Leading Blog


Get Advice from People Who Have…

The Decision Maker
Giving decisions to people closest to the action can transform any organization says Dennis Bakke in The Decision Maker. In a decision-maker organization, the leader leads by choosing a decision-maker based on their proximity, perspective, experience and wisdom.

But since we are all human, the decision-maker must ask for advice. The advice process brings multiple perspectives together to guide a successful outcome. But the decision-maker makes the final call—and takes responsibility for it.

Deciding who to get advice from can influence a successful outcome. So get advice from people who have:

Experience: Has this person had experience with this problem? There’s no teacher like experience.

Position: People in different positions see different things. The decision-maker asks a leader, a peer, someone below them in the hierarchy—and even, if circumstances warrant, experts from outside the company.

Responsibility: Decisions have consequences—and decision-makers should be held accountable for theirs. At the same time, nobody is right all the time. The most important part of any decision is that the decision-maker fully engages with the advice process, not just that he or she gets it “right.”

Ownership: When people are asked for advice, they start to feel ownership. Ideally, everyone who offers advice works for the success of the project as if it were their own. The advice process isn’t just about getting the right answer. It’s about building a strong team and creating a process of communication that will improve all decisions in a company.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Problem Solving


Leading People Like Family

Leaders Eat Last
In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek shares an insight he learned from Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of the Barry-Wehmiller Companies. It’s an important way of framing our leadership responsibility:
Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Parents work to offer their children a good life and a good education and to teach them the lessons that will help them grow up to be happy, confident and able to use all the talents they were blessed with. Those parents then hand their children over to a company with the hope the leaders of that company will exercise the same love and care as they have. “It is we, the companies, who are now responsible for these precious lives,” says Chapman.
Sinek explains: “Being a leader is like being a parent, and the company is like a new family to join. One that will care for us like we are their own … in sickness and in health. And if we are successful, our people will take on our company’s name as a sign of the family to which they are loyal.” He adds, “It is about committing to the well-being of those in our care and having a willingness to make sacrifices to see their interests advanced so that they may carry our banner long after we are gone.”
Circle of Safety
To that end we have to protect our people by creating what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety. We constantly face threats to our survival; forces working to hinder our success. These come of course, from without the organization and are these threats are largely beyond our control. But they also come from within our organizations and are well within our control. He writes:
Intimidation, humiliation, isolation, feeling dumb, feeling useless and rejection are all stresses we try to avoid inside the organization. But the danger is controllable and it should be the goal of leadership to set a culture free of danger from each other. And the way to do that is by giving people a sense of belonging. By offering them a strong culture based on a clear set of human values and beliefs. By giving them the power to make decisions. By offering them trust and empathy. By creating a Circle of Safety.
Too often, people are trying to protect themselves from leaders that are willing to sacrifice anyone to advance their own careers. “Without a Circle of Safety, people are forced to spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other.” We thrive when we feel safe in our group.

Leaders can be found at any level in an organization. They are the ones who are willing to give of themselves for the sake of others.

The title of the book—Leaders Eat Last—comes from a conversation with a Marine Corps general. He said, “Officers eat last.” Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: great leaders sacrifice their own comfort—even their own survival—for the good of those in their care. In a world where far too many leaders are looking out for themselves, Sinek offers numerous insights about the kind of sacrifice required to be a great leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:03 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership


5 Leadership Lessons: Opportunity and Risk are Soul Mates

5 Leadership Lessons

The Risk Advantage by Tom Panaggio is designed as a guide for those who are contemplating an entrepreneurial pursuit, are already engaged in building a business, or are currently working for someone else and want to inject their entrepreneurial ideas and attitude. “Those who understand where risk belongs in their lives,” says Panaggio, “will ultimately be successful.”

1  When failure occurs, it’s natural to say, “We made a bad decision.” But what you need to do is ask yourself this question: Was it a bad decision or simply a bad outcome? A decision is a choice you make. Without the benefit of clairvoyance, you base that choice on timely information. It would be unfortunate to measure the decision’s value based solely on outcomes. If we only accept the value of favorable outcomes, then we limit our ability to take risks, and forward progress stops.

The reality is that important decisions made by intelligent people having the best information and intentions could still result in an undesirable outcome. Leaders make decisions to determine the company’s direction. Promoting the proactive nature of decision making is the objective because in an environment where there is decision paralysis, forward motion ceases, and that is bad outcome.

2  Go for clarity, not certainty. The idea of clarity pertains more to the direction you want your business to be moving rather than the degree of detail and the language you use.

