Engaged Employees: More Valuable than a Pot of Gold

potofgoldSt. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. While leprechauns are chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, many of us are running businesses and using much more than luck to make the right things happen. At the foundation of what we do is our employees. These are the individuals who spend a majority of their time with us, interact with our customers, make decisions that affect our organizations and help us reach our greatest potential. They bring skills, talents, knowledge and, hopefully, passion to our places of work each day. To me, and many other business leaders, our employees are our greatest assets; our pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In order to truly benefit from these pots of gold, though, we have to have employees who are engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy employee. I want our employees to smile, to enjoy their everyday tasks and to work well with others. I also want our employees to be satisfied. I want them to feel fulfilled with their job tasks, to make a decent wage and to be generally pleased with their work environment. But, happiness and satisfaction are not enough – employees need to be engaged.

Employee engagement starts at both ends of the rainbow – with the employee, as well as the employer. It’s a commitment to each other that we all share the same goals and objectives. This commitment, if upheld, creates an environment where employees can begin to feel passionate about what they do and what they can offer. This lays the groundwork for engagement.

When employees start to become engaged they then become motivated to contribute to the organization’s success. They start to give a higher level of effort than what is required – what is often known as discretionary effort. Many employees are required to arrive at work by a certain time, to dress a particular way and to complete specific tasks related to their job. Discretionary effort is used when an employee goes above and beyond. It’s when they notice an issue and approach their supervisor with a solution. It’s when they work a few minutes later in the evening just to get a project done. It’s when they take the time to properly thank a co-worker for the help they received from them.

At first it may seem like a lot of work to create a culture where employees can be engaged, but in the end engaged employees will positively affect our organizations. Customers are sure to be happier, profits will increase and employees will stay committed. Jack Welch, former CEO at GE, has said, “There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

I encourage you to find a way to increase employee engagement in your organization. Doing so will create a path to the end of the rainbow and pot of gold filled with employees passionately helping you to achieve your goals and bring successes to your business.

Post Courtesy of: Melissa Marion, Director of Fund Development
Monongahela Valley Hospital


So you want to run for office?

Well so do/did I.  My Great Aunt was the first woman Mayor of Washington; a fact that I always say with great pride.  As a child learning this gave me a desire to also be a “powerful woman” in this community. For the past three years, I have worked in the public sector; and in those three years I have learned much about what it means to be an elected official, and I think I may have changed my mind.

My wavering mind is not because I don’t have the passion in my heart; it is the two questions I replay over and over again in my head:

“Do I have thick enough skin?”


“Can I do this to my family?”

Let me explain. Look past the election, where thick skin is a given, look to being in the position. There is a job that must be done after the race is won.  For those of you that don’t know or are not around Elected Officials the way I am, the level of scrutiny is high and time away from your family is even higher. I know my bosses hardly get a “night off.” They work weekends and travel all over this County and State to be able to get the job done. These people make decisions that touch many people’s lives, and often they are misrepresented in the media and scrutinized by all.  Their names are drug through the proverbial mud.  And yet, every day they get up and do it all over again. Why? Because their desire and want to make our community great and create change is greater than the burden they endure every day.

Elected officials have been given a great responsibility in our community and it’s not a golden ticket. It is hard work, taking hits from every angle, deciding where your moral line is and what you will sacrifice to stay on the right side of that line.

I was taught as a child that volunteering on a board, or running for public office in any capacity is our civic duty and the greatest way to give back and create change.    There are various different elected positions you could run for, from school board member to Township Supervisor to Commissioner or Mayor. All of these positions require a leader that will stand up for people and be their champion. This level of leader needs to have enough confidence in their abilities that the outside talk doesn’t make them second guess their decisions or break down their psyche.

To be an effective leader in the public eye you have to be willing and understand that you’re going to make decisions multiple times in a day that are going to have huge impacts.  And those decisions are going to make people either extremely pleased or extremely upset. You’re constantly going to have your morals and values questioned, and your actions will set the tone and pace in your community.

So, when I hear people say, it’s a piece of cake or they are being harsh and judgmental about a decision that was made or how money was spent; I want to ask them if they think it’s so easy why didn’t they run?  But we all know the answer to that; it is easier to judge someone from the sidelines and Monday morning quarterback them, than to take the heat ourselves. Playing the game is hard, but if you have the will and truly want to LEAD, you will find that even the small wins are worth it.


