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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

01.14.14

The 5 Disciplines of Wiki Management

The world we now live in has forced us to reexamine the way we lead people that gained preeminence during the industrial age and our often immature view of leadership—the “I’m in charge” mentality.

Authoritarian leadership implies that the smartest, most valuable people are at the top and so the leader commands and the followers do. Not only is that not true, it’s not sustainable in a world characterized by exponential change.

Leadership
Rod Collins writes in Wiki Management, “Today’s managers may spend more time soliciting input from their workers, but at the end of the day, the basic social technology remains the same: The managers are still the bosses, the workers are still subordinates, and the latter are still expected to do as they are told.”

“Wiki” is a Hawaiian term that refers to taking quick action to produce immediate, effective results. Coupled with management, the term offers a way to describe a way of managing designed to help managers keep pace with accelerating change. Collaborative networks are smarter and faster than top-down hierarchies.

“Wiki Management assumes that the most effective organizations are highly connected, self-organized networks that are designed to leverage the power of collective intelligence and achieve extraordinary results.” Rather than leaders “acting as controllers who take charge and make the decisions, they assume the roles of facilitators of the discovery processes from which the best decisions emerge.”

In general, Wiki Management is about removing inflated ego from the practice of leadership and about breaking down the barriers that define most hierarchies.

Collins examines five key disciplines essential to thriving in this “flatter,” highly collaborative landscape:
  1. Understand what’s most important to customers. In a hyper-connected world, the best companies are customer-centric…and built around processes that make the task of delighting customers a higher priority than pleasing bosses.
  2. Aggregate and leverage collective intelligence. Today’s most intelligent organizational leaders no longer leverage individual intelligence by constructing functional bureaucracies. Instead, they cultivate collaborative communities with the capacity to quickly aggregate and leverage their collective intelligence. The best leaders today are increasingly facilitators, not bosses.
  3. Build shared understanding by bringing everyone together in open conversations. Companies that successfully manage at the pace of accelerating change create innovative processes to effectively integrate diverse points of view, co-create a powerful, shared understanding, and drive clarity of purpose across the entire organization. The centralized planning that’s pervasive in command-and-control organizations is designed to eliminate surprises and therefore blunts serendipity.
  4. Focus on the critical few performance drivers. Management is about creating the future. Smart leaders don’t focus on outcome measures but on driver measures that create the outcomes.
  5. Hold people accountable to their peers. The secret to mastering the unprecedented challenges of the wiki world is to make sure that no one in the organization has the authority to kill a good idea or keep a bad idea alive. Holding people accountable to peers rather than supervisors enables the collaboration necessary for speed and innovation.
Collins provides 50 concrete practices to help implement these disciplines and transition your thinking from controller to facilitator. Not everything here is new but what Wiki Management does extremely well, is to guide you through the often counterintuitive thinking that underlies collaborative leadership. It’s leadership that allows people to flourish and can help to detoxify the working environment.

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Wiki Management is an important book. Rod Collins writes, “The most difficult adjustment for managers as they embrace the five disciplines of Wiki Management is coming to terms with their new role as the facilitators and catalysts of effective peer-to-peer collaboration. Organizations can become incredibly effective when the sovereignty of the supervisor is diminished.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:38 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

11.04.13

Xceptional Execution

You don’t need to be a guru. You don’t need to be rich. You don’t need to invent the next big thing to be a success. What you need to do, says Kevin Kelly is find an ordinary idea and implement that idea with xceptional execution. You can start with what you have from where you are.

The list of reasons why we shouldn’t do something is often long and persuasive. We are predisposed to accept it. And so we let our ideas die. The combination of fear and knowledge is all too often lethal to our best ideas.

DO
Kevin Kelly writes in DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution, “the antidote for too much knowledge is execution. Why? Execution helps to work through fear and build confidence. Knowledge will always give you enough reasons not to act. Execution is taking the next step in spite of that knowledge.” Have you ever seen someone doing something that you’ve always wanted to do even though you know they should know better? And yet they’re doing it and you’re not. Maybe it should be, “Those who know teach, those who don’t do.” Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

This doesn’t mean that we jump into something without thinking. That’s unwise. Kelly says execution rests on two pillars: Awareness (Self) and Attention (Others).

Part of awareness is being able to receive negative feedback, learn from it and apply it in a way that you grow. Anyone you come into contact with is a potential teacher. Kelly says, “You will find that there are zero degrees of separation from potential teachers.”

One of the things that holds us back is not that we can’t solve the problem, it’s that we don’t see the problem. Who we are is obvious to others—our co-workers and customers. You’ve got to know what you are projecting to others.

The other pillar is attention. “People crave genuine, authentic, undivided attention, the side effect of which is extremely positive: loyalty, engagement and positive word-of-mouth promotion.” Kelly advises that we “focus on building friendships, not customer relationships.”

We don’t always know exactly what to do or where we are going, but Kelly insists that the xceptional execution ethos will take you places you never imagined. Xceptional Execution = Opportunity.

Kelly talks to nine xceptionalists to understand their story—how they did what they did and how they executed in spite of the ups and downs. Throughout these examples will find mindsets and actions that resonate with your own situation. DO! will expand your mind and broaden your approach.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:32 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Motivation

08.27.13

The Art of Perfect Timing

We say timing is everything. And it is. But most of time it just seems like good luck.

Timing
In When, Stuart Albert says that using the right tools we can become better at managing and deciding issues of timing. Good timing is a skill that can be acquired.

We miss timing issues “because the way we describe the world and the tasks we must accomplish omit the kinds of facts we need….They fail to include all the sequences, rates, shapes, punctuation marks, intervals, leads, lags, overlaps, and other time-related characteristic that are part of the temporal structure of everything that happens, every action that is taken, every plan that is implemented.” And we routinely omit them from our thinking. I had never thought of it that way. I was intrigued.

If we don’t look for and note time-relevant characteristics like sequences, rates, duration, beginnings and endings, we won’t have the information we need to make good timing decisions. For example, we question whether or not the incentives we have chosen are the right ones, but we don’t consider why those incentives became important at that particular time.

Albert likens the structure of timing analysis to the structure of a musical score. There is a horizontal and a vertical dimension to it. Five horizontal—sequence, punctuation, interval, rate, and shape—and there is a vertical dimension—polyphony. The way they come together in an organization gives us insight into timing. These patterns form the temporal architecture.

Sequence refers to the order of events, like the notes in a melody.
Temporal punctuation refers to the times when events or processes begin, pause, or come to an end.
Interval (and duration) indicates how much time elapses between events and how long each event will last.
Rate refers to how quickly events are happening.
Shape describes rhythms and other patterns such as cycles, feedback loops, peaks and valleys.
Polyphony is the questions the interrelationship between all things happening at the same time.

We have to learn how to listen for the rhythm of what is going on, for its moments of tension or release, for moments when we must pause and change direction. Learning to view events in this manner will help us to spot opportunities first, execute on them well, and avoid costly mistakes.

The worst timing mistakes are not those that have significant human or financial costs, but those that appear to be inexplicable, where we ask, “How could someone have made a mistake like that?” One example of a sequence issue is Cooper Union’s decision to build a 166 million dollar engineering building on its campus in New York with the hope that a donor would step forward to fund the building. As of May 2013, nobody has. This is a classic sequence inversion error, playing notes out of order—in effect putting the cart before the horse. The first step should have been to attract the donor, who would help select the architect, and then become involved in the design of the building.

In order to get the timing right Albert says we need to move beyond spheres and networks, boxes and arrows, trees and branches, and instead think in terms of a tall polyphonic musical score in which a large number of processes and events are playing at the same time. Here’s more:
Musical Score
Re-imagining the world as a polyphonic, polyrhythmic score shifts how we think about the causes and consequences of events. Most of us spend a considerable amount of time looking “down the road” to the next period of time, the one we call the future. So, naturally, when we think about the consequences of our actions, we think in terms of a line, antecedents to the left, consequences—separated by some amount of time—to the right.

When we say A causes B, we are focusing on the horizontal dimension of the score. We are focused on what comes before (the cause) and what comes after (the effect). That is fine, but we should also be paying attention to what is going on vertically, to what must and must not go on at the same time.
When provides a more insightful way to look at events and the seven essential steps in a timing analysis. Timing issues are not always obvious but Albert helps us to know where to look and what to look for so we will be much more likely to get the timing right.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:37 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Vision

06.20.13

Phil Jackson's 11 Principle's of Mindful Leadership

Eleven Rings
Phil Jackson, considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, has won 11 titles as a coach. The most in NBA history. Eleven Rings is a memoir that, for me, is more about leadership and relationships than basketball.

Jackson's principles are worth taking a look at. They support the idea that a leader's job is to build leaders at all levels. You could take back to your organization and put into practice today any one of the following 11 principles:

1. Lead From the Inside Out. Avoid fads. Lead from who you are. "As time went by, I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more players could hear me and benefit from what I gleaned."

2. Bench the Ego. "The more I tried to exert power directly, the less powerful I became. I learned to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority. Paradoxically, this approach strengthened my effectiveness because it freed me to focus on my job as keeper of the team's vision.

"Some coaches insist on having the last word, but I always tried to foster an environment in which everyone played a leadership role, from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn't make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority."

3. Let Each Player Discover His Own Destiny. Jackson's goal wasn't to provide all of the answers. "I've always been interested in getting players to think for themselves so that they can make difficult decisions in the heat of battle."

"My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire? Many players I've coached didn't look special on paper, but in the process of creating a role for themselves they grew into formidable champions."

4. The Road to Freedom is a Beautiful System. Similar to the principles used to foster greater creativity and innovation in an organization, Jackson used a system known as the triangle offense. "What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure."

5. Turn the Mundane into the Sacred. Leaders take note. Jackson writes, "As I see it, my job as coach was to make something meaningful out of one of the most mundane activities on the planet: Playing pro basketball." He incorporated meditation into his team's practices. "I wanted to give players something besides X's and O's to focus on. What's more, we often invented rituals of our own to infuse practices with a sense of the sacred."

6. One Breath = One Mind. Players "often have to make split-second decisions under enormous pressure. I discovered that when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind."

"If you place too many restrictions on players, they'll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to buck the system. Like all of us, they need a certain degree of structure in their lives, but they also require enough latitude to express themselves creatively."

7. The Key to Success is Compassion. "Now, 'compassion' is not a word often bandied about in locker rooms. But I've found that a few kind, thoughtful words can have a strong transformative effect on relationships, even with the toughest men in the room." Compassion breaks down barriers among people.

8. Keep Your Eye on the Spirit, Not on the Scoreboard. When a player is "playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts." He adds, "Most coaches get tied up in knots worrying about tactics, but I preferred to focus my attention on whether the players were moving together in a spirited way."

9. Sometimes You Have to Pull Out the Big Stick. Sometimes Jackson used "tricks to wake players up and raise their level of consciousness….Not because I want to make their lives miserable but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court."

10. When in Doubt, Do Nothing. "Basketball is an action sport, and most people involved in it are high-energy individuals who love to do something—anything—to solve problems. However, there are occasions when the best solution is to do absolutely nothing….I subscribe to the philosophy of the late Satchel Paige, who said, 'Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.'"

11. Forget the Ring. We all hate losing. "And yet as coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What's more, obsessing about winning is a loser's game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome."

Jackson concludes with: "What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Leaders , Management , Teamwork

06.10.13

Three Rules to Deliver the Best Possible Performance for as Long as Possible

3 rules
Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed went looking for those companies that were good enough for long enough to be considered exceptional and to rule out luck as the primary source of their performance. What they found they present in The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think.

When they looked at behavior they found that the exceptional companies did better than the average companies because they did whatever they did "right." Not too helpful. But when they looked at what exceptional companies thought as opposed to what they did, a pattern emerged. They were able to identify a small set of decision rules implicit in the choices exceptional companies made that lower-performing companies did not seem to use. This forms the basis of The Three Rules.

Here are the three rules you can use to guide your own decision making:

1. Better Before Cheaper. Competing on non-price value, not price. When it comes to how you differentiate yourself from the competition, seek out a position based on non-price value. Do not compete on price. Price-based competition can work, but only rarely does it drive exceptional performance.

When the recession hit in 2008, Abercrombie & Fitch (one of their exceptional companies) was criticized for not cutting their prices as most other retailers did. And although their profitability suffered significantly in the short-term and full recovery remains an uphill climb, they are not struggling to cure their customers of a "discount addiction." "Those competitors that coped with the recession with price discounts are finding it difficult to increase their prices, having taught their customer that their T-shirts do not have to cost $30 after all."
Of course, no company can afford to ignore its relative price position. That's why the rule is "better before cheaper:" being price competitive is far from irrelevant, but when it comes to position in a market, exceptional performance is caused more often by greater non-price value rather than by lower price.
2. Revenue Before Cost. Outperforming through higher revenue rather than lower costs. When exceptional companies face a trade-off between increasing profitability by increasing revenue or by decreasing cost, they systematically choose increasing revenue even if that means incurring higher cost. Do not try to "cut" your way to greatness. Just like price-based competition, cost advantages can be effective, but only infrequently. Profitability advantages driven by higher revenue, even when they incur higher cost, prove to be more valuable than advantages driven by lower cost.

"To beat the odds," say the authors, "you want to focus on creating value using better before cheaper, and on capturing value with revenue before cost."

3. There Are No Other Rules. Whatever competitive or environmental changes or challenges you might face, do not give up on the first two rules. Everything else is up for grabs. Everything. The first two rules tell you what you should do. The third rule tells you what you should not do; namely think that anything else matters in a systematic, specifiable way. Change whatever you must about your business—your markets, your technologies, your people…anything. But no matter what, stick with better before cheaper and revenue before cost.
What sort of leadership contributes best to corporate success: charisma, hard-driving, larger than life CEOs who move the company forward seemingly by force of will, or humble, deliberate, share-the-glory servant-leaders? As far as we could tell, all that mattered consistently was whether or not leadership was focused on building a non-price position and revenue-driven profitability formula.
The idea here is that when faced with strategic decisions, ask yourself which option best conforms to the three rules. Use the rules like a compass to point you in the right direction. It's not a formula to follow but a way of thinking that informs your decisions. Ask yourself if your strategy is taking you in the direction of better and revenue or cheaper and cost. The authors have found that companies that consistently chose the former path deliver superior results.

The three rules are measurable and hence actionable. "Because you can measure the degree to which you are following the three rules, you can adapt your behavior to remain consistent with them."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

06.05.13

The Clarity Principle

Clarity Principle
The Clarity Principle by Chatham Sullivan, is about a widespread issue facing many (most) organizations: who are we and what are we doing? What is our purpose? It is a vitally important question that is rarely answered—not really. It's a difficult question to answer and is the cause of much of the dysfunctional, painful and absurd activity in many organizations. Instead of leading we are being lead by the business we are supposed to be leading.

The Clarity Principle states that clarity is derived from purpose, and purpose from a pivotal act of choice that leaders make about the business. Sullivan says that the problem isn't that organizations define themselves incorrectly, it's that they don't choose at all. Choosing "is a risky prospect, fraught with personal, political, and cultural risks for the organization and its leaders." Leaders often "duck their responsibility for choosing because they cannot accept the tradeoffs, risk, and loss that accompany an act of commitment to choose one definition of the business over the other."

A purpose is not necessarily set in stone especially in today's business climate. "Companies do and should reinvent themselves. But there is a big difference between redefining your purpose and attempting to stitch together conflicting business models." He adds, "attempting to simultaneously preserve and replace the core is very likely a fool's errand. There is only so much artful balancing a company can endure. The goal of achieving balance between contradictory models often becomes the biggest excuse for failing to make the bigger choice."

We may avoid the choice out of a desire to protect the organization and its people—to maintain a perceived stability and collegiality. To address one choice over the other would disrupt the way in which people have become used to operating. But in the long run, this silence will end up hurting the organization.

Sullivan writes that "Leadership's primary responsibility is to define the purpose of the business. This means understanding and making choices to resolve strategic dilemmas confronting the organization."
We see dysfunctions in the business not merely as "people problems" but as upwelling expressions of larger foundational business dilemmas. Thus what may at first appear to be a turf battle between two departments is really descended from a persistent failure to clarify the company's purpose or a painful fight with a coworker is less a personal failure or conflict of styles than evidence of an important strategic dilemma.
Corporate life so often disappoints writes Sullivan, because "the loss of shared purpose makes the experience of business feel as though it's every man or woman for him- or herself. People who feel disconnected from the primary task of the business become isolated from one another."

Sullivan provides numerous examples of conversations that have gone on inside companies in search of their purpose. Their struggles can be quite enlightening and helpful in determining our own.

What if you're not the CEO? Take responsibility for those things within your ability to control.
Acts of small leadership can thus have outsized impact. They perform the role of making monumental undertakings more easily achievable. In truth, you don't have to be a top executive to resist, confront, and even reverse the contagious effects of a crisis. If the conflicts in the business can flow down from on high, generating breakdowns throughout the organization, so too can creative solutions and purposeful action flow upward to help resolve the crisis.
What you can do:
  1. Be attuned to the dynamics unfolding around you
  2. Feel a sense of responsibility to the community
  3. Remain faithful to the principle of doing the right thing instead of just going along.
The issues addressed in this book will resonate with most of us. "The battle against ambiguity is never ending," says Sullivan. Choice defines and establishes that some things are more crucial than others. It's the leader's job.

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Just when you think you have defined your purpose, a book like The Clarity Principle comes along and pulls you up short. Maybe you're not there yet. Turf wars, low morale, bad politics, and misguided strategies: these are issues that claim much of a leader’s time. But this parade of dysfunctions and messy “people” problems actually points to an organization confused about its core business, torn between competing ideas about what it is and wants to be—an organization facing an identity crisis.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management

05.03.13

How to Make Better Decisions

"Why do we have such a hard time making good choices?" ask Chip and Dan Heath in Decisive.

"A remarkable aspect of your mental life," says Daniel Kahneman, "is that you are rarely stumped." We have opinions about nearly everything and are quick to jump to conclusions based only on the information that is right in front of us. We often just go with our gut. And that hasn't always served us well.

Bad Decision
• An estimated 61,535 tattoos were reversed in the United States in 2009.

• Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce.

• Forty-four percent of lawyers would not recommend a career in law to young people.

• Eighty-three percent of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail to create any value for shareholders.

The Heath brothers have identified “four villains” when it comes to making decisions:
  1. Narrow Framing. We tend to define our choices too narrowly and see them in binary terms. We miss other options.

  2. Confirmation Bias. We develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that confirms our belief. When we want something to be true, we look for reasons to justify it.

  3. Short-Term Emotion. Our emotions paralyze our decisions. We think we're working it out, when all we have really done is kick up "so much dust that we can't see the way forward."

  4. Overconfidence. We think we know more than we actually do. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. "The future has an uncanny ability to surprise. We can't shine a spotlight on areas when we don't know they exist."

What can we do? We can counteract our tendencies with these four strategies the authors call the WRAP Process from the first letter of each step:
  1. Widen Our Options. As it turns out, most of the "decisions" we make do not involve any real choice. They are whether-or-not, yes-no decisions. We do not even consider other choices. Like a teenager, we "get stuck thinking about questions like 'Should I go to the party or not?' The party is in their mental spotlight, assessed in isolation, while the other options go unexplored. A more enlightened teen might let the spotlight roam: 'Should I go to the party all night, or go to the movies with a few friends, or attend the basketball game and then drop by the party for a few minutes?'"

    We would benefit by even adding one more option to our "decision." Consider opportunity costs. ("If I do this, then I can't do that?") Or the Vanishing Options Test: If you cannot choose any of the current options you're considering, what else could you do? And consider asking others who have "been there done that."

  2. Reality-Test Our Assumptions. Encourage constructive disagreement. Consider the opposite. Consider the "outside view"—the averages. If possible, run small experiments to test our theories.

  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding. Try the 10/10/10 analysis: How will you feel about your decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months? How about 10 years? Also, identify and stick to your core priorities. Perhaps the most powerful question for resolving a personal decisions is, "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"

  4. Prepare to Be Wrong. We have to stretch our sense of what the future will bring—both good and bad. Think about the extremes. The future is not a "point"—a single scenario that we must predict. It's a range. Set a tripwire: "We will act when…" a predetermined set point occurs.
Making better decisions is a choice. This process will help us to make better choices.

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Leadership
As you might expect from the Heath brothers, Decisive is both informative and fun and well worth the investment. It would be a great book to get your teens to read as well. There will always be bad decisions, but with the four-step process we can improve our odds and have greater peace of mind. "You can quit asking, 'What am I missing?' You can stop the cycle of agonizing."

(By the way, if you ever get a chance to see Chip (and Dan) Heath live, do it. The presentation is very well done.)

