What Should I Read?

One of the more frequent questions I get from my executive clients is “What should I read?”

The answer may not be what you expect - because it certainly isn’t business books.

The best executives with whom I’ve worked rarely read business books. Even I don’t read them very often - and I’ve written them.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

The first is that too many of the books aren’t implementable. They tell stories about companies that have done this or that - but rarely give you enough of the process to be able to replicate. As a result, they’re like the “Executive Missions” that were (and still are) so popular.

Here’s how it works:

  • You go.

  • You look.

  • You listen.

  • You get jealous.

  • You decide that you’re going to make your company do that [it doesn’t really matter what the “that” is], too.

  • You go home.

  • You tell your executive team that you saw the most amazing thing and that you know that “we can do it, too.”

  • You try.

  • You fail.

The reason you fail - whether executive mission or business book (remember “In Search of Excellence” and “Good to Great”?) is because you’ve seen the outcome. You’ve not learned the process that the companies went through - most importantly, all the good and bad of it.

The books can tell you a story. They can’t solve your problems.

Even truly excellent books like last year’s “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr ultimately don’t work without additional support. That’s why there’s such extensive follow-on for readers that sign up for the ongoing support. It doesn’t cost anything - and it helps - but it’s still a high risk maneuver without more in-depth, real-time guidance.

Which leads me to why the majority of business books really, really don’t work: It’s because all they’re there for is to increase the visibility and market for the consultant who wrote it. Yes, it’s another consultant ploy.

So what do executives read?

History. Mystery. Science Fiction. Physics. Spirituality. Medical Science.

You name it. They read it.

And, for their business reading, they read Biography - including biographies of businesses (like “How Google Works”) and industries (like pretty much every one of Michael Lewis’ books). They also read Executive Autobiographies - with a couple of the favorites being Andy Grove’s “High Output Management” and Ben Horowitz’ “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.”

(Can you tell I don’t bother with getting a fee for my recommendations? You have to find the books yourself if you’re interested enough!)

The important thing isn’t even what you read. It’s that you read.

If you’re interested in travel, read about it. If you want to know what happened in the Spanish Civil War, read about it. If music fascinates you and you think that one day you’d like to compose, read, read and read more. (Then go compose.)

The whole purpose of reading is to broaden your horizons and open you up to new worlds. To be exposed to different thinking than your own. To see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Because the most amazing thing about reading is that you’ll find yourself incorporating those expansive, mind-expanding, sometimes mind-bending experiences into your day-to-day thinking - which will make you better at what you do. And that will make you more likely to get to where you want to go.

Which is really the point, don’t you think? And this way, you’ll enjoy yourself all along the way.

Thinking About a Reorganization? Read This First.

by Leslie L. Kossoff

When I was living in Paris, I went to museums on a regular basis. You kind of couldn’t help it. They were everywhere and always so inviting.

The nicest thing about them is that they make sense. They’re accessible to everyone - from school outings (which I remember as a kid) to the generally-interested-public (the category I put myself in) to the professionals and experts (of which I am definitely not one).

That’s why the article about the recent reorganization of exhibits and works by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) caught my eye.

They’ve done a reorganization that, to the paper’s art critic, not only doesn’t make sense, it makes everything worse.

Why?

Evidently, according to Mr. Knight, it’s because it’s trying to be everything to everybody…which makes it, to his way of thinking, nothing.

And that got me thinking about how organizations structure, organize and reorganize themselves.

What a mess.

Executives like to say that their organizations grow “organically.” In fact, not so much. They grow - but, more often, their structure arises and expands because someone has an agenda that necessitates a new function or department to be established. Or a new location. Or division.

Or whatever.

The other option in reorganization-ville is that there are a bunch of competing agendas that lead to a structure that serves the silos* and power bases of the executives rather than the customers - even though more often than not, “serving the customer” or being “customer-centric” is the way it’s positioned.

Again. Not so much.

That’s why the article about LACMA caught my eye…especially when Mr. Knight writes:

Art museums have two audiences — one general, who may or may not have a genuine interest (there’s got to be someplace to take the in-laws over the holidays); the other a dedicated art audience, who range from passionate enthusiasts to committed professionals. “Rome” [ed - the exhibit he’s writing about]throws that dedicated core constituency overboard.

Lose the core and the museum is in trouble. The trick is to serve both publics at once. And a prime service of a great museum is to help transform the general public into an art public.

Change the word “public” to “customer” and you’ll see where I’m going.

People may come to your organization. That’s the hope. The goal, however, is to make them come back forever and stay.

