There's No Off Season Anymore

Interview with Lee Colan, co-author of Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees
By Graham Duncan
Employee engagement is the cornerstone of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. Creative and innovative solutions are perhaps in greater need now than ever in order to transform the workplace.

In Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees author Lee Colan's extensive experience with Fortune 500 companies reveals that if you meet your employees' basic intellectual and emotional needs, they will perform at peak ability.

Graham Duncan (GD): You are President of The L Group, Inc. Would you talk about your company and the services you provide?

photo of Lee Colan Lee Colan: We are a company that helps people elevate their leadership. We focus on the three levels of leadership; personal, team and organizational. We provide resources in a variety of different areas to help people elevate their leadership on those three levels. Our business includes consulting work, speaking engagements, and we develop a variety of resources, books and training kits.

GD: Does you work take you outside of North America?

Lee Colan: Generally not, but we have done some work in Saudi Arabia. Our products are sold worldwide, but our consulting work, from a personal lifestyle standpoint, keeps us pretty local. We've had our books translated into 5 different languages and whether they are in English or some of the foreign languages, they certainly sell worldwide.

GD: Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees comes at a time when we are just beginning to emerge from the economic recession. You have a successful track record of helping companies manage the challenges of rapid organizational change. In your experience has this recession created the need for more rapid organizational change?

Lee Colan: It has. The challenge is anytime people experience some form of adversity, it becomes paralyzing. You may have noticed that a lot of companies have hunkered down; they've gone into survival mode. These companies have cut back employees, services, and often also locations.

In terms of initiating change, I think it's counterintuitive. Our advice is this is the time to drive change through an organization. The companies that set themselves apart are spending time working on internal change and figuring out how they can better position themselves. They may not be capturing a huge market share now, but they are getting themselves in a position to capture business coming out on the upside of this recession.

GD: There is a certain risk in initiating change at any time.

Lee Colan: Absolutely, it is one thing to be forced into cost cutting, but that's a reactive measure. The companies that are going to set themselves apart either take that opportunity, they know they have to be reactive, but they also go a little bit further and say, "What do we need to do to create more organizational discipline, a little more focus?" They take steps to do whatever is required to improve their business. Coming out of the recession they will have created a more competitive enterprise.

GD: It seems a tall order to ask employers and their employees to continue to change without ever catching their breath. Can businesses withstand the ever-increasing need to reinvent and change their directions?

Lee Colan: Let's put this in historical perspective. In the 1960s' there may have been one major change, such as the invention of the electronic typewriter. Then we had the whole decade to integrate that change before the next intuitive improvement came along. Today we are in this situation where there's one change being thrust upon us and before we have a chance to digest it, we've got another change coming.

Picture yourself in the ocean and a series of waves continue to hit you again and again. That's what it feels like to be in this world of continuous and rapid change. There's a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher named Nolan Ryan, and towards the latter part of his career, he made a statement, "You know, there's no off season anymore." That kind of sums it up. Whether it's in athletics or in business, there's a lot demanded of us. I tell people we live in this information rich, time poor world. We have more and more coming at us and continually less and less time to deal with it.

All that said the fact is we don't have a choice. Whether it's individuals or organizations, we all have a survival instinct; we are adept at doing a little bit more with less, or figuring out ways to make faster decisions. Maybe it's harnessing our intuition more, rather than getting all the data we need to make the best possible decisions so we can stay ahead of the market. I don't want to beat around the bush here. The fundamental question is, "Can business withstand?" and the answer is, they can. Those companies that manage rapid change, reinvent themselves, shift directions rapidly, and stay adept and agile are the ones that will survive.

For the United States, which has a free market economy, it has been like that for 100 or so years. I think the beauty of the human and organizational spirit is that we continue to figure out a way to do business well.

GD: Is the status quo a dangerous place to be?

Lee Colan: I think personally or professionally the status quo is a very dangerous place. We often talk about how important it is to explore the edge, and step out of our comfort zones. I use the metaphor of watching a basketball team. It amazes me how a team can be up by 20 points with 5 minutes left and they'll lose the game. What happens is they get comfortable.

