John Crnokrak & Associates

How to be


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Michael Novak made this comment years ago which I truly “buy into” totally. He said, “Middle managers are the chief community builders; the main trustees of the integrity and moral practices of the company.” In fact he added: “They are the moral and intellectual spine of the organization.”

Over the last couple weeks I have been fortunate to work with a dynamic group of management personnel who are very bright, very focused and for the most part committed to making a major difference in all of the lives of those they lead and are responsible to.

I reminded them they are the steward of their companies resources! When taking responsibility for an assignment (in fact it’s often, in the form of a business plan to be achieved), I reminded them they need to possess the skills to analyze and assign accurately daily, while interacting with those they lead.

The importance of assigning accurately is so leaders can figure out a successful way to achieve the desired results and in the process develop a team that can make it happen. Or stating it in another way: leaders need to whittle the expectations down to manageable pieces and leverage each member of the team up to their optimal performance.

To do this and to do it well, in the context of today’s demanding marketplace, leaders must be able to demonstrate success not only as an individual but also within the context of their ability to recruit, retain, and inspire a team of talented people. Naturally, this requires a deep understanding of the leaders personal mission, within their own “big picture”and have ability to reflect objectively and results. As I tell every executive leader I work with, when we know ourselves, we will know how to lead!

Leaders need to learn as quick as possible how to check their ego.  Let’s face it we all have egos. Some are healthy, some are not. So if and when we choose to lead, and if it is our goal to hone our calling into positive and even great leadership, it is important we understand the health of our own ego and its effect on the team. Ego is defined in dictionaries as self-awareness; egotism, as conceit. Egocentric people tend to view everything in relation to themselves as opposed to the group/team.

So never forget when we take on the responsibility of leadership, we must stay firmly rooted in our values and principles and know what obstacles we must overcome in order to lead our team in as straight a line as possible to meet the results wanted, planned and expected.

John Maxwell said it very eloquently ,”The first step to leadership is servant hood.”as an individual who emphasizes connections between self and organization, between listening and understanding and between language and imagination. Servant leadership places a leader at the nexus, rather than at the pinnacle, of change.

In all my years of leading people I have come to one adamant tenet, the key to becoming an influential and a inspirational leader starts with having a strong confidence in our own abilities. Naturally before we totally can achieve self-confidence, we need to first understand our personal values and goals, and we must have a personal vision. I’m convinced people like to be around a leader with a personal vision, especially if they can integrate the vision into the teams work and engage people in it.

Enough for this blog, hope those of you that are reading this, got something out. John


To really have or make a change; we must question ourselves. Ask questions like: * Are you weatherproofing too much? * Are those you lead a team; or are they a group of rivals?

A successful team needs three (3) things: Leadership from all levels and all directions…Personal motivation and empowered employees on all levels and all directions, being accountable. Striving to satisfy “internal and external customers” through ongoing collaboration and understanding of each others expectations.

Today in these times I believe “We must change the way we change.” Life has no limitations; only the ones we make for ourselves! Are you striving to maintain an “action oriented” environment that focuses on ‘results’ through ‘measurable’ objectives?

We humans act out of “self-interests” so as a leader how are you striving to “link” individual and organizations goals? How aware are you that those you lead “take on the attitude and emotion” of you? How careful are you of what you project daily?

In closing, keep in mind; “to change and change for the better” are two different things. How do you introduce change into your culture? How effective is your style? Are you aware that ‘hearing” just happens; “listening” is a choice?

So as a leader are you possibly allowing ‘complacency to hinder your vision and thinking? Never forget, “if we change our questions we will change the experience.” Last, are you truly prepared to “care about caring” for all those you lead? Enough for today…

Good luck, John




The old Chinese proverb says: “Life is an echo-what we send out comes back.” Shortly (9 days) it will be 53 years of marriage for me, and being part of the work world for 55 years, I’m convinced we need to learn how to “NOT” react automatically or be judgmental in our day-to-day interactions with our family or work environment peers.

I believe the key to happiness in our personal life and career endeavors is to “seek understanding” in our conversations and interactions with others. In fact, I suggest considering:

* To determine what you can do to make the relationship work; then do it!

* We need to demonstrate respect and kindness to those we work with and communicate, whether we think they deserve it or not.

* Do not expect anything in return immediately.

* Do not allow anything another person says or does (no matter how annoying) to affect you. Just DO NOT take the bait!

* Be consistent and persistent with your kindness and feelings. Often we have a tendency to give up too soon, especially when others do not respond as we had hoped they would. Just continually remind yourself NOT to expect much in return.

