All posts by Liz Stincelli

Building Your Team


Building Your Team

“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” —Mattie Stepanek

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


In order for a team to successfully achieve their goals, team members must be willing and able to share knowledge, experience, and skills in the coordination and completion of the work at hand.

        Building Your Team

So you have a project to accomplish. You are given a team with which to work. The question now becomes, how do you build your team so that, as a whole, you are successful? Here are a few areas that can impact the level of success your team achieves.


Working as a team towards shared goals requires collaboration. Collaboration must be built into the very culture of the organization. A culture where individuals are empowered to work together to accomplish more than would be possible when working individually. Collaboration provides a real sense of community. Successful collaboration requires clearly identified objectives and boundaries. Then, engaged employees should be allowed to operate freely within those boundaries. The most effective collaborative environments encourage team members to voice different perspectives, foster a spirit of cooperation, and develop strategic partnerships.


Cohesion provides team unity as a whole. Cohesion requires a sense of community and a shared vision to work towards. Create a team with the right mix of members where everyone serves in the roles that best fit their strengths. Team members should learn to empathize with each other. Members should be willing to share their knowledge and previous experiences to help others. Successful teams communicate and learn from each other.


Show that you admire the abilities and accomplishments of team members. Treat everyone with respect.  Develop mutual trust within the team. Respect your colleague’s ability to do their job. Remember that everyone has something to contribute. Bear in mind that the team succeeds or fails as a whole.


Give assistance and never leave anyone behind. Each team member must roll-up their sleeves and contribute to the work to be done. Make sure the team has the resources they need to achieve their goals. Help team members keep their eyes on what is really important. Develop a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and then support each other in those roles. Act as a mentor or advisor to those members who need additional guidance.


How well we work together as a team determines our success or failure at achieving our desired results. You cannot sit idly by and expect your team to succeed. Make a conscious effort and focus your energies on building your team.

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Are You Communicating Effectively?


Are You Communicating Effectively?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


Success in every area of life is dependent on our ability to communicate effectively. Communication is a means of connecting with others to convey information, suggest ideas, share thoughts, and express feelings. We often feel that we have communicated our message effectively only to find that the receiver has a completely different understanding.

        Are You Communicating Effectively?

Communication is intended to be a two-way process meant to result in a mutual understanding by all parties involved. A mutual understanding does not require consensus, but it does require that everyone has comprehended the message in the same way. Many factors contribute to the understanding that is derived from communication. Here are a few you may want to consider when you ask yourself if you are communicating effectively.

                Your message

Who is the audience your message is meant to reach is one of the first questions you need to ask yourself. It is important for each individual to feel like you are speaking directly to them. This may require different approaches for different audiences, even if you are sharing the same message. Use relevant, inspirational, and simple stories to illustrate the important points you are trying to make. Explain why your message is important. Verify that everyone has the same understanding of what was discussed, conclusions reached, and what is expected going forward. Be patient, if you want people to internalize your message, they must hear it multiple times.

Employees want to know where the organization is going, what it will look like when they get there, what difference are they making, why is it important to you, and why should they help you. Communicate objectives and expectations clearly. And, always be truthful.

                       Words and actions

Make sure that what you say and what you do are congruent. Others will only follow what you say if they see it is important to you by your actions. Say what you are going to do and then do it. Communicate authentically. Be fair, open, and supportive in your dialogues with others. And, most importantly, make it clear by both words and actions that you are available to discuss any concerns others may have. Remember, communication is a two-way street.

                        Connecting with others

Communication is all about connecting with others. Take a walk around the office and engage in conversations with those you work with. Make sure your message is designed to fit the recipient. Communicate at every level of the organization. Share a view of the bigger picture. Talk about the goals of the organization and ask about personal goals. Engage employees in conversations by asking questions and really listening to what they have to say. Let them be involved in formulating solutions to problems. Make sure that acknowledgement of the vital role that each one plays in the success of the organization is included in your communication.