Your organization should, in all functions and at all levels, reflect that focus. Otherwise, like LACMA, you’re going to lose the folks you’re trying to keep. You don’t want that trouble.

The good news is, it’s avoidable.

Just keep asking: Why?

Why are we doing this reorganization?

Why will it serve our customers? Our suppliers? All our stakeholders in and out of the enterprise?

Why will it help our financials?

Why will it make our teams work better?

You get my drift. Also, it’s important to note that I’m not asking “How.” Because “how” gets you into tactics and that’s not where you want to be when you’re structuring your organization.

It’s a strategic decision. So, keep asking “Why,” keep your eye on your customers - internal and external - and you’ll nail it.


* To read the LQ Think Piece about Organizational Silos and what to do about them, subscribe below to our twice monthly XMO newsletter for Executives, Managers and Owners.

Differentiating Yourself from the Crowd

I was recently asked if I had any video of myself doing a presentation. (In a little while I’ll let you know why - but for the moment, stick with me here.)

In looking through footage, I found this presentation I did in London for the UK Horticulture Trades Association. The conference audience consisted of a few hundred senior executives and owners from across the garden retail and horticulture trade industry from throughout the country.

As you’ll see, the topic I was dealing with was how to differentiate yourself from the crowd based on the customer experience. It wasn’t called exactly that - but that’s what it comes down to.

Take a watch and listen - it’s about twenty minutes - and see how you can improve your standing in your industry…and beyond!

LeadershipQuantified - The Personal Origin Story

by Leslie L. Kossoff

There’s one other piece to the LeadershipQuantified Origin Story that’s even more important than my own story. 

It’s my father’s story.

Dad was an entrepreneur and investor. He was the epitome of the American Dream.

Dad, his mom and siblings immigrated from Russia - walking across Europe to sail the Atlantic in steerage to get to the land where the streets were “paved with gold.” America. 

He was seven.

By the time he was ten, with his father having died years before, Dad was working to support his family by delivering illegal liquor during Prohibition to speak-easies in his New York City neighborhood. As a teenager, still supporting his family, he got out of that racket and became a soda jerk - a job I’m not even sure exists today.

After high school, he and his family moved to Los Angeles, where, by the time he was in his early 20s, he owned a liquor store. 

But that wasn’t enough. Expanding his retail activities, he eventually owned or was a partner in three locations. He became the President of both the California and National Retail Liquor Dealers’ Associations and was an active political activist on behalf of small business owners in California and across the United States.

During that time, he also became involved with others who he believed he could trust because they had greater education and broader experience in the various realms in which he was becoming involved - both as entrepreneur and investor. 

What he didn’t realize - because there was no way he could have known - was that those supposedly “trusted advisors” had other agendas in mind...agendas that served their purposes and didn’t care about his at all.

The result was that, when he died at 47, his last words and thoughts were about the mistakes he had made in trusting those others. That, now that he had learned his lesson, he was going to focus on the people he knew he could trust. 

He never had the chance.

I learned from Dad’s experience - both in becoming an ethical, trusted executive advisor and in ensuring that the clients I supported always knew they could trust me with their goals, their dreams and their organizations.

My Dad didn’t have what I, as an advisor, or LeadershipQuantified, the company I founded, provides. He didn’t have professional people on his side.

My goal is to make sure that no one else goes through what my Dad did, simply because they don’t have access to honest and trustworthy coaching and consulting.

Leadership Quantified is my means of ensuring that not just business executives and owners, but every employee in every organization of any size in any sector worldwide, can access the treasures that already exist within themselves and in their enterprises. 

LeadershipQuantified is my way of giving each of you the processes by which you, yourself, can create your own, your organization’s and your people’s success - and know that you can trust the lead-up to and results of your work. Without harming anyone along the way or afterward.

I think Dad would be proud of my advisory career and of what I’ve created with LeadershipQuantified.

I know that I am and my gratitude to those who have helped and supported me along the way knows no bounds.

The LeadershipQuantified mission is:

Everyone deserves a satisfying and productive work life.

Our purpose - our existence - is to help you achieve that mission. Because you deserve it.

LeadershipQuantified - The Evolution Origin Story

by Leslie L. Kossoff

Seven years ago, sitting in my apartment in Paris, looking out on a dark street, wondering about what could be…

Starting up a business venture - no matter the size or scope - isn’t for weenies. I’ve done it twice. First when I started my consulting business. Decades later when I founded LeadershipQuantified.

