My Business Journal Article: 10 ways to foster employee engagement


Employee engagement, like the word leadership, gets overused.  What is it?  What are the results?  And, most importantly what are specific actionable ways to increase engagement are all covered in my latest Business Journal article 10 ways to foster employee engagement.


How Smart Strategy Can Move your Business Ahead (Part 2)

The-100-Title-OnlyThe second in a series of two posts

Last time I shared how values are a key part of any company’s competitive strategy. This series of posts is inspired by my new book, “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.” Today I’ll delve deeper into the role of values as a strategic tool for building a strong team and giving your company a competitive advantage in the process.

After your company has clearly identified the values that set it apart from competitors, you should begin articulating your values internally on a regular basis. Don’t be like Ole in the old Ole and Lena joke:

Lena: “Why don’t you ever tell me that you love me Ole?”

Ole: “I told you I love you the day we got married. If it changes I’ll let you know.”

To be authentic, people and companies need to articulate what they care about early and often. At Intertech, we have devised the following value statements, which are posted on signs and regularly included in our employee newsletter:

Attitude: Each day we choose our attitude. Attitude is contagious. For others to be positive, excited and inspired we must be so.

Commitment: As a team, we deliver. We demand more of ourselves than others could ask.

Excellence: We’re committed to providing a world-class customer experience that results in world-class customer satisfaction.

Words are important. Words in action are powerful. So find ways to make the words describing your values mean something tangible, then sit back and be amazed. That’s what happened at Intertech when we created the ACE program. ACE is an acronym for our values and it’s how we make our values comes alive every day. The program encourages team members to nominate fellow team members who are “caught” living one of our core values.

ACE nominations are included in our weekly newsletter. Four times a year, we host company-wide meetings in which employees who either nominated someone or were nominated themselves, have the chance to win gift cards through drawings.

Once a year we host the ACE awards (sort of like the Academy Awards but without the tuxedos, champagne or George Clooney!). ACE award categories include: Top ACE, top ACE nominator, and top Rookie ACE (the newest employee who received the most ACE nominations).

It might sound silly to outsiders, but being called an “ACE” at Intertech means a lot to our people. The results: increased camaraderie, satisfied customers, revenues that consistently exceed expectations and very low employee turnover.

There are countless ways to recognize and reward employees who embody your company values. Doing this, with the full support of senior management, will communicate volumes to employees about the importance of company values while helping keep them alive as a powerful force within your organization.

Next time: Strategy and Goals: You can’t have one with the other!

How Smart Strategy Can Move your Business Ahead (Part 1)

The-100-Title-OnlyThe first in a series of two posts

Mention the word “strategy” and many leaders will respond with a silent groan. Few like to discuss it, but “strategy” can feel like a 700-pound organizational elephant. Some of us struggle simply to define it. For some, “strategy” is just a fancy way to describe a daily “to do” list. Others use in-depth research studies and highly paid management consultants to map a strategy to guide their company’s direction.

Intertech takes an approach somewhere between these two extremes, which I’ve detailed in my recent book, “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”

For us, strategy is an amalgam of our values, brand promise, and goals. This involves:

  • Gathering input from key stakeholders in an organized way
  • Having a clear process for making decisions
  • Measuring goals
  • Ensuring alignment

My next series of posts will peel the proverbial strategy onion (no tears here!). I will share not only my philosophy about strategy but also provide practical tips on using strategy to move your company ahead of your competition. Let’s begin today with the value of values.


Values are like an invisible hand guiding interactions between customers, employees and vendors. They’re most effective when they are clearly defined and consistently reinforced. If you’re not sure which values are most important at your organization, I recommend using the “Mars Group” exercise created by business expert and author Jim Collins.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick Mars Team: Ask your employees to identify a few colleagues who best represent what they believe are your company’s core values. The idea is that these select employees could go to Mars and easily recreate your company’s culture.
  2. Describe Candidates: Next, ask everyone to write down the three adjectives that they believe best define the people they selected for the Mars mission.
  3. Select Common Values: If your experience is anything like ours, similar values will pop up again and again. We found that at Intertech, the most common values were “positive attitude, commitment to delivering, honesty, teamwork and professional excellence.”

It was gratifying to learn that our employees strongly believed that these five rock-solid values best reflected Intertech’s culture. According to Jim Collins and other business experts, however, company values are most strategic when they differentiate your company from competitors.

So we took another hard look at our values and determined that the first three – attitude, commitment and excellence – truly set us apart from competitors. These are the three values that we selected to consciously emphasize internally and externally (although employees remain honest and consistently work well together!).

Next time: How to use values as a strategic culture-building tool.

Thoughts from The 100: Defining the Purpose of a Business

The-100-Title-OnlyIn previous posts, I provided practical “tactical” tips for providing leadership that helps employees to achieve their potential and for ensuring that your business (and that of your clients) thrives. Today’s message is broader, but ultimately the most important: Know what matters!

Ever heard the maxim, “If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything”? This is true for people and organizations. Without clarity around core beliefs and purpose, we can be blown off course by the latest fad, or, worse, start to think that we and our efforts do not matter.

Before I founded Intertech I worked for a large information technology company in the Twin Cities. My manager told me not to worry about putting in extra effort because the company was so big there was no need for any one employee to shoulder any additional effort. That was the moment I found my purpose. I knew I wanted my efforts to matter. Intertech was founded quickly thereafter.

A company’s core purpose should be clear and unchanging. Intertech’s purpose is “to create a place where people matter and where our clients’ businesses are improved through technology.”

In my next series of posts I’ll examine “Outsmarting and Out-planning the Competition with Strategy.  

Learn more about in my book “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”