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development , Thinking

04.29.13

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Leadership
Research shows that givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder. Givers may make others better off, but they do so at their own expense.

But here's the thing, givers also land at the top of the ladder with takers and matchers in the middle. Adam Grant explores in Give and Take, what separates givers at the bottom and top. And the difference is not competence, but the kinds of strategies givers use and the choices they make.

Grant notes that in "purely zero-sum situations and win-lose interactions, giving rarely pays off…. But most of life isn't zero-sum."

The giver advantage is often hard to see in the short term because the "giver advantage grows over time." Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, explains, "Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it's valuable in a marathon."

The Strength of Weak Ties

Givers connect with the people they know casually--their acquaintances. Although it is harder to ask them for help, they are the faster route to new leads and ideas. "The dormant ties provided more novel information than the current contacts. Over the past few years, while they were out of touch, they had been exposed to new ideas and perspectives."

The Five-Minute Favor: "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody."

Givers create a ripple effect around themselves. "Giving, especially when it's distinctive and consistent, establishes a pattern that shifts other people's reciprocity styles within a group." Givers take on the tasks that are in the best interests of the group.

Developing Others

As leaders, givers don't look for talent first, they focus on motivation. "Because they tend to be trusting and optimistic about other people's intentions, in their roles as leaders, managers, and mentors, givers are inclined to see the potential in everyone."

Takers have a general distrust of others. "Even when takers are impressed by another person's capabilities or motivation, they're more likely to see this person as a threat, which means they're less willing to support and develop him or her." Takers desire to be the smartest person in the room.

"The matcher's mistake lies in waiting for signs of high potential. Since matchers tend to play it safe, they often wait to offer support until they've seen evidence of promise."

Otherish Givers

Givers that end up on top are otherish. "Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give." Giving energizes and is meaningful when it is done out of choice rather than duty or obligation—and otherish givers give more than totally selfless givers.

To avoid being taken, it is important to distinguish between givers and takers and those that pretend to be givers. Givers become matchers when they are dealing with takers.

Grant provides a lot of fresh examples—people from all walks of life. What he finds most magnetic about successful givers: "they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefits themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

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Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return? In the workplace, says Adam Grant, givers are a relatively rare breed.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Personal Development

04.15.13

Nice Companies Finish First

Leadership
When you have the power usually associated with leadership, it's easy to begin thinking that you can do anything you want. You can treat people any way you want. Sometimes it works in the short term, but it never works in the long term. It's self-centered and it eventually kills your influence. It's the core message of Nice Companies Finish First by Peter Shankman: "Being a selfish bastard who doesn't believe the rules apply to you simply won't get you very far."

Shankman cites a study where 700 people from a variety of industries reported on the treatment they received from their managers:

31% reported that their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" during the year.
37% said that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
39% noted that their supervisor didn't keep promises.
27% reported that their supervisor spoke negatively about them behind their back.

And it goes on. Not surprisingly, this kind of abusive behavior results in a work force that "experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust."

Shankman says your manager might be a jerk if they: are a know-it-all dictator, are uninterested in feedback, take sides unfairly and openly, are wasteful of resources, are a Desert Island boss (non-existent), a builder of empires, are a talker and not a doer, think adversaries work better than teams, or are in a constant cycle of crisis.

The Nine "Nice" Characteristics

Shankman then identifies nine "nice" characteristics that will eradicate "jerk" behavior beginning with "enlightened self-interest" since it underpins all of the others. A leader with enlightened self-interest will think in terms of the transactional benefits of everything they do. To be sure there are times when a leader must make unpopular decisions, but, says Shankman, "you can make beneficial decisions and lead your company to greatness without resorting to third-grade schoolyard tactics."

An enlightened leader is accountable, invests in others, consults with those affected by decisions, seeks counsel, expects the truth, reacts mindfully and positively to any situation.

The other traits he describes are:

Accessibility (Inaccessible, aloof CEOs can run successful businesses for a while, but in the long run, they make bad leaders.),

Strategic Listening (leadership is "a lot less about convincing people and more about benefiting from complex information and getting the best out of the people you work with. Listening for comprehension helps get you that information, of course, but it's more than that; it's also the greatest sign of respect you can give someone."),

Good Stewardship (Good stewardship is about responsible management and ethical standards that are in sync with the concerns of all of the constituents who are important to your business, including shareholders, stakeholders, investors, neighbors, and communities.),

Loyalty (360 Loyalty–loyal to what works for the whole company and for all good employees.),

Glass-Half Full POV (Seeing the difference between "Everything's OK!" and "Everything will be OK if we do the following things."),

Customer Service-Centric ("Makes it easy for people to become and stay customers in every way possible." Serving first selling second.),

Merit-Based Competitor (Compete by differentiation. It's OK to be nice to your competition. Kill them with kindness.), and

Gives a Damn ("Turning down the easy buck to instead do the right thing is one of the hardest choices we have to make.").

You can't fake being nice. "As communication becomes more fluid, leaders will be more exposed. We won't be able to hide anything anymore."

Book Giveaway

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There's no way to institutionalize or "corporatize" niceness–it comes from the top person and permeates the place. And it is the most cost effective way to promote what you do.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Marketing , Positive Leadership

03.20.13

Tipping Sacred Cows or How We Unwittingly Turn Our Virtues Into Vices

Leadership
Tipping Sacred Cows by Jake Breeden is one of those bring-you-back-to-reality must-read books. It is about how we undermine ourselves and our organizations and get ourselves into comfortable ruts, by blindly following seemingly virtuous traits. It’s often about taking our strengths too far or misapplying them.

Our values give us life and direction on one hand, “and on the other hand can steal our energy, effectiveness, and success. Like rocks in a river channel, these unexamined values can get in our way, impede our efforts, and even capsize us,” writes Breeden.

Julian was given the reins of a company and immediately set about cutting waste and inefficiency—his core value. Profits temporarily rose but growth eventually stalled. He took the firm “from growing inefficiently to shrinking efficiently.” In an effort to be efficient, he ripped the heart out of the organizational culture. Breeden advises:
Julian Fletcher shouldn’t stop being efficient—he needs to start being more sophisticated. He needs to raise his game so he understands how efficiency can harmonize with other complementary leadership traits he needs to nourish.

When leaders embrace beliefs without understanding and managing the potential side effects, the beliefs become sacred cows and get in the way. When leaders shut off their brains and blindly follow the bromides of conventional wisdom they set off a string of unintended consequences.
Breeden tackles seven sacred cows:

Balance: “Balance operates through a constant stream of choices.” Balance is often thought to mean finding the middle ground. That’s not balance, that’s compromise. In order to find the middle ground, our choices “can too easily drift toward the middle in a cowardly compromise of nothingness. Balance backfires when it moves from being about bold, sometimes tough, choices to being about bland compromises.”

Collaboration: Collaboration should be accountable not automatic. “The default state of working should be alone; leaders should collaborate only when they must. Depending on your role, that may mean a significant part of your job requires collaboration. But ask yourself the question: does this work really need more than me?

Creativity: We all like creativity. It’s fun and exciting. But creativity needs to be useful and meet a real need or it’s just narcissistic creativity—creativity to serve our legacy. “Creativity should be pragmatic, not prideful.”

Excellence: Our pursuit of excellence “backfires when our high standards choke progress.” Forcing excellence on the process rather than the outcome.

One point I would add to Breeden’s section on excellence: excellence isn’t about doing everything perfectly. That’s perfectionism. We need to be careful not to confuse the two. Excellence is a way of thinking and includes making excellent mistakes, learning an excellent lesson and perhaps even going on to make a new and different mistake. If excellence is used as an excuse for indecision, avoiding all risk or unreasonable and immovable standards, it’s counterproductive. Excellence is a term that we sometimes throw around too loosely. It’s an excuse to cover perfectionism and/or controlling and self-centered behavior—my way or the highway.

Fairness: “Fairness backfires when some of our noblest instincts force us to ensure equitable outcomes rather than equitable processes.” Keeping score and evening the score to make sure no one gets more than their "fair share" often leads to regrets.

Passion: Bad passion crowds out everything else causing you to ruminate on one thing at the expense of others. Healthy passion is part of a diverse set of traits. Passion backfires when it becomes obsessive.

Preparation: The problem here is with too much backstage preparation. Preparation is critical but sometimes the best work is done in real-time—onstage preparation—learning while you are doing.

To make all of this very practical, Breeden provides in each chapter seven steps to: Make Your Balance Bold, Make Your Collaboration Accountable, Make Your Creativity Useful, Make Your Excellence Meaningful, Train Your Brain to Focus on Process Fairness, Make Your Passion More Harmonious, and seven ideas to Take Your Preparation to Center Stage. Very helpful material.

“Sometimes, without realizing it, we use our most reassured values as an excuse to avoid the discomfort of actually leading.” Organizational cultures and personal assumptions promote certain values. If these values are not examined from time to time in light of the overall purpose, then they can cause derailment or stagnation.

We can train ourselves “to avoid the waste that comes from the unintended consequences of unexamined conventional wisdom.” We can learn to lead with wisdom.

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Tipping Sacred Cows is an important book for anyone interested in applying virtues wisely. It provides understanding as to why things sometimes turn out so badly even though we did everything “right.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

02.26.13

5 Key Practices to Earn Trust

Trust
To trust or not to trust is a decision we all make every day. As leaders, we can influence people’s decision to trust not only us, but others in the organization and even the organization itself.

Robert Hurley has identified ten specific trust factors in The Decision to Trust. The first three factors are trustor-related: the level of risk tolerance, the trustor’s level of psychological adjustment, and the power position of the trustor.

Trust DTMThe other seven factors are situational: They are security, similarity, alignment of interests, the level of perceived benevolent concern, capability, predictability and integrity, and communication. The first three are more about the trustee’s character as perceived by the trustor – while the other seven are more about the trustor’s perception of the situation.

With these ten factors in mind, you can more easily diagnose why trust may be (or likely to be) high or low in your organization. You can also see what you are contributing to the situation—positively or negatively. Here are five key practices to earn trust:

1. Align your interests with those whose trust you want. High trust leaders try to move their enterprise together by encapsulating stakeholders’ interests not pitting stakeholders against one another. If you want to build trust, start by clarifying and aligning stakeholder interests and prove that you will promote those interests in a fair manner. This may seem to go without saying, but “one of the reasons that trust has broken down in business and society in general is that there are many situations where the complexity of misaligned interests is not acknowledged, must less dealt with.” In these situations, “the best you can do is be clear about interests, decide whose interests will be primary or secondary, and be transparent about what trade-offs you are making and why.”

2. Demonstrate Benevolent Concern. We tend to trust people who we believe will care about our welfare—they demonstrate a benevolent character. People, who appear concerned only with themselves, engender distrust. If you want to earn trust, demonstrate to others that you will do the right thing for them even if it puts you at risk. “Demonstrate a respect for others and understand others’ needs in a way that helps them find win-win solutions.”

3. Develop and demonstrate Capability in the Matter at Hand. We are only trustworthy if we can deliver on our commitments. Good intentions, benevolence, and even ethical conduct, do not warrant trust if the other person is incompetent. High trust leaders make sure that there is a reasonable probability and capability to deliver before they make promises.

4. Create a track record of Predictability and Integrity. High trust leaders tend to practice values based leadership, which creates consistency and coherence in their behavior. Trust comes from always striving to honor ones word.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate and do it clearly and openly. Because is largely about relationships, communication is critical. Communication is also the vehicle through which the other four elements of trustworthiness are delivered. Aligning interests, demonstrating benevolence, accurately communicating ones capability and practicing what you preach all require effective communication skills. Spirals of distrust often begin with miscommunication, leading to perceived betrayal causing further impoverishment of communication and ending in a state of chronic distrust. Open and transparent communication can induce others to open up and reciprocate with feelings of confident reliance.

Of Related Interest:
  People are Job 1

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

01.21.13

5 Things Smart Risk Takers Do Well

Leadership
Doug Sundheim’s book, Taking Smart Risks, isn’t really about making your next risky decision smarter or safer; it’s about pushing all of your choices to be riskier, but smarter on a daily basis.

We tend to view our choices as risky or safe. Safe is good while risky is well, risky. You’re taking a chance with a risky choice; it could lead to ruin. Sundheim says that view doesn’t capture the essence of what taking a risk is all about. Taking a risk is “exposing oneself to the possibility of loss or injury in the hopes of achieving a gain or reward.” It’s really the reason we would consider taking a risk rather than just playing it safe. It’s not an either/or proposition—safe or risky. But because we perceive it that way, we tend to do all we can to avoid risk and stay in our comfort zone.

Sundheim lists five common dangers of playing it safe for too long:

• You don’t win.
• You don’t grow.
• You don’t create.
• You lose confidence.
• You don’t feel alive.

Are you caught in the comfort zone? Here’s a thought we can all relate to:
Being caught in the comfort zone doesn’t mean that you’re sitting around doing nothing. It’s more nuanced than that. You could be making progress, but not quickly enough. You could be taking chances, but not boldly enough. You could be going out on a limb, but not far enough, and the extra push is what will make a difference.
What Sundheim is advocating is a change in our mindset regarding risk. Rather than perceiving risk as negative (“Things may not be perfect now, but they’re not all that bad. If I make a move, things could end up worse. I’d better not risk it.”), we should view it as a balanced focus on both the downside of taking risks and not taking risks (“I’ll regret it if I don’t pursue this thing. I’ve got to find some smart ways to take risks to move it forward.”). A limiting mindset versus a liberating mindset.

Smart Risk Zone The shift from limiting to liberating is “a move from needing total security before moving forward to understanding that you can’t have total security before moving forward.” Between safe and risky is the smart-risk zone.

Smart risk takers consistently do five things well to disrisk whatever they’re up to:
  1. Find something worth fighting for. It is what all smart risks have in common. It must be simple, stir emotion, lend itself to a story or narrative, and inspire action.
  2. See the future now. Ask questions, understand concerns, test the concept behind your ideas, and predict as many fail points in advance that you can. Have an open, honest conversation with trusted people around you to determine what is the worst that could really happen.
  3. Act fast, learn fast. Start before you know where to start, fail early, often, and smart—build learning into everything, and stay humble. Accept that you have to live with failure—since it is an inevitable by-product of taking risks, even smart risks. Failing smart is the best way to learn.
  4. Communicate powerfully. Expect communication to break down and plan accordingly. Share thought processes, meet regularly, and don’t avoid difficult conversations.
  5. Create a smart-risk culture. Define a smart failure—the acceptable boundaries within which it is okay to fail. Reward both the successes and these smart failures.
Communication is a critical element of each of these stages. “At every stage of any risk, improving the way in which you discuss thoughts, plans, and actions is the single most effective way to derisk the risk, that is, to make it smart.”

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Taking Smart Risks makes a solid case for and gives the methodology to push ourselves and our organizations out of our comfort zone to achieve growth, innovation, results, and satisfaction. Importantly, it also a book about how to live with the inevitable failures that are part of a meaningful life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Communication , Creativity & Innovation , Management , Problem Solving , Thinking

12.07.12

Do Leaders Really Matter?

Leadership
Are individual leaders truly responsible for the end result, or do they just happen to be there—for better or worse? asks Gautam Mukunda in Indispensible. To be sure, Lincoln and Churchill have mattered, but does every leader matter?

Of course, every leader matters to someone. But here Mukunda is talking about leaders who matter on a larger scale—those that matter to all of us. What would have happened if someone else had filled the same role. “Leader impact can best be thought of as the marginal difference between what actually happened and what would have happened if the most likely alternative leader had come to power….Will he or she make significantly different choices than the other plausible candidates.”

It gets down to how we choose our leaders and how we advance people through an organization. This process, Mukunda calls the Leader Filtration Process (LFP). A given LFP will filter candidates through a process designed to find those who conform to a specific value system—a Modal or standard leader. Occasionally an Extreme candidate will slip through. Many organizations weed out potential Extremes. The military’s promotion system is an example of a tight filtration process. At the other extreme, entrepreneurship is a very loose process—you become an entrepreneur just by deciding to do it.

EXTREME LEADERS

A leader that has bypassed an LFP is likely to be an Extreme. Charisma helps leaders bypass filtration. “Family connections, personal wealth, and celebrity, for example, all smooth the path to power without subjecting candidates to the risk of being Filtered out by the LFP.”

Modal leaders can be highly successful under normal conditions. They are good at maintaining the status quo. I would associate management with Modal leaders. Extremes, on the other hand, are all about innovation. “Extreme leaders will be much more likely to change the goals their organization or state is pursuing and to adopt means to achieve those goals that other leaders would not—that’s why they have such marked impact compared with other Modals.”

If you are stuck, an Extreme leader may be just what you need. But while Extremes deviate—and that may be a good thing—they are “far more likely than Modals to have dramatic successes and failures.”

“Filtration is supposed to prevent leaders with undesirable characteristics from gaining power.” This is quite understandable. However, “many of those undesirable traits aren’t purely negative—in the right situation, they can be a huge asset.”

What helps make an Extreme great is when they couple their decisions with humility. “The Extreme leader does what others would not do, even when others advise him or her against it. To make this sort of choice when the stakes are high takes enormous confidence. Sometimes, however, the Extreme’s advisers will be right. When that is true, the great Extreme leader will have the humility to defer to their judgment. It is this almost paradoxical combination of self-confidence and humility that marks the transcendentaly great leader.”

Mukunda’s Leader Filtration Theory has implications as to how and when we choose certain types of leaders to lead us. He recommends that if you are a Filtered leader that you bring a few Extremes into your inner circle.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:11 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Government , Human Resources , Management

10.19.12

Leading Apple With Steve Jobs

Leadership
Jay Elliot, former Senior Vice President of Apple, has spent a lot of time with Steve Jobs. In Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, he writes that “Isaacson’s Steve is not the Steve I knew.” He believes that there has been too much focus on the negative aspects of how Jobs dealt with people and not enough on the positive. “I think,” he writes, “most people who worked for him, including me, would say they did the best work of their lives for him and don’t regret the experience a bit.” While his stories regarding his time with Jobs don’t do much to polish his image, he does bring out aspects of his thinking that undoubtedly have given people the opportunity to feel that in spite of the negative aspects of Jobs' behavior, Apple is where they wanted to be.

When analyzing anything, it always a challenge to pull out the important lesson and learn how to integrate the good without the bad. We are all a complex mix of motivations and behaviors and everything we do seems like an indispensable part of achieving our success (or not). But we can always improve—diminish the negative and emphasize the positive.

It is not unusual for any of us to find ourselves in a position where our intention is admirable but we lack the skill to implement it in the most beneficial way. Frequently, we can find ourselves stuck without alternatives to our own patterns of behavior. As leaders we have to constantly be learning—by reflection and reading about the lives of others—to discover where we could expand our thinking and therefore our options.

Not only does Elliot help us understand why Jobs was the way he was, he does a good job of explaining the development of and reasoning behind much of the Apple mystic that is worth implementing.

Jobs said that “It’s not my job to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways to get resources for the key projects. It’s my job to push the team and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” Jobs believed that accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, and secrecy, would sustain innovative leadership at Apple.

Getting the right people was as important to Jobs as creating a new product. “When you’re in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.” Elliot says that he learned from Jobs the value of “knowing your own values so well that you can instinctively recognize someone who shares those values.” It would be good to reflect on our own values from this standpoint. Another way of thinking about this would be to consider: if you don’t know why you do what you do, why would anyone want to follow you?

The right people make the difference. “A leader in the Steve Jobs model needs to have a set of lieutenants who can translate his goals and vision into detailed action plans. The success of Apple through the years has largely been due to Steve’s talent for surrounding himself with people who could bear the heat when he wasn’t satisfied, were strong enough to stand up to him when he was wrong, and were able to relay not just his instructions but his commitment, drive, and vision to the crew.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Human Resources , Management

09.12.12

The Strategy Book

The Strategy Book
“Strategy is about shaping the future,” writes Max McKeown. There are five basic questions that strategy tries to answer: Where are we? Where do we want to go? What changes have to be made? How should changes be made? How shall we measure progress?

There are a number of ways to get the answers to these questions. Max McKeown has created a strategy reference work – The Strategy Book – to guide you to the answers.

Each chapter defines the objective, the context and the challenge—and then what success looks like and the pitfalls you might encounter. Well thought out and helpful.

Part of thinking like a strategist is learning to recognize unplanned opportunities and reacting. In fact, says McKeown, unplanned opportunities may be your best chance of creating a great strategy. The problem is following a plan so closely without responding to events that you will “lead the company efficiently in the wrong direction.”

In a sense, strategy creates risk. “Strategy involves completion of goals, and the risk is the difference between those goals and the ability of the organization to achieve them.” Because “uncertainty can only be reduced by committed decisions and actions,” you can choose to create a “certainty of purpose and direction.”