The reason start-up is not for the weak-hearted is because, whatever you expect and no matter how much experience you have, you’re going to be surprised. A lot. And usually on the downside. Right up until things change.

So, since I’m in Origin Stories mode and I get asked - a lot - about how LeadershipQuantified came to be, I thought I’d take on the developmental twists and turns I experienced as I built this fulfillment of my dream for employees and organizations worldwide.

Thirty Years in the Making

It was during the experience I wrote about in Business Origin Story 1 (the one with the consultants and the team), that LeadershipQuantified was born.

I didn’t know it - and I certainly couldn’t do it. But LeadershipQuantified was born in that consultant meeting.

There were two overarching thoughts that I had as I sat and listened to the consultants:

  1. Employees need the tools to make the cases that management needs to hear. They don’t have them. They’re not being trained in them. And, one day, I’m going to figure out how to provide them.

  2. In the meantime, one day I’m going to be a consultant. This business of being a full-time employee really isn’t for me. 

(As for the second item, for those of you who know me, you’ll also know that I’ve said - for years - that I’m the worst employee…ever. But that, too, is a different story for a different time.)

At that time, start-ups weren’t a thing. It wasn’t even a word. I’m not even sure that “entrepreneur” had come into regular use back then.

So it wasn’t the romance of the start-up world or some dream that I’d one day become a big-time CEO that began my quest. It was an idea. A mission. A promise that I was going to keep - somehow, someday - to all the employees in the world who needed the tools so that, somehow, they wouldn’t get screwed by their management (intentionally or otherwise).

Well before the time that technology leaders would talk about “changing the world” I had already decided I was going to change it. For the better.

Two-plus decades, a world (literally) of fascinating clients and incredible executives, university teaching gigs, three books, innumerable articles and even more speaking engagements later…

…years of others developing personal computers, mobile phones, laptops, the internet, SAAS platforms and apps later…

…and it was finally time. I had the knowledge and experience - and I had the technology.

It was time for the dream to manifest.

That was what I knew could be sitting in my apartment in Paris. It was time for LeadershipQuantified to come to life.

Sharing the Dream

What I also knew was that I wasn’t going to do this alone - and that meant reaching out to those I knew and trusted to share the dream with me.

I contacted friends, colleagues and former clients on a highly selective basis. I told them what I was doing and asked them two questions:

  • Am I nuts? 

and, on an even more selective basis…

  • If they might be interested in participating. If so, I wanted them to share their knowledge and expertise with employees around the world.

I explained what the idea was and where it came from. I got input from them about what they thought was needed and what it would take to make the dream come true.

In the meantime, though, I still had to figure out what “it” was - specifically, how we were going to do what needed to be done: Develop Leaders at Every Level of Every Organization. Everywhere.

Not skills training. Not “leadership development.” We were going to develop leaders.

We would give employees at every level the tools they need to bring a level of personal satisfaction to their work that would spur them on to do and be even more.

We were going to put a particular focus on small- and mid-sized organizations - specifically because they couldn’t afford the likes of me and my high-end consulting brethren and, as a result, were getting screwed by consultants who were charging them too much and giving mediocre (at best) guidance.

Finances, Business Building…and a Move Back to the United States

The discussions continued and I listened and learned…and I read voraciously.

After all, this was my dream - and now, not only did I have those in-the-future employees to help, I had also surrounded myself with people trusting me to do something with this dream that I’d brought them in on.

I got a lot of push to get investors. Venture capital. Seed money. Everyone knew someone who might be interested in putting some money into the business.

I said no. I’d read and heard and learned too much about just how expensive investor money could be…and I wanted to do this my way. I also wasn’t willing to risk anyone else’s money on my dream. This baby was financially on me - all the way.

In the midst of all of this, I moved back to the States. It was emotionally devastating - even as it was the most correct decision for the business.

I’d grown to love Paris and my life there like no where else I’d ever lived. But, at that time (and, happily, no longer the case), the laws, regulations and taxes for small businesses and start-ups were beyond onerous. They were impossible.

If I was going to build this dream, I was going to have to do it in a country that was designed for small businesses to build and grow - and at that time, that was the States.

So I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is lovely. But, even as I was figuring out and dealing with all the ups and downs, ins and outs of this new business I was building, my external environment wasn’t what I wanted or needed.

Tough. The business had to win and I had to take it - but to say it put a pall on the way I looked at my life is the understatement of the decade…and that led to a fifty-plus pound weight gain that I’m still trying to get rid of.

Like I said: Start-up isn’t for weenies.

