Leading Blog



04.23.14

How to Find Leadership Blindspots

Blindspots
Blindspots. Those problems that are right in front of us that we fail to see. We all have them not because we can’t find them, but because we don’t look very hard.

In Leadership Blindspots, author Robert Shaw make this important observation: “Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot.”

Shaw suggests that not all blindspots are bad. Some may actually protect a leader from doubt. For instance a certain confidence may “push him or her forward in the face of uncertainty and adversity” to “see what is possible beyond what a realistic assessment would suggest is sensible.” Yes, but…. I would talk about it differently but eventually arrive at the same place.

To me a blindspot is a blindspot and needs to be uncovered. Once uncovered it can be managed in some way. An uncommon confidence in your approach to uncertainty may serve you well and if recognized and understood it is no longer a blindspot but an approach to life that is managed. Any blindspot puts distance between you and reality. A small deviation may never become an issue but large deviations will eventually trip you up.
An optimal margin of illusion occurs when individuals have a small, positive distortion about themselves. This results in an advantage over those who are more realistic. A positive bias is useful because it increases an individual’s motivation to move forward in risky situations and persevere in difficult situations.
“Leaders get into trouble when they don’t know what they don’t know in areas that matter.” There are degrees of blindness:

First is a complete lack of awareness. Leaders are said to be blindsided by these weaknesses or threats.

Second is denial. “In this case, a leader may be aware of a weakness or threat but doesn’t analyze it in sufficient depth to understand its causes and potential impact. The vulnerability is seen by the leader as ‘not being a big deal’ or ‘not my problem.’”

And third is the failure to act on a known weakness or threat. “There are cases when a leader knows that trouble lies ahead but fails to take action due to a range of factors including a lack of skill. I refer to this as a type of blindness because the leader fails to fully appreciate the risk he or she is facing and the consequences of not taking action.”

Not all blindspots are created equal. “Leaders need to question the relative importance of a weakness or threat once they become aware of it.”

Not surprisingly, “the more power and status people have, the less likely they are to pay attention to those below them and the less empathic they will be.” So we just don’t bother searching for blindspots.

Leadership Blindspots has a Leadership Blindspot Survey in the appendix of the book. It contains self-assessment questions in each of the four potential blindspot areas: self, team, company and markets.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.11.14

Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Leadership
Failure is how we learn. The problem is, argues Megan McArdle, we’re forgetting that truth. We are becoming too risk-averse and that is bad for our children, for our personal lives, for our companies, and for our country.

While we tend to treat success as finite and failure as disaster, the reality is that in order to be successful, we must learn how to harness the power of failure. In The Up Side Down, McArdle explains why.

Unfortunately, teaching our kids how to fail smartly is one of the most important things we (and our schools) could be doing. Instead, we protect our kids from failure.
Educational software can help kids master new skills by pinpointing where they’re going wrong, and letting them practice just that task over and over until they get it. And yet, we don’t seem to be carrying that lesson outside the computer lab. Perhaps this is because even as our electronics have become a better and better environment for learning from failure, our educational system has become much worse.
Of course, learning from failure means asking the right questions after a failure and taking responsibility for the answers. “Learning to fail well means overcoming our natural instincts to blame someone—maybe ourselves—whenever something goes wrong.” Perhaps we deflect responsibility not just to make ourselves look better, but also to create a sense of control and structure in the world.

Our fear of failure also causes us to stay the course long after we should have quit. The biggest key to understand, says McArdle, is that failure is not the problem. It’s our refusal to recognize that we have failed. “If we assume that failure is a catastrophe, we’ll often try to delay recognizing it as long as possible. That, of course, gives your failure lots of room to turn into a disaster.”

In The Up Side of Down you’ll find why making bankruptcy easy relative to the rest of the world means not only are people willing to takes more risks, but they are feed to try again. “We built the biggest, richest country in the world” and we did it mostly because “we were willing to risk more, and forgive more easily, than most other countries. We lend more freely, and let debtors off the hook; we regulate more lightly, and rely on a hit-and-miss liability system instead. These things are often painted as weaknesses, but in fact they are great strengths. They are the sign of a country more invested in the future than the past.”

Sharing her own experiences among the unemployed, she explains the psychology of why some unemployed people stay unemployed—and what can be done about it. In a chapter titled “Adopting the Way of the Shark,” she explains why you need to keep moving. She notes, “It is very difficult to communicate the progressive corrosion of long-term unemployment to someone who has not endured it.” Money is an issue, but the psychological toll is worse—withdrawing from social relationships because it is “increasingly painful to hang out with people who have jobs.”