The Strategy Toolkit at the end of the book is not just another nice add-on. It is worth as much as the rest of the book. It contains concise explanations (without all the jargon) of some of the most popular strategy tools and how to use them. In his own words: “First, there are the most popular tools—those that are used most often in the workplace. Second, there are some of the most influential tools from the field of strategy and management. Third, there are tools that I have found valuable in my work with some of the most successful organisations in the world."

The tools include: SWOT analysis, Porter's 5 forces of competition, McKinsey's 7-S framework, BCG’s product portfolio matrix, Kim and Mauborgne's blue ocean, Kaplan and Norton's balanced scorecard, Mintzberg’s deliberate and emergent, Prahalad's bottom of the pyramid and twenty-one more.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:20 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management

09.10.12

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

Finding good employees is not enough. Organizations must have a plan in place to keep the employees they have. A priority for many employees today, is career development opportunities.

career development
The problem is very few managers and leaders feel they have the time to work on career development. Yet career development, say Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, is nothing more than helping people grow. And that’s job one for leaders.

Kaye and Giulioni contend that it is not as hard as we usually make it out to be. “Quality career development boils down to quality conversations”—frequent, short conversations that occur within the natural flow of work. They suggest that we “reframe career development in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee, and that our role is more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action.”

Their framework for career development is organized around three types of conversations:

Hindsight conversations. These conversations are meant to help develop self-awareness—where they have been what they are good at. This is even more apparent with by good feedback. “Helping people look back and inward also provides a reservoir of information that allows employees to move forward and toward their career goals in intentional ways that will produce satisfying results.”

Foresight conversations. What an employee learns about themselves in hindsight needs to be applied in the context of what is going on around them. “When you help your employees develop the ability to scan the environment, anticipate trends, and spot opportunities, you provide a constructive context for career development.”

Insight conversations. These conversations leverage what your employee learns from the convergence of the insight and foresight conversations. Here you guide them into practical steps they can take to be where they want to be. “Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.” Today, it’s not about moving up the ladder but moving to the place you want to be. Kaye and Giulioni suggest that we learn to help them grow in place. This requires a shift in thinking. “The challenge of growing in place involves stripping titles from our thinking and instead focusing on what the employee needs to experience, know, learn, and be able to do.”
Too frequently we limit the scope of career conversations, thinking they’re only about jobs, promotions, or stretch assignments—the actions employees can take to move forward. Important? Yes. But that’s just a drop in the bucket of conversations you can have with employees.
We have conversations about the work anyway, so why not make it a teachable moment. “A few minutes of conversation can help others slow down enough to reflect, bring deep insights to the surface, verbalize important messages, and consider how to leverage their expanding skills and knowledge base.”

If you don’t think you have the time to incorporate this vital task in what you do, this book is for you. Kaye and Giulioni offer templates, guidelines, and sample conversations and questions that you can adapt to your own situation. With their approach, career development stays fresh because each employee’s career plan is unique and done in real-time.

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Career development should flow naturally out of a leader’s genuine concern for others. The framework work provided in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go provides a way of thinking to make that process happen naturally and effectively and at the most appropriate times.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Management

09.07.12

Adaptability: The Art of Winning In An Age of Uncertainty

Max McKeown accurately argues in Unshrink that our beliefs have shrunk us. They have limited our responses. And it profoundly affects our ability to adapt.

Adaptability
Adaptability is a book about how people adapt. It is about how to win more often. “In the future,” writes author Max McKeown, “you can try to maintain what you already have, or you can attempt to transcend the constraints of your situation.”

Of course, to begin, you have to recognize the need to adapt. That’s not always as easy as it sounds mainly because we have to admit that something isn’t right. You have to understand what’s going on. Enthusiastic ignorance often rules the day. And so as, McKeown points out, “stupid survives until smart succeeds.” Knowing the rules and when to break them is essential to successful adaptability.
If you find a system failing, then you have also found a system that is failing to adapt. You need to discover, first, what adaptations are needed for the system to succeed. Second, you should understand what has stopped the system from adapting successfully. And third, you should find out how to free the people in the system to make the necessary adaptations.
Once you recognize the need to adapt, you need to understand what adaptation is required. In times of great uncertainty, we need the knowledge creators, the radical and the rebels. “When times are easy, almost anyone can look effective….When choices seem obvious, unimaginative leaders may be rewarded for making the obvious choices even when they know they’re the wrong choices.”

Leaders too, need to release its stranglehold on what is considered acceptable and unacceptable thought. Effective adaptation will not happen when there is a dominance of a couple of people over the way everyone else is allowed to think and act.

It is important to not only identify what needs to be done, but to keep on learning until you get it right. Something to think about:
Most people lock on to a particular course of action, they make their minds up early and fail to adapt to evidence that their choices are wrong. As a result, only a small portion of most people’s experiences lead to new learning.
Finally, you need to actually make the changes necessary to adapt. “The most successfully adaptive companies are those that never grow up.” It is rare to find leaders that are comfortable with “learning what is necessary from the people who do the work and know the answers.” McKeown rightly observes that being all knowing is not a human quality.

When attempting to adapt, “it is very tempting to try to remake a new situation to match an old situation.” We tend to continue to do what we already know.

“In adaptive terms, if you are still in the game, then it’s always the beginning.” This is a critical mindset for successful adaptation. “You can imaginatively rethink your actions so that wherever you are becomes the best place to start.”

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Adaptive intelligence is the ability to perceive how well a behavior fits in with a particular circumstance. It’s about fit. These ideas also have implications for our relationships as well. Failing relationships may be seen as a failure to adapt to the presence of another person. Sometimes that's called self-centeredness.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , General Business , Management , Personal Development

08.28.12

The I in Team

Teams
The often repeated phrase, “There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM” is only half true. It ignores the fact that great teams have great individual members. And high performing teams are not always easy places to be. Mark de Rond acknowledges in There Is an I in Team, that “with few exceptions, the qualities that make individuals as gifted as they are can make them wearisome as team members.”

Great team members are often perfectionists, paranoid, stubborn and/or self confident. But they do perform. “Team leadership is as much about mitigating the risks of these traits as it is about exploiting their potential.

David Whitaker, one of Britain’s most distinguished coaches wrote in The Spirit of Teams, “If you want an exceptional team, keep your eye on the individual … Teams thrive on individual choice and commitment … the most powerful teams are made up of individuals who have chosen to work as a team.”

Using fresh examples, de Rond tackles other realities of teams:

On high performance teams, everyone is not equal. Star performers increase a team’s overall effectiveness but only to a point. If the proportion of stars versus average members exceeds much beyond about 50%, you begin to experience diminishing returns. Of course, emotional intelligence plays a part. De Rond reports that “if someone is strongly disliked, it is almost irrelevant whether or not he is competent. By contrast, if someone is liked, her colleagues will seek out every bit of competence she has to offer, meaning that a little likeability has far more mileage than competence in making someone a desirable team member.”

Without internal competition, teams may underperform. Too much harmony can hurt team performance. “A healthy level of internal competition can help get the best out of high performers.” Citing Timothy Gallwey, De Rond explains, “each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, yet not for the sake of beating another player, but merely to overcome the obstacle he now presents.”

Interestingly, one study de Rond offers, finds that often team members value charitable individuals much less than we might expect. After a team activity, members were asked which people they would eliminate. Not surprisingly, the selfish people were unpopular, but so were the most selfless. One explanation was that “seeing others take less than their fair share made them feel bad, and that the only way to rescue their own reputations was to eliminate the martyr. Virtue had become a vice.

While we want everyone to be on the same page, people have different versions of reality. Whether or not they are correct is less relevant than what their realities tell you about their priorities. “At the root of much team conflict is disagreement on why things are as they are and not otherwise, which too easily escalates as colleagues begin to question each other’s motives. To recognize explanations for what they are—a visceral reminder of what matters to people personally—is often a good first step to calming the waters.”

De Rond also deals with social loafing or why productivity tumbles with size. An interesting series of studies show that productivity and team size is less an issue of coordination and more a problem of contribution. Team members are “more likely to optimize their performance when faced with slightly fewer members than the task at hand requires.” Management consultant Kal Bishop found that with creative teams in particular, larger teams were inclined to seek consensus rather than explore novel ideas.

Understanding and managing our humanity is key to leading teams. De Rond concludes: “Team leaders may choose to increase their reliance on sophisticated technological gadgets to up performance but will only ever be effective when they use these tools to unlock that basic, shared humanity. And, then, not by dispensing solutions, but by knowing what questions to ask and when.”

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There is an I in Team deals with the question of how people affect those around them and how they are influenced by them in turn—in reality.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:22 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Teamwork

08.24.12

Leadership as Provocative Competence

Leadership
Jazz has always been a good metaphor for the art of leadership. In Yes to the Mess, Frank Barrett knocks it out of the park. How do we create a culture where people can innovate? Barrett wants us to look at leadership differently and increase our leadership repertoire beyond hierarchical models, “so that we more fully appreciate the power of relationships.” And in that he succeeds.

Barrett introduces us to what he calls Provocative Competence. It is the capacity “to create the discrepancy and dissonance that trigger people to move away from habitual positions and repetitive patterns.” Barrett says “Leadership as a design activity means creating space so that people will be tempted to grow on their own.”

Herbert Simon, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978 for his research on decision making in organizations, believed that we should not think of leaders as making decisions on past data, “but as creating forms so that people can flourish in the future,” or as Barrett expresses more clearly, as shaping “worlds of interpretation in which others can make meaningful contributions.”

The outcome then, is to enliven activity and rouse the mind to life. It isn’t about authority but is “relational moves within an unfolding context” and are judged by “how well they work with the resources at their disposal … and how effectively they help free their own potential and that of others.”

Barrett breaks provocative competence down into five component parts:

First, it is an affirmative move. “What makes these interventions powerful is that the leader holds a positive image of what others are capable of. This often means seeing other people’s strengths better than they see their own strengths.”

Second, provocative competence involves introducing a small disruption to routine. “What makes provocative competence an ‘art’ is the introduction of just enough unusual material that it engages people to be mindful—to pay attention in new ways.” Timing and pacing is important he cautions. “Leaders who disrupt on a regular basis or try to be provocative all the time are obnoxious, and are eventually ignored and probably mimicked.”

Third, it is important to create situations that demand activity. People are expected to jump in and work it out and discover as they go.

Fourth, provocative competence means facilitating incremental reorientation by encouraging repetition. There is a balance here. “Not all repetition is the same. Sometimes you need to repeat a gesture and then start to notice it from a slightly different angle…. Even while people are learning on old habits, they have to attend to new cues and new options, and start to manage and process information within a new, broader context.”

Fifth, provocative competence involves analogic sharpening of perspectives and thought processes. “This is the point at which people look back at what is emerging and jump into the morass as they make comparisons, links, and connections to a larger, emerging whole.” This is the thrust of innovation. Net effect: “People start to notice affinity between pieces that previously seemed disconnected; resemblances that no one noticed before start to emerge.”

Of course, notes Barrett, “different groups have different levels of performance, and leaders certainly have to deal with imperfect talent, but saying yes to the mess means finding affirmation in the best of what already exists.” That’s the job of a great leader. It’s what separates leaders from bosses. “That’s a true gift: to be able to see people at their very best when their current behavior is far less than that.

Of Related Interest:
  Making Your Team Swing
  Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:59 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Leadership , Management

08.21.12

The Main Thing: How to Keep Organizations Centered on What Matters Most

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance. They say that the first challenge of alignment is to get everyone on the same page by understanding the organization in the same way. That means getting to the unifying concept of the organization to which everyone can contribute.

"The main thing is to keep the Main Thing the main thing!"

We loved that expression when we first heard it from Jim Barksdale, then the COO of FedEx. That single sentence captures the greatest challenge that executives and managers face today: keeping their people and their organizations centered on what matters most.

Every organization needs a Main Thing—a single, powerful expression of what it hopes to accomplish. Without it, it's not possible to align the four elements that produce organizational efficiency and effectiveness: strategy, people, customers, and processes.

Does your organization have a Main Thing? Do your people understand it? Are they guided by it?

Fred Smith, the Founder and CEO of FedEx, once described to us his understanding of The Main Thing—which he refers to as the "theory of the business."
Every successful business has, at its heart, a theory of the business—an underlying set of supporting objectives and a corporate philosophy that gives people a foundation on which to operate. Working inside that framework, they've got an idea of what we want them to do—to prioritize. We [at FedEx] have a very clear business mission and a business theory which is understood certainly by every member of the management team, and probably by 90 percent of the work force."
The Main Thing is critically important. It is the end that strategy and human effort serve. We cannot achieve and maintain alignment without consensus and conviction about The Main Thing. Yet we are always amazed by how few people can articulate their organization's main thing. When we ask participants in workshops, "What's your Main Thing?" we see people digging into their wallets for the latest mission statement. Others look questioningly to the person sitting next to them. We wonder how these people can formulate a strategy or know how well they are doing if they cannot even state—or agree on—the ultimate purpose of their work.

Some people, however, can articulate their Main Thing without hesitation. Here are a few examples:
  • For people at FedEx, The Main Thing is: "People-Service-Profit."
  • An official in charge of nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated her organization's Main Thing as "Ending hunger in this country."
  • An electrical utility executive explained his company's purpose crisply and clearly: "To be the power source of choice."
  • The CEO of Connecticut's Farmington Bank told George that its Main Thing is to "Drive economic development in central Connecticut."
  • The U.S. Navy's huge Naval Aviation Enterprise, which supplies aircraft and trained crews to the fleet, has boiled its Main Thing down to a simple phase: "Aircraft and crews ready for tasking at lower cost."
  • Boston's Port Authority, which has responsibility for bridges, airport, and harbor terminals, once described its Main Thing as "Advancing Boston's pace of economic development."
Our good friend, Claude Roessiger has long experience with luxury brand management. He likens our concept of The Main Thing to a strong brand. "A brand, he explained, "produces an emotional response and at the same time communicates to all how to behave." Your Main Thing should do the same.

What is The Main Thing for your organization? Can you articulate it clearly and concisely? Can your subordinates? In many organizations, people have no clear answer, or will offer a confusing list of lofty goals. Others will describe their strategy. But a strategy is not The Main Thing; it is merely its servant. In some cases senior management defines The Main Thing one way and the people in the trenches define it in another. In these cases people and policies work at cross-purpose; one person is pulling when the other guy is pushing.

As you formulate a Main Thing for your organization, keep these guidelines in mind:
  • The Main Thing for the organization as a whole must be a common and unifying concept to which every unit can contribute.
  • Each department and team must be able to see a direct relationship between what it does and this overarching goal.
  • The Main Thing should be clear, easy to understand, and consistent with the strategy of the business.

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Leadership
Dr. George H. Labovitz is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management. Victor Rosansky is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:39 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leading Forum , Management

08.06.12

The Pivot Point of Organizational Change

Leadership
We know that the vast majority of organizational change initiatives fail. Why? The general answer is our resistance to change. But what if it’s something else?

In The Pivot Point, authors Victoria and James Grady ask, “What if this is not a ‘resistance’ problem for which the organization must engineer a solution, but a deeper ‘people’ problem that the organization must first learn to understand and respect?”

Perhaps the problem is less about resistance to change and more about attachment to some thing.

Change involves destruction and insecurity. You have to give up something to create something new. It’s the nature of change. Sometimes it is very hard to give up that thing. It creates anxiety, frustration and insecurity. “We form attachments to objects unique to our organizational environment and we lean on them for support.” What we react to is our loss of attachment.
The essence of the problem is not resisting change per se, but resisting the distress inherent in somehow losing the objects that we attach to or lean on in our work environment. These objects can be people, systems, places, things, or even abstract concepts such as ideas or environments—anything that provides us with a sense of “attachment” to the organization.
If this is the case, then the challenge is to identify those attachments and the impact the proposed change will have on them, and design a solution around them—introducing changes will maintaining healthy attachments. The authors refer to this as the Pivot Point of organizational change success: “when we recognize the significance of our individual reaction to organizational change, take appropriate steps to support healthy attachment behaviors, and make use of current information to optimize the situation for all concerned.”

The authors suggest that “to mitigate the negative effects of losing our sense of stability, one way an organization can ease the transition of a change initiative is to look for a generic substitute to replace the lost object until a new sense of stability is restored. Those replacements could be “a leader, a favored object, a method of communication, a continuing education series, a technology, a colleague, a culture, or any combination of these items.”

They also present other methodologies to prevent or modify symptoms before or as they are developing. It is possible to discover which symptoms are most likely to escalate, allowing you to implement a strategy to mitigate these symptoms before you ever begin your organizational change initiative.

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The Pivot Point helps us to understand our natural reaction when our stability is shaken by change. The key to successful change is managing people’s reaction to instability created by change.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:28 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Management

07.18.12

How to Turn Your Team Around in Six Stages

How do you transform a losing climate into one that fosters collaboration, innovation, and productivity?

Leadership
Losing is not necessary or permanent, but to turn it around you need a leader who can see the truth, identify where things that have gone wrong, and broadcast the reality of possible in spite of what’s actually happening. A turnaround is really a change in culture—changing the culture of the team or organization.

In Team Turnarounds, authors Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl present a six-stage Team Turnaround Process. While many of the examples are from sport franchises—Colts, Eagles, Steelers—and the people they interviewed there, they also include turnaround stories of Domino’s pizza, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark Broadway show, and the state of Michigan.

Each stage contains specific developmental milestones—principles that leaders and their teams typically master before proceeding to the next stage:

Stage I: Leading Past Losing
Stage I is an investigation into why your organization is losing. “Throughout this stage, you are building a clear case for why changes need to occur and for what those changes should be.” It begins with a belief that what is wrong can be made right. “The leader has to observe the team, learn where the failures lie, and then expose them.” It’s getting the dysfunction out in the open. Teams in Stage I also lack role clarity and without it, “team members lose focus and motivation and are left to wallow in mediocrity.”
The funny thing about truth is that people often want to embrace it. They may not want to hear it, but once it’s spoken, everyone’s shoulders drop in relief. Finally, someone has noticed that the organization has been skating by. Finally, someone is willing to confront the ugly reality. Finally, someone is putting the success of the group above everything else.
What most often holds us back are the excuses we hold on to.

Stage II: Committing to Growth
Once you know what’s wrong you can shift the team’s focus to what’s possible. “The team at stage II needs a vision for where it’s going, clear values to guide it, and a decisive plan of action that’s chock-full of specific and attainable goals.” Values provide the structure for how the team will move forward. “Team members have to move past the mediocrity they’ve embraced in the past.”

Stage III: Changing Behaviors In stage III, “your team members will learn to carry themselves as winners…. Leaders in stage III have to focus on providing their teams with insights into how and what they need to change while also providing the motivation to do it.” This is probably the hardest stage and requires a consistent example.

Stage IV: Embracing Adversity
A team in stage IV accept and embrace challenges as a way to show their stuff. “Setbacks and obstacles should be welcomed because you’re excited to prove that you’re better than you once were.” Of course, resilience is essential.
Challenges are moments of growth—times for you to refine yourself, make yourself better, and believe with even more confidence that you’re on the right path. The resilience and the willingness to take on adversity that come with stage IV will prepare your team for the even larger challenges presented in stage V.

Stage V: Achieving Success
Stage V is a moment of victory. A time to reflect on the victory and the reality of having to continue moving forward. You must continually redefine what success means for you and your team. You must work to stay fresh. In stage V you will adapt. The focus is on “defining who you are and adapting to where you want to go.”
We think of life, our efforts, our aspirations, as something like a movie, as if we work toward the one big goal, give everything we have to a single crowning achievement, and when it’s complete, the credits roll. We become so fixated on the effort to achieve that we sometimes lose sight of what we’re doing and how it relates to the bigger picture. We sometimes forget that there aren’t any credits, and that there’s no stop to the action after we hold up the trophy. Life keeps rolling even after our big wins.

Stage VI: Nurturing a Culture of Excellence
Success doesn’t last forever. Eventually other setbacks will occur. Stage VI is about bracing for those times by developing a winning culture that is both lasting and enduring. At stage VI an organization “needs to concentrate on continual learning and innovation. Culture, continual learning, and innovation are ever present throughout the Team Turnaround Process but are often overshadowed by more prominent themes during the first five stages.”
When teams win, they can become complacent. Success feels good and builds confidence, but it can also breed sloppy habits, overconfidence, and eventual performance decline.
The book concludes with the Team Turnaround Workbook. The exercises for each stage will help you and your team work through the Team Turnaround Process.