* Be able to differentiate yourself as a person who cares truly about striving for understanding in any relationship.

* Listen your way into conversations with a genuine commitment and you will never have to “talk” your way out!

* Be willing to take a stand when necessary for your own or your team members success and survival.

* Strive to have the ability to handle challenges/issues with being defeated.

* Also, never forget; “It is not who we know, It’s how we truly know them.”

In closing, never forget the relationships we create are so very critical to our success. Thus, it is important for each of us to “take full responsibility” for a relationship. To do this effectively, it requires us to treat people with the “dignity and respect” even if others around you don’t feel they deserve it.

At my stage in life I’m convinced 80-85% of personal satisfaction comes from “meaningful” relationships. So just strive to be proactive, creating action…plus…relationships…than deliver results!

I wish my readers continued success…John


Are You Possibly Masquerading Now In Life?

In my continued role as an executive coach I meet people who I feel are waiting until the ‘closing portion’ of their career paths or life realizing it was a masquerade. Have you been fortunate enough to “drop your mask” and address the issues you face?

Are you ready to believe more in yourself and look within to believe you can make a difference and make a change; and making an even more positive change in the dynamics in your career and life?

As a leader, are you willing to create a ‘difference’ between the “traditional manager” and the professional who is a “true leader” in a people driven culture organization?

Leaders committed to differentiating themselves from the rest have a vision/goal, to become focused more on “measuring” the development of those they lead. This is accomplished through individual and team coaching. How are you measuring your team development?

The reality of our success is; we have to give our “attention to our intentions.” Are your intentions to be open, sincere, and provide honest dialogue for the future with your team members? Only you know and can make that happen!

Never forget; those we lead represent an opportunity to inspire, not a burden to carry. So,what we do will have a direct impact on how we feel about ourselves. What are you doing presently?

The quality of any leader cannot be judged by the “answers” they provide, but the “questions” they ask. Good luck, John

July 15, 2015

To my readers and leaders, do keep in mind: “We can’t all be good at everything and shouldn’t pretend that we are.” However if we were there would be ‘no need’ for teams!

We all need to continually as leaders, place a high value on people, and in the process make a sincere commitment to the development of your team members and the people in your organization.

As a leader always measure your expectations; “measurements eliminate arguments.” Inspect what you expect, because people ‘do’ what you inspect.  Best wishes as you “lead others” to success….John

Leadership is a Privilege—Leading others is a privilege with great responsibilities.

Those of you leading a team today and embraced the opportunity and challenge should appreciate the impact being significant within your company! But be certain to keep in mind, the responsibility expands beyond the walls of your company.

How do you think those you lead would feel if they knew their leader felt it was a privilege to lead them? How different would their interactions be with you the manager/leader? How would this impact your contribution to the team, department and the company? How would this influence you the leader to do your best work and maximize your potential?

Hopefully those of you reading this blog will think about these words presented today in this memo of leading being a privilege, and in the process grasp that being a leader is more than a job or a multiplicity of mundane tasks. If you believe it is a privilege to be a leader, then you should be striving to “inspire, involve and reward people in positive and productive ways.

Leading others is certainly “more than a job”it is an opportunity to leave a legacy that cannot easily be forgotten. That to me is a real privilege! Good luck, and keep leading with a passion!  John

How Do You Handle Fear? June 15, 2015

Everyone today knows and feel fear.I’n not addressing the fear of terrorist attacks, but fear in all its many variations. Many people will tell you, “fear” is ones constant partner, a daily nemesis and to many people a continual and at times ultimate challenge.

In my coaching of executives i continually experience that fear fuels their negative and judgmental thoughts; and their need to control things. Fear underlies shame and guilt as well as anger. Each difficult emotion we face represents some sort of threat; whether to our self-esteem or to the strength and stability of a relationship (professional or personal). Also,threat translates to many fear!

Although fear is a major influence in everyone’s life, it is NOT always negative. I have personally found fear many times to be a positive mechanism aspect in my life to give me added incentives, especially when I was an athlete. There are plenty of times fear can be magic for some people; it has been for me.

Sometimes fear is definitely part of a problem and sometimes fear is the problem. And I have found fear to be many times for me part of the solution. Fear is part of our DNA I have been told, and it too is a built in  alarm system. It is there to usually get our attention or lead us in one direction or another, usually out of having to face a crisis situation.

There are some basic steps for us to transform our relationship with fear: FACE IT-EXPLORE IT-ACCEPT IT AND RESPOND TO IT.  When we face fear, we eliminate the barriers from any negative thoughts that create us to hid or not face reality. Exploring it means we turn and walk toward a contentious situation and fearing anything. Accepting it, is contrary to misconception. It doesn’t mean we agree with the fear of that we like it. Responding too neurotic fears is what it is all about. But our ability to change our responses is the foundation of the first three steps.