The first rule of communication is making sure you are listening as much as you are talking. Employees want to be kept in the loop. Share with them where the organization is and where it is going. Connect with employees on a personal level. And, if you want them to believe what you say, ensure that your words match your actions.

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Six Ways to Enhance Organizational Structure- with co-author Doug Dickerson


Six Ways to Enhance Organizational Structure

The productivity of a work group seems to depend on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organization. – Ken Blanchard

When was the last time you took a hard look at the effectiveness of your organizational structure? While most organizations have one, do the people in your organization know it or understand it? The time may be ripe for you to take a fresh look at yours and consider these six ways to enhance it.

Empower your leaders

Regardless of what your present organizational structure looks like its functionality should empower its leaders. Successful leaders thrive in an organizational structure that fosters creativity, unleashes potential, and doesn’t stifle progress. This happens when less emphasis is placed on hierarchical structure and more emphasis is placed on empowering the right people in the right places. Empowerment elevates the performance of leaders and encourages behavior that earns the respect of followers. This respect allows leaders to build partnerships within the organization that encourage open, two-way communication and foster a sense of loyalty.

Give ownership

Ownership occurs within your organizational structure when there is buy-in from the bottom up and system wide. If ownership is not shared then the structure is self-serving and not empowering. People want ownership and sense of belonging to a great cause. Without ownership that can’t happen. Ownership holds everyone on the team accountable for their decisions and actions. In order for employees to take successful ownership of their work they must clearly understand expectations. They must also have milestones where progress is evaluated. Ensure that employees are serving in the right roles, give ownership, and celebrate their victories.

Expand borders

Organizational structures don’t define you, you define them. As such, your organizational structure should not be a document of containment but a blueprint of open boundaries to grow and succeed. It should not box people in but should free them to do what they do best. As your organization grows so should your structure but in a way that facilities your growth and not in ways that impede it. Provide employees with the opportunity to be more flexible about how, when, where, and with whom the work gets done. Employees want to be involved in designing and managing their work tasks. Offer employees choices and the ability to personalize work. Allow employees to share ideas and be involved in the implementation of these ideas. As you expand your borders, provide opportunities for employee growth and focus your energies on the results that really matter.

Think lateral

Employees need to have a level of control over their work tasks. A top-down organizational structure hinders the ability of decision-making at the lowest level possible. Decision making on the front-lines allows issues to be identified and addressed quickly. In a lateral structure, employees understand where they fit and how they impact the success of the organization. A flat organizational structure allows employees at all levels of the organization to be empowered and given autonomy over their work. This less rigid structure allows for flexibility and promotes a feeling of equality and inclusiveness. When lateral thinking is put into action it allows for swifter response times that can translate into happier customers, gratified clients, and a healthy bottom line. Lateral thinking is empowering, efficient, and very effective.

Build trust

The support needed to successfully achieve organizational goals is gained by developing relationships based on trust and commitment. The organizational structure can enhance or impede factors such as open communication, management follow-through, accountability, consistency, and concern for employee interests all of which foster a sense of trust. Therefore, building trust is a deliberate action, not something left to chance. It happens as relationships are given priority, it grows in an atmosphere of community, and it pays huge dividends when everyone is engaged. Without trust you have nothing. With it your potential is unlimited.

Find common ground

Employees prefer to work with others they see as similar to themselves. When the organizational structure provides an inclusive environment with common goals a sense of community is developed. Finding common ground helps in the successful pursuit of these shared goals. The organization must foster a shared purpose so that employees understand why the organization exists and why they do what they do. Finding common ground is a fundamental condition of your success. You need to define, share it, but most of all; your team needs to own it. Common ground is your path forward.

Does your organizational structure support the goals you trying to reach? The continued success of your organization is dependent on your ability to continually evaluate and enhance your organizational structure. You can enhance your effectiveness by taking these steps to ensure that your organization is ready to succeed in the 21st century.


Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker and columnist. He is the author of two leadership books. He is the director of Management Moment Leadership Services. To learn more visit

Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational structure. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website,




Do Employees Want to Be Motivated or Do They Want to Be Happy?


Do Employees Want to Be Motivated or Do They Want to Be Happy?

“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


Motivation provides us with our reasons for behaving in a particular way. Each of us is motivated by something different. If you can identify what incentives will motivate individual employees, you can use incentives, almost like a bribe, to get the behaviors you want.

How do we motivate?

If you want to successfully motivate employees you must first determine what excites them, what gives them purpose, and what they role want to play in the organization. Establish clear performance metrics with specific goals that can be measured. Be clear about the benefits and provide support. Communicate clearly, consistently, and often so employees know where the stand in relation to the goals they are pursuing. Provide positive feedback and compelling incentives. Make sure you are rewarding the right behaviors. Offer rewards for attitude as well as skill. Incentives can range from profit sharing, which gives employees a vested interest in the success of the organization to small rewards such as movie or dinner gift certificates. You can take an employee to lunch. Make sure you are celebrating organizational successes. Continually offer challenges to be met.

What does it look like?

Motivated employees work towards meeting organizational goals based on the desire to receive the incentives offered for performance. An organization where incentives are used to motivate employees operates with a defined system for determining what will motivate each employee, setting clear and measurable goals, and tracking progress. Employees successfully reach organizational goals based the rewards they receive for exhibiting desired behaviors.

A Culture of Happy Employees

Happy employees are more productive. Happy employees are also loyal employees. An organization with a culture that focuses on providing an employee friendly work environment will have employees who are inspired to work hard based on a love of their job.

How do we achieve it?

Employees want to be empowered, to be allowed to take ownership of their work, and to tackle challenges on their own. You must provide clear expectations and parameters for performance and then allow employees to have freedom and control over their work tasks. Allow for a degree of flexibility in when and how the work gets done. Employees want jobs that utilize their talents. They want opportunities to continue to develop their skills as they work along a planned career path. Provide a support system that helps with career planning and offers continuous training. An employee friendly environment offers perks such as a great benefit package, paid leave, flexible schedules, telecommuting, and educational opportunities. This type of organization encourages employees to have fun at work with parties, fun contests, and group charity work. These types of activities build camaraderie throughout the organization. And don’t forget to offer praise for a job well done.

What does it look like?

Money will not buy employee engagement or loyalty. When people are in the right roles where they are passionate and committed giving the organization their best efforts they are more likely to be happy and enjoy their work. Expectations are clear. Communication is open. Leaders are visible, supportive, and appreciative. There is a culture of continuous employee development. Employees find great meaning and satisfaction in their work. And, everyone participates in the celebration of organizational success.

What Do Employees Want?

So, the question is, do employees want to be motivated based on incentives or would they prefer an environment where they’re happy to work? To achieve results that are mutually beneficial to the organization and employees, a combination of incentives and positive work environment seems to be most effective. Employees like to have clearly defined goals and it’s always nice to know that there will be a reward designed specifically for you based on your motivation as an individual for achieving those goals. Employees want to feel valued and receive credit for their contributions. They want to work for an organization that is willing to help them continue to develop along a career path that supports their strengths and passions. And, they want control and flexibility in performing their work tasks.


Motivating employees is a valuable tool for achieving organizational goals but, don’t just throw money at them, give employees the opportunity to build a career in a job they enjoy. Organizations with a high degree of employee engagement consistently out-perform those with little or no engagement. Employees are more committed to the success of the organization when they are offered work that is interesting, they are communicated with, they feel engaged, they have control over their work, and their contributions are appreciated. Create a culture that offers incentives for reaching goals and provides support for the personal aspirations of employees.

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Stifling Employee Engagement


Stifling Employee Engagement

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” — Simon Sinek

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM

Employee Engagement

Employees want to be challenged, to have control over their work tasks, and have the opportunity to continue increasing their knowledge and skill set. When employees feel fully engaged they become emotionally committed to working hard in the best interest of the organization.