3  I have heard all the “If I had” excuses over the years. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is based on false reality, because the road to success is through action, not tools or accessories. While tools, technology, and accessories might be helpful, they do not guarantee success. Effort guarantees success—you have to keep your foot on the accelerator longer and more often than your competitor.

4  Opportunities are not only an advantageous circumstance but also chances to correct, rectify, or prioritize a situation that needs attention. Besides forgoing an opportunity for success because we are waiting for ideal conditions, many business leaders fail to solve problems or correct mistakes because, in their minds, the timing wasn’t right. Opportunities are not one-time occurrences; they are continuous events that present themselves throughout our entire journey.

5  Hoping that something will change to improve your situation will result in defeat, the end of your dream. As a leader, your example of enthusiastically seeking opportunity to execute, improve and deliver results will be the beacon that guides all who follow you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Five Lessons


Designing Moments of Impact

In a world of adaptive challenges—messy, open-ended, and ill-defined—your garden variety meeting isn’t going to cut it. What you need is a strategic conversation. But these kinds of conversations don’t just happen—they need to be designed.

Moments of Impact by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon will help you to do just that. A moment of impact is created at the intersection of design, strategy and conversation. Pierre Wack described the challenge as:
It happens when your message reaches the microcosms [mental models] of decision makers, obliges them to question their assumptions about how their business world works, and leads them to change and reorganize their inner models of reality.
Mental models matter. The real challenge is “not to find the right answer to an adaptive challenge but rather to help shape people’s perceptions of the problem—and thus of potential solutions.”

Moments of Impact

Here are the five core principles for designing strategic conversations:
  1. Define the Purpose: More than a clear set of objectives, you develop a clear sense of the change that this group needs to make together—and how this conversation will advance that process.
  2. Engage Multiple Perspectives: Not just the most appropriate participants, but you dig deeper to understand the views, values, and concerns of each participant and stakeholder group. Find ways to create value from the intersection of diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise that live inside any organization.
  3. Frame the Issues: All content should be highly relevant to the objectives and clearly communicated and they should also be framed in a way that illuminates different aspects of the adaptive challenge you are wrestling with, including how the various parts relate to the whole.
  4. Set the Scene: Make thoughtful choices about all of the elements of the environment—from the physical space to artifacts to aesthetics.
  5. Make It an Experience: Not only should you follow a logical sequence of agenda items, but also attend to the emotional and psychological experience of the participants. The experience should not only be logical but also intuitive and energizing.
Moments of Impact is really two books in one. Included is a comprehensive 60-page Starter Kit. It’s a collection of tools and tips that will help you start designing strategic conversations. Well worth the price of the book alone.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication


How to Accelerate Learning and Change Lives

Teachers are the builders of the future.

In a book written for teachers, we find a valuable book for all leaders because leaders are teachers. Leaders are educators. In The Best Teacher in You, you will find the thinking and approaches behind highly effective teachers who accelerate learning and change lives.

There are two kinds of change that individuals experience: incremental change and deep change. “We frequently make incremental changes: We make adjustments, we elaborate on a practice, we try harder, and we exert a greater degree of control. In other words, we attempt to solve the problem using the assumptions we currently hold. Deep change is more demanding because it requires the surrender of control….It involves embracing purpose and then moving forward by trial and error while attending to real-time feedback.”

It is deep change that we seek to bring about as teachers and leaders. There are two views to making this happen: directive and co-creative. A directive perspective suggests the teacher directs and controls the classroom. “Teaching is a process in which a more expert person imparts knowledge or skill to a less expert person.”

A directive perspective is a place to begin but when we build on it, we grow into a co-creative perspective and we move beyond direction, control, discipline and repetition. “As the teacher and the students commit to a common purpose and form high-quality relationships, they become a system that has emergent possibilities. In a co-creative, collaborative environment, students hold each other accountable, leadership is shared, and new perspectives emerge. The teacher/leader becomes a facilitator.

In a practical way, the authors—Robert Quinn, Katherine Heynoski, Mike Thomas and Gretchen Spreitzer—have developed a framework consisting of four themes at the center of highly effective teachers' practice. It incorporates both the directive and co-creative perspectives. Each area of effectiveness is associated with particular skills and preferences and all the quadrants have value. After we identify in which of these areas we can find our individual strengths, we can then accelerate our development when we begin to stretch from a position of strength toward an area of growth. If we are very “red” for example, our effectiveness might improve if we became more “yellow” or “green.” A very helpful concept.

connect framework

Here are a few ideas presented in the book from highly effective teachers:

Developing the desire to learn: “This process does not begin with her acting on the students. It begins with her acting upon herself. She does the internal work necessary to display her own enjoyment of learning…. [Finally the teacher] is no longer the center of attention, and neither are the students. At the center of attention is the process of learning. The class transforms from a hierarchy to an adaptive learning organization.”

