Leveraging People and Profit: The Hard Work of Soft Management

What’s an “Altrupreneur”®?

Bernie Nagle has been a student of “engagement” in the workplace for nearly 40 years, primarily in manufacturing environments, either as an executive or as a consultant.  He is also co-author of the book, Leveraging People and Profit: The Hard Work of Soft Management, where he coined the term “Altrupreneur”.

Leveraging-People-Profit-Altrupreneur3Nagle describes an “altrupreneur” as one who conducts the affairs of an enterprise with conspicuous regard for the welfare of others, builds communities that produce value for all the organization’s stakeholders. This new breed of leader responds to the needs of the organization and the demands of people coming to the workplace and marketplace.  The manager who can balance the people and profit factors has the best chance of succeeding in tomorrow’s corporation.

MeritShare co-founder Travis Pearl first connected with Bernie on Linkedin and recently conducted this interview.

Tell us about yourself?

I have both experienced and observed the phenomenon of engagement as an employee, manager, senior executive, consultant, author, speaker, business owner, and facilitator.  

I started consulting back in 1995, after 22 years in the Food Industry, when the company I worked for was acquired. At that time I was VP Manufacturing for a $2.0 bil. company, responsible for 7 plants  Instead of moving to Europe with the acquiring company, I took the “package” and went to outplacement. It was at that point I decided to begin writing my book and go out on my own.  After consulting and speaking on my own for a period of time, I was recruited by PriceWaterhouse Consulting and I worked for them until I was recruited by one of their clients to lead a global business process improvement initiative in 13 locations in 9 countries.  

Break it down for us Bernie

 My experience has taught me some simple truths about people in the workplace:

  1. The vast majority of people are fundamentally good; they want to do a good job, improve and grow

  2. Everyone is really good at something

  3. The greatest motivator in the workplace is believing at the end of the day that what you did made a positive difference

  4. People and Profit are not mutually exclusive business choices

Enlightened leaders know these truths intuitively and act accordingly, with integrity and respect.

Why did you start your consulting/training company – what is your mission?

My mission was then, and remains today, “Ubertas per Beneficium” (Abundance through Service).  My goal is to establish a covenant mentality of mutual service in the workplace, through whatever means of evangelization is at my disposal.  My most fervent wish is to get back to being able to support myself financially doing this work full-time as an independent operator or as part of a larger training/consulting firm.

Explain the meaning of “Altrupreneur” – how did you establish that term and what does it mean to you?

The word, Altrupreneur ®, is an improbable union of the words, “Altruistic” and “Entrepreneur”. An Altrupreneur ® is a transformational leader who understands a simple, underlying principle of human nature:

“Engagement, trust, loyalty, and followership, are inspired by the leader’s willingness to value and serve ‘the other’.”

I wanted to create a word that communicated a workable middle-ground meld of the attributes that make for a successful entrepreneur, as well as those of a genuine altruist.  These were the traits I had observed in successful manager/leaders who had the ability to truly engage people in the workplace and elicit discretionary effort, innovation and enthusiasm.  These special leaders had keen business sense and a nose for the bottom line, and at the same time, were people of high integrity, uncommon empathy, and genuine concern for the welfare of others.  In other words, they held others in “high regard”; hence the frequent references to the creation of a “high regard” work environment.

If you had to provide three leadership principles around servant leadership, one sentence each, what would they be?

Leadership Principle #1   Leadership exists only through the voluntary gift of follower-ship

Leadership Principle #2   The gift of followership is given for their reasons, not yours

Leadership Principle #3   You can neither know nor engage their reasons unless by your actions you embody a spirit of humility, respect and service for others

Your website states that Altrupreneurs ‘create “virtually free” new sources of Competitive Advantage in a sustainable world, please explain?  