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The Team Turnaround Process is a useful keep-in-mind as it helps you to better understand where you are, fosters patience and helps you to be in the present while maintaining the big picture when executing a turnaround.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Management , Teamwork

06.28.12

Innovation at Bell Labs

Leadership
Bill Gates once remarked, “My first stop on any time-travel expedition would be Bell Labs in December 1947,” That was the year Bell Labs invented the transistor—a tiny invention that makes possible the technology we have today.

Finding an aspect of modern life that doesn’t incorporate some strand of Bell Labs’ DNA would be difficult. Cellular communications, the laser, digitized and synthesized music, the solar battery cell, the first orbiting communications satellite, and the UNIX operating system, are all products of Bell Labs.

AT&T officially created Bell Telephone Laboratories on January 1, 1925. At its peak in the late 1960s’, Bell Labs employed about twelve-hundred PhDs and produced 13 Nobel Prize winners.

In The Idea Factory, author Jon Gertner brings back to life not only the story of Bell Telephone Laboratories through the people that worked there, but the story of innovation—how it happens, why it happens, and who makes it happen. It is a well told and fascinating story.

Our Mr Sun
(My first encounter with Bells Labs was like many school aged kids in the sixties, through their series of science filmsHemo the Magnificent, Our Mr. Sun, Gateways to the Mind and others. A great way to spend an hour in science class.)

John Pierce is one of the brilliant and interesting people we are introduced to in Gertner’s story. It was Pierce that suggested calling the new device of 1947 a transistor. Peirce was what Gertner calls an instigator. “An instigator is different from a genius, but just as uncommon. An instigator is different, too, from the most skillful manager, some able to wrest excellence out of people who might otherwise fall short.” Pierces real talent was “in getting people interested in something that hadn’t really occurred to them before.”

Humans all suffer from a terrible habit of shoving new ideas into old paradigms. “Everyone faces the future with their eyes firmly on the past and they don’t see what’s going to happen next,” observed John Pierce.

For creativity to flourish, it needs both freedom and structure. When pierce first came to Bell Labs “he was given free rein to pursue any ideas he might have. He considered the experience equivalent to being cast adrift without a compass. ‘Too much freedom is horrible,’ he would say in describing his first few months at the Labs. Indeed he eventually came to believe that freedom in research was similar to food; it was necessary, but moderation was usually preferable to excess.”

Gertner writes, “We usually imagine that invention occurs in a flash, with a eureka moment that leads a lone inventor toward a startling epiphany. In truth, large leaps forward in technology rarely have a precise point of origin. At the start, forces that precede an invention merely begin to align, often imperceptibly, as a group of people and ideas converge, until over the course of months or years (or decades) they gain clarity and momentum and the help of additional ideas and actors. Luck seems to matter, and so does timing, for it tends to be the case that the right answers, the right people, the right place—perhaps all three—require a serendipitous encounter with the right problem. And then—sometimes—a lead. Only in retrospect do such leaps look obvious. When Niels Bohr—along with Einstein, the world’s greatest physicist—heard in 1938 that splitting a uranium atom could yield a tremendous burst of energy, he slapped his head and said, ‘Oh, what idiots we have all been.’”

Today there is nothing quite like the Bell Labs of AT&T and Western Electric to produce the creative technology that they did. Bell Labs laser scientist Herwig Kogelnik describes the magic of Bell Labs well: “It’s the interaction between fundamental science and applied science, and the interface between many disciplines, that creates new ideas.

First Transistor
The first transistor created in 1947 was a quarter of the size of an American penny. Now a computer-processor chip the size of a postage stamp contains 2 billion transistors. Intel alone, makes 10 billion transistors every second. Time marches on. “I am afraid that there will be little tangible left in a later age,” Pierce wrote of his world at Bell Labs, “to remind our heirs that we were men, rather than cogs in a machine.”

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While the Bell Labs story is a fascinating read on its own, Gertner’s The Idea Machine has much for leaders about designing a innovative environment and the management of creative people. Great read for the summer.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:54 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Management , Problem Solving

05.14.12

5 Leadership Lessons: The Leader as Strategist

5 Leadership Lessons

The Strategist is not a book about strategy, but a book designed to equip and inspire you to be a strategist. Author Cynthia Montgomery, says we have reduced strategy to a right-brain exercise and have lost sight of what it takes to lead the effort. The essential component of the strategy-making process is the leader.

Leaders must not ignore or underestimate their crucial and ongoing role as a strategist. “Strategy is not a destination or a solution,” writes Montgomery. “It is not a problem to be solved and settled. It’s a journey. It needs continuous, not intermittent, leadership. It needs a strategist.”

1  The myth of the super-manager—that a truly good manager can prevail regardless of the circumstances—is hard to let go. First, you must understand the competitive forces in your industry. How you respond to them is your strategy. Second, even if you understand your industry’s competitive forces, you must find a way to deal with them that is up to the challenge. Third, whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of those forces.

2  Strategy is about serving an unmet need, doing something unique or uniquely well for some set of stakeholders. Beating the competition is critical, to be sure, but it’s the result of finding and filling that need, not the goal.

3  Nothing else is more important to the survival and success of a firm than why it exists, and what otherwise unmet needs it intends to fill. Every concept of strategy that has entered the conversation of business managers—sustainable competitive advantage, positioning, differentiation, added value, even the firm effect—flows from purpose.

4  After you’ve identified your purpose, aligned your activities and resources, and tested the results—all internal working steps—you are ready to summarize your strategy in a statement you can use to communicate both inside and outside your firm…. Make every word real. Make every word count. Long sentences and vague language can obscure your effort to describe what’s really important. At best, they’re unhelpful; at worst, they’re potentially misleading and distracting.

5  The most important thing is to understand that you are not a manager of strategy, or a functional specialist. Others can fill those roles. You are, first and foremost, a leader. Your goal is to build something that is not already there. To do so, you must confront the four basic questions you have already explored:

What does my organization bring to the world?
Does that difference matter?
Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate?
Are we doing what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?


As a leader, you must answer them.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:13 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Management

05.08.12

What Matters Now

What Matters Now
What Matters Now by Gary Hamel is probably one of the most important books you could read this year. It is an invitation to rethink the fundamental assumptions we have about capitalism, management, institutions, and life at work. It is, as Hamel describes it, “a blueprint for creating organizations that are fit for the future and fit for human beings.”

The book is divided into five fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology. Here are some of his thoughts that become more powerful as they sink in:

Values Matter Now.

• What matters now is that managers embrace the responsibilities of stewardship.

• Every institution rests on moral footings, and there is no force that can erode those foundations more rapidly than a cataract of self-interest.

• I think corporate life is so manifestly profane, so mechanical, mundane, and materialistic, that any attempt to inject a spiritual note feels wildly out of place—the workplace equivalent of reading the Bible in a brothel.

Innovation Matters Now.

• Post these simple questions on your company’s idea wiki: First, what are the thoughtless little ways we irritate customers and what can we do to change that? And second, what are the small, unexpected delights we could deliver to our customers at virtually no additional cost?

• Whenever you identify a convergent belief, ask, does this rest on some inviolable law of physics, or is it simply an artifact of our devotion to precedent? By working systematically to surface these invisible dogmas, you can turn reactionaries into rebels.

• To innovate, you need to see your organization and the world around it as a portfolio of skills and assets than can be endlessly recombined into new products and businesses.

Adaptability Matters Now.

• To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become a bit more disorganized and unmanaged—less structured, less hierarchical, and less routinized.

• There are only two things, I think, that can throw our habits into sharp relief: a crisis that brutally exposes our collective myopia, or a mission so compelling and preposterous that it forces us to rethink our time-worn practices.

• To put it bluntly, the conversation about “where we go next” should be dominated by individuals who have their emotional equity invested in the future rather than the past. It needs to be led by individuals who don’t feel the need to defend decisions that were taken ten or twenty years ago.

Passion Matters Now.

• It’s impossible to unleash human capabilities without first expanding the scope of employee autonomy. People need the freedom to challenge precedent, to “waste” time, to go outside of channels, to experiment, to take risks, and to follow their passions.

• How, many policies in your company exist only to preserve that fiction that the higher-ups really are in control? How many rules enforce standardization at the expense of initiative and passion, while delivering few if any performance benefits?

Ideology Matters Now.

• The creed of control reigns supreme. If you doubt this, ask yourself: Is your organization any less rules-driven than it was ten or twenty years ago? Do people on the front lines feel any less controlled? Are their freedoms any less abridged? And are little cogs any less obsesses with becoming big cogs?

• Give someone monarch-like authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screw-up.

• We don’t have to content ourselves with an organizational model that was designed to serve the interests of ancient military commanders and smokestack-era CEOs.

It’s time to re-invent our leadership. This book will help in that process.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

04.25.12

When Good Employees Do Bad: Six Surprising Behaviors that May Precede a Scandal

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by David Gebler author of The 3 Power Values. Gebler believes that employees already embody the values needed to create a high-performing culture, so leaders need to remove the behavior-based roadblocks that keep people from being able to live their values at work. Commitment, integrity and transparency keep an organizations core values aligned with each other because they serve as counterweights to our human tendencies to go off-track. Here, he identifies some behavior roadblocks:

Good intentions can lead to bad outcomes in business. This is especially true in organizations that have toxic cultures in which leaders tout worthy values—and then put up roadblocks that prevent employees from living those values. For example, if a company claims it welcomes innovation and risk taking, but then only rewards employees who toe the company line and reinforce the status quo, sooner or later people will simply stop asking questions, innovating, and stretching themselves. Instead, they will conform in order to please their bosses. While the company's competitive edge plummets, leaders may be left wondering: What happened to our core value of innovation and risk taking?

When we look at companies that have faced scandals such as recalls, ethical violations, or crimes, the problem often comes down to employees whose surprisingly positive behavior was distorted by a toxic culture and clueless leaders. Here are six seemingly benign behaviors that may come back to bite a company if they become exaggerated and throw the organization out of alignment:

Commitment to meeting deadlines.
One would think that a company where employees are encouraged to meet deadlines and rewarded for doing so consistently would lead to super-productivity and efficiency. In fact, it can lead to disaster. At Johnson & Johnson, the understood directive to get product to market on tough deadlines created a culture of "Don't ask too many questions" and resulted in a series of dangerous drug recalls that badly sullied the company's reputation.

Excessive optimism.
When a person is sick, optimism can buoy his spirits and help healing. When a company is unhealthy, "Everything is going to be okay" is not what you need to hear from those in authority positions. Take David Myers, former controller of WorldCom. By his own account, he saw the problems of the now-defunct company through rose-colored glasses. He simply kept believing--and telling his frightened staff--that the problems would resolve themselves eventually. By the time he came to his senses, he was under arrest for accounting fraud.

Staying focused on a goal.
Telling employees to keep their eye on the prize is not intrinsically a bad thing. But when the goal becomes more important to management than the underlying values of the organization, it can lead to a dysfunctional culture. For example, in the 1990s, Sears gave its auto repair mechanics a mandatory sales goal of $147 per hour. It wasn't long before customers began to be overcharged or sold unnecessary repairs.

Having a competitive mindset.
Boeing is known for its highly competitive employees and work culture. That's a good thing, right? Not so in 1996, when the company lost billions in government contracts for ethics violations after an employee stole 25,000 pages of proprietary documents from Lockheed. Flash forward to 2005, when employees were still so competitive that their own work teams were known to keep useful information secret from other teams in the company to make sure they stayed on top. Too much competition can erode cultural values, leading to disaster.

Sticking to a budget.
Most managers would be thrilled if their employees were doggedly determined to stay on budget and not cost the company any unnecessary money. But a good intention can go bad when financial performance becomes the only metric that matters. That was the case, many believe, behind the fatal mistake made on the BP oil platform in the Gulf. Before the explosion in April 2012 caused by a safety shortcut, BP's Macondo project was more than $40 million over budget. You know the rest.

Wanting to please higher-ups.
What's more attractive than a hardworking employee who wants his bosses to approve of him, based on high performance and outstanding results? A lot, in the case of French trader Jérôme Kerviel at the Société Générale banking group. His need to be liked led to $4.9 billion in massive financial fraud by means of elaborate computer manipulations. Kerviel is thought not to have profited personally from his crimes. He said he was just working to increase the bank's profits and make his bosses happy.

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Leadership
David Gebler is a sought-after speaker and panelist, and author of The 3 Power Values: How Commitment, Integrity, and Transparency Clear the Roadblocks to Performance (Jossey-Bass, 2012). He is founder and president of the Skout Group, which helps companies determine whether and how their organization's culture is costing them money, and what they can do to reduce risk and increase performance.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Management

04.23.12

Why Leaders Can NOT Procrastinate

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jason Womack, author of Your best Just Got Better—a book designed to show you how to make your best even better, how to achieve more in work and life, and how to sustain those changes over time. Womack defines productivity as: “Doing what I said I would do, within the time that I promised.”

You're about to end a conference call, and someone says, "Great, we'll send you some materials right away." A day goes by, and then a week. What happens to your confidence in that person? Surely, you may continue to do business together, but you'll always wonder if they'll do what they said they'd do, in the time they promised.

So, now is the time to look in the mirror Are you putting something off? Because you forgot, or is it on purpose? Are you missing key resources? Are you waiting for key data before you can make the next decision? Or, are you procrastinating? Begin by exploring your own daily routines. When you understand HOW you work, you can get things done more effectively. Here's an activity you can experiment with this week.

Write down the approximate time you arrive and leave the office every day. This represents your “work-week.” (I call this the "window of professional productivity.") For each single hour you were working, you made choices about what to focus on as “priority.” You also chose what did not get done!

Here are three ways to get going and sustain an action-orientation to your own productivity:
  1. Choose smaller verbs. One of the reasons that people don't do things as they think of them (especially entrepreneurs and senior leaders) is because of their skill at Visionary Thinking. Because they CAN think big, they do. Chunk your objectives into smaller markers along your path to success. Recently, I worked with a Managing Partner of a Fortune 500 company who realized that more important than managing time is her need to more effectively direct her focus within the small chunks of time she has to work.
  2. Find, create, utilize and assess the extra time you have each day. Arrive to an off-site meeting somewhere early? Other people running late? Maybe you get a last-minute cancellation of an appointment you had scheduled. What can you do during that time? Get ready for 15-minute blocks of time (what I call "bonus time") throughout the day. Why 15 minutes? That window is long enough to actually "do" something and short enough to find!
  3. Focus on what has happened. Regularly through the day (before lunch, and before you go home), take a moment and mentally check off what is complete. Oftentimes, there is so much going on, and so much you can think of that is UNDONE, you tend to forget how much is finished. This is your chance to recharge – as acknowledging completion is a quick way to get back on track. (Have you ever made a list of to-dos…after you’ve already done them?!)
Too often, long-range goals fall into the “important but not urgent” category of day-to-day workflow management. We put off doing the most important things while making start-and-stop progress. When this happens, the urgent – latest and loudest – clamors for our attention. Work smart, maximize short windows of time, and mark something as complete…it’s the best way to beat procrastination!

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Leadership
Jason W. Womack, M.A., M. Ed., advises corporate boards and entrepreneurs on the topics of maximizing productivity and achieving a balanced lifestyle. Visit his website at www.womackcompany.com and share your questions and comments via twitter @JasonWomack.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:51 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leading Forum , Management

04.20.12

Restoring Your Ability to Choose

We all like to think we are in charge of our choices. But the fact is that most of the time we are reacting, not choosing. Most of what we label choice is habit. We’re really on automatic. It can even lead us to think that we have no choice. Only when we pause—slow-down to think and reflect—are we exercising our ability to choose.

Leadership
Nance Guilmartin writes in The Power of Pause that a pause is “any space between an action and your reaction.” And it’s vitally important:
Today you need the ability to discern what lies beneath people’s words, their reactions, or their silence. If you don’t build the neuropathways in your brain to pause, to momentarily disengage your automatic reactions, you can trigger a chain reaction that derails your best intentions and strategies.
Guilmartin lists seven cues that a pause is in your best interest. It’s time to pause if you are thinking, feeling, or saying:
  1. I have no choice.
  2. This doesn’t make sense. How could he-she-they do that (to me)?
  3. I have to act now or else “they” will beat me to it.
  4. I can’t believe this is happening again.
  5. We’re not on the same page.
  6. This isn’t what I expected.
  7. I know the answer, and I’m not interested in what someone else thinks.
The Power of Pause Method is based on a three-step Effectiveness Equation and twelve Power of Pause practices. The equation:

Pause (Presence of Mind) + Curiosity + Humility =
Professional Effectiveness and Personal Fulfillment


Not surprisingly, the equation references an all-important addend, humility. Humility should fuel your curiosity and drive the need to pause. Guilmartin explains that “in situations where you think you know enough, pausing to wonder what you don’t know is a vital, even game-changing leadership skill.”

The twelve practices are:
  1. Drive your choices instead of being driven. Apply the Power of Pause to take back self-control and recognize you always have a choice.
  2. Be aware of your filters (and theirs). Remember that filters can lead to unconscious misinterpretations.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt. Check your assumptions. Meaning isn’t in the words: it’s in the interpretation of them—by you and others. When in doubt, ask, “Can you help me see what you see?”
  4. Stop putting deposits in your resentment bank account. Resist jumping to premature conclusions or depositing frustrations based on your perception of “the facts.”
  5. Use rephrasing as a Twenty-First-Century risk management tool. Stick your neck out: rephrase what you think someone meant by what he said; it builds trust.
  6. Use the Get Curious Not Furious approach. “Missed understandings” happen—a lot! They're normal. Try not to take them personally.
  7. Ask: What’s on your plate? Understand someone else’s priorities while you also acknowledge your own. Remember to ask yourself, “What’s on my plate?”
  8. Ask: What don’t I know I don’t know? In order to drive success with an extra measure of humility, ask, What don’t I know I don’t know? About what’s driving me or them in the situation?
  9. Take responsibility for being understood: reverse rephrase. Reverse rephrase to confirm that you were understood; welcome the chance to clear up any “missed understandings.”
  10. Make withdrawals from your resentment bank account. Withdraw earlier deposits to prevent them from building up negative energy in your account.
  11. Know your trigger points (and theirs). Prevent yourself or others from being caught in self-defeating patterns. Become aware of who or what triggers you so that you can respond instead of react.
  12. Strengthen relationships: offer timely, specific appreciation. Put the Power of Pause in action with timely, specific recognition of what works and why. Help people also know what they can do to be even more effective and how you can support them in being their best.

Quote 
“It’s a paradox,” writes Guilmartin, “to move forward, you gain time and options if you momentarily ease off the accelerator, suspend your initial reactions, and consider your immediate assumptions.”

Of Related Interest:
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Learning , Management , Thinking

04.09.12

All In: It’s Culture that Drives Results

In the New York Times, Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks Inc., explains that it is culture that drives results:
It starts with leadership at the top, which drives a culture. Culture drives innovation and whatever else you’re trying to drive within a company — innovation, execution, whatever it’s going to be. And that then drives results.

When I talk to Wall Street, people really want to know your results, what are your strategies, what are the issues, what it is that you’re doing to drive your business. They’re focused on the bottom line. Never do you get people asking about the culture, about leadership, about the people in the organization. Yet, it’s the reverse, because it’s the people, the leadership, the culture and the ideas that are ultimately driving the numbers and the results.
While we know that our most important resource is our people, it’s not so easy to get people “all in”—convincing people to “truly buy into their ideas and the strategy they’ve put forward, to give that extra push that leads to outstanding results.”

All In
All In by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explains why some managers are able to get their employees to commit wholeheartedly to their culture and give that extra push that leads to outstanding results and how managers at any level, can build and sustain a profitable, vibrant work-group culture of their own. All In takes the principles found in their previous books—The Orange Revolution and The Carrot Principle—and expands on them and places them in a wider context.

They begin by explaining that it all rests on the “belief factor.” People want to believe, but given the fact that “failure could cost them their future security why shouldn’t they be at least a little dubious about your initiatives?” But belief is key. “As leaders we must first allow people on our teams to feel like valuable individuals, respecting their views and opening up to their ideas and inputs, even while sharing a better way forward. It’s a balancing act that requires some wisdom.”

To have a culture of belief employees must feel not only engaged, but enabled and energized. What’s more, “each element of E+E+E can be held hostage by an imbalance in the other two.”

The authors have created a 7 step guide to develop a culture where people buy-in:

Define your burning platform. “Your ability to identify and define the key “burning” issue you face and separate it from the routine challenges of the day is the first step in galvanizing your employees to believe in you and in your vision and strategy.”

Create a customer focus. “Your organization must evolve into one that not only rewards employees who spot customer trends or problems, but one that finds such challenges invigorating, one that empowers people at all levels to respond with alacrity and creativity.”

