – strategy must be more flexible in its tactics now than in the past.
  3. Speed – strategy must be executed more quickly than ever before to be effective.
  4. Validity – strategy must still be appropriate and strong, or none of the first three premises matters.

Laura then provide the 4 keys to efficient strategic execution, which she calls the L-E-A-D Formula:

Leverage – do you have the right people in place to achieve your strategic priorities?

Environment – do you have the organizational atmosphere, practices, and culture that will allow employees to easily support your strategic priorities?

Alignment – do your team members’ daily activities move them toward the accomplishment of the organization’s ultimate goals?

Drive – are your organization’s leaders, teams, and employees agile enough to move quickly once the first three pieces of this list are in place?

To learn more about how execution and strategy interact, and how to apply the L-E-A-D formula to your organization, join us on May 30th for our Soundview Live webinar How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time with Laura Stack. Bring your questions and fill the room with your team members.

Plan for the Future with Three New Summaries

As part of your leadership development, you should routinely take a part of each day to focus on the future. To help you in your efforts, Soundview has three new summaries that help you plan for the future of your business and strengthen your resolve to achieve your goals.

by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen

by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen

Absolute Value by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen. Absolute Value answers the question of what influences customers in this new age and describes how a company should design its communication strategy, market research program, and segmentation strategy in order to adopt a new way of thinking about marketing in this new environment.




by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell

by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell

Leadership 2030 by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell. Leadership 2030 presents six converging megatrends that will reshape businesses by the year 2030 including the forces of globalization 2.0, environmental crisis, individualization and value pluralism, the digital era, demographic change, and technological convergence. Authors Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell use research and analyses to explain the transformative effects of the megatrends on leaders and their organizations and what leaders will have to know.


by Al Siebert

by Al Siebert

The Resiliency Advantage by Al Siebert. The Resiliency Advantage explains how and why some people are more resilient than others and how resiliency can be learned and strengthened. Dr. Siebert details a five-level program for becoming more resilient that is a valuable resource for learning how to meet the challenges of work and life head on.

What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do


See, Say, Do the Positive

For veteran consultant Kathryn Cramer, author of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do, the best way to inspire followers is to focus on the positive. Cramer developed a methodology called Asset-Based Thinking (ABT) based on this message of positive thinking, and describes in her book how leaders:

  • See the positive in the past, present and future;
  • Say the positive with communications with substance, sizzle and soul;
  • Do the positive by responding with intention (not reacting), leveraging their qualities, and driving positive change over the long term.

These questions will give the leader and his or her team a clear memory of how they leveraged positive “situational forces” and overcame negative ones to achieve success. Cramer’s force field analysis is both informational and inspirational.

One of the recurring approaches in Cramer’s ABT methodology is the Self-Others-Situation framework, in which leaders take into account themselves, others and the situation in question. For example, to help leaders “see” the positive in the present, Cramer writes that they need to consider what makes them feel strong and capable (self), how they develop meaningful connections with other people (others), and what gives them a sense of progress or achievement (situation).

Techniques and Strategies

The see-say-do framework is at the heart of Cramer’s Asset-Based Thinking methodology, which offers a comprehensive framework for leaders to respond to a wide variety of challenges and situations. In Lead Positive, Cramer describes a range of ABT techniques and guidelines for applying the framework. The “force field analysis,” for example, is a technique used to learn from a past situation that successfully worked, and is built around four questions or sets of questions:

  • “What forces were working for us?” With this question, you should identify five positive, accelerating forces, Cramer writes.
  • “What forces were working against us?” This question should lead to one or two negative forces.
  • What did we do to leverage the accelerating forces and eliminate or sidestep the negative forces?”
  • “What behavior do we want to repeat and knowledge do we want to carry forward? Which situational assets do we want to recreate, and which situational pitfalls must we avoid?”

The Message of St. Andrews

Cramer reinforces the lessons of ABT with real-world examples. One such real-world example involved St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System, an organization that provides a range of services for seniors, including affordable retirement housing and in-home health care. St. Andrew’s was looking to become more financially secure and a regional leader in its field. The organization looked to Cramer to help them create a vision for the future.