The lack of engagement in the workforce has been demonstrated repeatedly in study after study.  It is no longer an area of speculation, with some studies estimating as high as 70% to 80% of the workforce actively disengaged.  This group falls into the “quit and stayed” category.  It has been my contention, as I stated emphatically in my book nearly 20 years ago, “the greatest waste of assets in all organizations is the untapped creativity and innovative energy of an engaged workforce.”  Your competitors may outspend you in every asset category, but they cannot buy, nor can they match the creativity and innovation of a team of energized workers.  That enthusiasm and innovative energy cannot be forced it cannot be coerced and it cannot be bought…it must be led.  People do things for THEIR reasons, not yours.  The enlightened, servant leader is uniquely able to connect with the workforce where THEY are, with an interest in THEIR needs, and ignite that enthusiasm and innovative energy on behalf of the organization.  This is the next frontier in sustainable competitive advantage.

What are the most important traits, attributes for Enlightened Leadership?

  • Integrity

  • Humility

  • Regard/Respect for others

  • Competence

  • Optimism

  • Communication

  • Enthusiasm

What companies do you admire the most?

There is a company (literally a few miles from where I live) I recently got to know, and had a chance to interview the president, Stuart Watson.  The company is named Truline, and they make bearing housings for super high-tech applications, like aircraft fuel pumps.  Stuart and the company owner have created a Servant Leadership culture as genuine as any I have ever witnessed in the last two decades.  When I was researching my book,  I had the privilege to speak to some of the giants of the Servant Leadership world, like Max DePree, Herb Kelleher and Art Wainwright, and I will tell you this company is no less impressive. 


We thank Bernie for his time, insights and advice.

If you would like more information on Bernie, please visit his website  Altrupreneur.com


The Best Definition of Employee Engagement:

In this first MeritShare article on employee engagement, we start from the beginning and look at how employee engagement is defined.

Wikipedia references the Scarlett Surveys definition and says: “Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform is at work”.  This is significantly different than job satisfaction.

However, outside of Wikipedia there are divergent views on how to define employee engagement.  My personal favorite is from Kevin Kruse at Forbes who says:

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

In order to represent the full spectrum of opinions on how to define employee engagement,  I picked 10 thought-provoking articles.  Let us know your thoughts below and if we missed any you think should be included or if you have your own definition in the comment section below.

1.  Best Definition of Employee Engagement Ever


JT wrote what I think is the best definition of employee 2engagement ever in the comments on People I’d Like to Hire: When they are there, they are there.

2.  Refining Definitions of Employee Engagement – Sustainability


Our sustainability consulting challenges traditional definitions stakeholder engagement. The Forbes article, What is Employee Engagement breaks many of the traditional views of internal resource effectiveness.

3.  Employee Engagement Definition


Shuck and Wollard study the evolution of the term “employee engagement” across 140 papers and synthesize a possible consensus definition.

4.  Defining Practical Employee Engagement | RAPIDBI


Defining Practical Employee Engagement The term Employee Engagement has been prolific over the past few years but what does it really mean? How can we use this.

5.  How to define employee engagement in just 6 words


Employee engagement is more than surveys and assessments – it’s about how team members experience their work environments.

6.  Consultant’s Desk: Terms of Employee Engagement


As a student, I find myself frequently using Google to discover the true definition of these terms, and I have observed many of my classmates using the term “employee engagement” synonymously with employee happiness

7.  All Things Workplace: What, Really, Is Employee Engagement?


The definition of Employee Engagement: “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”. That makes

8.  50 Shades of Engagement


I know how *I* define employee engagement. But I think you already know that too. So, I asked you — the employee, the average joe, the thought leader, and the social strategist, an eclectic mix of professionals..


9. Why Your Employee Engagement Survey Isn’t Paying Off | Switch


One of the biggest issues with employee engagement is that there seems to be as many definitions of engagement as there are people on the planet. In the absence of a standardized definition of engagement, it is absolutely

10.  Workplace Presenteeism Redefined – TalentCulture – World of Work


In terms of a definition for employee engagement there are many, but I have typically used something close to the following: “An intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels


Don’t forget to let us know what you think below and if you have some time, check out MeritShare and see how you can both measure and improve your employee engagement with peer-based recognition.