Structure: “Structure is not his purpose. Structure serves his purpose.” “Structure and control are paths to freedom and learning.” “Structure and routine are there so students can work outside the box.” “I think the more structured and organized I am, the more creative we can be. Without structure it doesn’t work. We need organized chaos. We need some way to manage the mess. Structure and order free me.”

Enhancing relationships: Sarah’s “most immediate concern is how to negotiate the rift between the content she must teach and the real-life experiences of her students.” Students are often “passive observers of their education because the directive perspective is taken too far. She feels that overly directive teaching can minimize the emotional content of the curriculum. Rather than tell her students what is right or wrong, she wants them to engage and ‘negotiate’ difficult social issues so that they come to their own deep understanding of what is right and wrong.”

The Best Teacher in You is a book for all leaders—business, church, educational and family. The insights contained in it will help you to grow your effectiveness with others. On their web site you can discover your strengths with the Reflect Assessment. An important step to take wherever you are on your leadership journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:08 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , Learning


Leading Views: It's 11:30

Leading Views In Be the Best at What Matters Most, author Joe Calloway relates a story about the importance of the need to get going:

Sunday afternoon, my 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, asked me if she and her best friend, Emma, could set up a lemonade stand in our yard. It was a very drizzly, wet, cool day. But I thought a lesson could be learned about disappointment and realistic expectations, so I said "Sure." They painted a sign ("50 Cents a Cup - All Proceeds to Benefit Animal Shelter"), made the lemonade, set up their table in the yard, and stood in the drizzle. I sighed the sigh that a wise parent sighs as his child is about to face disappointment.

Finally, a lone, soggy jogger stopped. Then a car. Then neighbors started coming over. THEN the Grey Line Tour bus comes to a screeching halt right in front of our house. (I'm in Nashville. A music star lives in my neighborhood. Not unusual.) The tour bus driver opened his door, ordered a cup of lemonade, then invited the girls to bring their pitcher onto the bus and almost every passenger bought a cup.

After two hours, the girls had made almost $60 for the animal shelter.

A valuable lesson was learned. Not by them. By me. The lesson was that sometimes, even when everything seems stacked against you, you just go. It's just your time. Because you make it your time.

As Andy Sambury of Saturday Night Live once said, "We don't start the show because we're ready. We start the show because it's 11:30."

For Jessica and Emma, it was 11:30.

Look at your watch.

What time is it?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 PM
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Warren Bennis 1925-2014

The father of leadership, Warren Bennis died Thursday, July 31 at the age of 89. He had served as a business professor at the University of Southern California for the last 35 years. He wrote nearly 30 books including An Invented Life, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

His leadership thinking was in many ways ahead of its time. I first met Warren Bennis through his book, The Unconscious Conspiracy: Why Leaders Can’t Lead, in 1976. Later it was revised and reprinted as Why Leaders Can't Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues. He sparked my interest then and there in the discipline of leadership.

In that first book he explained that the real enemy to leadership is apathy. Our organizations, he wrote, are “afflicted with a threefold sense of loss: loss of community, loss of purpose, and loss of power.” The core of the problem is that our leaders weren’t and still aren’t leading. “They’re consulting, pleading, temporizing, martyrizing, trotting, putting out fires, either avoiding or taking the heat, and spending too much energy in doing both.” Although he said that leaders must also manage, they are spending too much time managing.

Unconscious Conspiracy
He spoke of the need for having leaders with entrepreneurial vision, the importance of surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, making room for the nonconformists, the need to face the revolutions in the world outside of your organization, the importance of recreating our sense of wonder, and creativity as an essential strength of great leaders, to name a few. That was the mid-seventies.

Bennis was always willing to—even interested in—taking the time to help you shape your thinking. His insights have shaped my own in many ways.

More from Warren Bennis:

“Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do.”

Taking charge of your own learning is a part of taking charge of your life, which is the sine qua non in becoming an integrated person.”

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

“When the trust and credibility of leaders are at their lowest, when the beleaguered survivors in leadership positions feel unable to summon up the vestiges of power left to them, we most need people who can lead.”

Bennis was a remarkable man with well developed insights.