Post Courtesy of: Kathleen Bali, Director of Human Resources, Washington County

Good Leaders make Good Decisions

In the last 90 days 753 books were published on Amazon that focus on “leadership”. There is an entire professional development series on LinkedIn dedicated to “leadership”: thanks to their recent purchase of Lynda. You can improve your leadership skill by simply watching a few hours of videos.

So, I am calling the “yinzers of action” meeting to order, cause seriously we need to talk! Let’s cut to the chase it is impossible to be a leader without followers. Good leaders need to motivate, engage and empower followers. But, most don’t know how. In “Why should anyone be led by you” by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, define four qualities inspirational leaders share:

  • They selectively show their weaknesses.
  • They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and courses of their actions.
  • They manage employees with something we call tough empathy.
  • They reveal their differences.

The focus of this piece is the second quality. “rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and courses of their action.” Good leaders make “good” decisions. To drive the change, you wish to make you need to be committed that this change is worthwhile. To bring that change to fruition you’ll have to be able to allocate funds, times and energy required to persuade others to make the change.

By studying good leaders, one realizes that decision making is a skill. Good leaders understand that decision making is their job, and then make decisions professionally. They understand that a decision is a management event, a choice. Decision making is a process and good leaders have identified rules for making decisions.

The two elements which drive decision making are rational inputs and the irrational input. You are thinking who thinks irrational when making decisions. Allow me to give an example of the beauty of human irrationality – a person who has tickets to the Steeler playoff game this Sunday not scalping them for more money. While in Pittsburgh this may be viewed as rational decision if we applied economic rational inputs it is clearly irrational.

The arrival of a “change agent” at the door marks the need for a decision. Change agents are typically disguised as new job offer, a change in the market, or the development of a new competitor in your market. Fight the typical reaction of responding with an emotional decision which will most likely lead to a sub-optimal change when you are eye to eye with the change agent. Remember there are always two options, walk away (deciding to take no action is a decision) or act upon the change agent.

If you chose to act take these steps:

  • Write down the outcome this decision is supposed to produce.
    • Why put time and effort into this choice?
  • Aggressively list every possible choice that is available?
    • Force yourself to un-frame the problem
    • Here is a great example, Arco stressing price to end credit card use
      • Arco started by considering ways to increase use of its’ credit card and ended up killing their card.
    • For each option available, list the dependencies, the things the outcome is contingent on.
      • What events need to happen for the option to be “good’.
      • Identify any “sunk costs

The goal embracing decision making as a process and working to be great at that process. This allows leaders to de-emotionalize decisions and focus on the real pros and cons of the choices. This is important for leaders as their decisions are for the greater good not simply themselves. Smart decisions are not the results of “magical thinking”, they are the results of a leader embracing their ability to DECIDE.

Post Courtesy of: Dr. Stephen Whitehead, Associate Provost of Innovation,
California University of Pennsylvania


The Changing Face (and Age) of Leadership…

Millennials— born between 1980 and 1995 have overtaken baby boomers as America’s biggest living generation and according to recent studies, Millennials will outpace Baby Boomer’s in the workforce by 2020.  That said, as the generation continues to become the majority of the workforce, how will they change the way business is done?  How can multiple generations come together and build strong relationships for the betterment of an organization?

Knowing what Millennials are looking for in collaborating with co-workers or working with professionals can go a long way in making seamless strides toward generational integration.

When it comes to leadership styles, Millennials want to be transformational leaders who challenge and inspire others with purpose and excitement.  They also want to share the decision making process with followers, making more rigid, autocratic leadership a thing of the past.  So, it seems this “entitled, everybody gets a trophy” generation doesn’t really want the titles or the accolades.  They just want the job to get done—correctly, efficiently, and on time.  Doesn’t matter how it gets done or where the work is completed, as long as it gets completed!  In the workforce they have been called the 24/7 generation.  Have a doctor appointment at 1 pm on a Tuesday?—Go!, Want to go watch your child’s play at school?—Absolutely! As long as your job gets done, do what you need to do, when you need to do it.  The days of being in the office 9-5 everyday are all but gone for this generation.  And with communication as simple as it is today, why not?  Need to reach 5 of your team members—shoot out an email from your phone or maybe a group text.