Are You Stifling Employee Engagement?

Do the employees throughout your organization know that they share in the success of the organization? If you want your employees to do more than just show up to work, you must consciously develop a culture that engages them in their work and shows appreciation for the contributions they make to the success of the organization. Watch out for these management behaviors that stifle employee engagement.

Unsupportive culture

Corporate culture affects performance and contributes to the social control that influences the way employees behave and make decisions. Culture bonds individuals together on a social level to make them feel included in the experience of the organization. Engagement must become part of the culture. When employees enjoy their work and the environment they work in they are more loyal, innovative, provide better customer service, and strive to continually improve the organization.

Out-dated view of work

In the early 20th century, Fredrick Taylor pioneered scientific management. This form of management focused on production and breaking projects into tasks. Employees could then be trained to specialize in a specific task. Taylor emphasized efficiency, control, and predictability. This view of leadership treated employees like instruments that leaders could manipulate. The focus of leadership was on the needs of the organization and not those of employees.

Times have changed; as employees become more educated and skilled, their desire to participate in the leadership and decision-making process increases. High performing employees expect the opportunity to participate and be independent. Your employees are the core of your product or service. They should find their work to be fulfilling and meaningful. If you want your employees to be engaged in their work, you should reevaluate and make adjustments to how you view work.

Lack of investment

Employee engagement requires the investment of resources to continually develop employee knowledge and skills. Talented employees want to continuously improve themselves. As a leader, you must focus on their development and offer them meaningful opportunities to contribute to the organization.

Lack of commitment

A culturethat supports employee engagement requires full commitment from management since that’s where the responsibility for employee engagement falls.Spend time helping employees succeed. Make sure you, as a leader, and your employees are committed to the right things.

Lack of inspiration

When employees do not feel inspired by those who lead them they will not be fully engaged in the organization. Employees are motivated by shared trust, values, and purpose. By developing and maintaining trusting relationships you can inspire individuals to collaborate, share knowledge, and contribute to the development of new organizational knowledge. Let employees know, through your words and actions, why they should work for you. Be a source of inspiration.


Employee engagement is dependent on commitment from management, a supportive culture, training, and empowerment. Provide employees with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to deliver a value that exceeds expectations. Remember that employees who are emotionally committed to the organization want to contribute. Give them the tools and opportunities to make the meaningful contributions that benefit them on and individual level and the organization as a whole.

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Do You Deserve Employee Trust?


Do You Deserve Employee Trust?

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” — Corrie Ten Boom

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM

The Role of Trust

Successful leaders provide energy and gain support for the achievement of organizational goals by developing relationships based on trust and commitment. Trust provides the foundation from which we build the relationships that allow us to influence others.

Do You Deserve Employee Trust?

Do your employees trust you to safely guide them through the dark tunnels? If the answer is yes they will be loyal to you and follow you willingly. If the answer is no you will be unable to lead successfully. Below are a few obstacles that you should eliminate if you want to be the type of leader who deserves the trust of your employees.

Lack of communication

When we feel like information is being withheld from us it is only natural to become suspicious and question why. When we fail to communicate with our employees it often leads to assumptions and fear. Your employees are more likely to see you as a trustworthy leader if you communicate openly. Be up-front with them about what you want for the organization and why. Include them in strategic planning. Share your vision for the future. Discuss how they fit into your vision. And, most importantly, make it clear, in both words and actions, that you are available to discuss any concerns they may have.

Lack of consistency

When you are not consistent your employees never know what they can expect and you prove to your employees that you are unreliable. Consistency creates a sense of stability and a stable environment is a lot less stressful than an unstable one. Provide your employees with a work environment that feels safe, stable, and where they know what to expect from you as a leader.

Unwilling to stand your ground

Employees find it difficult to trust and respect a leader who is unwilling to stand their ground when it comes to something they truly believe in. Show your employees that you stand by your principles regardless of the consequences. Exhibiting courage gives your employees insight into your character and character earns respect and trust.