Creating our Value Proposition: Targeting, Customization, Measurement

Product-Market Fit.

Oh, those words. Frankly, they can kill you…especially in the early stages.

There I was with an idea. And a market. And a product…sort of…because it’s the development, re-development, re-re-development and re-re-re-development - which doesn’t stop there…and that’s not even getting to the joy of pricing models.

The thing I knew was that whatever we produced, the content needed to be stepwise. With each step, people needed to see progress. And learn. And see their world differently. Measurably differently. Which means that, whatever we did, it had to be measurable. Hard measures. Soft measures.

And we weren’t going to create anything cookie-cutter. I was done with the idea of generalized training. I’d seen how useless and wasteful most of it was. What we were doing was going to have to go beyond “mass customization” to a level of individualization that would personally customize our product for each recipient.

And I wanted them to be able to use the information again and again - which is why the LeadershipQuantified resources are called Resources. Because that’s what they are - to the recipients and their organizations.

And with all that, I was still the lucky one - because I had clients who trusted me who allowed me to use them to beta-test every iteration we generated and gave me real-time feedback on how we were doing.

Product-Market Fit? Oh, yeah. We nailed it.

The Handshake That Started a Business Model

Early on, I had the opportunity to meet with Regina Cash, the (then) Director of Academic and Professional Programs from the (then) College of Continuing and Professional Education at California State University, Long Beach while she was attending a conference in Monterey.

As I’ve previously written, I’ve had a years-long relationship with the University - but this was my first time meeting Regina.

We scheduled the meeting between conference sessions so that we’d have a good-sized block of time to talk about what our respective organizations might do together. I brought collateral materials. I explained what we were doing and why I thought a University partnership would be beneficial.

I told her I wanted to start with Long Beach and wondered if she’d be interested. She was. We shook on it. We’d figure out the details later. And we did.

As a result of that handshake and the intervening years working with the team at what is now the College of Professional and International Education at CSULB, LeadershipQuantified also got the benefit of new technology for academic institutions: Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials.

That handshake was a win - no matter which way you look at it.

And with all that on my side, there was the other bit to live through.

The Down Side / Part 1: The Delays

If ever you decide to do or be part of a start-up, make sure you have people you love and trust around you. You’re going to need them.

LeadershipQuantified began as an idea in 2011, became a reality as a sole proprietorship in 2012 and was incorporated in 2018 with a portfolio of Resources that numbers near to fifty.

I can honestly say that the first couple of years were the most fun - even with the move to the States and the weight gain. In those early years everything seemed possible. Moreover, there’s this fantasy that everything will happen…fast.

It doesn’t work that way. Some things don’t happen - ever. And, no matter how many early wins there may be, they don’t happen fast. Or at least never fast enough…not if you really want to get things right.

One of the executive credos of Facebook is “Move Fast and Break Things.” That’s all well and good if you’re choosing not to worry about the consequences of what your company might be doing.

However, if you’re me and your whole goal is to make things easier and better for people who are spending at least a third of their lives in their jobs and are, generally, unhappy with things where they work, getting things wrong just makes things worse. That wasn’t going to happen.

From getting contracts written and reviewed to the negotiations with the people who would become LQ Experts, to the writes, re-writes, edits and more edits on the materials sent, to, then, putting those materials into what was an ever-evolving proprietary, step-wise methodology and finding the right technologies, and, and, and.

That’s what start-up looks like. Or at least that’s what mine looked like.

Now add in the egos and betrayals - because, of all the surprises I had, those were the biggest and most disheartening of all.

The Down Side / Part 2: Outsized Egos and Outright Betrayals

You know that thing where people you know say, “I’m going to write a book” or “I’m going to be a YouTube Influencer” or “Wow. My phone has the capability for me to - finally - make that movie I’ve always wanted to make. I’m going to do it” or anything else along those lines…and then they never do it?

Yeah. That one.

With too many people who truly surprised me, I found two consistent trends:

  1. They make promises they, ultimately, don’t keep - telling me all the while that they’re on it; they’re working it; it’ll be done soon. They promise.

  2. They were convinced that they knew better than me exactly what the methodology was and that they knew how to write to it.

Wrong. On both counts.

In both cases, the reasons were, ultimately, ego-driven. The first one fell into that “I’m going to write a book” trap…right up until the person realizes just how hard writing really is. Especially when it’s the kind of writing the LeadershipQuantified Resources require.

Promises made. Promises broken.