In business or in life it can happen too. In business we say, "We've got full market share. We've got more market share than our competitors, we must be doing pretty good." Rather we should be saying "Who does what we do better than anybody in the world?" "Who does the customer service part of our business better than anybody?" "Who does the product innovation better than anybody?"

We get caught up in our industry looking at the company in second place, and we think, "Oh, this is not a bad place, we're doing pretty good." In fact, most times when the leadership position in an industry is lost to somebody else, it's not lost to the number two player. It's lost to somebody below second place who has figured out how to change the rules of the game and shift things around – they leap-frog the current number one person.

Personally, it is the same way. It's nice to be in a groove. It's nice to be in an Archie Bunker chair that's comfy. It's important to figure out ways to push ourselves so we are continuously learning. We have as part of our human nature to think of change as a negative thing, but we need to look at change as positive.

GD: Part of that groove, perhaps, is to put us in the mode of always looking for other opportunities?

Lee Colan: Absolutely, but I will say, "It is much easier said that done." The good thing about this issue is "Change is like rain. Everybody knows it's good for you, but nobody wants to get wet," and so it's tough. It's against human instinct to always initiate change on your own, but if we avoid dealing with change our situation doesn't get any better. So, the more you work at it accepting, adapting and welcoming change, the more comfortable you get at it.

GD: You say that the softer side of leadership is more challenging. What do you mean by this?

Lee Colan: I think if you look at our business schools and corporate training, most is focused on what I call the "intellectual side of leadership" – engaging people's minds. That's based on meeting three human needs, the need for achievement, autonomy, and mastery. These schools continue to focus on coaching, setting clear goals and performance management – all classic supervisory skills. Particularly in a more male dominated senior leadership type of organization, those are the things that we tend to be comfortable and run with.

On the other hand, I can't recall the last MBA or corporate leadership program I have seen that focused on the softer side, which is engaging emotional intellect. That's meeting the three emotional needs of purpose, intimacy and appreciation. This is the side where you really get discretionary effort from your employees. If you can engage people's hearts around something, and get their emotional buy-in, man, they'll blow through walls for you.

Yes, it feels a little more squishy. It's not about setting goals and financial targets, so it's harder to get your hands around, but engaging the emotional intellect has very tangible results. In the marketplace there's less focus on the softer side, and that's why we've had so much attraction to my book and the training associated with this approach. Organizations realize that they have this weakness, and they're determined to create emotional engagement.

GD: How do they go about creating emotional engagement?

Lee Colan: I'll be careful to answer that correctly.

If you look at the things we have to do to engage people's minds and hearts, they're not super-creative. They're things like when I am managing an accounting department, does the accounts payable clerk understand the connection between what he or she is doing, and what we are trying to achieve in our departmen, and organization? I'm trying to build a bridge between today's toils, today's day-to-day activities, and the brighter future of our company. I'm talking about engaging people emotionally.

I'll give you an example of intimacy, which is one of the emotional needs. I take 5 minutes to go around the table before each staff meeting and say, "Hey, everybody give me a high and a low from last week. What was one high in your personal life or at work and what was one low?" That creates a bond and a tremendous window for a leader to see what's going on in the employees' lives. It helps the leader to determine what are the challenges that we can help support them with? What are the achievements that we can praise them for?

GD: Would you give our readers some examples of how improving employee engagement is helping companies turn their financial fortunes around?

Lee Colan: Certainly. Many companies are having a tough time right now.

Let me give you one example of a company that's turning it around. This is a company that had one hundred dollar stocks a couple of years ago. They did a 1 for 3 split. Their stock was at $33 a year ago, and then all of a sudden, 11½ months ago, its trading value was down to $3 a share. The way they re-built their share value was by doing the things that they did well before – focusing on engaging people's minds and hearts, by engaging their team.

By being open and honest with staff, by listening and working to support employees' emotional needs, this client is right back where they need to be. They were literally on the brink of insolvency, but when they rallied everybody, pushed through the tough times, and made and implemented tough decisions, they had everybody on board for the challenges ahead. Now they are again growing as a company – only one year later.