There’s no doubt that the business climate will be changed by this massive generation, both as leaders of organizations and consumers of goods and services.  While I’m hesitant to consider myself a Millennial for several reasons (mostly the “everybody gets a trophy thing”), even though my birth year is 1982, it’s an exciting time to be a leader.  From being globally integrated, realistic, and collaborative, to media savvy and environmentally conscious, the leadership possibilities are endless for our generation.  We just need to embrace the opportunities and help to reshape some of the “old guard” thinking that was Beta Version 1.0— because let’s face it, we’ve already upgraded to V10.2 since you’ve been reading….


Post Courtesy of: Jacob Cuthbert, Financial Advisor, Waddell & Reed Financial Advisors



Right or wrong is as simple as black and white, right?

Right or wrong is as simple as black and white, right? Not so much unfortunately.  You either break the law or you are a law abiding citizen, correct?  You either live your life morally or you do not, that’s what movies try to make you believe.  Black or white, right?  Unfortunately, the law lives in the gray.  And so do the people who work in the judicial system.  From elected judges down to practicing attorneys to lay people, they are all part of the gray judicial system.

Laws were created mainly from popular morals.  You shouldn’t steal, because it is bad and unkind.  You shouldn’t physically hurt another human being.  You get the idea.  But people are not perfect.

The idealistic vision of the judicial system is one that executes justice.  The bad criminal gets caught by the heroic police officer.  The enthusiastic prosecutor intelligently displays his case and the wise judge sentences the bad criminal to what he deserves.  Justice is served! On to the next case…  But anyone who has knowledge of the judicial system too often knows that the system is not perfect, and the square outcome does not always fit perfectly into the round judicial hole.

But that doesn’t stop the wheels of justice from spinning.  Black or white.  Right or wrong.  The system keeps moving.  And well-meaning people keep doing their job, whatever that may be, day by day and that’s the only way the system can work.  The world is colorful.  People don’t fit into a neat little category, and they shouldn’t.  So why should the judicial system?

For a relatively small county of only a little over two hundred thousand people, Washington County handles a higher-than average  amount of criminal law, Protection from Abuse cases, child and spousal support cases, custody actions, divorces and adoptions, and termination of parental rights cases.  Due to the high volume of cases, the Washington County Jail holds, on average, three hundred and twenty inmates who are awaiting trial or have been sentenced within the Washington County judicial system to less than two years.

The truth is, it’s possible that one of those inmates in the Washington County Jail is serving time for a crime that he/she did not commit.  It’s likely that someone who has committed a crime has not been arrested yet, and probably never will.  That’s not justice.  That’s not what those who dream of being a lawyer or a judge dream of, but it’s reality.  Humans are the imperfect creatures who try to carry out the imperfect system of justice.  Black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, somehow these ideas end up getting mixed together in this world, and that turns out ok, because when you mix black and white, a little of each, you get gray.


Post Courtesy of: Jessica Roberts, Esquire, Neighborhood Attorneys, LLC, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, E-Mail: jessica@neighborhoodattys.com



Be a Cyber Security Leader in Your Industry

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month.  According to IBM, businesses are attacked 16,856 times a day and there are over 1.5 million cyber-attacks annually.  Despite this fact, your customers are still expecting their data to remain safe with you.  Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is always better than being reactive.  It costs a lot less in time and money as well.  Here are ten suggested improvements for cyber security.

  1. Require strong passwords: All passwords created by you and your employees should be at least 12 characters long with at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number and one symbol.
  2. Use different passwords for every account: About one-third of all people use the same password for all accounts. However, if one account is hacked, this leads to access to all other accounts.  Stop this from happening by using different passwords.
  3. Require encryption on phones with company emails: iPhones can be encrypted by adding an alphanumeric password to the phone. Android phones have an easy encryption process as well.  Protect work emails with encryption.
  4. Make sure that your computer is up to date: Ensuring that your computers have the latest updates and virus definitions is a first line of defense for security.
  5. Never turn off the firewall: Firewalls protect your computers from intruders. Make sure that it is always on.
  6. Implement a Security Policy: Create an office policy that covers the physical security of the office and the assets contained within in. For example, “When laptops are in the office, they should be attached to a large piece of furniture via a cable lock” or “The main door will be locked and always require an ID to enter”.
  7. Implement an Internet Usage Policy: Create an office policy that fully covers the guidelines for internet usage in the office. Most malware originates from social media, so you may want to consider disallowing Facebook and Twitter at work as well as personal email.
  8. Be wary of BYOD: Bring Your Own Device is becoming riskier for companies to allow because they cannot guarantee the employee is maintaining a company-standard security for the device.
  9. Do NOT connect to free wi-fi: Free wi-fi is never free as it is very easy for a hacker to retrieve information from.  Instead, use a VPN to connect or use your phone as an internet access point.
  10. Enforce the Security Policies: Train your employees on your policies and make sure that they know the consequences of ignoring them. People are commonly the weakest link when it comes to cyber security.