Warren Bennis

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:36 PM
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First Look: Leadership Books for August 2014

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

  How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal
  The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See by Max Bazerman
  The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin
  Destined to Lead: Executive Coaching and Lessons for Leadership Development by Karol M. Wasylyshyn
  The Leadership Shadow: How to Recognise and Avoid Derailment, Hubris and Overdrive by Erik de Haan and Anthony Kasozi

How Great Leaders Think Power of Noticing Organized Mind Destined to Lead Leadership Shadow

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 118 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:33 AM
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LeadershipNow 140: July 2014 Compilation


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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140


8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

Leading Forum
It was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done.

I was standing in a hotel lobby waiting on my buddy to get some coffee before we were headed out for a day at a conference we were working. I was standing against the wall with my computer bag on my back. We were running a little late, so on the spur of the moment I decided I'd go get the rental car and bring it to the lobby's front door. As I stepped away from the wall, I had no idea the pandemonium that would ensue.

Apparently my bag had gotten caught on the fire alarm in the hotel lobby. In an odd case of events, when I stepped away from the wall, the fire alarm went off and people began to scatter. The hotel lobby that was rather full with folks eating breakfast and enjoying their morning coffee suddenly began to empty as people began to look around and evacuate the lobby.

You see, that's what happens when alarms go off, people move. For the next generation, an alarm of sorts is going off. An alarm that, if ignored or simply silenced, will continue to get louder and louder. An alarm that, if left unanswered, could mean serious trouble for the next generation and our world as we know it. Poverty rates have never been higher, unemployment rates are astronomically high, and people are hurting all over our world. Children are being abandoned by parents that have other priorities and people are willing to kill over heresay and gossip.

Our culture is in need of young leaders that are willing to not just silence the alarm with quick fixes, but sustain lasting change in the world we live in. We need young leaders that can rally people around them and begin bringing people together for lasting change.

How can we answer the alarm? By making some shifts in our lives and in our leadership in order to help lead lasting change in our society. Here are 8 shifts that we need to make as young people in order to set ourselves up to lead well now and in the future.

From Entitlement to Honor
The millennial generation is often referred to as "the entitled generation." Many of us have had things handed to us by our parents and the people around us and somehow believe that we deserve it all. We'll have to shift from believing that we deserve our due to seeking to honor those around us if we're going to lead lasting change. The people we seek to influence have to know that we are about them and not ourselves. That's real leadership.

From Unreliable to Consistent
Consistency is our generation's key to change. In order to change our lives, our families, our neighborhood, or our world, we have to consistently seek that change. Anyone can do something once, the real world changers are the ones that consistently excel and consistently push to a vision.

From Dissension to Cooperation
Unity and cooperation are secret ingredients into leading sustainable change. We'll have to work together on the things that really matter if we're going to see children's lives changed, cities built back up, and families restored. We can't seek to compete with those around us and cause dissension. Dissension holds us back, cooperation propels us.

From Conformity to Integrity
Integrity isn't just what you're doing when no one's around, it's doing right when you could do anything. As we gain more and more influence as young people, we'll often be left with a world of decisions to make and options to choose. The leaders we need to change our world choose what's right over what's easy or what's best for them.

From Pride to Humility
Pride puffs us, humility builds up. We need young leaders that build others up. Humility doesn't mean we're silent or shy, it must means that we value others over ourselves and believe the best about them. To lead people, we have to influence them. To influence them, they have to know we believe in and care about them. That comes through humility.

From Passive to Passionate
Passive doesn't answer the alarm. We can't be passive about the problems we as a generation have in front of us, we have to see them and be passionate about changing them. Passionate is the single most important ingredient in leading change. If we're not living and leading from a place of passion, we'll never desire the kind of change our world desperately needs.

From Selfishness to Love
Our world is extremely selfish. From selfies screaming "look at me" to young people saying "don't bother me." If we're going to step up and change our world, we have to look to love others, not avoid them. We have to look to love those around us, not lift ourselves up. People know real love when the see it. Real leaders know how to genuinely feel it and display it.

From Premature to Patient
We live in a microwave society. Everything is quick and fast. Leading people takes time. Leading change takes time. We have to be patient with the people we lead and understand the the process requires patience and sustained passion.

We can make the shifts as a generation. We can answer the alarm and change the world for our kids and their kids. The question is, "Are you willing?"

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Next Up
Jonathan Pearson is the Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, SC—an ethnically-reflective church with multiple campuses. He is also the Assistant Director of The Sticks, an organization that inspires small city leaders to think big, co-creator of millennialleader.com and author of Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonathanPearson.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Leading Forum

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