Unfortunately, what tends to happen is when organizations are going through tough times, the leadership will get together and say, "Okay, we've got to figure it all out." Then what happens is they inadvertently start to disengage from their team. The senior leadership moves apart from everybody else. That approach does not work. The solutions lie in the extent that you can involve your people in creative ways to make decisions, even if it's a tough decision. It also lies in creating new strategies to bring the organization around.

GD: What is the relationship between engaged employees and innovation?

Lee Colan: I think that the more employees feel they are part of the business, and they understand how they contribute to something bigger, the more likely you're going to be able to tap into the smallest of their ideas. I'm big on, "What's the small idea?" rather than "What's the big idea?" Once in a blue moon you're going to get the big idea. But generally the organizations that have the big ideas have employees coming up with lots of small ideas. In baseball, you've first got to hit a lot of singles.

We find that organizations that tap into their people are rich with many small ideas. For example, Toyota does a great job using this approach. They want little, tiny ideas from people – two a month from every single employee. They'll end up getting millions of ideas a year, and implementing 80% of them. This means those tiny ideas don't need corporate approval or approval from 6 levels of management. They're ideas that say, "Good idea, go do it."

Many times managers talk to their employees about creating ideas, and the employees will look at them like a deer in the headlights. Instinctively, the employees think, "I'd better come up with something big. My boss doesn't want to know we can save 5 pieces of paper a week if we just did something different on the fax machine." But it's a perfectly good idea. It creates a culture of ideation, which is the real power.

GD: In addition to 22 years of hands-on industry and consulting experience, you earned your Master's and Doctoral degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Washington University. What initially led to your interest in the topic of engagement in the workplace?

Lee Colan: My real passion has been leadership.

I have been fascinated by the idea of a framework or model that helps leaders make sense out of complex issues. One of my first books was called Sticking to It. It helped leaders deal with the problem of execution, which is an ongoing challenge.

Engagement was always a big deal for me. Before the concept of engagement was popular, I had a model in my head in which I envisioned that there are emotional and intellectual needs. I wondered what it takes to get the most from people in the workplace. That, of course, is an ongoing challenge for any leader.

Now, as the whole engagement movement has slowly matured, we've received some attraction with our framework. We found that for a lot of organizations, it's not just a training program; they use it as a general framework for their leadership. What a lot of leaders are yearning for, in an information rich and time poor world, is a roadmap. They know it's an issue, but they say, "Tell me, how do we do it?" I think they find attractive this pretty simple "how to" model that helps them make sense of a somewhat nebulas concept of employ engagement.

GD: What sustains your interest ?

Lee Colan: I like to provide the tools, resources, and insights for leaders that helps them get more out of their teams. What really gets me excited and what gets leaders excited is not only making employees more productive employee, but also making them better as individual persons. I strongly believe that the engaged leader makes good employees better people. That's my goal.

It's nice that employees are more productive. Maybe they get a higher bonus or a promotion, and that's all good. But I think the connections that are created through somebody that is a really engaging leader has a broader impact on the person behind the employee.

GD: What other passions do you have outside of work?

Lee Colan: I have a great family. I have three kids from the ages of 9 to 16 and, they keep me busy! I am very blessed with them and that's probably my primary passion at this point.

I also feel very blessed in my work. My goal when I got into this business was to figure out who I was and, over time, I realized that I was a helper. As a result, when I do my work I never feel like I am working. I'm not saying I'm a workaholic, but it doesn't feel like work.

GD: Would you describe the importance of achievement, autonomy and mastery as fundamental needs in establishing engaged minds of employees?

Lee Colan: Achievement, autonomy and mastery are the three intellectual needs. If you think about getting people focused, the need for achievement is very fundamental.

If you look in sports, politics, business, or anywhere else, you can see the need for achievement is very well ingrained. The goal as a leader is to draw that out rather thatn geting in the way because these are natural, innate needs. People always want to achieve, yet part of our role as a leader is to help them do that.

Autonomy is important in that people want to feel control over what they are achieving. If you think about it, achievement is about the "what." Am I clear about what I'm trying to do, because we want our employees to exert focused effort. Autonomy is the "how." How do I do it? So, I want some stay, maybe not 100%, in the "how" because everyone wants to feel some control and contribution. They don't want to feel completely robotic about what they're achieving over the course of the day.