The second one came because, not only did they not realize how hard it was to write to LQ specifications (and never think we don’t have extensive editing and quality control at every stage) but because they were lazy. If they were going to write, they would write what they wanted the way they wanted - and then tell me that we were getting it wrong.

We weren’t. We aren’t. But it takes a particular kind of expert to be one of the LeadershipQuantified Experts - and that’s a small pool, indeed.

Then there’s the honesty question - and this one really threw me for a loop.

I’m an honest person. Mostly I’m that way because I’m a really terrible liar. Sadly, especially with people I’ve known and learned to trust, I think they’re honest, too.

Too many of them are not - and I wasn’t prepared for just how dishonest and disloyal some people are.

I’m not going to go into detail here, simply because I don’t want to put the energy into reliving all the betrayals I’ve faced over these years.

Instead, suffice it to say that, in that world of not-for-weenies, if you’re doing a start-up be more than careful about who you do business with. More than anything, be prepared to be surprised on the downside by people you never thought would do that…especially to you. Because they will and they do.

And even with all of that, there’s yet one bit more to the Origin Story of LeadershipQuantified - the most personal part of all, because it’s all about my Dad.

We’ll talk about that in Part 3 of the LeadershipQuantified Origin Story - and that’s next.

LeadershipQuantified - The Business Origin Story

by Leslie L. Kossoff

I’m not one for looking back, so when people ask me why I founded LeadershipQuantified, I’m not exactly sure what they’re looking for.

That being said, one of the things I’ve always found most important in working with my executive clients is to find out the “Origin Story” that led him or her to make the decisions being made.

So I’ve decided to use some of our time together on this blog to give you not only the Business Origin Story for LeadershipQuantified, but also insight into its evolution and why we became what we are. (That will be in other posts.) Throughout these posts you’ll also see where the core beliefs I wrote about came from…and why.

And with that, sit back and let me tell you a business story…

Origin Story 1: Something’s Wrong with This Picture

In my first year as a corporate animal, in my first career-oriented job, I was asked to sit in on a meeting with a consultant that my senior management was considering hiring. There were problems in the Receiving / Receiving Inspection area that were causing a world of problems further down the line and absolutely needed to be addressed.

(In a manufacturing organization, Receiving / Receiving Inspection is a key quality point as well as potential money pit if it blocks, slows or in any way negatively impacts production.)

At that time, the “initial” consultant costs would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - which, at any time, is still a chunk of change.

The thing is, prior to that meeting, I had been working with a Receiving / Receiving Inspection team to identify how they could redesign their workflow to make it more efficient, effective and, most important, predictable. 

The team had done an excellent job and had presented their findings to senior management - only to be told that there was a consultant coming in to ‘take a look’ and that, once senior management had met with the consultant, they’d make their decision about how to go ahead.

What senior management didn’t know when the consultant meeting was taking place was that the consultant had come in, talked to the team members and had as good as stolen their presentation. 

The team members had been so psyched about what they had done that they shared their presentation packet with the consultants - who took it, fancied it up a bit, added some (questionable) numbers, put their company name and logo on it, their background “bona fides” information and presented it to senior management…who hired them.

Before the hiring, I pointed out to senior management what had happened - including showing them a page-by-page comparison of the presentations. They told me, “It will be okay. The team will work well with the consultants.” They also told me that I should facilitate that happening.

“Yeah. Right,” I thought. “And what world do you live in?” 

What I told them was, “This baby’s going to bomb.”

I was correct.

What Happened Next

When the team realized what had happened, they became angry and demoralized. They also lost all faith in their management.

The consultant’s gig went forward, of course, and the changes were put into place - but, as is so often the case (I learned later), once the consultant was gone, the employees went back to the way they had been doing things before the consultant was there.

That’s right. Even though, in this case, the employees knew they would benefit from the improvements - after all, they were originally the employees’ ideas - they weren’t willing to make them on an ongoing basis. Why should they? What was in it for them?

What I Learned

I gained two important lessons (among many others) from this experience that remained true throughout my career:

  1. Most employees in most organizations already know the solutions to the problems the organization is facing. What they don’t know is how to present their ideas and solutions to management in a way that makes them want to listen.

  2. Management doesn’t know how to listen to employees with the respect for their knowledge and expertise that they deserve. Because of that, management misses opportunities and makes decisions that lead to higher costs and, far too often, exactly the opposite result they’re looking for.

Origin Story 2: Look What We Could Do!

During that same year (it was a banner year for learning), the State of California was going through some really interesting labor law changes that impacted recruitment and hiring. The laws particularly effected manufacturing organizations - of which ours was one.