Questionable agendas

When it appears to employees that you, as a leader, are participating in internal political games, they will perceive you as devious. When your employees feel they have reason to question your motives, words, or actions, you lose trust. Open communication and an intentional focus on avoiding political games will go a long way in being perceived as a trustworthy leader. Be authentic rather than manipulative.

Lack of concern for employee interests

If it appears to your employees that you only focused on your personal interests they will find it hard to put their trust in you. We trust those who we know are looking out for us. Show your employees that you are focused on what is best for the organization as a whole and that you have a genuine concern for them as individuals.


To be successful as a leader your employees must know that they can trust you. Without trust, you do not have the ability to influence others. Employees must see by the example that you set that you are deserving of their trust. Will they want to jump off the train when it gets dark, or will they trust you to bring them out safely on the other side?

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Barriers to Informal Leadership


Barriers to Informal Leadership

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

 By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Role of Informal Leadership

When we look at the ability of a team to perform well we can see that it is directly related to the ability of team members to share knowledge, experience, and skills in the coordination and completion of tasks. In a team environment, an informal leader has the opportunity to be effective at influencing the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of others.

Barriers to Informal Leadership

Informal leadership is taking place throughout your organization. The question is, is it to the benefit or the hindrance of organizational objectives? There are many barriers that can affect the ability of your employees make a positive contribution to the leadership of your organization. Some barriers are operational, others are cultural. Here are a few that are often overlooked.

                       Lack of understanding by management

Management can say they are in support of this new, shared form of leadership and go through the motions of adopting new departmental structures and implementing new procedures. But, are they truly embracing these concepts and assimilating them into the culture of the organization, or are they merely giving the illusion of encouragement for informal leadership? It’s great to talk about an empowering, engaging picture of leadership. But what is really happening out on the front lines? What happens when departments get restructured but nothing changes but titles? Employees become frustrated and lose trust in and respect for management. When processes change but no support is provided in the form of necessary information, resources, or feedback employees feel exposed and vulnerable. Soon, everything reverts to operations as usual. Nothing has changed. Management thinks they have addressed employee’s desire to play a more participative role in the leadership of the organization. Employees realize management is completely out of touch with how much they have to contribute if given the opportunity.

We have to start by educating upper management that informal leaders are impacting their organizations with or without their support. They need to understand the benefits that informal leaders offer their organization. What does embracing this type of leadership and empowerment look like? What does it feel like? Helping them to understand how the innovative ability of the organization is dependent on a collaborative culture that brings together critical skills and knowledge from throughout the organization and respects employees and their abilities to make meaningful contributions. Then upper management needs to listen and really “hear” why employees want the opportunity to be more involved in the organization. Employees are often educated, highly skilled individuals who expect to be provided with opportunities to participate in organizational leadership and decision-making. They want to feel engaged, to have a level of control over their own work, and know they are adding value.


Many smaller organizations started in someone’s basement and have operated with only one or two individuals at the helm for the past 20 years. In these situations we run into a couple of problems. First, these individuals usually never wanted to be leaders or managers. They wanted to be architects, landscapers, accountants, or contractors. The leadership responsibilities just came along with owning their own business. Second, they built their organizations from the ground up. No one knows the business like they do and they want it done their way. They find it difficult to give up power and control.

In order for informal leadership to operate with the support of management we have to address egos and get upper management to buy into the value of informal leadership to their organizations and the benefits to them personally. When upper management is struggling to relinquish the command and control they are comfortable with they need to redirect their energies to identifying and providing the information and resources that the employees on the floor need in order to use their personal leadership skills towards the attainment of the goals of the organization. Showing these managers that they still play a key role in this new leadership process makes the integration into the new culture a little less painful.