The first step was to develop a vision message of substance, which used an ABT structure that included what needed to be accomplished, what the executives needed to make the employees and staff understand, the call to action for employees and staff, and the benefits for all. To add sizzle to the vision message, Cramer helped Chief Operating Officer Diane Meatheany to use a narrative structure called the Hero’s Journey, based on the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell. The Hero’s Journey narrative follows a series of steps: the call, the resistance, the threshold crossing, the journey, the supreme ordeal and the return home. Meatheany crafted a story about the future of St Andrew’s and her role in it structured on the Hero’s Journey. The soul of the communication from Meatheany and the rest of the team — the all-important meaning of what is happening — was incorporated into the message through a series of answers to key “why” questions: why this is important to the bigger picture, our values and beliefs, and our organization; why it is important to me and my commitment; and why we need you involved.

The author of nine books and the founder of a consultancy that works with companies such as DuPont, Starbucks and Microsoft, Cramer knows that the deceptively simple message of positivity can belie the complexity of leading a diverse group of people in a constantly changing environment. Lead Positive transforms the principles of ABT into a practical workbook for leaders.

Four Memorable Quotes from Soundview’s Author Insight Interviews

A great accompaniment to many Soundview Executive Book Summaries is the Soundview Author Insight interview. Each interview is worth a careful listen because authors often reveal new interpretations of their material. The interviews also provide them with the opportunity to share new information gained since the book’s publication.

Here are four great thoughts to consider and share with your team:

“Most people think that success resides somewhere outside yourself. It’s something other people have. It’s something you need to go out and discover. But actually, success is always inside yourself and it’s the connection between your own interests, your own aptitudes, your own motivations and the opportunities that life presents.” G. Richard Shell, author of Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success

“What we find in both individual change and organizational change is that it often requires some sort of disruptive event, some sort of major external activity in order to force change. Change becomes reactive as opposed to the individual or the organization being proactive and embracing change. The first step in performing change better is leading it better.” – Susan Goldsworthy and Walter McFarland, co-authors of Choosing Change

“For the most part, when you examine alliances you realize that it is a common pain that drives people together.” – Rich McKeown, co-author (with Mike Leavitt) of Finding Allies, Building Alliances

“People are hardwired for negative or positive emotions and we all have a different set point inside our brains for anxiety, depression and happiness. You have to really understand your set point and then do as much as you can to keep yourself on the positive side of hope, optimism, compassion and generosity.” – Bob Rosen, author of Grounded

Are You Ready for Change?

If there’s one certainty in business today, it’s this: Change is coming your way. You have no choice in the matter. The choice you do have is either to embrace it or bury your head in the sand.

What is necessary in order for real change to happen in your organization? Walter McFarland and Susan Goldsworthy, authors of Choosing Change, suggest you follow the 4 D’s:

Disruption: An experience or event that triggers a conscious choice to change

Desire: Committing to goals and deciding upon the change necessary to meet them

Discipline: Consistently taking steps that build the momentum required for sustainable change

Determination: Developing the resilience to focus and deliver even when faced with setbacks

Development: Establishing a system for continuous improvement, feedback, and ongoing learning

If you ‘d like to learn more about how to make change part of your business’s DNA, then please join us on May 15th for our Soundview Live webinar with McFarland and Goldsworthy, Driving Results One Person at a Time. You can also submit questions throughout the presentation.

Book Review: The Learned Disciplines of Management

by Jim Burkett

by Jim Burkett

The ability to turn around a struggling business is a skill honed in the fires of a business inferno. Specialists in this process hope to be successful a handful of times throughout their careers. Jim Burkett, author and president of Corporate Turnaround Consulting, has turned around the staggering figure of 28 underperforming companies during a 35-year career. It requires a devotion to a set of principles Burkett describes to readers in The Learned Disciplines of Management: How to Make the Right Things Happen. This book is now available a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

While every manager develops a toolkit for problem solving during the course of his or her career, Burkett points out that many of these skills might simply be what you’ve received from a predecessor or boss. In The Learned Disciplines of Management, Burkett replaces the “inherited” tools with seven learned tools: planning, organizing, measuring performance, executing, following up, real-time reporting and problem solving.

Each section of the book provides executives with an explanation of the discipline and examples to reinforce the importance of its practice. One of the more intriguing chapters concerns the discipline of measuring performance. While experienced executives probably feel as if they’ve read everything imaginable about the subject, Burkett gets to the heart of the issue: why measuring performance is so often not practiced. His findings force executives to confront the truth that performance measurement, while not a dehumanizing practice, does remove an unspoken layer of safety for underperforming teams.