Develop agility. “Employees are more insistent than ever that their managers see into the future and do a decent job of addressing the coming challenges and capitalizing on new opportunities.”

Share everything. “When we aren’t sure what’s happening around us, we become distrustful….In a dark work environment, where information is withheld or not communicated properly, employees tend to suspect the worst and rumors take the place of facts. It is openness that drives out the gray and helps employees regain trust in culture.”

Partner with your talent. “Your people have more energy and creativity to give. There are employees now in your organization walking around with brilliant ideas in their pocket. Some will never share them because they don’t have the platform to launch those ideas on their own. Most, however, will never reveal them because they don’t feel like a partner in the organization.”

Root for each other. “Our research shows incontrovertible evidence that employees respond best when they are recognized for things they are good at and for those actions where they had to stretch. It is this reinforcement that makes people want to grow to their full shape and stature.”

Establish clear accountability. “To grow a great culture, you need to cultivate a place where people have to do more than show up and fog a mirror; they have to fulfill promises—not only collectively but individually.” And this has to be a positive idea.

Gostick and Elton explain that the “modern leader provides the why, keeps an ear close to those they serve, is agile and open, treats their people with deference, and creates a place where every step forward is noted and applauded.”

The authors skillfully examine high-performing cultures and present the elements that produce them. A leader at any level can implement these ideas to drive results. A great learning tool.

Quote 
To succeed, you need everyone on your team all in; you need a culture of belief. A high performing culture is characterized by people that are engaged, enabled and energized.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

03.30.12

The Power of Habit

Habits will always be with us. Some good. Some bad. But how do you replace bad habits with good habits? More importantly, how often do we ask ourselves if what we are doing is really just a habit? We are less intentional than we think we are.

The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg has written a book for all of us: The Power of Habit. After reading it you will understand how habits are formed and what you can do about it. You will also look at habits in a new way. Habits infiltrate our organizations and become invisible forces to contend with that we never realized were there. Learning to spot them is key to our success. Consider the following story:

As a newspaper reporter in Baghdad, Duhigg heard about an officer conducting an impromptu habit modification program in Kufa, a small city ninety miles south of the capital.
He was an army major who had analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, someone would throw a rock or bottle and all hell would break loose.

When the major met with Kufa’s mayor, he made an odd request: Could they keep the food vendors out of the plazas? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near the Masjid al-Kufa, or Great Mosque of Kufa. Throughout the afternoon, it grew in size. Some people started chanting angry slogans….At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8PM, everyone was gone.
In a sense, a community—your organization—is a giant collection of habits. Later, when Duhigg talked to the major, he said, “Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.” “Once you see everything as a bunch of habits,” says Duhigg, “it’s like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work.

Habit LoopA habit is the brain’s way of saving effort. Duhigg has broken the formation of habits into a three-step loop: the cue (“a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (“which can be physical, or mental or emotional”), and finally there is the reward (which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future).

The key to remember here says Duhigg is that “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”

Breaking habits down in this way makes them easier to deal with. If we can learn to identify the cues and rewards, we can change the routines. We can live life a bit more intentionally.

Duhigg shows how habits played a part in the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. He goes behind the scenes at Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and NFL locker rooms. He explains how improving a single habit rippled out to improve an entire organization—Alcoa. Fascinating material to think about on many levels.

How much of what you do is on autopilot?

How much of what your organization does is on autopilot?

Of Related Interest:
  Breaking Old Habits

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Habits are not destiny. They can be changed if we understand how they work. Habits cannot be eliminated, but they can be replaced.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development

03.20.12

The Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

Patrick Lencioni believes that the single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Unfortunately most leaders prefer to deal with the data-driven world of organizational intelligence. The problem is, without good organizational health, organizational intelligence is attenuated.

In The Advantage, Lencioni explains that “an organization is healthy when it’s whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense. You know you have it when you have minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees.” Additionally, the value of a healthy organization has a ripple effect that affects all who come into contact with it or its employees.

What does an organization have to do to become healthy? Creating a healthy organization is a rigorous endeavor. Lencioni has created a four disciplines model:

Advantage Model Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive. In any kind of organization, from a corporation to a department within that corporation, from a small, entrepreneurial company to a church or a school, dysfunction at the top inevitably leads to a lack of health throughout.

Discipline 2: Create Clarity
In addition to being behaviorally cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple by critical questions:
  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important, right now?
  6. Who must do what?
There can be no daylight between leaders around these fundamental issues.

Discipline 3: Over-communicate Clarity
Once a leadership team has established behavioral cohesion and created clarity around the answers to those questions, it must then communicate those answers to employees clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically and repeatedly (that’s not a typo). When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.
As tempting as it may be, leaders must not abdicate or delegate responsibility for community and reinforcement of clarity. Instead, they have to play the tireless role of ensuring that employees throughout the organization are continually and repeatedly reminded about what is important.
Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity
Finally, in order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few critical, non-bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process—hiring, managing performance, rewards and recognition, employee dismissal—that involves people.

These disciplines may sound idealistic—and they are—but health is a matter of degrees. Any improvement will reap benefits. There will always be those that use "idealism" as an excuse to not make the effort; to find this all too remarkable to actually implement. Not surprisingly, the key is leadership. But it is a sacrifice.

If an organization is to get healthy, it must have the “genuine and active involvement of the person in charge. For a company, that’s the CEO. For a small business, it’s the owner. For the school, it’s the principal. For the church, it’s the pastor. For a department within a company, it’s the department head….The leader must be out front, not as a cheerleader or a figurehead, but as an active, tenacious driver.” Without the leader's commitment, this model will be sabotaged or seen as “career suicide.” The leader must support it and reward it.

Of Related Interest:
  Being Smart is Not Enough

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:57 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Management

03.19.12

Being Smart is Not Enough

The Advantage
Being smart has become a commodity. It's permission to play, says Patrick Lencioni. He writes in The Advantage:
In this world of ubiquitous information and nanosecond technology exchange, it’s harder than it has ever been in history to maintain a competitive advantage based on intelligence or knowledge…..I have become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.
He reasons that healthy organizations can get smart over time as they are quick to learn from experience and each other, but smart organizations don’t necessarily get healthier by virtue of their intelligence. In fact, it often stands in their way as they are not as open to learning. “The key ingredient for improvement and success,” writes Lencioni, “is not access to knowledge or resources, as helpful as those things may be. It’s really about the health of the environment.”

Healthy organizations are able to tap into more of their collective knowledge and use it. “Most organizations exploit only a fraction of the knowledge, experience, and intellectual capital that is available to them. But the healthy ones tap into almost all of it.”

In short, what Lencioni is talking about is a component of humility: teachability. Teachability plays a huge role in determining the health and consequently the success of an organization. Unhealthy organizations are hindered by politics, confusion, and low morale, resulting in low productivity and high turnover.

Next time we’ll look at what an organization has to do to become healthy.

Of Related Interest:
  The Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

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Instead of trying to become smarter, organizations need to focus on becoming healthier. Healthier organizations are better able to tap into and utilize the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Management

03.12.12

The 11 Essential Elements Needed to Achieve True Collaboration

Collaboration
Dan Sanker states that ironically, in order to remain “competitive” companies will have to become more collaborative. Collaborate: The Art of We is a practical guide to going beyond democratic or cooperative work to creating truly collaborative work environments as a growth strategy.

Collaboration is not a new concept, but globalization and new technologies have turned it into one of the best methods of competitive advantage available. Rather than engaging in an endless tug-of-war over the dwindling crumbs in a finite market, collaborative companies find ways to make the pie bigger, or create whole new pies, expanding everyone’s market and revenue. “It’s not about how many people you can defeat, but rather about how many people you can help win.

Although networking, coordination and cooperation may look like collaboration, they are not. True collaboration is the “synergistic relationship formed when two or more entities working together produce something much greater than the sum of their individual abilities and contributions.” It results in something that did not exist before. The focus is on results and not process.

Collaboration is distinct from cooperation in that “although both cooperating parties may achieve a common goal, they do not necessarily enhance each other’s capacity. In addition, cooperating parties do not fully share risks, responsibilities, and rewards. In the case of collaboration, all available resources, as well as risks, responsibilities, and rewards, are fully shared.”

For a collaboration to be successful, Sanker says that eleven elements must come together:

Ongoing Communication. People need to be able to talk to one another freely and regularly. Groups that do not have this kind of interaction are nothing more than loose collections of individuals working on their own tasks, toward their own ends.

Willing Participation. Everyone believes that they are working toward the same, mutually beneficial goal and that each one of them will have gained something valuable when that goal has been achieved.

Brainstorming. It’s the creative part of the collaboration process, in which members of the group move beyond the “same kind of thinking” to come up with new ideas that bring true value to the collaborative effort.

Teamwork. It’s teamwork that keeps people with a diverse set of skills, knowledge, information, and perspectives working together effectively and efficiently to achieve their common goal.

A Common Purpose. If the group moves forward too quickly without taking the time to clarify their goal and make sure that everyone is in agreement about what it is, they will undoubtedly run into huge disagreements that are likely to tear the effort apart.

Trust. You need to feel confident that other people in the group are putting the group’s shared goal—not their own interests—first, and that they will keep confidential or sensitive information within the group, take you seriously, respect your point of view, and not take credit for your ideas.

A Plan for Achieving the Goal. Everyone needs to be working from the same script, clearly understanding roles and responsibilities, and they need to have the same understanding of what success looks like.

A Diverse Group. Diversity is the power behind collaboration. Without diversity groupthink sets in. It is diversity that gives a team the unique perspectives needed to create truly innovative solutions.

Mutual Respect. For collaboration to be successful, team members must encourage, listen to, and seriously consider all of the ideas suggested by others in the group, no matter how unworkable they might seem.

A Written Agreement. A written agreement helps the group avoid misunderstandings and lack of clarity that could derail the process after everyone has invested a great deal of time, effort, and resources.

Effective Leadership. Whether one person has been formally designated as the leader or the group is self-led, leadership of some sort is essential to keep the group focused on its destination and facilitating the process of getting there.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Management , Problem Solving , Teamwork

02.15.12

The Inner World of the Leader: On the Couch with Manfred Kets de Vries

Why do organizations attempt to function on the basis that executives are logical, rational, dependable human beings?

And why does the belief persist that management is a rational task performed by rational people according to rational organizational objectives?

These are just a couple of the questions and myths that Manfred Kets de Vries grapples with in his series, On the Couch with Manfred Kets de Vries.

Kets de Vries is a clinical professor of leadership development at INSEAD. His background in economics, management, and psychoanalysis, adds a great deal of richness and context to the study of leadership. Over the last three years Jossey-Bass has published a mostly revised and updated collection of his rather large body of thoughtful-provoking writing in this series of three books.
The opinion of one of the power holders in the [Harvard Business School] Organizational Behavior department was that I would never write anything. That particular person must have had a very good understanding of human behavior. One of the small pleasures of life is doing something people say you will never do. I believe that [Reflections on Character and Leadership] is my twenty-ninth book. I have always thought that academics are masters in character assassination.

Reflections on Character and Leadership
Kets de Vries begins the series with Reflections on Character and Leadership. In it he examines some of the major issues about leadership. What makes a leader? What is good leadership? And what is bad? What happens to organizations if a leader derails? What are the impacts of successful and failed leadership on followers and organizations?

Every leader needs someone who is willing to speak out and tell the leader how it is in order to create checks and balances—the counterweight of the person in power. Without such people leaders easily derail and organizations can become paralyzed by fear, mistrust and insecurity. He explains how leaders construct organizations that are great places to work.
The era of the highly structured organization is past….Clearly, some executives may not be able to deal with the ambiguities that this new kind of networking, boundary-less organization entails—the external boundaries in an organization can be removed fairly easily, but the boundaries inside people’s heads are more difficult to dissolve. Weaning some leaders away from their need for authority, structures, and controls may take considerable time and effort. In the long run, however, it will be well worth it. Eventually, they will enjoy their work more, and be more effective.

Reflections on Leadership and Career Development
Kets de Vries says that narcissism is an inescapable aspect of human nature—and leadership. It has had a generally bad press. “There is such a thing as a healthy dose and it lies somewhere on a wide spectrum that ranges from grandiosity and showmanship to denigration and coldness.” He begins Reflections on Leadership and Career Development by discussing narcissism and leadership.
Leadership can be pathologically destructive or intensely inspirational. But what is it about the leaders themselves that causes them to be one or the other? I believe the answer lies in the degree of narcissism in the personality of the leader in question.

He discusses the qualities characterize great leaders and the interactions, both positive and dysfunctional, between leaders and followers. “The truly effective leader “is the one who knows how to balance reflection and action by using self-insight as a restraining force when the sirens of power start singing.” He takes a look at leadership archetypes and how they operate within organizations—and how to deal with them. He concludes with an examination of the issues, anxieties, and opportunities that we face at midlife and beyond. How can we alter our perspective on life to become “twice-born”?

Reflections on Groups and Organizations
Finally in Reflections on Groups and Organizations, Kets de Vries looks at leadership issues in the context of groups and organizations. He examines various ways in which neurotic individuals create neurotic organizations. He describes how folie à duex—literally “madness shared by two”—works in an organizational setting; how individuals’ activity or passivity and tendency toward conformism can contribute to the process and what checks and balances could be used to forestall and manage dysfunctional leader-follower relationships.

Kets de Vries doesn’t believe leaders are born. While some seem to have a head start, leadership potential can be developed. “Leadership potential is a delicate interplay between nature and nurture.”

An effective leader is someone, says Kets de Vries, “who is a little like a Zen riddle, or kōan—a paradox who is comfortable dealing with paradoxes. Because a leader has to be active and reflective, an introvert and an extrovert, engaged in both divergent and convergent thinking. A leader needs IQ, but also EQ. A leader has to think atomistically, but also holistically, for the short term and the long term. Anyone who can balance these contradictions effectively will do well.”

He advocates the building of an organization wide coaching culture ad discuss how it can be implemented.
There are several basic things that any leader has to do: provide focus, understand what makes their people tick, set an example, and make things happen. However, the distinguishing factor between mediocre and great leadership is always the same: the creation of meaning….When it comes down to it, people are searching for meaning.

This series of books cannot be read quickly. Each book in the series seeks to understand leaders, human nature and its vicissitudes. They need to be reflected on. They will challenge your thinking, widen your perspective and inspire you to do better.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership , Leadership Development , Management

02.13.12

Nine Reasons Managers Struggle

Managers, can you hear me now
Former CEO and president of Verizon Wireless, Denny Strigl explores nine specific behaviors that leaders do and don’t do that make them serious performers, marginal performers, or failures. In "Managers, can you hear me now?" he says it’s all about behavior.
  1. Managers Fail to Build Trust and Integrity. The three major qualities of trust are integrity, openness, and respect. Trust always begins with the manager. Do you say and do things that erode trust?
  2. They Have the Wrong Focus. Focus all your energy on achieving results. Allow nothing to distract you. As the manager, you are the force that keeps your team focused on results. Continually reinforce the Four Fundamentals—growing revenue, getting new customers, keeping existing customers, eliminating costs—and what’s important, unnecessary activities will always creep in. Do you feel you are wasting time, effort, and money by focusing on things that don’t matter in getting results?
  3. They Don’t Model or Build Accountability. The best way to get people who work for you to be accountable is to show them that you are accountable. Do you have a tendency to blame others or look for excuses? Do you talk about accountability and reward it?
  4. They Fail to Consistently Reinforce What’s Important. Managers are the first to get bored with their message. The people who work for you perform their best when what you say is consistent and frequent. Do you have a core performance message that you constantly talk about with your employees?
  5. They Over-rely on Consensus. Consensus managers seldom survive long in their jobs. To get buy-in from everyone will likely produce a watered-down version of the original decision or action.
  6. They Focus on Being Popular. Leadership should never be a popularity contest. Managers who try to be popular often lose their focus and waste energy.
  7. They Get Caught Up in Their Self-Importance. Given all the benefits of your position, it would be easy to become absorbed with yourself. On any given day, you might think it really is “all about me.” Do you have a high need to gain admiration, be in the spotlight, and get public accolades?
  8. They Put Their Heads in the Sand. The best managers not only want to hear about problems, but encourage their employees to tell them when they encounter problems or issues they feel are not right. Good managers want open, honest, direct, and specific communication regardless of the information being presented.
  9. They Fix Problems, Not Causes. Unless the manager fixes the cause of the problems they encounter, valuable time will be spent fixing the same problem over and over again.

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Exceptional managers are results-focused, first and focused says Denny Strigl. They are consistent. They rely on practicing the same successful behaviors, day in and day out.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:37 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

02.10.12

Grow: Taking Your Purpose to the Next Level

Leadership
Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble, believes that businesses must rethink their purpose to achieve far better results. But not just the most apparent purpose, but a higher order ideal or purpose. For example, Johnnie Walker exists to make great whiskey, but its higher order ideal is to celebrate journeys of progress and success.

Starbucks must make great coffee, but it must do more if it is to attract people and innovate in ways that make life better for the people they serve both inside and outside the organization. “It’s necessary,” writes Stengel in Grow, “to want to be the best-performing enterprise around, with the highest standards, the best people, and the most satisfied customers. However, this simply doesn’t aim high enough and look far enough ahead. To hit higher targets and stay out in front of the competition requires an ideal.”To that end, Starbucks also exists to create connections for self-discovery and inspiration. It’s what fuels passion and creates meaningful work.

“A brand ideal of improving people’s lives is the only sustainable way to recruit, unite, and inspire all the people a business touches, from employees to customers.” Stengel believes that a higher-order brand ideal must improve people’s lives in one of five fields of fundamental human values:

Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility; create moments of happiness that engage our thoughts and emotions as well as our physical senses. (Coca-Cola, Zappos, Lindt)

Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways. Key concepts in this field are connect, listen, reach, and community. (Airtel, Fed Ex, Blackberry, Natura)

Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences. Helps customers learn, gives them powerful tools, and invites them to reinvent themselves and their world. (Apple, Discovery Communications, Pampers, Red Bull)

Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality; supporting self expression and inspiring passion. (Calvin Klein, Heineken, L’Occitane)

Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories. (Accenture, IBM, Method, Seventh Generation)

Stengel’s bases his conclusions on a ten-year growth study involving 50,000 brands. The study tracked the connection between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. The result was “The Stengel 50.” In the 2000’s, an investment in these companies would have been 400 percent more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500. “If you’re willing to embrace the same concept and align your business with a fundamental human ideal, you can achieve extraordinary growth in your own business and your own career. My research shows that your growth rate can triple.”

As a side note, whether or not the study suffers from the Halo Effect is beside the point. Stengel’s point is good psychology. Success is more complex than any one factor. More good decisions than bad (intelligent people make dumb mistakes too), timing and luck all play a part too. And then great companies get off track, not because they were doing the wrong thing, but because they stop doing them or failed to adapt appropriately. The ideas presented in Grow are what worked for Stengel for the time he was at Procter & Gamble and properly applied may work for you too. Generally, if it is based on sound principles, it’s always worth consideration. And Sengel’s ideas are.

One implication of the study is interesting. Stengel reports that the “study challenged P&G’s paradigm of moving people around frequently. The companies that were growing the fastest had a different paradigm. In recruiting and hiring they looked for people whose values fit with their brands, and tended to keep people working in the same areas for much longer.”

He categorizes the people that run The Stengel 50 as business artists. “The fastest-growing businesses in the world have a leader whose relationship to the business is not primarily that of an operator, no matter how savvy, but an artist whose primary medium is an ideal.”
The business case for ideals is about playing a role in the lives of both customers and employees at a much more important level than the competition does. It’s about connecting with people holistically: rationally and emotionally, left brain and right brain.
Stengel recommends that you continually ask four questions: How well do we understand the people who are most important to our future? What do we and our brand stand for? What do we want to stand for? How are we bringing the answers to these questions to life?

The power is in the answers and executing against them. What is your primary purpose? What do the people you serve care about beyond what they buy from you? Could you benefit from discovering your higher ideal?

Of Related Interest:
  Lead With Purpose
  Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
  5 Leadership Lessons: Artistry Unleashed

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A brand ideal of improving people’s lives is the only sustainable way to recruit, unite, and inspire all the people a business touches, from employees to customers.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:00 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Marketing

02.08.12

Lead With Purpose

Without a clear sense of purpose, organizations become listless. John Baldoni says in Lead With Purpose that it falls to the leader to make certain that organizational purpose is understood and acted upon. Retired Army colonel, George Reed told Baldoni that the importance of this cannot be underestimated:
I don’t think you can hit purpose enough as a senior leader. It is one of those things that can be undercommunicated by an order of magnitude. You cannot oversell, overpronounce “Here’s why we’re here.”
The problem is that leaders think that they have communicated it enough, but the urgencies of the day cause people to forget their original intentions and their passion. It causes leaders to forget too. Repetition is essential. Baldoni states:
How well leaders use purpose to create the vision, mold the mission, and shape the values will serve as a testament to their ability to bring people together for a common cause.
It may begin with an explanation of what the organization does, says Baldoni, but it is vital that it be linked to the organizational culture and values. That means having clear-cut, definite goals, putting people first, and importantly, reducing purpose to a simple and memorable statement.