Much of the mastery portion is about seizing coachable moments. Mastery is that aspect where the employees know they're performing their work very well. I jokingly ask audiences when I speak, "How many times does it take a toddler to test walking before he or she actually can walk successfully and master the act of walking?" We get all kinds of guesses, up to a million times, but the answer actually is "as many as it takes". It's an illustration of our ingrained need for mastery.

It's the same thing at work. If you are struggling with an employee because they're not getting something done right, my comment is don't get frustrated with them. The first question you should ask yourself, as a leader, is, "Am I coaching them to be masters in this area correctly?" Or am I so busy that I'm just saying, "I'm getting frustrated, here's the policy now go and do it."

GD: What are some of the common barriers to employee achievement?

Lee Colan: One of the common problems is not matching the level of authority to the level of responsibility. I might say, "Graham, go take care of this project." and all of a sudden you excitedly run off to do it. But you suddenly realize that you don't have the authority to get the right resources, hire the right people, nor do you have the budget to get it done. That is a classic "rock and a hard place" situation. As a leader, we want to make sure that we are matching authority and responsibility.

Managers must also make sure that we are not bottle-necked in terms of decision-making. When people want to move forward they need a decision from us, and sometimes inadvertently the leader without realizing it becomes the bottle-neck in our own department. Issues sit on our desk, or we are not getting back tour people who want to achieve. They want to master something and we are the
inadvertent bottle-neck.

GD: Does removing those barriers lessen the control a manager has on his employees?

Lee Colan: On the contrary, I view it as enabling them to meet those needs for achievement, autonomy and mastery. This is not a question of losing control. A lot of managers seem to think, "Gee, if I give them input or I let them do this, I am losing control."

I would say having control, complete control over your team is not a scalable option. As quickly as things change and as areas grow, control is just not scalable. This is in addition to the fact that it's not effective, and by this approach you are going to suck whatever inspiration you have out of your team. It's not a smart way to go.

I know we are human beings and there are certain ego and control needs that people have. But I would say removing barriers absolutely does not lessen the control. It heightens the degree to which people can be engaged.

GD: You say that purpose, intimacy and appreciation are essential to engaged hearts. Would you talk about the interdependence of these three building blocks? Is one of them more important than the other two?

Lee Colan: Here's the connection, and it's funny you use that word, interdependence. I would say the connection between the three is that the purpose is about how the employee connects with something bigger than himself.

Intimacy is how that employee connects with the people around him, the sense of affiliation. Appreciation is how that person connects with the manager. In other words, does he feel valued by the manager? So, all of these emotional needs are in some way really about connections. They are all important.

I like to use the metaphor of 3 guys working on a construction site. You ask the first guy, "What are you doing?" and he says, "Well, I'm just laying some bricks here.. You ask the second guy and he says, "I'm building a wall." Then you ask the third guy, and he says "I'm building a place of worship." The last guy knows the bigger picture. He knows his sense of purpose. He's building a cathedral. You are going to get more discretionary effort out of that third guy.

I'll give you my personal bias, as a manager if you can demonstrate your appreciation for your people you've gone a long way. Where there tends to be a big leadership blind spot, leaders tend to think they appreciate their people more than their people feel appreciated.

There is a difference between our intentions and our actions. We intended to tell Jack he was doing a good job. We intended to tell Sue that she's terrific. We just never got around to it. We were too busy. It happens. The trick is converting our intentions of appreciation into acts of appreciation. With all that said, I think, yes, they are equal, but boy if you can nail the appreciation thing down, you'll start getting discretionary effort pretty quickly.

GD: Are you saying that the greater variable is on the appreciation side, that staff, and managers value what they valued as a child, and that is to feel appreciated in what they do?

cover of Engagint the Hearts and Minds of all your EmployeesLee Colan: That's right. William James, the father of modern psychology, has always stated that the need for appreciation is the most significant human psychological need. I think there is a lot to that.

GD: You say that passionate performance is the ultimate goal. What is passionate performance, and why is it the ultimate goal?

