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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Put Systems In Place

Leaders put systems in place and when Steve Hoffman of Modern Postcard wants to work on improving systems, he has brainstorming sessions with small groups of employees.

Key Question:


As always, actions speak louder than words. As important as it is to engage in dialogue with your employees as part of your interaction with them, it is just as important to have a formal process for soliciting their input.

Remember the “suggestion box” that was so common years ago? The concept of the suggestion box coupled with the exchange form of communication is a powerful combination. There are a number of ways to engage in this dialogue, brainstorming sessions certainly are an effective means. Collaboration is popular now that the Internet allows people to engage from multiple locations. Whatever the process, the important thing is that you have one.

Think about it

What formal opportunity do you provide for your employees to offer ideas, constructive dissent and challenges to the way you are doing business?

Clip from: Leadership with Keith Grint

Truly exchanging ideas is a starting point for leadership.

The World: Meet Prof. Dr. Keith Grint.  In this episode, he explains why we are so frustrated with the leadership who dominate the headlines. He makes it clear that it is time to turn away from the selfish people and look to each other to find the heart of real leadership. 

Dr. Grint says that having a vision is certainly a starting point but that the "vision thing" has been overrated. Anybody can have a dream or a picture of how they want their world or their company to look but very few are good at putting the plans in place then taking action on those plans to turn the vision into reality.

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Modern Postcard, Inc.

Steve Hoffman, CEO

1675 Faraday
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Visit our web site:

Office: 7604317084

Business Classification:
Printing, publishing

Year Founded: 1996

Put Systems In Place

HATTIE (In the Studio): Dr. Grint is leaning hard on the arrogant because he is convinced that business is an environment that has in the past rewarded arrogant behavior. We agree, but we also know many company founders who are humble, soft-spoken and kind. Steve Hoffman's patience and focus have attracted loyal customers and employees. See for yourself what a self-effacing leader can do.

STEVE HOFFMAN: Fortunately we started with technology first. When we went to Modern Postcard, the only way that we could do it was to have everything internal be digitized. Everything was digital from the very beginning with Modern Postcard.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Steve Hoffman is founder and owner of Modern Postcard. He has 250 employees who produce over 100 million postcards a year for some 150,000 customers. Steve explains some of his techniques for managing the explosive growth.

STEVE: The way that these work is that each person that comes in to do a brainstorming session, basically, can have an idea.

Unidentified Employee: So we can just repurpose a lot of the existing content that we have.

STEVE: (Voiceover) Then you can start to use the group method in terms of understanding how it all goes together and get buy-in from everybody within a very short period of time.

HATTIE: This is based on something called?

STEVE: The Theory of Constraints.

HATTIE: OK, and what does that mean?

STEVE: The theory of constraints is a system. It's basically a thinking process system in terms of how we think and how we -- how we can pull a lot of different, very complex ideas and concepts together into a single cohesive thought that everybody understands.

STEVE: First of all, I think that business is actually pretty straightforward, very simple. You're there to serve the customer. It's not about greed. It's not about...

HATTIE: The big car.

STEVE: ...big cars. It's not about the complicated formulas. You're really there to serve the customer and, and really to put them before yourself.

HATTIE: (In the Studio)So, don't worry if you're not dynamic and bubbling with charisma. Dr. Grint says it is the leader who can install systems to get things done who will make the greatest impact over the long haul.

DR. GRINT: Benjamin Franklin is not a charismatic creature, but he's also extraordinarily good at getting things done. And that's about taking decisions, taking risks, getting things to work, and engaging other people in those activities. You don't need to be Gandhi or Jesus Christ to get something done. You just need to take a leadership position. So I think if I was to end up with a kind of positive framework, it's to forget some of these concerns about whether I have the 25 characteristics that I need to have to be God's gift to business.

You might think you're charismatic, but if nobody else does, you're not charismatic.

On the other hand, if you don't think you're charismatic, but everybody else does, you are charismatic. So there's an argument about whether charisma is something which people have as a possession, a personal characteristic or competence, or whether charisma is an attribute, it's something which followers give to particular leaders.

Two quite different ways of thinking about charisma, sociologically most of the early work on charisma came from Weber, Max Weber. German sociologist beginning of the last century. His argument is that there's actually very few and far between charismatics around at any time. Charismatics for him are really quite superhuman. They're very unusual characters. They have very unusual qualities. They come at the time of crisis. They offer followers a resolution to a long standing problem and they lead in the sense that charisma is something which encourages followers to lead without coercion. So as far as Weber is concerned, charisma is the only non coercive form of power, because followers follow charismatics because they want to not because they have to.

But why would you want to be more charismatic. What makes you want to follow somebody who is charismatic, and one of the concerns about charisma is it seems to me to relate to a notion of irresponsible followership. In that sense that I'm talking about irresponsibility, it's about hoping that this charismatic is gonna solve my problems for me. So I'm no longer responsible for solving these problems, because somebody else is going to do it and that's somebody who's charismatic and that's why I'm following them. So if things go wrong, they're to blame.

HATTIE: So what are we to think at the end of this book about our own potential? The thousands and thousands of students that are studying this book. Do we all have potential for leadership?

DR. GRINT: Well, I think everybody does have potential for leadership. I think everybody is a leader and will become a leader at some point in some time. You don't have to be in a position of leadership to demonstrate leadership. By and large the organizations that seem to me to be the most successful in the long term are full of people who are leaders. They're not all designated as leaders, but they're all doing leadership things.

RAY KASHIMOTO: Every machine, every part along the way. Every, every little thing has to be perfect.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) At Record Technology by listening to customers the employees together came up with the company's best selling product.

PETER METCALF: It makes our customers when they come in here.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) At Black Diamond, owner Peter Metcalf depends upon the team to make things work. Unknown Employee: So we will have something real good to test.

DONNA BAASE: What are you -- what kind of feedback are you getting?


HATTIE: (Voiceover) At Cowgirl Enterprises, groupthink is a priority. And at KMP Internet, many heads are considered superior to one.

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