Leadership
Baldoni has illuminated seven key people-smart things that organizations must do to succeed in the new future:

Make purpose a central focus. Organizations that succeed are those that know where they are headed and why. Leaders of purpose tap into the power of narrative to help employees make sense of adversity and have faith in their organization’s ability to not just survive, but continually adapt and thrive.

Instill purpose in others. Prioritize people. People have to know what they are doing and why they are being asked to do it. To cultivate and leverage high-performing people, emphasize mission, values, creation, collaboration, and execution, establish clear expectations for behavior, and embrace the credo: “Honor the workforce.”

Make employees comfortable with ambiguity. Purpose can provide clarity in unsettled times. Leaders who find clarity in chaos, practice the virtues of pragmatism, and teach critical thinking skills will make living with uncertainty easier for their people—and themselves.

Turn good intentions into great results. Even in a tough world and a people-sensitive company, it’s a bottom-line fact: the work still has to get done. Leaders of purpose balance creativity with practicality; keep a firm eye on efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability; and strive to instill ownership in every individual worker.

Make it safe to fail (as well as prevail). Reasonable risk, daring to try something radical while keeping a grip on what works and what doesn’t, is critical to every breakthrough success. Leaders of purpose explore the impetus for change—reason, urgency, action—before leaping; respect their people’s resourcefulness; and handle setback with grace.

Develop the next generation. Few senior business leaders will be in their current jobs five or ten years from now. Leaders of purpose prepare their people for a future beyond them by hiring with care, developing capable, competent employees who are able to rise to challenges and seize opportunities; and enabling others to lead.

Prepare yourself. Purposeful organizations need leaders who know themselves first; have the inner compass that points them in the right direction. Many leaders never take the time to do so. Take time to reflect on what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you will do it.

Baldoni says to define purpose, you want to ask three questions:

What is our vision? Vision emerges from the sense of purpose. It forms the why, but it also embraces the future as in “to become” the best, the most noted, the highest quality, or the most trusted.

What is our mission? Your mission is the what of an organization; what it does.

What are our values? Neither vision or mission mean much if they are not reinforced by strong values. Values shape the culture. Values enforce the behaviors that employees cherish.

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Lead with Purpose is an important book on a key concept. As Baldoni says, after identifying their own purpose, putting purpose to work for the organization is the challenge every leader faces. It’s important to remember too, that a leader demonstrates purpose first and foremost through their own behavior. Lead with Purpose was selected a best leadership book of 2011.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:38 PM
| TrackBacks (2) | General Business , Leadership , Management

01.27.12

Managing With a Conscience

We handicap our potential when we think we have to exploit others to get ahead. Succeeding is not a zero-sum game. We don’t look better when everyone else looks worse.

Leadership
Frank Sonnenberg makes the case in Managing with a Conscience, that the only sustainable way to succeed is the right way—not cutting corners—emphasizing the intangibles like trust, creativity, focus, speed, flexibility, relationships, loyalty, and employee commitment. While not readily measureable, they can make or break leaders and organizations. Sonnenberg believes that leaders who have a jaded view of intangible assets will never make the commitment required to reap their full potential.

Sonnenberg discusses at length, nine critical success factors that need to be built into the organization:
  • Passion that develops commitment to the organization’s mission, values, and goals
  • An innovative and creative environment and mindset that reinvents itself every day
  • Effective, focused and consistent internal communication to set priorities that focus the organization’s efforts and people on the resources that provide the greatest potential return.
  • Devotion to service excellence
  • A learning organization that adapts well to change
  • Responds with speed
  • Maintains a flexible structure by collaborating both internally and externally
  • Emphasizes that personal networking is an efficient and effective way to solicit ideas, access new sources of information, increase business development, and attract new hires
  • Understands that trust is foundational; it is what binds us together and makes work possible.
Sonnenberg hits these issues head-on. Managing with a Conscience is both an analysis and a practical how-to book. He demonstrates how to take management platitudes beyond the letter of the law. Asking the right questions helps to take you beyond mere compliance. People often get cynical about the latest initiative because they are not implemented on a meaningful level—and consequently they never really get the results you’re looking for. Sonnenberg helps you get to the intent. From the employee bill of rights:
Employees have the right to approach management. Management should announce an open-door policy. But announcing is not enough. Employees should feel comfortable approaching management. Ask yourself if you’re in your office long enough to be approached. Are you available at convenient times or only at 7:00 a.m.? Has your administrative assistant done everything to screen you from “outsiders” except put barbed wire outside your office? When a concern was brought to your attention, in confidence, did you divulge any part of the information? Do you just go through the motions of listening? It is up to you to take the initiative and get out of your office to meet with employees. Been seen on a regular basis so people don’t think you’re avoiding them.
Sonnenberg writes, “If your organization isn’t focused, someone is probably undoing something you just completed.” How true. As he notes, when people don’t know or understand the organizational purpose, they end up going in different directions, often competing with each other. And this is true in the social media environment, too. It is not unusual to see social media participants undoing an organization’s values and beliefs because they simply don’t understand them or can’t live them. They create conflicting messages that undermine the purpose of the organization.

“The costs to society,” writes Sonnenberg, “of everyone acting like random molecules bouncing off one another is just too great. We have no time to think about what is important. We judge someone’s worth by what we see on the outside rather than their inner worth. We envy someone who has achieved success without thinking about what they did to earn it.” We can change that, if we begin with our own example first.

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This comprehensive book is based on the idea that “what goes around comes around.” If you treat people right, they will treat you right. Sonnenberg believes that when you operate with the highest levels of trust and integrity, it makes you feel good about yourself, the people you work with, and the organization that you represent. It impacts how you view yourself and the way other people view you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Management

01.13.12

Why are Organizations Slow to Respond?

Organizations are only human.

Organizations share many characteristics with the people that populate them. Organizations are born, they mature, they age, and they die. The life expectancy of most is about 15 years and only 5% last longer than 50 years.

Failure
They begin with an innovative idea—even developing beyond all expectations—but eventually they begin to show signs of aging. Claudio Feser writes in Serial Innovators, “Some firms become blinded by success and begin to resist external views and challenges. Some are locked into mental models and become driven by habits. Some lose the sense of purpose that pervaded them in the early days. Some become bureaucratic. Some have processes and incentive systems that have put them on an autopilot, leading in a dangerous direction. Some develop dysfunctional organizational cultures.”

Occasionally, some organizations resist these all too human tendencies and thrive. They continually reinvent themselves. They confront rigidity. They become serial innovators.

We create over time, our own and our organization’s rigidities. Individually, we develop rigidities in the form of biases, lack of self-confidence, and habits. The human mind is quite adept at this in order to create efficiencies. We can only process so much. Organizationally, we create rigidities like structures, performance management and reward systems, supporting cultures and capabilities that while necessary to some degree, often prevent us from adapting rapidly. Worse still, we add complexities to existing structures, processes, values and norms, without ever rethinking and possibly eliminating obsolete ideas and procedures. All of this can cause entropy and our demise.

Rigidities are not going to go away, but we can learn to manage them better. Feser says that organizations that want to become serial innovators must do the following:
  1. Cultivate the organizations members’ desire to make a difference.
  2. Build a team of learners at the top.
  3. Frame the organization’s vision and strategy positively.
  4. Build on self-managed performance cells.
  5. Promote the organization’s members’ drive to perform and grow.
  6. Invest in capabilities to quickly develop new assets and skills.
  7. Cultivate a culture that fosters execution and promotes challenge.
Again, it is a leadership issue with a leadership solution.
If company leaders do not accept challenge and diverging views, neither will the organization.

If company leaders do not show self-confidence, do not have a positive mindset, and do not role-model resilience, the organization will not develop the confidence to adapt to ever-changing and dynamic markets.

If company leaders do not change their behavior when confronted with new situations, the company will run on autopilot.

If company leaders do not clearly define the structure of the organization and fight organizational complexity, complexity will creep throughout the organization.

If company leaders do not thoughtfully review and reward performance, behaviors fostering collaboration and innovation will become rare and–over time—disappear.
After all, organizations are only human.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Creativity & Innovation , Management

01.03.12

Power Corrupts Sooner than You Think

In a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, Lord Acton observed that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” British Prime Minister William Pitt also observed, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” Power is a tricky thing and we rely on it more than we should.

In a study by Adam Galinsky and others, they found that when people where power primed—temporarily made to feel powerful—they demonstrated a reduced tendency to comprehend how others see, think, and feel as compared with those that were primed with low power. They relied too heavily on their own vantage points and demonstrated less accuracy when assessing the emotions and thoughts of others. The possession of power or even the feeling of power tends to very quickly change how we think. We easily slip into thinking we are something we are not, to become absorbed with ourselves, to think, “It’s all about me.”

Our ego can quickly blind us to reality—self-deception sets in very quickly. We lose self-awareness and therefore our sense of the impact we are having on others. We would do well to remember the Stripes Rule. Denny Strigl, former CEO and president of Verizon Wireless, recalls in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?:
When I became president of Ameritech’s cellular subsidiary, Ameritech Mobile, the chairman of Ameritech told me something that has stayed with me ever since. He said I would be managing an entire company, and as the company’s most senior manager, I should always remember that the “stripes” I have been given are on the coat I wear, not on the person who wears the coat. He cautioned me not to let the job go to my head because when I take the coat off, I will just be a person like any other.
Power, it seems, can easily become a handicap and not a blessing to leading well. But it often comes with the territory. A wise leader might keep Lord Acton’s words front and center.

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Very soon after we become aware of our own power, our thoughts begin to turn inward and we lose touch with those we are to serve. Power becomes a barrier reducing our ability to lead properly. Awareness of this fact is the first step toward managing it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:25 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management , Thinking

12.21.11

Doing More With Less

Leadership
Most companies are asking employees to do more with less. These demands may produce positive results in the short term, but they are not sustainable in the long term. “Organizations can do more with less simply by not leaving so much untapped performance on the table.” The frustration people often face in these conditions is not an engagement problem; it is more often an enablement problem.

Mark Royal and Tom Agnew of the Hay Group, explain that The Enemy of Engagement is frustration caused by a highly engaged employee’s inability to succeed in a role due to organizational barriers or the inability to bring the bulk of his or her talents, skills, and abilities to the job. Ironically, the more engaged they are, the more frustrated they get because they care more.

“Doing more with less doesn’t mean conjuring higher levels of motivation out of thin air, but rather allowing motivated employees to perform at their best. It’s about harnessing and unleashing the full potential of frustrated employees—those who want to give their best but can’t due to organizational barriers and constraints.”

Typically we associate better engagement with leadership, but what drives it is better management. Fixing engagement means dealing with the frustration of thwarted employees. Specific management practices detailed by the authors include:
  • Create specific, measurable goals and clearly lay out what employees need to do—the precise behaviors and activities—to achieve them.
  • Provides employees with regular, concrete, and constructive feedback about their work and its value to delivering business strategy.
  • Empower employees to make the decisions necessary to execute and excel at their jobs—and make sure employees understand which decisions they control.
  • Prioritize investments in resources and staff with an emphasis on providing employees with the tools and support they need to succeed.
  • Assign and coordinate roles with serious consideration of each employee’s strengths, reward and reinforce teamwork and collaboration.
One of the most actionable things to do is to simply ask: “How can we change things around here to help you be more effective?” By doing so “a manager creates an opportunity for an employee to speak honestly and openly about enablement issues.”

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Enablement is what drives engagement and what ultimately frustrates it. Get people what they need to do their jobs and get out of the way. The Enemy of Engagement is focused on employees who are engaged, motivated, and loyal—who aren’t ready to give up—but who are experiencing frustration on the job. Ultimately, it requires that we rethink our notions of what it means to be a leader and what it means to manage. We insert ourselves far more than we should.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

12.20.11

5 Leadership Lessons: What if You Could Take Control of Your Life with One Decision?

5 Leadership Lessons
Great leaders know they cannot let others determine their moods and behaviors. The decision is ours. David Pollay wrote The Law of the Garbage Truck to remind us that “it is not our duty to absorb the frustrations, anxieties, and disappointments of other people. We were not put on earth to carry other people’s negative energy, nor were we created to burden others with ours.” The Law of the Garbage Truck is straightforward:
Leadership
Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me, you’ll be happier.
Here are five lessons from David Pollay, to help us to focus on what really matters personally and professionally:

1  The Law of the Garbage Truck is about humility. No one is perfect. You don’t have to defend yourself every time one of your imperfections is pointed out. At the same time there is no need to judge others for their imperfections. If you let garbage trucks unnecessarily activate your defenses at every turn, you’re not following the play. Instead you’re allowing someone to tease you into a battle that’s not yours to fight, thus diverting your energy from the play you’re meant to run.

2  Other people are not the only ones who bring garbage into our lives—we create plenty of our own negativity that stirs memories of our past and makes us fearful of what we imagine awaits us in the future. When negative memories are invoked, we often indulge in looking for new meanings in them. As we engage these bad memories, and as they pass through our consciousness, we strengthen them. We feel the initial mood of disappointment, anxiety, and doubt all over again. By energizing these old memories with new thinking, we give them additional importance in our lives.

3  Many people spend their lives trying to get back at garbage trucks. They feel abused, challenged, or violated after being run over by one, so their mission is to hit back as soon as they can. They often think about what they could have said or should have done and fantasize about revenge. When you center your life on revenge and ruminate about every provocation and slight, you jeopardize everyone’s health, safety, and happiness—including your own.

4  For the Garbage Trucks in our lives: People who act like Garbage Trucks allow their anger, frustration, insecurity, and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them. Fortunately, people do not act like Garbage Trucks all the time. Eventually they’ll leave the safety of being a Garbage Truck—if even for a moment. They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer their help on some occasion. It’s then that you must recognize their best. Let them know the good you see in them. Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you. When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them see what is possible in their lives. You give energy to what is right about them. Your love and attention may be what enables them to change.

5  What about venting? Venting helps people understand your problems. Dumping leaves people feeling burdened by your problems. Venting is based on permission and turns into dumping when you do not have permission to unload your complaints, worries, frustrations, and disappointments on someone. Venting is time sensitive. Dumping, on the other hand, seems to have no end. It starts without consent and suggests that there is no likely solution. You waste people’s time and burden them with your garbage.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

10.14.11

5 Leadership Lessons: EntreLeadership

5 Leadership Lessons

Dave Ramsey defines EntreLeadership as “the process of leading to cause a venture to grow and prosper.” Entreleaders know how to blend their entrepreneurial passion with servant-like leadership that motivates employees through persuasion instead of intimidation. EntreLeadership is a book about how business works from a practitioner. His advice, on nearly every facet of running a business, is based on solid principles. Here are just a few of his thoughts on leadership:

1  The very things you want from a leader are the very things the people you are leading expect from you. You must intentionally become more of each of these every day to grow yourself and your business. And to the extent you’re not doing that, you’re failing as a leader.

2  You want to know what is holding back your dreams from becoming a reality? Go look in your mirror. The good news is, if you’re the problem, you’re also the solution.

3  How do you begin to foster and live out this spirit of serving your team with strength? Avoid executive perks and ivory towers. Eat lunch with your team in the company lunchroom every day. Get your own coffee sometimes. No reserved parking spots. Look for the little actions you can take that say to your team that while you are in charge, and while you lead from strength, you are all in this together.

4  While persuasional leadership takes longer and takes more restraint at the time, it is much more efficient over the long haul. Positional leadership doesn’t take as long in the exchange, but you have to do it over and over and over and over.

5  Too many people in business have abandoned sight of the fact that their team members are humans, they are people. Too many people in business have become so shallow that they are merely transactional, not relational. The people on your payroll are not units of production, they are people. They have dreams, goals, hurts, and crises. If you trample them or don’t bother to engage them relationally you will forever struggle in your operations.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Management

09.28.11

The 3 Core Elements of Delegation

Leadership Nuggets

Without delegation no organization can function effectively. Yet, lack of courage to delegate properly, and the knowledge of how to do it, is one of the most general causes of failure in organizations.
—Lester Urwick, Elements of Administration
Building Team Power
Every time you delegate work to a teammate, three inescapable core elements of delegation are in play. Authority, responsibility, and accountability form an integrated process and must be applied by you as a unified whole.

Authority Can Be Delegated

As a leader, you can transfer pieces of your formal authority to another teammate when assigning a task to that person. In essence, you can deputize your teammate to take action on your behalf within the boundaries of the delegated (transferred) authority.

Authority chiefly comes from the power of position. The more authority you have, the greater your ability to delegate higher-level, more meaningful and challenging tasks to others to help them learn, develop, and grow.

Responsibility Cannot Be Delegated, but It Can Be Assigned

As a leader, you can assign responsibility to another teammate in terms of the results that need to be achieved. However, you need to keep in mind that you only assigned responsibility to your teammate.

If your teammate “fouls up the thing royally,” your manager will censure you, not your teammate. In short, you can never fully hand off any of your responsibilities to someone else. Assigned responsibility should be made in terms of the goals or results to be accomplished, not the detailed specifics for doing the job.

Accountability Means Obligation

Accountability is the moral compulsion felt by a teammate to meet the goals and objectives of an assigned task. As a result of accepting a task assignment, your teammate in effect gives you a promise—either expressed or implied—to do her best in carrying out the activities associated with it. Having taken on the task, your teammate is obligated to complete it, and thus is held accountable by you for the results produced.

Adapted from Building Team Power: How to Unleash the Collaborative Genius of Teams for Increased Engagement, Productivity, and Results by Thomas A. Kayser

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Management

09.26.11

Leading: Sharing Accountability

Uncertainty necessitates the need for finding more wisdom within our organizations. This can only be accomplished by creating a leadership mindset throughout the entire organization. It is shared accountability. Any leader that thinks that they can do it alone is indulging their own ego.

James Champy and Nitin Nohria cautioned us not to assume that no one else on the premises can match our own ambition, competence, and vision. We have to accept the fact that there are many points of wisdom within our organizations and a wise leader will engage them. Too many leaders are not accustomed to accepting input from junior members no matter how valuable it is. This creates a lack of trust and openness. The currency of leadership is relationships and a wise leader would do well to encourage input from as many sources as possible and especially not from the usual suspects.

Phil Nolan, CEO of Eircom Limited, described it this way in A Time for Leadership, “The concept of distributed leadership will keep you in touch with the environment. If you want to prepare people for this environment, you have to get leadership further down the organization. We generally tend to drive managing down the organization, but not leadership.

“As an organization we have to prepare for acts of leadership further down the organization. I think that that is the hardest thing for us to do as people sitting at the top. It feels like an unnatural act.”

Leadership needs to be the expected norm at all levels.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management

09.22.11

5 Leadership Lessons: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

5 Leadership Lessons
Richard Rumelt has written an insightful book on developing the ability to identify and develop good strategy. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy is obviously the result of decades of practice developing strategy and the many case studies and classroom interactions made it personal and very readable.
We’ve all been there. The big conference room as the lights dim and the Power Point slides begin. We sit attentively as the leader steps to the podium to tell us something like: “Going forward we will attain global leadership in our markets, increase revenues and profits ten percent, rationalize our supply chain and eat the competition’s lunch by taking huge chunks of market share—all based on one of the world’s most highly talented work forces for whom success is never quitting until you win.”

Cue the Chariots of Fire soundtrack, roll the reel of the good-looking diverse people of the company, and unleash the balloons.

There’s a lot going on here: This leader is visionary, ambitious, goal-oriented, and motivational. Whether it is putting a man on the moon, fighting a war, launching a new product or responding to changing market dynamics such as the publishing industry’s transition from paper to pixels, what he or she is articulating is NOT a strategy for overcoming obstacles to progress.
When it comes to strategy, we have gotten off-track into thinking that fluffy platitudes, goals, motivational slogans, and wishful thinking are the same thing as strategy. As a result, we don’t get the intended results. “Bad strategy,” says Rumelt, occurs when there is bad doctrine, when hard choices are avoided, and/or when leaders are unwilling or unable to define and explain the nature of the challenge. Here are some key ideas from this classic on strategy:

1  A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them. Strategy must contain action. Winging it is not a strategy.

2  A talented leader identifies the one or two critical issues in the situation—the pivot points that can multiply the effectiveness of effort—and then focuses and concentrates action and resources on them.