Lee Colan: Passionate performance is my term for getting discretionary effort from your team. To me, that is the holy grail for a leader.

I'll give you the more technical definition. It's the strong and sustained emotional and intellectual commitment to your work. I say strong and sustained, because you can get people to stay longer at work if you threaten them and say, "Listen, unless you get this done, you're gone." But that isn't sustainable. It won't establish a strong and sustained intellectual and emotional commitment to your work.

The bottom line in practical terms is "How do I get extra effort? How do I get discretionary effort from my team?" The key word there is "willing." Some leaders are able to encourage people to willingly giving their time and effort. I don't know about you, but any leader I know that has that ability probably has a pretty good thing going.

GD: You say that since we frequently cannot see the tangible results of our leadership, we must trust that doing the right things will yield the desired results. Why is it difficult for managers to recognize and see tangible results?

Lee Colan: It is my view that we live in a microwave kind of a world, where we do something and we want to see the results the next minute. Some of these things are about developing people. I use the metaphor of a bamboo seed that takes 2 years with the right environmental conditions of watering and sunlight just to build a good strong root structure. And it hasn't even broken the ground yet. Two years! Then, after two years, when it finally breaks ground, it can grow up to 100 feet in less than two weeks. What happens in the workplace is most people, before the 2 years are up, are moving off to a new garden, or a new strategy – because they don't see the tangible results.

It's the same thing when you are developing people. There might be some things that you'll notice early on. You're going to see some tangible things, but the true power of all of those needs being met and coming together, that synergistic effect, you might not see that effect of that bamboo coming up 100 feet in less than two weeks. You might not see that effect for a while. We tell people you're doing the right things, and keep plugging along because it is the right thing, and when the time comes you will see the results. It might be a situation where it is a layoff.

As an example, at a division of Hewlett Packard, people were adulated on their last day of work, even though they were getting laid off. They were making sure things were going smoothly and transitions were laid out, paying attention to all the necessary details that makes a company successful. You never know where and how that discretionary effort is going to be manifested in your team. We continue to remind our clients that they have to have faith in what they are doing as long as long as it is coming from the right place to do the right things.

GD: How important is perseverance?

Lee Colan: I'm all about sticking to it over time.

We also have to be smart. We don't want to give up on the goal. We want to persevere but we also have to be smart and question, on the way to that goal, lots of tactics and strategies. We always have to as questions in order to make sure they are getting us the results we need. It's important to be critical of ourselves, as we look at different ways we are approaching things, and the ways we are leading people.

However, we don't give up on the ultimate goal, which is to get a passionately performing team.

GD: Do the principles of passionate performance have application at home? If so, how can these principles be applied amongst family members?

Lee Colan: I love that question and I appreciate you asking it, because we've taken my book and applied it to the classroom setting. We've written a book called Inspire, Connecting with Students to Make a Difference. It takes the very same model and talks about how teachers can apply those in the classroom to get the most out of their students.

I think this concept is even more easily transferred into the family setting. It goes to what kinds of things do you want your kids to have control and input over. I consider a family as just another team. You might have different business goals than your family goals, but I think they are very similar dynamics.

GD: Is it possible to engage the mind of every employee? Isn't it likely that some employees will never be brought on side with the corporate vision and goals?

Lee Colan: I think we have to be realistic. Our goal as a leader is to do our best to engage everybody, but we sometimes have to make decisions such as, "Where do I cut my losses? When is someone just not getting it?" What I tell leaders is that if someone is not performing, more times than not, it has something to do with what the leader didn't do or forgot to do. Did I spend the right amount of time clarifying the goals with them?

There are studies that say that most people, 60% to 70%, don't know what the primary goals are for their organization. I would suggest that as a leader you take a look at yourself before you get frustrated with your employees. Make sure you are communicating and doing the right things. Once you are confident that you are doing the right things, you can act with confidence knowing that not every employee is cut out for every job and for every organization. There is a place for everybody, but it might now be in your company.

It's a worthy goal to try and engage everyone, but it needs to be tempered with some realism. We want to make sure that we are not sacrificing the needs of those who are engaged to try to spend too much time with those who aren't.