Employee Appreciation Day

Happy employee appreciation day! Employee appreciation day first showed up in 1995 on calendars. According to SHRM’s “WeKnowNext” blog, Dr. Bob Nelson started the holiday on the first Friday in March, with the first edition of his book “1001 Ways To Reward Employees”. WeKnowNext says:

Dr. Nelson didn’t just want March 1st to be the only day of celebration, he says ” employees should be valued all year round, especially when they have performed well, but the first step is raising awareness about the importance of recognition on the part of every manager Employee Appreciation Day has helped serve that purpose”.

One of the best ways to drive awareness and motivate action is through a great visual based on data. Travis Pearl, co-founder of MeritShare thought it would be fun to provide a data visualization of employee appreciation day, so he created a real-time heat map that shows thanks and recognition given on MeritShare’s network. You can see the real-time heat map for the US here.

MeritShare’s appreciation heat map is a data visualization demonstrating the future of employee recognition: data-driven, real-time, and shared. Peer-recognition has already democratized recognition; we are now taking this one step further by using the metrics from this activity to measure engagement and performance. Just like democracy is powered by votes, engagement should be measured by action. MeritShare has a recognition index that companies can track their performance over time and against averages by industry and peer groups. I believe the future of recognition will become more data-driven with metrics that can lead to decisions and action. Online recognition also allows for instant recognition, the more timely the better. Web-based systems also make sharing of information easier, this along with the increasing transparency giving company recognition the opportunity to leave the corporate firewall and swim in the social media streams and world wide web.. Not all companies will let their recognition hang out, but some will. In fact, many of the companies that use MeritShare want the world to see their peer-based recognition shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in to help them with their recruiting efforts.

With this heat map created by my co-founder of MeritShare in honor of Dr. Nelson and employee appreciation day, I see the future of employee recognition: democratized, data-driven, real-time, and shared.

Let’s turn up the heat on recognition, you can get started on MeritShare instantly and at no charge.

Five HR Tech Themes to Turbo-Charge Your Company Culture

Company culture is often thought of differently depending on who is in the discussion.  Leaders and executives think of culture from a forward-looking perspective; to leaders, culture is something explicit and a goal they are striving toward. Employees think of culture from a historic perspective; to individual contributors, culture is something implicit and is more of a reflection on how the company has reacted to past situations.

Both perspectives share a common thread though, both are action-based and impacted by results.  If company leadership has a vision for their culture and continually executes and acts in alignment with that vision, employees will take note and their perception of company culture will merge with that of the leadership team.   Shared missions, shared challenges and shared accomplishments will build on each other and reinforce that culture over time.  Teams that experience more missions, more challenges and more accomplishments together will be stronger and deliver better results.

We’ve experienced a transformation in the workplace over the last decade in regards to product design, manufacturing and software development.  Missions, challenges and accomplishments used to be attached to multi-year product development cycles or huge infrastructure investments to support future company initiatives.  Today, thanks to Rapid Prototyping, Just-In-Time Manufacturing and Agile Software development, we are seeing the mission, challenge, accomplishment cycle-time decrease from years to months and months to weeks.  The challenge to organizational development and human resource professionals is to find ways to translate that rapid cycle-time in product development into a rapid cycle of shared mission, shared challenges and shared accomplishments to strengthen and turbo-charge your company culture.  Good news, technology can help.

Five HR Tech Themes To Turbo-Charge Your Company Culture:

Theme #1 – Foster Real Time Collaboration through Private Social Networks

Systems like Yammer, Rypple and HipChat let your teams share challenges and accomplishments, then quickly broadcast them across the organization.  Soliciting feedback, sharing accomplishments and asking for assistance in real time across your company creates a ‘heartbeat’ in your workforce and will get everyone involved in helping the team move forward.   Think of it as your turbo-charged company newsletter – 140 character ‘team updates’ posted constantly, throughout the day, to keep everyone informed of exciting news in your organization.

Theme #2 – Promote Transparency With Wikis

Embrace Basecamp, Confluence or Sharepoint to get teams to post more in-depth status updates about what they are working on along with mockups of what is coming next, specs of how the product or service might interact with other teams in the company and timelines of upcoming launch dates.  Think of this as your turbo-charged company meeting – growth curve charts, product roadmaps and revenue projections to let everyone in your company know how each team is contributing to the common company mission.