By implementing these ten steps, you are well on your way to securing your customer data.


Post Courtesy of: Stacey Ivol, President, Integrity First Technology Solutions, Inc.



What’s at the core of being a responsible leader?

“Trust is a leap of faith rooted in optimism.” 

It means giving away some control, which is easier said than done when you are talking to a bride and this is her most important day.

As a professional event planner, I often find myself the ring leader in a circus. I have learned to develop skills that are both confident and humble and maybe the most important skill is a willingness to listen and learn, being wiser than simply being caught up in the moment.

I have also discovered in my trials and tribulations that responsible leaders have a guiding purpose that enables them to focus their energy and activity, therefore knowing what distractions to avoid to get the job done. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days that I feel overwhelmed, but I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and step forward into the space and movement of any situation with an “I can and I will” mindset to impact situations and systems for the greater good.

Post Courtesy of: Tiffany Payne, Owner of Simply Exceptional Events

The Power of Perceptions

Kung Fu Panda, Confirmation Bias, The Dean Scream, & Negative Reinforcing Loops

“The secret ingredient of my secret ingredient soup is…nothing! There is no secret ingredient. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.”

explained Mr. Ping, mentor to Kung Fu Panda in the eponymous movie.  If we believe something is true, we look for data that confirms our belief, also known as confirmation bias.  If we believe washing our car makes it rain, we will take special notice, and angry umbrage, at those times when we wash our car and it rains.  And we will likely not take notice of those times it doesn’t rain on our clean car.  Our expectation causes us to look for reinforcing data.  Thus the power of expectations in the workplace.  If we believe an employee is a good employee, we will be more likely to notice actions and behaviors that reinforce our belief.  In the same way, if we believe an employee to be a poor employee we will be more likely to notice negative behaviors.

On January 19, 2004 in Iowa Howard Dean works the crowd at one of his rallies like a charismatic statesman, inspiring his followers with plans for the future, laying out his path to the white house.  At the end of his speech he let out an impassioned scream.  The crowd barely notices, but the press takes hold of it.  The sound bite is created.  The narrative is set to go along with the sound bite.  “Howard Dean’s temperament is an issue.”  With each replay the perception is reinforced.  Less than one month later he drops out of the race after leading the field just weeks prior.  The same thing happens in the stock market, with sports teams, in social groups, and in the workplace.  All it takes in the workplace is an employee or a manager to plant a seed of poor performance.  “Did you notice John’s performance has been slipping?”  The paradigm is set.  Suddenly John’s co-workers start noticing issues.  John feels the pressure, perhaps gets defensive, perhaps withdraws.  His performance suffers.  Once initiated, negative reinforcing loops take on a life of their own, and become extremely difficult to undo; especially in a highly-competitive and/or toxic workplace.

Perceptions are inevitable–and their impact is powerful.  Thus managing perceptions in the workplace is a critical skill.  As leaders we must ensure we’re creating a positive work environment by managing perceptions.

  1. Reflect on your own perceptions and biases that you have for your team members. Pay close attention to those with personalities and styles that are different than your own.  You’re more likely to view them as poor performers, when they may just have a different approach.
  2. Look for the best in others. When viewing other’s behavior, make sure you’re focusing on the positive.  Look for positive behaviors to recognize and reinforce in public.  Help set positive reinforcing loops.
  3. Share negative feedback in private. In general, always praise in public and criticize in private.  This allows for developmental feedback while still effectively managing perceptions in the workpl
  4. Look out for negative behaviors in others. Ensure you don’t have employees who are sabotaging the efforts of others through bad-mouthing and negativity.  Other employees can foster negative perceptions just as leaders can.

Earl Nightingale once said “Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.”  Let’s make sure they’re positive ones.

Post Courtesy of: Jeff Mikula, President & Lead Consultant, New Dimensions in Learning

LWC Recognizes Graduates and Honors Food Bank

On May 26, 2016, Leadership Washington County (LWC) honored the 17 community and business leaders who have successfully completed the nine-month long program with a graduation reception held at The Meadows Casino, racetrack and hotel in Washington, PA. Program participants range from leaders in health care, to banking, to individual business owners and to everything in between. Despite their differences in profession, they all completed the program with similar goals in mind: to grow professionally, as well as personally, and to positively impact Washington County.