GD: Is this about making sure that what we are communicating is what we really intend people to hear, because sometimes people hear different things?

Lee Colan: Communication is a tricky business. It is so simple, but so many of the problems that we deal with in organizations are about lack of clear communication.

GD: In your work with your clients, what differences do you see in the motivations of younger employees compared to those who are older or more senior in the company?

Lee Colan: I am writing a book on that called Power Exchange, How to Boost Accountability and Performance in Today's Workforce. I wrote it because I was lamenting with friends of my generation wondering why the younger generation doesn't seem to "get it" – they don't have the work ethic. I decided I needed to be constructive and as I looked into it, I learned that the needs of the new generation of workers are really not that different from the Baby Boomer generation. The main difference is that this younger generation is much more vocal about their needs. When I was on the job, and my boss told me to do something, if I didn't like it I would just go do it anyway. If I was frustrated with something, I didn't want to express it to anyone. I didn't want to disrespect my supervisor.

What happens now is that the younger generation is much more overt and direct about their needs. From the perspective of this model, I think it is a wonderful gift for the manager – especially if we could get over thinking, "God, these kids are just so disrespectful of me." The truth is, they are saying, "Hey, listen, I don't want to do this;" or "I don't see how I fit into the big picture." Their approach takes away a lot of the guesswork, as this relates back to our communication challenges we previously discussed. Rather than trying to figure out what's on their minds, they are going to tell you.

This new generation is showing their hand by saying, "Listen. This is what I need from you." Now I know exactly what their needs are and I can help meet them. I think if we take the right perspective, we can view that as a gift.

GD: Does this mean that younger workers are as keen as their predecessors to innovate and create new products and services?

Lee Colan: I think, frankly, even more so.

This new generation doesn't have some of the mental barriers that we had when we were younger. Today, there is so much more technology at their fingertips; they are so much more adept in general than our generation.

I think we are going to see a lot more innovation. Who knows what tomorrow holds in that regard, but this younger generation is very much poised to literally change our lives.

GD: In our knowledge-based economy the importance of diversity in skills, experience and background are increasingly recognized as important factors in an organization's capacity to innovate. How do we bridge the gap between the generations?

Lee Colan: I have written about this.

The term "reverse mentoring" was one I didn't coin but it is a term a lot of people use. It's an approach in which younger workers help their older peers gain exposure to the younger generation's thought process. I have expanded that to say it's not just the young and the old, and it's not just about technology. It's about how do I tap into my team to get what I call "under the hood knowledge?" How do I know what's going on in a call center, on a plant floor, or with the new technology in our R&D department?

There is a great opportunity for organizations to formulize these connections between the older and the younger generation so that the younger generation can soak up some of the wisdom and perspective that the older generation has. At the same time, the older generation can benefit from some of the freshness and innovation that the younger generation has. We can call it "reverse mentoring," but let's call it "mutual mentoring" – helping each other is one small way to bridge that gap.

GD: In Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees you describe the importance of creating small teams. You also indicate that teams must have the room to create and support their purpose. Would you talk about this?

Lee Colan: I think to the extent that a leader can control it, the real connections in the organization are in the direct relationship with teams. The smaller team enables more connections where team members feel they are the draftsmen, and the owners of how they support the larger goal or purpose of their department. When you are in a big meeting, it is easy to hide behind somebody. You've got 30 people in a meeting, you can sit down, not make eye contact with the presenter, and therefore not be a part of it.

If you sit down in a room with only 6 people, there's nowhere to hide. It's the same thing with teams. To fully engage teams, even with the best of engaging leaders, with all things held equal, the one with the smaller team is going to have a more engaged team. There's a greater sense of accountability and more connection to the purposes of the team and the goals of the organization.

GD: Creative and innovative solutions may be in greater need now than ever in order to ensure employees are engaged in the workplace. Are you optimistic that business leaders will be able to rise to this challenge?

Lee Colan: I am, and maybe it's because I tend to be an optimist.