The Up Side Down is persuasive and engaging. It is a rewarding read that will have you looking at the “failures” in your life as opportunities to learn and reinvent yourself.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.04.14

Five Ways to Reduce Conflict When There Are No Right Answers

Leading Forum
This is a post by David Dotlich, Chairman and CEO of Pivot Leadership. He is a co-author of The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems with Peter Cairo and Cade Cowan.

To be a leader today in almost any organization means you are daily, if not hourly, bombarded with problems and challenges that don’t have clear-cut “right” answers. Or, even more confounding, there are many “right” answers, depending on your perspective. Such challenges include meeting contradictory needs (for example, tending to your “stars” while building the team as a whole), delivering quarterly results while investing for the future, maintaining consistent standards and policies while accommodating unique customer requirements, or staying focused on results while adhering to your company’s purpose and values. The list goes on and on. In the face of these complex contradictions, many leaders choose to deny them and just “get the job done.” But like Marley’s ghost, unresolved and unacknowledged issues keep reappearing. And as leaders ignore or deny them, conflicts begin to emerge, positions solidify, and resolution becomes increasingly difficult.

Just to be clear: I am not talking about conflict as it refers to disagreement over how to make a decision in which the facts point to a clear outcome, or personal disputes in which one or the other party feels slighted or bruised. Rather, I am referring to those disagreements which emerge in teams or organizations due to how a potential course of action is defined, often in “either/or” terms. By not recognizing the difference between a problem and a paradox, leaders unintentionally generate conflict. This results in both parties adopting a win/lose stance because the problem has not been framed effectively. By not acknowledging the paradox and encouraging “both/and,” not “either/or,” behavior from the outset, paradoxes such as, “How do we maintain global consistency while encouraging local customization?” can easily devolve into conflict, tension, and disputes. And when conflict rages, leaders often attempt to “solve” it by adopting lose/lose compromise solutions in which no one is happy.

In my 30+ years of work as a leadership executive and coach for Fortune 500 companies, as well as through interviews with 100 CEOs and top leaders, I’ve identified five effective ways to successfully manage conflict when faced with paradox:
  • Acknowledge the Paradox: In my work, I’ve often discovered teams feel a palpable sense of relief in just recognizing that they are actually all on the same side—it’s the paradox they must figure out how to manage together.
  • Acknowledge Each Other’s Views: When people feel their point of view is being ignored, they become entrenched in their positions. As basic as this problem may seem, people get surprisingly angry when they believe nobody cares enough to hear them out. When leaders spend time listening, they show that they care; this can quickly defuse a situation and allow both sides to be more thoughtful and adaptive.
  • Invoke the Customer: Given that everyone’s purpose is to create value for customers, invoking customers and their unmet needs can put everyone’s gripes and grudges in a new light. While this can be done in a variety of ways, the most effective is often meeting with customers—getting customers and people from non-marketing/sales functions in the same room. Many company insiders have probably never met a customer face-to-face. Those feuding can then better see their joint goals, and set partisan issues aside.
  • Start at the Point of Agreement: Instead of having the same old argument 100 different ways, seek confirmation where you can find it, in a team purpose or a particular organizational goal. People need to back up and look for more basic areas of agreement—typically, related to a larger purpose. If the team can agree on “where we’re headed,” it can have a more effective discussion on “how we’ll get there.”
  • Remember Your Purpose: Teams and individuals in conflict often disagree about tactics and options because they’ve lost focus on what’s really important—the company or team’s overall mission or purpose. Keeping purpose in front helps people “pull up” from the issues and align on what really matters.
By understanding different viewpoints and then aligning through customer insights and the organization’s higher purpose, people can successfully resolve conflict and come together around meaningful and impactful answers.

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Trappist Monks
David Dotlich is the chairman and CEO of Pivot, a strategic leadership boutique that develops corporate strategy and executive development programs for Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Nike, Microsoft, KKR, Aetna, Best Buy, DPDHL, AbbVie, Ericsson, and many others. Named one of the Top 50 Coaches in the United States, Dr. Dotlich is former executive vice president of Honeywell International, founder and former president of CDR International and Delta Executive Learning Center, and former president of Mercer Delta Consulting. Visit David at Pivot Leadership and follow him @pivotleadership for additional leadership advice and ideas.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Management

04.01.14

First Look: Leadership Books for April 2014

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in April.

  Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World by John P. Kotter
  Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
  The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems by David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo and Cade Cowan
  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter by Robert B. Shaw

Accelerate Creativity Unfinished Leader Essentialism Blindspots

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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 120 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books

03.31.14

LeadershipNow 140: March 2014 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from March 2014 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140



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