I can’t remember who said this, but it is so true: “To conquer fear is the start of wisdom.” Goods luck, I enjoyed sharing this with you. John



How Do You Break Self-Defeating Habits?

A Jesuit priest told our class in college we all have a tendency to be slaves to our habits. He also said, there is certainly a way out for everyone. He said, simply defined, a habit is a repeated way of doing something…of thinking, acting, feeling, responding and so on.

What I’ve learned is that beneficial habits, such as finding right procedures and abandoning wrong ones is always available to us. There are harmful habits, such as worrying about tomorrow and meeting daily challenges with negative reactions. What I learned early in life is; all harmful habits can be broken! And really there is no exception to that principle. We can, if we want, empty our lives of destructive habits, just as we might empty a pail of unwanted junk.

In my coaching of executives, I remind them that habits are result of our conditioning; meaning, they were acquired through association with others with the same habits. Habits are usually picked up by imitating other people or by following their example.

There are a couple ways we can conquer unwanted habits. One method is to attack the habitual desire with a new desire. If we want to stop smoking we must introduce a new desire that is contrary to our desire to smoke. In doing so we need to encourage the desire to save the money that we would’ve spent on cigarettes, and show our friends how strong and determined we are, while in the process improving our health.

But a more effective way is through the powerful idea of “non-identification.” Which means we break the habit by ceasing to identify with it further. What I’ve learned is to identify with the habit means that we take the habit as our self, but we are not the same thing as our habit. If we have the habit of wearing a certain color jacket, we certainly are not the same thing as that jacket; we are merely wearing it for a time. Likewise, we are not the same thing as our habit. In essence, we and our habits are two entirely separate things.

So I’ll end this brief blog with reminding anyone who reads it, that we not fight our unwanted habits, we need only to focus and eliminating them. I challenge everyone to move forward in their life mastering a positive power/thinking process. Too many times we all have the tendency to think loosely, mechanically, without designed purpose. And in the process, we fail to realize our mind possesses dozens of self-serving powers such as attention and flexibility.

So start now to take time to evaluate your habits and especially those you feel are creating a destructive situation in your life. And as you move forward learn how to dissolve destructive habits. We all need to realize that habits are merely conditioned attitudes! Try having an adventure for yourself and learned that through adventure is self-discovery.

All unwanted habits can be replaced with beneficial ones. Effective immediately work hard not to identify with an unwanted habit. Keep in mind that it is something merely acquired; it is not a part of the real you. Good luck and best wishes. John

ARE YOU A CATALYST LEADER? Saturday April 4, 2015

Throughout my years in the corporate world I remember vividly how I started out in the same places everybody else did, without superior information, capabilities, our customer contacts. But I believe I set myself up immediately to differentiate and move forward to accomplish extraordinary things. I realized early that it was counter intuitive to what many manager/leaders I reported to have been taught.

I realize by the time I was 32 if I wanted to be a catalyst and differentiate myself as a future leader, I had to succeed by freeing myself from the shackles of business-as-usual thinking in my company. After observing many people, I realized to be distinctive I had to stand out for what I “didn’t do” as opposed to for what I did. I just wasn’t afraid to be transparent, share my thoughts and realize that stepping outside the box was positive.

How many of you leaders today may not agree with me, but I believed by recognizing and cracking the growth code that was standard within the organization, and that internal factors were more of an impediment to growing a business than market conditions or competitors. Naturally there wasn’t much I could do about market conditions and the behavior of the competitors, but I did realize I could do a lot to navigate within our own organization more successfully. Even though most organizations did not make it easy for one to do this.

When I was with Westinghouse Electric in the early 70’s I realize there were two seemingly natural and logical impulses that were somewhat barriers and created gridlock growth. The first was a well-recognized and almost reverential faith in the power of data and analysis. The other was a deep-seated distaste for anything small. Together in my opinion the self-inflicted wounds I felt could be toxic to growth.

I wasn’t one that would worship at the altar of analysis. And naturally in a top Fortune 50 organization in the country I realize organizations were designed for stability. And stability that dependent on rigorous collection, analysis and use of information. In this type of environment managers I worked with who knew how to wield information, how to analyze, validate and justify the use of corporate resources would ultimately succeed. Proceeding without solid data without the analysis to back up an idea was a corporate sin.