The core problem for my organization was that we were no longer going to be allowed to pre-test for the specific manufacturing skills experience we needed. Why? Because according to the new law, if a company was going to train an employee in those skills, they couldn’t determine hiring based on a pre-test of those same skills.

After all, if the employee wasn’t able to perform during or after training, there was always the option of terminating their employment during their probationary period.

That was all well and good, but, we asked, how were we to offset the costs of ‘bad’ hiring if we were constantly churning employees through training, paying their salaries and benefits all the while - and hoping they’d do well enough to be kept for the long-term?

I loved this question!

Why? Because I’ve always been what’s known as a “front-loading” sort of person. The earlier the start on identifying and solving problems and identifying new opportunities, the better. (If you’re a Deming person, it’s called Zero-Staging…and more on that in a future post, too.)

I had the great good fortune to be invited to attend the meetings senior management was having with an attorney the corporation brought in specifically for this purpose. I wasn’t senior management - yet - but they knew I was somehow going to be involved.

I recommended (and the attorney agreed) that we look at other options for where we might find people with those skills. If we needed to pay for them, we’d look at quality and price of the provider (e.g., employment agencies). If the provider was there and, for some reason, didn’t need to be paid on a by-person basis, we’d also look at quality and price - as well as how we might work with them on some expanded, customized basis to address our needs.

Happily, we were able to pursue the second option - and it worked.

What Happened Next

The State of California has one of the most impressive Community College systems anywhere. At that time, the State was not only funding the Colleges, but also Regional Occupation Centers (ROCs) associated with the Colleges.

At those ROCs, unemployed, under-employed and disabled people were given the opportunity to develop skills that would lend themselves to the then current employment market.

Our organization partnered with three local ROCs and, working with their instructors, expanded their curriculum to include skills that were future performance indicators for our hiring needs. (The ROCs couldn’t, by law, be set up to address our specific skill needs.)

We also asked the instructors to keep an eye out for the “best” candidates.

In exchange, we provided ‘donations’ to the ROCs for their use. We also co-branded with them so that candidates would know that our organization was helping them in their future success.

What I Learned

I learned a number of things from that experience, including but not limited to:

  1. Not all attorneys are jerks. (I had had bad experiences prior to working with this guy so it actually made a difference.)

  2. If you’re working in an organization - whether you’re in HR or otherwise - you really need to have a basic understanding of employment law in your State. It makes a material difference to how you manage.

  3. Colleges and Universities can be excellent corporate partners - and not just for research grants or sponsorships.

Origin Story 3: We Spent How Much?!?

And still in that same year (like I said, it was banner), the first major project I was asked to do was analyze whether a supervisory skills training program the company had been using for the past three years was netting us any results. The program was up for renewal, had already cost the company over three million dollars (yes, $3,000,000) and, frankly, no one had any idea whether it had been worth it.

I loved this question, too.

Why? Because even then I had no patience for “cookie-cutter” approaches to learning.

During my university career (I collected a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Science before I was done), I had sat in on too many courses that were as good as being phoned in by professors who clearly thought they had better things to do.

Then, as I worked on outside projects with local businesses, I saw that the same thing was happening in training. People were forced to sit in courses for hours - or days - that had no connection to what they really did in their real jobs.

How could it apply? The trainers were training the same thing everywhere they went.

Even if the employees enjoyed the training, most of them would speak of it as a waste of time. After all, nothing in their real job was changing. They were being trained new skills or concepts that weren’t being implemented or supported once they left the training room.

But their work was still sitting on their desks - and, now, they were hours or days behind or had worked after training when they were supposed to be relaxing with family and friends.

This was not a win. I wanted to know if the same thing had been happening in my new corporate job.

It was worse.

What Happened Next

Not only had the company spent the three million, but lost productivity from the time involved accounted for what I estimated as between an additional ten and fifteen million dollars during that same period.

With no Return on Investment (ROI) at all - not even in morale. Particularly not in morale.

I performed a multi-variate analysis (my professors would have been so proud!) looking at measures from a variety of different perspectives. 

I used hard measures (quantifiable) and soft (attitude surveys, etc.). I looked at production, productivity and quality numbers in the areas for the supervisors who had been attending - not only looking at the time when they were in the program, but before and after. 

I compared numbers to other production areas - both manufacturing and white collar (because office type supervisors had to attend, too). 

No matter how I looked at it, this had been a waste of time and money. The contract was not renewed - and I got thank-you notes from supervisors who had and had not yet attended for making it go away.