Theme #3 – Collect Frequent Individual Feedback with Performance Management Tools

Use systems like Trakstar or Success Factors to shorten the cycle of employee performance management feedback within your teams.  If you are releasing features every week, try soliciting coworkers for monthly feedback on their peers.  Getting consistent feedback each month from coworkers makes feedback much more timely and meaningful and reinforces the ‘move quick’ mentality of constant professional improvement.  Think of this as your turbo-charged 360-review process, moving from annual feedback to monthly feedback to speed up performance improvements in your teams.

Theme #4 – Solicit Monthly Company Feedback with Online Surveys

Use a system like TinyPulse or SurveyMonkey to poll your employees regularly for feedback on how your company is doing against its company initiatives.  Keep your survey short, 6 questions or less.  Ask questions to ensure your employees have the tools to do their job, a positive environment in which to work and a culture that promotes risk taking and innovation.  As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Think of this as your turbo-charged employee satisfaction survey – if you used to run it annually, try it quarterly – if you used to run it quarterly, try it monthly – see what happens.  Show your employees you are as agile as they are when it comes to making changes to improve company culture.

Theme #5 – Encourage Peer Recognition To Make Everyone A Leader

Use a system like MeritShare to let your coworkers recognize each other for workplace accomplishments.  Top down management is declining in favor of empowered functional teams; you need to be working to give everyone in your organization the power to act like a leader.  A great way to build leadership qualities in your staff and celebrate successes is to implement a peer recognition program.  The magic of peer recognition is that each action benefits three parties; the giver feels like a leader, the receiver feels like a winner and the observer (who sees the recognition) is motivated to emulate that same action so they are recognized next time.  Think of this as your turbo-charged employee recognition program – why have 10 managers be responsible for recognition when you can have 100 employees do it and build their leadership skills in the process?

We hope enjoyed our Five HR Tech Themes To Turbo-Charge Your Company Culture.  If you have any other themes you think we left out, please leave a comment and we’ll try to incorporate it into a follow up post.


Goals + Feedback = Motivation: An Interview with HR & leadership expert Bob Mendonsa

Several weeks ago I read a great blog post titled Steve Jobs on HR: do HR people really suck?  The article was written by HR and Organizational Development expert Bob Mendonsa.   I noticed Bob was located in Bellevue, near MeritShare’s Seattle headquarters so I quickly fired off an email to Bob asking for some time to meet and get this thoughts on the importance of employee engagement and recognition.

So we met for coffee and in one hour I was able to get a lifetime of wisdom and advice from Bob who runs an HR consulting firm and is the former Chief Human Resource Officer at Radia, SVP of Human Resources at Captaris, and VP of the Organizational Change Group at NeoPost.   Bob has done work for a lot of great companies, including T-Mobile, RSA Security, Nextel, Morgan Stanley, Pitney Bowes, Vegas.com, McKesson EFCU, University of Washington, Swedish Medical Center, and the Marriott Foundation

Here are couple of nuggets of HR advice we learned from Bob today:

  • Try to provide recognition that is spontaneous and in the moment, smaller but more frequent interaction is better.
  • Engagement surveys are a laborious process, try to break them down into a more digestible pieces.
  • Employees want to feel like they are making a difference, so explaining your company vision and values are important drivers of engagement and commitment
  • Focus on data-driven approaches to HR solutions

He also had some great one-liners ready-made for Twitter:

Question: Do companies need a business case to justify a recognition program?

Bob’s Response: “Companies that get it make intuitive decisions first, knowing they can get the data later to measure the results”

Question: What are your thoughts on Employee Engagement?

Bob’s Response: “Goals + Feedback = Motivation”

We recognize Bob by awarding him a MeritShare thought leader award and thank him for taking the time to guide us on MeritShare’s mission to give people the recognition they deserve.

You can follow Bob on Twitter @thehrdifference and The HROD Blog.