In the organizations I see where a lot of them have their backs against the wall, they are coming up with new ideas. When it comes down to survival and having to stay in the game, they are coming up with new ideas and new approaches that they haven't been able to come up with in the 20 years before. I tend to be optimistic that these business leaders and, more specifically, the people that work for these business leaders are rising to the challenge.

GD: How can people's different ways of thinking and seeing their world help create breakthrough products and solutions?

Lee Colan: I would even phrase it that you have to have the differences to have the breakthrough solutions. It's in acknowledging those differences and bringing those differences out that we can have constructive disagreements. You might have an idea. I might have a different opinion, but the third solution, somewhere in the middle, of combining those two or flushing through and arguing about it, is where the gem is.

GD: It certainly changes the role of managers in terms of recruitment. Perhaps we want something that pushes the boundaries a little bit, that brings a different dimension to the tasks at hand?

Lee Colan: Absolutely, and I think that's one of those counter-intuitive things that managers do.

We all want to hire people in our own image; it's just easier. They think like me; they make decisions like me! The truth is if we do too much of that it becomes insular and we lose some of that diversity of thought. Then we lose the full realm of solutions that we need to be successfully, personally and professionally.

GD: You have authored several books including Seven Moments That Define Excellent Leaders. Are you writing or planning to write another book? If so, can you tell our readers about it?

Lee Colan: We've always got a couple of ideas on the docket. Actually, we have three now. My best selling book is called Sticking to It, The Art of Adherence, and that has done very well for us and we have been very fortunate about that. We are looking at converting it to a larger format, to a traditional business book because a lot of these books, what I called rapid read books, are books that you can read in a couple of hours. We are going to be calling it Velcro Leadership, Mastering the Art of Adherence, and hopefully it'll be published early next year.

We have branched out into a gift book market. We have a lovely little book with really cool photos in it; the book is called The Nature of Excellence. I will be looking at writing another gift book, also by next year sometime, called The Heart of Success.

Then I have another one in outline about relationships, which focuses on communication and trust called Winning Relationships. We have a model called The Relationship Wheel, and so that one might be out a little further past 2010, but that's one of the ones on the docket also. We've always got something in the works!

GD: What other books would you recommend on the topics of staff recognition, creativity and innovation?

Lee Colan: I have a personal bias for practical books. There is one called 42 Rules of Employing Engagement, by Susan Stamm. There's also another one that I like called I Quit, but I Forgot to Tell You, by Terri Kabachnick. I loved the title! That's another good one.

GD: Do you have other projects are you currently working on, outside of the book realm?

Lee Colan: The bulk of my time is spent with consulting to clients and helping them elevate their leadership. Other than the consulting, the real projects are around creating new products. For example, we might have a series of interviews coming out with Zieg Ziegler. That was a really fun project.

Conclusion:
There is no off-season anymore. Competition for customers requires constant change. To succeed businesses must support their employees. In Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees, Lee Colan creates a practical formula to meet your employees' basic intellectual and emotional needs. Colan provides many instructive examples from leading companies including Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Toyota, and General Electric to illustrate how innovation results from the passionate performance of their employees.

Lee Colan's Bio:
Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is President of The L Group, Inc., a Dallas, Texas-based consulting firm. Prior to starting The L Group in 1999, Lee worked in various leadership roles with American Airlines, Sandoz (Novartis) and FoxMeyer (McKesson). He also held consulting positions with two premier firms: Booz, Allen & Hamilton and William Mercer. His last corporate post was as Vice President for Physician Reliance Network, one of the fastest growing NASDAQ companies at the time.

Lee earned his Master's and Doctoral degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Washington University after graduating from Florida State University. Lee has authored seven books, including two best sellers. His practical advice has appeared in a wide variety of on-line and print publications including theFinancial Times, Networld, Healthweek, Wholesale Drug Magazine, Dallas Morning News and Stores.

Feedback Welcome:
We would appreciate receiving feedback about this, or any of our other articles on the IdeaConnection.com website. [Please write us] with any comments or suggestions.

If you would like us to interview you about an article or book you have written, or an interesting idea, or a business you are involved with, [please let us know].

To read other interviews with authors and people interested in innovation, creativity, and business leadership please go to Interviews with Innovation Authors.

Share on        
Next Interview »