What I Learned

There was some key learning from this experience that I carry to this day:

  1. Before initiating any training or development program for any level of employee, make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing - because if you get it wrong, you’ll only make people angry.

  2. Training and development needs to be customized to the needs of the individuals - not just the function or the organization. If the people participating don’t see an immediate win from what they’re learning (i.e., if they can’t successfully apply it in their real jobs), you’ve just wasted a lot of the company’s time and money.

  3. Training and development can deliver ROI just as any other investment in the organization. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.

Which Leads Us To…

…today.

I didn’t know it at the time, but each of these experiences had a measurable impact on me, my perspective about organizations and even how I worked with my clients. (One day we’ll talk about  consultants and “Planned Obsolescence” - but that’s for another day.)

If you look at the key descriptors of the LeadershipQuantified Resources content and components, you’ll see exactly how these stories eventually helped determine how we work and why we do what we do.

Each LeadershipQuantified Resource is:

  • Self-managed.

  • Self-directed.

  • Immediately implementable.

  • Measurable.

  • Repeatable.

Add our business model of partnering with Universities and the LeadershipQuantified Business Origin Story becomes perfectly understandable as it is manifest today.

Now, how we got here? 

Well, that’s a tale of the past seven years starting as I sat at my desk in my apartment in Paris, looking out on a dark evening and thinking about what could be…all of which we’ll talk about in Le Deuxieme Partie (Part Two).

See you then!

In Partnership With...

by Leslie L. Kossoff

One of my goals as I began developing LeadershipQuantified was to establish a business model that supported universities through their Professional and Continuing Education divisions. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

That’s why I’m so very happy to announce that LeadershipQuantified has established our first University Partner: The College of Professional and International Education (CPIE) at California State University, Long Beach.

There are both personal and professional reasons why I’m so pleased about this - but let’s start with the professional…because there’s nothing like going through the rigorous review process than having your materials assessed for acceptance by an accredited university.

LeadershipQuantified was founded on a set of core beliefs (I’ll write more about these in future, too). Specifically, we know that:

  • Employees have the majority of answers that their organizations need. They just don’t know how to make their cases in a way that resonates for management.

  • As a result, organizations hire consultants and coaches unnecessarily - leading to increased costs and severely reduced employee morale and innovation.

  • Learning how and what to measure in an organization is key to every employee’s - and every organization’s - success. The problem is, measurement techniques and quantifiable, implementation-based thinking methodologies are rarely included in developmental programs.

  • The role of the organization - both for employees and independents - has to change in order for organizations to have the operational and innovational capabilities…and success…they seek.

  • Every person deserves a satisfying and productive work life and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, goals and potential.

…and those are just a start.

Our core beliefs have driven what we do from the inception of the company. Now, with our University Partnership, we are expanding our reach beyond our previous markets to employees at every organizational level, independents, entrepreneurs, small business owners…and more…across all industries, sectors and geographies.

Which leads us to a bit more personal piece of this picture - specifically, why I invited CSU Long Beach to be our first partner.

Reputation and Relationships

When I first began my consulting career, one of my mentors recommended that I contact Cal-State Long Beach’s “Extension Services” to see if they would be interested in a Certificate Program on what was then a new concept, Total Quality Management or TQM.  (Now, of course, we know TQM as Quality, Lean, Kaizen, ISO and any number of other improvement initiatives and mandatory certifications that are all based on Japanese Management Techniques.)

As my mentor explained to me, “CSU Long Beach has a great reputation, they’re great to work with and you’ll benefit from their community outreach.” 

She was correct.

I had the great good fortune to meet with a shiny new Program Manager named Penni Wells, who saw what I saw in the possibilities for people’s growth. Happily, over the next 20+ years, we’ve worked on any number of developmental programs - all focused on helping professionals and their organizations succeed.

With that history - and their continued excellent reputation - I wanted CSU Long Beach to be our first partner…not least because I knew that if the LeadershipQuantified Resources weren’t up to their rigorous standards, we wouldn’t get the deal.

(I have to take a moment to thank Regina Cash, the former Director of Academic and Professional Programs at CPIE, for her championing our  partnership. We started with a handshake and ended with that partnership - and, now, Regina is an Associate Dean at Cal-State LA. Good job, Regina!!)

Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials

Which brings me to another benefit of our partnership with CSU Long Beach: Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials.