These kinds of truths are essential if a manager intends to push a turnaround to its successful completion. While The Learned Disciplines of Management is a must-read for anyone in a struggling organization, it would benefit experienced executives at successful firms, as well.

Three New Summaries to Unlock the Door to More Success

The barrier between standard and extraordinary leadership can be symbolized by a door. At a certain point in your career, particularly if you’ve acquired a degree of success, you’ll find yourself trying to unlock the door with the skills you’ve developed. Soundview now offers three new book summaries that can help sharpen your abilities and blend them into a single key that can open the door to greatness.

by Mike Myatt

by Mike Myatt

Hacking Leadership by Mike Myatt. In Hacking Leadership, Mike Myatt identifies 11 leadership gaps that can be holding leaders back and affecting their performance. The gaps are found in areas of leadership, purpose, future, mediocrity, culture, talent, knowledge, innovation, expectation, complexity and failure. Myatt provides actionable leadership and management “hacks” to bridge the gaps in order to create a culture of leadership within organizations and help leaders drive exceptional results.


by Bob Rosen

by Bob Rosen

Grounded by Bob Rosen. Internationally renowned CEO advisor Bob Rosen proposes a new approach to leadership in Grounded in which leaders at every level can become more self-aware, develop their untapped potential, and drive better results for themselves, their teams and their organizations. Rosen’s Healthy Leader model highlights six personal dimensions that any leader can master: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational and spiritual health.



by Jim Burkett

by Jim Burkett

The Learned Disciplines of Management by Jim Burkett. In The Learned Disciplines of Management, Jim Burkett presents a framework of individual disciplines that form a self-reinforcing management system for making the right things happen. These include planning, organizing, measuring performance, executing, following up, real-time reporting and problem solving. Practicing these will reveal what effective management can do.

Getting to More Without Settling for Less


How to Scale Up Faster and Farther

Most companies have “pockets of excellence,” according to Stanford University professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao — units, departments or subsidiaries where people perform at the highest levels and generate the best results in the organization. The problem that bedevils many leaders, however, is how to spread that excellence throughout the company — what is known to practitioners as “scaling” or “scaling up.” In their new book, Scaling Up Excellence, Sutton and Rao describe five principles required to scale up the excellence.

  1. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions. This first principle involves the debate on what comes first: changing the mindset and beliefs of the people in the organization (hot causes) or making people change their behaviors whether they believe in the cause or not. The authors argue that either order can work.
  2. Cut the Cognitive Load. Scaling up requires new actions, new processes and new learnings, and sometimes employees can get overwhelmed by all that is new. The authors recommend that organizations that are scaling up look not only to add” but to “subtract” as well. Limit the bureaucracy whenever possible. Find the old processes or old structures that are no longer needed in the new scaled-up organization.
  3. The People Who Propel Scaling. “People propel scaling,” as the authors put it, and that first means having the right people with the right skills doing the right      things. Hiring the right people, however, is just the beginning. No matter how talented your employees, scaling up doesn’t work unless they are accountable: that is, they are compelled to work in the organization’s best interest.
  4. Connect People and Cascade Excellence. Connecting people is also key to spreading the excellence. Diversity plays a role: The more departments, functions, locations and positions on the organization’s ladder are represented, the greater the reach of the scaling-up effort.
  5. Bad Is Stronger Than Good. Because they will have much more impact than any positive actions, it is essential to prevent and eliminate any and all destructive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors from the organization, according to the authors.      Lesson number one: Nip it in the bud.

Each of the principles are supported and illustrated through a variety of case studies and academic research. In addition, the authors offer a specific and detailed list of practical how-tos to instill the principles in an organization. For example, among the seven ways to ensure the talent and accountability required for successful scaling up (principle three) are squelching free riders and bringing in guilt-prone leaders — those who will feel guilty for putting their needs above the needs of those they lead.

Catholicism vs. Buddhism

One of the key questions that leaders of scaling-up initiatives will need to ask themselves is whether or not one size fits all. The authors call this the Catholicism (replicating tried-and-true practices throughout the organization) vs. Buddhism (having a guiding mindset but adapting the practices to fit local conditions). There is no right or wrong answer. Leaders, however, will need to figure out which path is best as they launch their initiatives.

Based on what they call a “seven-year conversation” that included combing through hundreds of academic studies, conducting detailed case studies as well as targeted interviews, and presenting emerging ideas to a wide range of business audiences, Scaling Up Excellence is a definitive guide on one of the key paths to organizational success.