2016 LWC class

The group wasted little time on the later goal as plans began last October to raise money and pounds of food for The Greater Washington County Food Bank as part of the class project. Over the last eight months, three LWC teams planned various fundraisers and food drives across the county while working in a friendly competition with their other classmates. In total, the participants of LWC donated $25,512 and 22,146 pounds of food to the Food Bank. At the graduation reception, the group held a presentation ceremony with Heidi Hoffman, Greater Washington County Food Bank’s Donor Relations Coordinator. Ms. Hoffman remarked, “The work and dedication this group of community leaders has shown is outstanding. They have gone above expectations and are a true testament to the good work that is happening in Washington County. We are grateful for this support”. In addition to the monetary, food and goods donated to the Food Bank, the group also spent a day at the organization volunteering last month.

The 2016 graduates of Leadership Washington County will walk away with more than a greater understanding of leadership, but with knowledge of our community and a network to rely on for years to come. Over 75% of the program’s graduates go on to serve on a local not-for-profit board and volunteer with various organizations. 2015-2016 class participant, Bob Rak Director of Finance for the Pittsburgh Opera said, “I joined the 2016 class of Leadership Washington County to be able to expand my network of colleagues and contacts in our community and I found that and a lot more.  I found an inspiring group of hardworking professionals that care about their community, grew my skills as a leader and communicator through thought provoking training, and learned of the challenges, opportunities and great work that’s being done in the community that I’ve called home for 17 years.  This experience, these connections and this knowledge will be an invaluable asset to me as I continually work hard to be a fully engaged member of my community.”

Graduation picuture 2016

Leadership Washington County is a nonprofit organization led by Jeff Fondelier, LWC Board President/Vice President of Operations at Community Action Southwest and Katie Unger-Chipps, LWC Executive Director/past Leadership Washington County Participant. It was formed in 1998 as a cooperative effort between the United Way of Washington County and the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. More than 230 leaders have graduated from the program since its creation. Applications for the 2016-2017 class are currently being accepted at http://palwc.org/.


Welcome to Leadership Washington County!

My name is Brett Clancy. I am a local attorney. I currently serve as Vice President on Leadership Washington County’s Board of Directors. On behalf of Leadership Washington County and its Board of Directors, I would like to welcome you to our new website/blog. In the coming weeks you will be hearing from some of the other board members about what leadership means to them. Thereafter, we will be publishing blog posts from some of our partners in the community. We are excited about the direction our organization is taking. We have a board that is passionate about our mission, an Executive Director with the ability to carry out our plan and, more importantly, a community deserving of what we hope to achieve.

In creating this blog we hope to give you some insight into what leadership means to those behind the scenes and those who have successfully completed the program.

Be inspired.

My inspiration is simple. Family. In my own mind I have always been a leader. At every stage in my life. As will happen in life, sometimes we realize we really did not know what inspiration does until we become parents. That is what happened to me. I have two sons. I have a vision for the kind of men I want them to grow up to be. My boys will look to me for guidance as they grow into the men they will become. I choose to lead by example.

Be involved.

I have acted on my inspiration by getting involved in those organizations about which I am passionate and in which I truly believe. Since coming to this community, I have served on two different boards (Leadership Washington County and Mental Health Association of Washington County) and I am very active in the Washington County Bar Association. I take my duty to my community very seriously. The vision I have for my boys depends on it.

Be a leader.

I read somewhere the job of a leader is to engage hearts and minds, equip with essential skills, execute with discipline and energize for greatness. Virtually every decision I make with respect to my family, my profession and my involvement in the community is derived from my inspiration, my desire to engage the hearts and minds of my boys, equip them with essential skills and energize them for greatness. My boys will look to me for guidance as they grow into the men they will become. Through my inspiration and through my involvement, I choose to lead by example.

Leadership in a family, in a community or in the work place cannot be overstated. The foundation of any of these can only be as strong as its leaders. Our mission is simple: To educate and inspire leaders through synergistic partnerships and civic management, promoting a healthy and prosperous Washington County community. Our vision consists of cultivating bold and accountable leadership, serving as a robust resource and fostering economic growth and sustainability throughout the community. Over the years we have done just that and moving forward, with the wealth of quality individuals living and working in Washington County we are confident we can continue to do so for many years to come.

Post Courtesy of: Brett Clancy, Esq.