We knew that as long as LeadershipQuantified Resources passed their assessment, they would qualify for Certificates and Continuing Education Units (CEUs). But continuing education at CSU Long Beach was going further. They were adopting a Digital Badge system to enhance and increase the value of professional development programs for all their students.

I quote Penni:

The LeadershipQuantified Resources qualify as Certificate Programs through the College of Professional and International Education. This means they meet the depth and breadth of their subject areas as well as the number of hours required. For an individual to receive a Certificate, there are assignments, projects and/or other deliverables that must be successfully completed. The Certificate, itself, is a tangible representation of an individual’s having met the requirements, and includes the Student’s Name, College Name, Title of the Program and Date Awarded. Students often include them in resumes or reference them in digital applications.

Digital Badges are the online, graphic representation of the same thing - but better! They include the information on a Certificate and they validate and provide evidence of the competencies achieved by the learner. They are portable, connected to data provided by CPIE and can be attached to digital applications or online professional profiles, such as LinkedIn.

Digital Badges more accurately illustrate competency than a CV or a resumé. They specifically identify skills learned and concepts demonstrated - and access to viewing Digital Badges is available 24/7.

Digital Badging for non-credit programs is very new - CPIE is one of the first to award them. Those successfully completing a LeadershipQuantified Resource will receive a Certificate, Continuing Education Units and a Digital Badge.

Going forward, we will be expanding the offering to include digitally-awarded Micro-Credentials based on completion of associated Resources.

We couldn't ask for more in a University Partner - which brings me to why this model was so important to me from the first.

Individual Development and the Importance of Online Education

Society and corporations are at a crossroads.

In the past, there was a social contract that ensured ongoing employment by an enterprise that would allow employees to start - and end - their careers in the same organization.

It may seem that that was a long time ago, but, in fact, it wasn’t. The changes we’re seeing - but not yet addressing - in the corporate / societal contract began in earnest in the late 1980s with the earliest stages of “outsourcing.” But even then, it was more often the case that a company’s employees would be moved to the outsource provider than that they were simply let go.

As time went by and the world saw a few recessions and the near-collapse of the global economy (remember 2008?), it became easier and more profitable for companies to change their social contract - particularly with employees.

You can call it “side hustle” or the “gig-” or “shared-economy,” but we’re seeing more movement of people - and less organizational consistency - than ever before.

Lifetime employment, in most industries, no longer exists.

At the same time, the constant changes in the education systems around the world - moving to larger classes and matriculation based more on the ability to test well than to learn, think and apply - have been working against us.

The outcome? Organizations of all sizes, across sectors and industries around the world need the best people to succeed…but neither are they fully investing in their own people nor are they getting the caliber of people they need from the education system as it stands.

That puts everyone’s success at risk.

It’s this challenge that led to my goal of building partnerships with universities.

The more that we can create a virtuous circle of educational institutions, professionals - both employee and independent - and organizations…all understanding that they need each other to succeed, the more likely that success.

For LeadershipQuantified, I and our Experts are dedicated to providing the targeted, next generation learning that individuals need to succeed - no matter where they work nor what their relationship with the organization might be.

For organizations, we are dedicated to developing the leaders they need in a timely, implementation- and action-oriented way that is both visible and measurable. Immediately.

And, finally, for our University Partners, we are dedicated to creating a revenue source for our partner institutions that assists them in expanding in new, innovative ways to address society’s current and future challenges.

It’s a win all the way around.

Welcome to #LQ4U -

by Leslie L. Kossoff

For those of you who know me, it’s lovely to see you again. For those who are new to me, welcome. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

When all is said and done, no matter what the gig is or was, the given has always been that I’d write to and for my executive clients. In the days before blogs, I had the Kossoff Executive Advisory. Then, over the years, I wrote…and wrote…and wrote…for the blog on my consulting website, articles for magazines, journals and newspapers worldwide, white papers, books….

Why?

Because words matter. Communication matters. Connecting matters.

That’s why this blog exists. The difference is, it’s called #LQ4U because it is. For you. Whenever you need it.

From the moment I conceived the idea of LeadershipQuantified, I wanted to make sure we had as many ways as possible to help any and every person who finds their way to us.

Whether it’s working with and through our Partners, with you, directly, in our Resources, our Community - and, now, this blog - our commitment is to do our very best to give you what you need to develop into the leader you want to be - and that those you lead need you to be.

So, with that in mind, starting now - with this post - get in the habit of commenting, please. We need to know what you need so that we can do our very best to deliver it to you, here, and through all our various channels.

Once again - and, now, to you all - it’s a pleasure to be here with you.