3  Organizations experience significant entropy—the continual drift towards disorganization. Much of the useful work of managers and consultants is maintenance—the constant battle against entropy. Strategists must battle this never-ending drift towards disarray within their own organization. And they must try to exploit the disarray of their rivals.

4  Every organization faces a situation where the full complexity and ambiguity of the situation is daunting. An important duty of any leader is to absorb a large part of that complexity and ambiguity, passing on to the organization a simpler problem—one that is solvable.

5  A good strategy has, at a minimum, three essential components: a diagnosis of the situation, the choice of an overall guiding policy, and the design of coherent action. Many attempts at strategy lack a good diagnosis. As the star of most consulting engagements, the client wants an appraisal of a particular course of action or wants advice on what to do. I almost always back up and try to create a better diagnosis of the situation before getting into recommendations.

Of Related Interest:
  The Four Hallmarks of Bad Strategy

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:49 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Management

09.21.11

The Four Hallmarks of Bad Strategy

Leadership
Strategy expert and author of Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt says that bad strategy “grows out of specific misconceptions and leadership dysfunctions.” In short it is goals and not action. “It assumes that goals are all you need. It puts forward strategic objectives that are incoherent and, sometimes, totally impracticable. It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide these failings.”

To detect a bad strategy, Rumelt suggest looking for one or more of its major hallmarks:

Fluff. Fluff is a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments. It uses “Sunday” words (words that are inflated and unnecessarily abstruse) and apparently esoteric concepts to create the illusion of high-level thinking. Make it simple.

Failure to face the challenge. Bad strategy fails to recognize or define the challenge. When you cannot define the challenge, you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it. If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. Instead, you have either a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.

Mistaking goals for strategy. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles. Bad strategy is long on goals and short on policy or action. Strategic objectives should address a specific process or accomplishment, such as halving the time it takes to respond to a customer, or getting work from several Fortune 500 corporations. An excerpt from Rumelt’s response to a client that had a “strategy” that was long on goals and short on actions, is instructive:
If you continue down the road you are on you will be counting on motivation to move the company forward. I cannot honestly recommend that as a way forward because competition is not just a battle of wills; it is also a competition over insights and competencies. My judgment is that motivation, by itself, will not give this company enough of an edge to achieve your goals.
He explained that “when a company makes the kind of jump in performance your plan envisions, there is usually a key strength you are building on or a change in the industry that opens up new opportunities.”

Bad strategic objectives. A strategic objective is set by a leader as a means to an end. Strategic objectives are “bad” when they fail to address critical issues or when they are impracticable. The purpose of good strategy is to offer a potentially achievable way of surmounting a key challenge. If the leader’s strategic objectives are just as difficult to accomplish as the original challenge, there has been little value added by the strategy.

Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:52 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Management

09.19.11

Hypocrisy Isn’t Going to Get You There

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What’s the matter with them? Why don’t they get it?” or said, “I feel like I am alone here,” maybe they are listening more to your actions than your words.

Culture explains how things really work. Culture reflects practical values—values that will get you through the day regardless of what you say you believe. When it comes to preaching values, too many leaders are just talking heads. Preach change, demonstrate status quo.

Changing culture in an organization is often difficult because leaders make it so. A culture that does not resemble your stated values reflects a lack of ownership and accountability to those values. A value that is meant for “them” but not lived-out in the behavior of and choices made by the leadership, will never become part of the organizational culture. Culture is formed by the choices we make, not the lecture we give.

In Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders, Rajeev Peshawaria suggests three steps to cultural change:

DEFINE > SOCIALIZE > REINFORCE


• Define the desired culture. Articulate a set of behavior guidelines for everyone to follow.
• Socialize the behavior guidelines by example, training and ongoing communication.
• Reinforce the behavior guidelines by answering the what’s-in-it-for-me question.

In this discussion he makes three statements that are worth reflecting on:
Leaders should use every opportunity to exhibit guidelines or values in their own behavior.
Are you modeling the behavior you want to see in others?
Senior leaders of the company routinely showed up at these training sessions to show employees how important the values and brand were.
Are you excusing yourself from what you expect others to be doing?
In sharp contrast, another client told me to design the session in such a way that it did not rely too heavily on the executive team’s presence. He argued that the senior team was already under a lot of pressure, and that this would be a huge time commitment for them. I could not believe my ears. After all, as leaders, what do you spend time on if not aligning your organization’s culture with your vision and strategy?
Do you live by a different set of rules?

Sometimes this is difficult to see in yourself, so asking a trusted friend if there is a disconnect between your words and your behavior is helpful. As a leader, it is too easy to think of yourself as the exception. “I’m busy.” “They don’t have to deal with what I am dealing with.” “This is for them, I don’t need it.”

When a leader’s behavior conforms to their talk, there is a connective quality formed that is worthy of trust and attention. If we live our values we can create radical change.

Quote 
Often the greatest barrier to the implementation of our ideas is the example we set. We get in our own way when we don’t clearly demonstrate the values and behavior we wish to see in our groups or organizations. We must lead by example.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 AM
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09.13.11

Ownership Thinking

Leadership
Ownership Thinking is about developing leaders at all levels. “Fundamentally,” writes author Brad Hams, “Ownership Thinking is about moving employees away from the ‘me’ way of thinking and towards concerns of the business and its financial performance.” This is leadership thinking in a business setting.

When people understand the business, their role in it, and are informed of what is going on and take responsibility for the outcomes, then they become better stewards of the company’s resources and help to create wealth. Hams has found that the vast majority of people “want to engage and contribute, and feel much better about themselves when they have the opportunity to do so … and they have the capacity to do so.”

We often frustrate that effort and create cultures of entitlement because, in the words of Judith Bardwick author of Danger in the Comfort Zone, “managers are unwilling to do the work of requiring work.” Hams says his mission in life is to eradicate habits of entitlement in organizations.
People who actually produce things do so primarily for two reasons: (1) They have a strong work ethic. In other words, they have to believe that rewards come only with hard work, and (2) They enjoy producing. It is exciting for them, and the reward for producing is not only the things they are able to afford as a result of it, but the personal growth and sense of worth that come from producing: that is, true self-esteem.
A workforce that is helping to create wealth should be able to participate in the wealth they are creating. However, incentive plans should be self-funding and “it is the obligation of ownership and leadership to teach them how to do that and to provide them with them tools and training necessary to accomplish the task.”

Simply put, your employees need to know what’s going on. In a chapter entitled, Your Employees Think You Make Wheelbarrows of Money, Hams relates that when he asks the question: “Your company had 12 million in sales last year, what do you think the profit was?” it is not uncommon to hear 50% from employees of companies where financial information is not shared or business acumen taught. “In the absence of information, people make stuff up.”
Generally speaking, the people with the greatest understanding and expertise in any given area are the people who are actually doing the work, and these people are not necessarily management. For an organization to achieve excellence, it must engage all of its organization members.
Ownership Thinking is a how-to book. Hams explains how to create incentive plans that work (plans that clearly align employees’ behavior to the organization’s business and financial objectives), how to teach financial skills (how the company makes money and how they add - or take away – value), creating the right performance indicators, rapid improvement plans and how to implement Ownership Thinking for the long-term. “Practicing Ownership Thinking will allow you, as an owner or leader, to rest easier knowing that your employees are making decisions and taking actions that are aligned with what you would do yourself.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:40 AM
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09.09.11

Managing the Unmanageable

Leadership
If we truly want to deal with a difficult or unmanageable person, we have to get at the thinking behind the behavior. Why do they do that? Why are they that way?

Instead of going deeper, it’s easier to just label them and avoid the issue. He’s rude. She’s unreliable. He’s an egomaniac. She’s self-absorbed. Anne Loehr and Jezra Kaye, authors of Managing the Unmanageable, say that these “unmanageable” people are costing companies a fortune. Loehr estimates that her clients lose, on average, 30% of their productivity because of issues related to unmanageable employees.

The fact is, “there’s a world of difference between someone who’s acting unmanageable, and someone who can’t [won’t] act any other way. There’s a world of difference between someone who’s become unmanageable in response to a particular set of circumstances (that can, at least theoretically, be changed) and someone who’s just like that.” Perceiving the difference is the task of leaders, managers, and coaches. Most of the time we deal with people at the symptom level.

Managing the Unmanageable is written to help you do just that. They begin with an appropriate caution: If you find yourself being convinced that someone could never have the slightest redeeming good quality, find a way to deal with your own feelings before you try to manage theirs. Good advice.

There are some early warning signs that it is time to look deeper than the behaviors you see:

Diminished Motivation: “Frustration with a job can grow out of unmet or unrealistic expectations, company-wide uncertainty or relationship problems on a team or with a manager.” You’ll hear comments like:
“I’m just not into it anymore.”
“This job isn’t what I expected.”
“I can’t stand the people on my team.”
Unclear Expectations: Misunderstandings are common. We don’t always communicate as clearly as we think. Too much often goes unsaid. Sadly, too, “managers and executives sometimes purposely lead employees astray, confuse them, or keep them in the dark to avoid unpleasant issues or consolidate power in their own hands.” It sounds like this:
“I have no idea what she wants.”
“It’s impossible to satisfy him.”
“She thinks everything I do is wrong.”
Lack of Confidence or Self-Esteem: “It’s natural to wonder if you have what it takes when the stakes go up or your job becomes more complex. But if that lack of self-confidence persists, an employee can become resistant, defensive, and ultimately unmanageable. They will say things such as:
“I don’t know why they thought I could do this.”
“It’s just never going to get done.”
“Maybe I should switch careers.”
Personal Issues: “When your employee is distracted, self-absorbed, or unable to focus, her problem may stem from conditions outside of work. It might be expressed as:
“I haven’t slept through the night in weeks.”
“I just can’t seem to concentrate.”
“Life is too damned hard these days.”
“A radical shift in behavior,” say Loehr and Kaye, “may be your first indication that a good employee is morphing into an unmanageable employee.”

In short, other people have many of the same problems we have, it’s just that they haven’t learned how to deal with it or are not in a position to do anything about it in the same way that we would as leaders.

The book specifically deals with the excuse-maker, the grumbler, the egomaniac, the loose cannon, the joker, the do-gooder, the wallflower, the gossip, the slacker, the rude-nik, and the AWOL.

Each “salvage” operation follows the 5-C Model: Commit or Quit, Communicate, Clarify Goals and Roles, Coach, and Create Accountability. The focus of each chapter is to get behind the behavior of each type and understand it. You will find helpful composite cases, practical tips and dialogues for dealing with each type.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:41 AM
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08.08.11

Common Purpose Leadership

Leadership
In Common Purpose, consultant Joel Kurtzman makes the case that excellent leaders build a sense of inclusiveness—a sense of we—within the organization by creating a common purpose. A place where people know what to do and why, and understand what the organization stands for. Based on interviews and first-hand experience, Common Purpose lays out how to achieve and then sustain a culture based on a common purpose. For example:
  • Emphasize One Goal – Gordon Bethune, CEO of Continental Airlines, recognized that his customers valued on-time performance. He set this as the measure of success for the company. In order to underscore this goal, Bethune decided to send every employee a check every time the company was first in on-time arrival. In the different cities, pilots, flight attendants, agents, mechanics, baggage handlers, and everyone else united together to achieve this one goal, while reinforcing the feeling of “one team”.
  • Become Flat, Instead of Hierarchical – In a hierarchical organization information supplied by subordinates is looked at with condescension by individuals at the top. In the case of Enron, Sherron Watkins signaled to Ken Lay, the chairman of the organization, that something was wrong with the company’s partnerships and the way they were kept off the books. Lay ignored the information due to the rationalization that if something was wrong, he, as chairman, would know. Creating different levels of importance in an organization usually works against common purpose.
  • Leaders at All Levels – When a company has a common purpose, all employees have an understanding of what the organization stands for, enabling them to make a decision independently based on that information. Simon Cooper, president and CEO of Ritz-Carlton, calls this “scriptless service”. With such a diverse clientele, employees cannot simply operate by choosing from a limited number of preselected solutions to guest requests. A chambermaid must be empowered to decide on her own volition whether to give a guest extra towels based upon what was used the night before.
  • Lead by Listening – FM Global’s chairman and CEO, Shivan Subramaniam, takes every opportunity to listen to his employees. He eats in the company’s cafeteria and often sits with random groups of FM Global employees. Subramaniam puts himself in the loop of what is going on with the company. It also makes him accessible to his employees, in case they wish to share their ideas.
The easiest way to create a sense of we, says Kurtzman, is unfortunately to create the specter of them. Because it is easy, it is probably the reason you see this dynamic played out in so many organizations of all kinds. While it is a shortcut to common purpose, “it can also be a stepping stone to chaos, doom, and organized opposition.” I would add that within the organization or group, it also leads to arrogance, stagnation and closed minds. In most cases it leads to decline.

Organizations are created to achieve goals that “are beyond the capability of an individual to accomplish alone.” They are a method of “aligning groups of people so they achieve common goals.” This is best accomplished when you encourage people to be leaders at any level within the organization. Simon Cooper, president and CEO of Ritz-Carlton says the best reason to rid an organization of mindless hierarchy is to provide scriptless service: employees deciding on their own how to make guests happy. “They make decisions on their own, on the spot, using their own judgment, and with the sense of confidence that comes from owning their jobs. That’s real leadership.” Taking risks on behalf of the organization. This requires trust at all levels and a different view of real leadership, says Kurtzman.
It is difficult to overstress how important it is for teams of people working together to meet informally from time to time…The point is that you cannot lead a team if you do not know the people you are leading, and the best way to do that is informally.
“The leader is not separate from the group he or she leads. Rather, the leader is the organization’s glue—the force that binds it together, sets its direction, and makes certain that the group functions as one.” Kurtzman notes, “Leadership is not coaching. Coaching focuses on helping people arrive at their own goals. Whereas leadership, especially common purpose leadership, is about helping people arrive at a collective set of goals. It is about coordinating people’s efforts, aims, ambitions, and capabilities.”
Leaders can’t think of themselves as better than their workers, or more favored because they have a higher rank. Becoming CEO is not a coronation, it’s a promotion. And CEOs can’t do everything. The purpose of an organization is to combine the efforts of many people to produce results no one on his or her own could achieve alone. Leaders must understand that. They must live the goals they espouse. They must understand that everyone inside the organization is looking at them — scrutinizing them, really — and also that every action of theirs is being watched and talked about. At FM Global, Shivan Subramaniam, the chairman and CEO, decided against buying a corporate jet despite the prodding of his board. Instead, he decided to abide by the same corporate travel rules that every other executive in the company abides by. He even flies on the redeye if he must. By doing this, he sends a powerful signal throughout the company that while he may be the CEO, he’s also an employee, just like everyone else. People value that. People will do almost anything for a leader like that.
Of course, one size does not fit all. “People are individuals, and those who thrive in one firm might not thrive in another. Chemistry, fit, values, and many other qualities are in the eye of the beholder.”

Kurtzman believes that “organizations will come to resemble constellations of capabilities linked together technologically from centers located around the world….Big companies will comprise smaller pieces, each with unique characteristics, ownership structures, and relationships. Each of these elements, when combined, will create enormous value?” The question is what will keep it all together. Incentives alone won’t do it. “The power of a common purpose will become the factor that differentiates winning organizations from those left behind.”

This means that leaders will have to be “kinder, more caring, and more empathic than leaders of the past.” We have seen this increased focus on respect as many of you write, talk, and practice this on a daily basis.
Common purpose leadership, at its most basic level, is about recognizing people as individuals. Common purpose leadership begins with respect for individuals and their differences, and goes on to celebrate their strengths.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:59 AM
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07.26.11

Have a Nice Conflict!

Reading Have a Nice Conflict was like listening to my Dad again. He first met “Doc” Porter in the early seventies and they clicked almost immediately. Elias Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory, on which the book is based, resonated with my Dad.
Behaviors are the tools we choose and use to support our self-worth.

You can look at personal strengths like behaviors. They represent the different ways a person can interact with others to achieve self-worth. When a person tries one of these strengths and has success with it, they use it more often. Other strengths might have rendered poor results, and so they might tend to use those less and less. Over time, we develop a set of “go-to” strengths. They become our modus operandi.

But it’s important to remember that you have a whole tool chest of other options that may get you better results from time to time.

It is possible that some of your conflict at work happens because other people don’t see your strengths the way you intend them to be seen. … So when you find another person’s behavior annoying, look for the strength behind it. What are they overdoing? What are they really trying to accomplish? Most likely, their intent is not to annoy you. If you can find the strength lurking behind the perceived weakness, you’ve discovered insight into that person that may help you understand them better.

Conflict can happen when other people misinterpret your strengths.
Leadership
Have a Nice Conflict is the story of sales manager John Doyle who has been passed over for what he believes is a well-deserved promotion. He has lost some of his top performers because he rubbed them the wrong way. When he turns up at an old friend and client’s office to explain yet another change in sales reps, he puts him on to Dr. Mac to help him improve his people skills at both work and home.

Dr. Mac explains to John that there are many ways of interacting with others. We have default ways of behaving and when in conflict we often shift into other behaviors to maintain our self-worth. While we are trying to do the “right thing” to maintain our self-worth, conflict can happen when our “right thing” appears to be the “wrong thing” to another person. Conflict can be prevented by seeing contentious behavior as merely a different style instead of a direct challenge or threat aimed at annoying you or derailing you.

He introduces him to the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) which is a tool to help you understand the motivations behind your own behaviors and to better discern the motivations of others. By giving you a framework it helps you to understand what you and others are feeling and then helps you be better able to respond.

Having a nice conflict is about taking personal responsibility for the interaction. To create movement toward resolution, we need to show the other person the path back to self-worth—where they feel good about themselves. That path may be different than yours. SDI The SDI helps you understand those paths. “When we’re stuck in a place of protecting our self-worth, it’s much harder to help others protect or restore what’s important to them. And that’s the primary mission of managing conflict. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower others to manage themselves out of their emotional state of conflict. To effectively manage conflict, we have to begin with ourselves. If we’re pulled into conflict ourselves, we’re usually not in a great position to help others.”

The concept should be taught in schools, however the thought process is essential for leaders. The book alone offers valuable insights into the process and methodology, but coupled with the SDI you’ll have greater success. The authors offer a discount on the SDI to readers of the book.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving , Teamwork

06.27.11

The Big Vision is Important but People Live in the Details

Most leaders don’t want to be called a tyrant, a control freak, or even a micromanager. To avoid that, it’s easy to jump into the other ditch and be laissez-faire. Leaders have a duty to navigate between these two extremes as the situation dictates.

Typically, we like to present the vision—the values—and leave the details to be sorted out. We like to give the big overarching principle without explaining exactly how it plays out in everyday life. The problem is that everything happens in the details. That’s where people live. That’s where decisions are made, community is built, and your vision and values are realized—or not.

We like to articulate the “promised land” and expect that everyone will catch on. That might work for the most highly visible leaders—those interacting with employees day-in and day-out—because they see you translating those values and goals on a day-to-day basis. But seriously, how many of us are that visible? We’re far too busy!?!

We don’t want to be caught telling people what to do, but we want everyone on the same page. Life doesn’t work like that. People see the same thing and hear the same thing differently. They interpret it differently and thus it plays out in their behavior differently. And that is where the friction starts. That’s where the community breaks down. That’s where the judgment begins.

Organizations, groups and families need more guidance than that. I’m not suggesting that we become control freaks, create even more rules, or become condescending or judgmental, but we need to clarify the vision and values in the details where people live. What do our values look like in everyday life? We need to use examples as they come up to relate everyday behavior to our values. Show where they match-up and where they don’t in a way that leaves room for them to develop good judgment and practical wisdom.

From the beginning—and along the way as needed—we need to spell out, “This is the kind of company we want to be, this is the kind of people we want to be, so that means we don’t do this but we do do that.” Specifically. And we then communicate this over and over again in our rhetoric and actions. People need to know and understand your values if their behavior is to be guided by them. If there is a disconnect between your values and everyone’s clear understanding of them, confusion and misbehavior will define your leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:17 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management , Teamwork , Vision

06.22.11

Leading Views: Keep Dissenters Close to Provide Perspective

Leading ViewsDecade of Change is a collection of articles from the Gallup Management Journal designed to provide a roadmap for moving forward into an uncertain future. In an interview with retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, he advises that leaders should keep dissenters close to provide perspective. This point cannot be stressed enough because although we all know it, most of us rarely encourage it. He shares the following with Senior Editor Jennifer Robison:

You’ve got three groups of people in your organization. First you’ve got the people who, when you say it, will get it done. Those are the people that want to replace you.

Then you’ve got the people who are on the team but aren’t necessarily motivated to get the task done. Those are the people in the middle. You can’t run the organization without them, so you take them as they are.