What I learned was there are limits to the power of analysis. Exploring new growth opportunities always involved making decisions under conditions of uncertainty; raising the challenge of how to take data from a known past and connect it intellectually to an unknown future.

After four years I left the ultra-powerful corporate environment. Westinghouse was a positive experience and certainly a lot of evaluated experience that I would not use in most situations. I saw too many professional doubters within the corporation using data, and their theories about some not yet existing business managers creating phony numbers based on extrapolations from the past plus various predicted divergence. And of course the game began.

My point, everybody involved knew the game being played so they would deal with their fears and demonstrate their savvy by cutting the projections as they pass by. By decision time somehow, the opportunity did look “big enough”to move the needle more. And to me that was and continues to be a big problem in many organizations, because the second sin in many organizations is being small.

People running big organizations today, or even small ones for that matter, like big ideas. This makes sense. Limiting the number of initiatives under way increases headquarters ability to monitor, prioritize and sustain a clear focus. I am certainly not saying I am totally correct, but I saw thinking that felt if an opportunity is big and obvious chances are somebody else had already seen it. Also, another reality was people (customers, in particular) are terrible at envisioning things that do not presently exist. Yet another reality was if one insists on home runs, chances were they never got many singles (or many home runs). Last, when the ratio of resources invested got too far ahead of knowledge possessed, bad things usually happened and heads rolled. I saw it throughout my career years.

What I am conveying in this memo is I saw managers being vulnerable and on a less than successful path in a doomed quest in pursuit of the truly “big idea” the one that would move the corporate needle. These types of approaches dismissed opportunities well before their potential could be reliably assessed; thus making learning almost impossible. Also it discouraged trying, and almost guarantees that failure would be painfully expensive and highly visible. If you research Westinghouse today they are totally a different corporation than in the 1970’s. They are a mere shell of what they were in the 70’s.

I visioned myself as a catalyst leader and did not adhere too much to the obsession with analysis and size. I was a risk taker willing to commit to some unnatural thinking and acts. I certainly did not reject the idea of data itself. I knew learning did not occur without information, I just believe in getting it another way. My team used predictive data up top a point and then we strive to seek real data from the marketplace.

In essence I felt initially “small” could be special, as long as our business did not stay small for long. I was a believer that some of the ideas we were working on could become “needle movers” with a disciplined learner mindset whose team established milestones and identified key uncertainties. I made it a objective to teach all I worked with and lead that, “the monkey was not on their back, it was in their head.” I was somewhat of a maverick yo might way; I did not have the “mother may I” mentality.I felt I was hired to make decision and deliver results and learn quickly to get over the thinking that “every move must wait” for an approving nod from corporate.

So to “crack the code” quit complaining about the monkey on your back and worry more about getting rid of the one in your head. The decision “isn’t management thinking differently…it is YOU” Remember most managers are taught to think the “corporate way” to seek certainty and accuracy and rely on data and predict. I’m going on the limb with this statement “I believe that most organizations often push their managers in the directions that make growth riskier than it needs to be.

I had several “monkeys” in my office in my days and would subtly remind those manages who reported to me to “chunk the junk” and get the monkey out of their head, and deliver solutions and results with their team members. Enough for now…John

Are You a Confident Leader?

Confidence is being observant and even quiet at times. It is a natural expression of our ability,expertise and self-regard. Confident people take a stand, not because they think they are right, but because they are not afraid to be wrong. They feel comfortable discussing issues and other challenges.

Confident people do not mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is more important than being right! Confident people/leaders often admit they are wrong or do not have all the answers’ whereas intellectual bullies never do.

Confident leaders know how to ask for help. They are better listeners and can easily give the credit/spotlight for others to shine; they know how to be a ‘follower” when necessary. They also can think, “why not me” knowing that accessing opportunities is being proactive and makes a big difference in the outcome of a situation.

Confident leaders/people are not afraid to make mistakes, or even look foolish at times. They also never demean others, and certainly “own” there faux pas (mistakes). Without exception, these leaders are continually striving to “earn the trust/respect” of others, no matter what they try and where they go. In simple terms, they do everything with confidence.

So as you lead your team to “greater reach objectives” keep in mind eliminating the ‘dysfunctions’ of your team; which are: ABSENCE OF TRUST—FEAR OF CONFLICT—LACK OF COMMITMENT—AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY—ABSENCE OF RESULTS, will pay major dividends for you and your team.

In closing, as a leader, keep in mind that; how we manage our own and other’s emotions in the workplace, will have a major impact on job performance and job satisfaction. As we continue to lead others it is essential to measure people’s “actual” performance rather than their self-reported skills, and emotional problems in solving tasks.

Good luck and best wishes…John