                        Structures and controls

Developing a balance between the systems and procedures that are necessary so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and allowing employees throughout the organization to participate in decision-making and leadership is a difficult task. The larger the organization, the more difficult the balancing act. The issue of developing an organizational structure and setting parameters and controls for employees to operate within might be the biggest operational barrier to encouraging informal leadership. To successfully implement the structural and operational changes required to support engaging employees in the leadership process takes immense commitment and coordination from management.

Every organization can take baby steps by implementing avenues for input and feedback whether they choose to adopt a culture that embraces and utilizes informal leadership to their benefit or not. These avenues can provide employees with an opportunity to offer both input into operational decisions that affect their work and feedback on past decisions. But, for this to be effective there must be follow-through on the part of management so that employees know that their input is taken under consideration and valued.


Over time, employees build up a powerful knowledge base gained from their experience. This knowledge base allows them to identify signs that a problem may be about to occur before formal systems are able to recognize it. This allows employees on the front lines to respond quickly if they are empowered to make decisions and act on behalf of the organization. Employees also develop relationships within the organization that are based on respect that allow them to influence the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of those they work with.

Informal leadership is playing a role in your organization in one way or another. It can be a great resource that can increase innovation, adaptability, response time, and morale, the list goes on and on. It requires a true shift in the culture of the organization which often difficult for upper management to embrace. But, if you’re going to do it, commit to it completely and dedicate the time and resources necessary to succeed.

The Killing of Employee Morale

The Killing of Employee Morale

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” — Henry Ford

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Importance of Employee Morale

We all know that happy employees are productive employees. Content employees are less likely to waste time their own time as well as that of their co-workers. They are more engaged in their work and feel they have a vested interest in achieving company goals.

        Are We Killing Employee Morale?

Morale can prove to be fragile. One poorly handled situation or unpopular decision by management can send morale spiraling out of control. Here are a few factors that can kill employee morale.

                       Lack of Communication

When we don’t have all the information, we fill in the blanks with our imagination. And, our imagination can come up with some pretty terrifying scenarios. Lack of communication often leads to assumption and fear. Communicate with your employees. Share the current position of the organization and the vision for the future. Discuss strategic plans and the rationale behind the plans. And, most importantly, communicate the vital role that each one plays in the success of the organization.

                       Lack of direction

Employees want to be part of a successful team. But success is hard to achieve when you are not sure what direction you are supposed to be going or what success looks like. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure employees have the direction and tools necessary to achieve success. Make sure employees have a clear understanding of the objectives that the organization is working towards. Paint an encouraging picture of what success looks like. It is your responsibility to serve as a facilitator. Help establish goals, set parameters, provide them with the information, resources, and the direction they need, then, get out of their way and let them find the best way to do their jobs.

                       Lack of a voice

Gone are the days of employees who are content to work, day in and day out, like mindless robots. Employees want to be heard. They want a say in how their organizations are run and the freedom to design their work, their way. Employees know what’s happening on the front lines. They know what works and have great ideas. As leaders, we must engage them in conversations where we ask questions and really listen to their answers. We must also involve them in developing solutions to organizational problems.

                        Lack of trust and respect

Relationships that are built on trust and respect are the mechanisms we use to influence others. If you lack the trust and respect of your employees, they will follow you by force, not by choice. Earn trust and respect by showing that you are committed to your vision and that your words and actions are congruent. Your character will show in the values you live by, make sure you choose them carefully. Always keep your word, be fair, and consistent. Show your employees that you genuinely care about each one as an individual. Lead by example. And, prove yourself competent but not arrogant.

                       Lack of acknowledgement

Employees want to know that they are valued and their efforts matter. By simply acknowledging that we appreciate an employee’s contributions, we create loyalty and encourage continued hard-work. Tell your employees thank you. Say “good job, the team couldn’t have done it without you.” Make an employee’s day by simply giving them the credit they deserve.


When morale is good, employees are more motivated, engaged, creative, and efficient. As leaders, we must develop healthy operating environments where we avoid morale killing behaviors. The skills and character traits that allow us to avoid these behaviors also strengthen our abilities as leaders.