And then you have the third group. They’re very effective, but they don’t seem motivated. They argue with you. What you must decide is, is it OK to have a person from the third group on the team, or should you get rid of him? Members of that third group can be very competent, and many leaders let them go because they aren’t jumping up and down every time the boss walks in.

So an art of leadership is to sort those three groups out. You don’t have to worry about the ones that want your job. They’re clapping every time the boss says something, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to be on the team and be solid key players. Then you’ve got those who don’t cheer, but they get it done. But the third group could be the most productive, because sometimes the least conformist member of the group can say, “Yeah, this is what the boss says, but this is what the organization needs.” Some of your best innovations come from the mavericks.

Group one is good for accomplishing a mission, but if you don’t have people bringing up the negatives, you won’t have any perspective.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 PM
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06.16.11

To Focus on the Work, You Must Focus on People Doing the Work

Leadership Nuggets

Many managers think they manage the work. They don’t. They’re responsible for the work, but they get work done by influencing the people who do the work.

What makes this complicated is what Peter Drucker pointed out: when you hire a hand, it comes with a head and heart attached. So you must pay attention, lots of attention, to the whole person—head and heart—because you need more than your people’s time and attention.

Most work now requires knowledge, judgment, thinking, and decision making, and so it matters if people care about what they do. You cannot simply give them orders and criticism. That rarely produces the kind of engagement you need. Other, less direct but more effective forms of influence—such as support, development, and encouragement—are needed that engage the whole person.

Do you tend to focus on the work or on the people doing the work? In other words, do you tend to confront and criticize, or do you support people and give them what they need to do good work?

Adapted from Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill and Kent L. Lineback.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:45 PM
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06.07.11

Transforming an Ordinary Moment into a TouchPoint

TouchPoints
We all have those moments when we are too busy for the people around us. But those moments are the work of leaders. Those are the moments when we can help to move things from what they are to what they could be. Campbell CEO Doug Conant said, “To me, they’re not interruptions. They’re opportunities to touch someone and improve the situation.

TouchPoints, by Doug Conant and Mette Norgaard, describes a new way of thinking about the work of leadership. TouchPoints are those moments in the day when you have the opportunity to touch the lives of other people. Each has the potential to become a high point or a low point in someone’s day. “Each is an opportunity to establish high performance expectations, to infuse the agenda with greater clarity and more energy, and to influence the course of events.”
Every TouchPoint is spring-loaded with possibilities. Each one can build—or break—a relationship. Even a brief interaction can change the way people think about themselves, their leaders, and their future.
TouchPoints exposes the extreme responsibility that leadership is. A responsibility that in our overloaded age, we often overlook.

To make the most of your TouchPoints, they have created the TouchPoint Triad: listen, frame, advance. In any moment you begin by asking, “How can I help?” Then you listen intently. This prepares you and helps you find out what is really going on. Be curious and keep listening for the real issue. Next, you frame the issue to be sure that everyone in the TouchPoint is on the same page. Third, you advance the agenda. People come to you because they want results. Once you know what is needed, do what you can in that moment to advance the agenda; decide on what the next step is and who is responsible to do it. After the TouchPoint is over, make a point to check-in and see how well the action plan is going by asking something like, “How did it go?” or “Is there anything else you need from me?” It’s a reminder that you care and lets you know if you were genuinely helpful.
TouchPoints Triad

A TouchPoint is about really connecting with others and improving results. It’s about engaging in a way that is alert, abundant, authentic, and adaptable:

You need to be alert to the real issues. “When you are fully present, you can see the gaps in someone’s line of logic and pick up bits of information that provide clues to what is going on.”

You need to be abundant in your thinking; rejecting the either/or scarcity mindset.

To be authentic is to embrace the work of the leader and “live by a very clear code that provides an underlying clarity and consistency in every TouchPoint.”

“The secret to being adaptable is to develop a broad range of skills, so that you can adjust and adapt in the moment.”

Throughout TouchPoints, you will find many nuggets of relationship wisdom to help you, as they put it, “work with, not against, the nature of things.”

The authors insist that you clarify your own leadership model so that you can apply it consistently. To that end, they suggest that you answer two vital questions: What makes people give the very best of themselves? What makes for ever-stronger performance in an ever changing world? Your answers will help you to define how you see yourself, other people, and the world around you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:06 PM
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06.03.11

4 Lessons from the Toyota Crisis

“Crisis response must start by building a strong culture long before the crisis hits,” say Jeffrey Liker and Tim Ogden, authors of Toyota Under Fire.
Turning crisis into opportunity is all about culture. It’s not about PR strategies, or charismatic leadership, or vision, or any specific action by any individual. It’s not about policies or procedures or risk mitigation processes. It’s about the actions that have been programmed into the individuals and teams that make up a company before the crisis starts.
The accident in August 2009 that took the lives of four people in a runaway Lexus brought national attention to Toyota. Fueled by innuendo and speculation by Congress and some media, it escalated into something it was not. Toyota Under Fire deals with not only the massive recall of 2009-2010, but also Toyota’s response to the oil crisis and recession. Toyota’s response has not been typical, but it does follow the Toyota Way. It is a reflection of their culture. That way includes what is probably Toyota’s “greatest contribution to the world as a model of real continuous improvement” at and by all levels in the organization. Liker and Ogden describe the Toyota Way as:
Face challenges with a clear head and positive energy. Hold fast to your core values and your vision for the company. Always start with the customer. Understand the problems that you face by analyzing the facts, including your own failings, and understanding the root causes. Thoroughly consider alternative solutions, then pick a path, develop a detailed plan, and execute with discipline and energy.
“You do not turn a culture off and on again like a light switch.” Culture—like character—is built over decades of living your values in the real world. And then in a crisis, when you really need it, it is there to carry you through. The authors isolated four lessons for dealing with a crisis:

Leadership
Lesson 1: Your Crisis Response Started Yesterday. What a company does isn’t likely to change much when a crisis strikes or for any length of time. “They are driven by culture, and culture simply can’t be changed quickly, even in a crisis…. Therefore, the chief questions to ask yourself about how your company will respond in a crisis are not contingency plans and policies, but about your culture and your people. Have you created a culture that rewards transparency and accepts responsibility for mistakes? Have you created a culture that encourages people to take on challenges and strive for improvement? Have you created a culture that values people and invests in their capabilities? Have you created a culture that prioritizes the long term?”

Lesson 2: A Culture of Responsibility Will Always Beat a Culture of Finger-Pointing. Common sense? Yes, but the question is how far do you go in accepting responsibility? What if the factors were beyond your control? The answer illuminates an important nuance in understanding Toyota’s culture of responsibility and problem solving. “There is no value to the Five Whys [belief that you have to ask why at least five times] if you stop when you find a problem that is outside of your control. There will always be factors outside of your control. When you reach a cause that is outside of your control, the next why is to ask why you didn’t take into account forces outside of your control—either by finding an alternative approach or by building in flexibility to adjust to those forces.”

Lesson 3: Even the Best Culture Develops Weaknesses. The greatest threat to a culture of continuous improvement is success. “To survive the weaknesses that inevitably develop, a corporate culture has to have clear and objective standards, codified in such a way that self-correction is possible. Having a culture that recognizes a loss of direction is absolutely critical to long-term survival.”

Lesson 4: Globalizing Culture Means a Constant Balancing Act. The clarity of Toyota’s culture and values is essential to growing the culture in every employee. And there is a balance to strike—balance between centralized and decentralized, local and global—that is not easy. “There is an inherent demand here that especially the people who are at the margins, at the periphery of the organization, be deeply steeped in the culture, and that they are to be trusted to make decisions because they are at the gemba.” One of the root causes of the crisis they identified was centralized decision making. They will now pursue a regionalization strategy which will require trusting the leaders they have trained to maintain the culture.

Toyota Under Fire is an in-depth look at the value of having a strong culture that can serve you when things go south. The discussions explaining the reasoning behind why Toyota does what it does were very helpful. They demonstrate that the most important decisions are the ones made before the crisis. And then when the crisis hits, return to basics. Go deeper and wider.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:21 PM
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05.24.11

Got Drama?

You can’t stop The Drama. There will always be drama.

Leadership
But that’s not the problem says Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama. “The amount of time you stay in the drama—and the effort you put toward it—is the problem. Complaints, excuses, and regrets only serve to keep the drama alive.” Your drama—what you add to The Drama—is the problem.

Chism defines drama as “any obstacle to your peace and prosperity.” Drama is the result of not recognizing or taking care of the little signs of bigger problems when they first presented themselves. At the core of drama you will find one of three common elements (if not all three): a lack of clarity, a relationship issue, and/or resistance. So, says Chism, when you experience drama you need to ask yourself three questions:

1. Where am I unclear?
2. What is my relationship issue?
3. What am I resisting?

Chism presents eight principles for dealing with drama, but “lack of clarity” struck me as the most common and excuse-laden trap there is. Too often this is where we get stuck.

When we first set a goal we’re clear. In her terms, “we see the island.” But between here and there the process become difficult and someone on your team becomes unhappy, and, “instead of focusing on the island we are trying to reach, we’re now concentrating on pleasing the one person who is upset. Our focus has shifted because we became confused about our number one priority.” And the fog rolls in.

Any type of discord, abuse, confusion, or game-playing always boils down to a lack of clarity.” A loss of focus.

Sometimes we create drama because we want something on our terms. We imagine that we can’t do something because we can’t do it the way we think it should be done—our way. Chism relates a clarifying example of this with the recently divorced Joe who is having visitation issues with his ex-wife Patty. She’s not letting him do what he wants in the way that he wants.
Many people get stuck in the drama of what should or shouldn’t be. Yes, you can fight that battle, if winning a battle is what you want. But again, in order to clear the fog and help Joe get clarity, I asked, “If there are two islands you can go to, and one means winning a battle with your wife and the other island is getting to see your kids and be a father to them—then which island would you choose?”

He said, “Seeing my kids, but…”

I said, “No buts. Are you willing to drive to Illinois several times a year and spend quality time with your kids, even if Patty does nothing more than cooperate?”

Joe said, “Yes.”

It’s never as difficult as we make it when we get clear on what we can control and what we are committed to.. The point here is that clarity may or not change Joe’s ex-wife. Joe will struggle if that is his motive or intention. However, Joe’s clarity will give him the essence of what he really wants. If he is able to let go of distractions and not get stuck on the rocks that lie between him and his final goal.

Do you see that while this kind of clarity may not change all the drama, it will give you peace and free up your energy for more productive endeavors?
This kind of dynamic plays out every day in our business and personal lives. When we are not clear about what we want, what our values are, what we are committed to, it is easy to lose our focus, to drift off course.

Solution: Clear the fog.

Chism has written a good-natured and practical book that will change your thinking and in the process help you to control the drama in both your personal and professional life. As leaders, we have the responsibility to be very clear with ourselves and our team so that we don’t get pulled into negativity, gossip, power plays, resistance and … drama. Chism suggests asking the following questions:

What are my top 10 principle-based values?
What areas of my life or business are in the fog?
What are some of the distractions that take me off course?
Where do I get stuck?
Where can I improve as a leader?
What drama do I see on a daily basis in the workplace?
What drama do I see in my personal life?
Where am I avoiding or procrastinating?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:00 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Change , Communication , General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development , Teamwork , Vision

05.19.11

Landing in the Executive Chair

Leadership
Success in any organization requires good decision-making, results orientation, leadership talent and people skills says, Linda Henman in Landing in the Executive Chair. But as you climb the hierarchy in an organization, “the manifestation of those traits and behaviors becomes more complicated.”

No matter where you are in the organization, it’s about people. People will make you successful. However, you will find that as you go up the ladder, the need for understanding yourself and others becomes more acute and more difficult. Primarily this is because your relationship with those around you changes—both in your mind and theirs.

It’s not surprising that Henman writes, “I have found direct ties between self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill—and business results.” As Bill George says, “It's EQ, not IQ, that matters most for leaders.”

As a result, Henman has developed a model she calls F² Leadership: Fair but Firm. F² Leaders have a “balanced concern for task accomplishment and people issues.” It’s about balancing dominance (results) and responsiveness (relationships).

F² Leaders should keep in mind:
  • Demand results through involvement. Set tough goals and insist on analytical approaches.
  • Get to know your people, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their motivators, and then deal with each person as a unique individual.
  • Maintain an “us-centered” mentality.
  • Demonstrate concern and responsiveness. Rather than merely trying to please direct reports for the moment, work with them to uncover their concerns, and then balance these with the needs of the organization. “When high potentials don’t receive attention from senior leaders, retention, productivity, and morale suffer.”
  • Put disagreements and problems on the table as soon as you perceive them. Don’t wait until you are angry or until a crisis is brewing to talk about them.
The reason more leaders don’t work at this is simply because of the time it takes. Henman writes, “Jumping in to fix problems, telling people what to do instead of mentoring them, and maintaining your action orientation involve less time than keeping your concern for people as high as your concern for task accomplishment.” Unfortunately, the cost of not taking the time is the loss of your top talent and productivity.

Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, but “you can take steps to stack the deck in your favor.” Henman describes behaviors that indicate that you are firm but fair, and trustworthy. She covers such areas as decision-making and problem-solving, attracting top talent, strategy, execution, leadership development, and building a culture of change. These are valuable insights for both new leaders and experienced leaders alike.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 AM
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05.05.11

Bill Roedy: From West Point to MTV

Bill Roedy
Bill Roedy, former Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks International, began working for HBO in 1979 when it was broadcasting only nine hours a day. There he learned that distribution was everything. It was to be his mantra at MTV—aggressive, creative, relentless distribution.

Roedy shares his experiences and lessons in What Makes Business Rock. From virtually nothing, he built MTV International into the largest media network in the world. For anyone involved doing business internationally, it is essential reading.

As manager of HBO’s national accounts, he learned that “In life as well as in business, the ability to sell is the foundation upon which success is built.” Some people don’t understand that he says, but even in Vietnam, although he had the formal authority to force troops obey my orders, I found that if people didn’t believe in the mission, I never got a total effort from them.” Leaders are always selling.

Although reluctant to leave HBO and move to London, in 1989 he became managing director of MTV Europe. What he inherited wasn’t working. He had to quickly create a better product, get more distribution and generate revenue. Getting the right people in place was crucial to creating an entrepreneurial organization. “Never take ‘No’ for an answer.” “Take chances.” “Break all the rules.”

Their objective was to be the most visually engaging channel in the history of European television. To make sure viewers always knew they were watching MTV, they put their logo in the corner of the screen and left it there. No one had done that before. (Now everyone does.)

Here is a lesson every leader could bear to keep in mind: as a leader, your opinion matters—maybe more than you know. But it can actually be having a negative impact. The MTV playlist is extremely important to its viewers and giving them what they want to hear is essential to MTV’s survival. Roedy says that in the beginning he attended those meetings if only to be the voice of reason and a subtle reminder that they were running a business. “But after attending half a dozen of these meetings I realized I was making a huge mistake. I was much older than our demographic and my musical tastes were very different. I was skewing the choices older.” So he stopped attending those meetings. “As much as I enjoyed being part of that process, I had to remind myself that I was a manager, and I had to delegate decision-making authority to those people I trusted.” How many leaders, for all kinds of well-intentioned reasons feel they have to leave their fingerprint on everything, while they are in-fact stifling their people and skewing the results?

Roedy’s success at MTV can be attributed to the fact that he was always reinventing. “The longer you stay with the same strategy, the more vulnerable you become to your competitors.”

His most important contribution was the idea, “Think global, act local.” MTV was already local to Europe, but it had to be broken down to the national level, country by country. “Learn the local culture and reflect it in every decision we make,” was their business strategy. He created a structure similar to what he learned in the military: small operating units in the field fighting the competition. “My belief was that the local people would best reflect the needs, tastes, and desires of the local audience, and because their jobs would depend on the bottom line, they were much less likely to make risky or destructive financial decisions. In Vietnam, I had seen over and over the benefits of dealing directly with the loyal population on their own terms, rather than trying to impose our beliefs on them.” Because of the complexities of operating an international business, you need be there on the ground to really feel it.

On MTV Arabia for example, they broadcast the call to prayer on the channel five times every day. For Ramadan they produced an animated film explaining the meaning of that important religious holiday to young people in a creative way and refrained for a month from showing any music videos.

Throughout the book there are stories of music celebrities—singing karaoke with Bono and Bob Geldof dressed as a nurse in Tokyo at 4a.m.—and others like Sumner Redstone, Robert Maxwell, Jeff Bewkes, Nelson Mandela, Jiang Zemin, Fidel Castro, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama. They add color to the book and make it all the more interesting. But read it for the insights into global business.

Related Interest:
  More lessons from Bill Roedy can be found on the LeadershipNow Facebook page.
  What Makes Business Rock

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:28 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Leaders , Management , Marketing , Teamwork

05.04.11

What Makes Business Rock

Leadership
After reading What Makes Business Rock by Bill Roedy, I have developed an appreciation for what it took to build MTV Networks International into what it is today. Former Chairman and CEO, Bill Roedy, has had a remarkable career.

Due to financial constraints, he followed his Dad into West Point. Not his first choice. He became a member of the “Century Club” collecting more than a hundred hours of punishment duty. But he did learn the “difference between fighting the system and finessing it.” He also learned many of the skills that would enable him to succeed in business, including “discipline, time management, the value of teamwork, and the importance of physical endurance.”

He learned how to prioritize. Survival depended on it. “Too often,” writes Roedy, “I have seen people focusing on the wrong things—things that are not going to directly or immediately affect their business….Leaders need to learn to cut through the chaff to determine priorities and to identify the real target.

After West Point he served in Vietnam in various command positions. “I learned the importance of making quick and firm decisions, communicating those decisions clearly to my troops, and then doing anything and everything necessary to implement them. I learned the importance of building morale, camaraderie, and a team spirit. I learned how to deal with the chain of command and how to get around it when necessary.”

From Vietnam he went to Northern Italy where he spent four years in command of three NATO nuclear missile bases. A good place to learn how to deal with pressure and stress. “There are few situations more stressful than commanding a nuclear missile site and trying to determine in 30 seconds whether the aircraft approaching the base was a friend or foe. There was no margin for error. We had to be perfect every day.”

Wanting to go into business, he resigned the military after 11 years and went to Harvard to get an MBA. As a child, Bill was so enthralled by the power of television that he would memorize the TV Guide and recite the schedule back to his mother. He knew he wanted to work in television so instead of the typical corporate route followed by his classmates, he took a job at a small start-up cable network called HBO.

Roedy’s background doesn’t make him the likely candidate to build MTV International, but it certainly prepared him for it. More on that tomorrow.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
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04.20.11

Be a Coach, Not a Critic

Unless they can highlight a problem, many book reviewers don’t feel like they have done their job. They operate under the assumption that being a critic means being critical. Many bosses operate the same way. They feel feedback is good only if it is critical or negative.

Adam Bryant suggests in The Corner Office, that we be a coach, not a critic. He writes, “Employees know if their boss is rooting for them to succeed, and they’re much more open to feedback if they sense the manager’s goal is to make them better. If you assume that most people want to get better, they want feedback and advice, that they want somebody to care about their future, then giving feedback becomes much easier.”

Unfortunately, most bosses have not established that fact with those they “serve.” They don’t deliver positive feedback on an ongoing basis and only take the time to say anything when they have some critical points to deliver. Feedback should not be thought of as an event. It should be ongoing and in real-time. Sure that’s more difficult and time-consuming, but it is what you signed up for.

Bryant shares what Tachi Yamada of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program had to say about feedback: “One of the things I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how many good things you say, the one bad thing is what sticks….Everybody has their good points. Everybody has their bad points. If you can bring out the best in everybody, then you can have a great organization. If you bring out the worst in everybody, you’re going to have a bad organization.” What are you bringing out?

David Novak of Yum Brands adds, “When you start out by talking to people about what they’re doing well, that makes them very receptive for feedback because at least you’re giving them credit for what they’ve done. Then I say, ‘And you can be even more effective if you do this.’ I think that really works.”

When it comes to feedback, packaging is everything.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:00 PM
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04.12.11

From Values to Action

From Values to Action
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, has written a genuine, back-to-basics book on value-based leadership: From Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:

Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”

Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”

Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.

True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.
Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”

From Values to ActionAfter describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).

Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”

From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.

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Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:13 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Human Resources , Leaders , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

12.22.10

Are You Undermanaged?

Bruce Tulgan thinks that at every level of organizations there is a shocking and profound epidemic of undermanagement. That’s right undermanagement. In It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss he argues:
The vast majority of supervisory relationships between employees and their bosses lack the day-to-day engagement necessary to consistently maintain the very basics of management: clear expectations, necessary resources; real performance tracking; and fair credit and reward. In fact, most employees report that they feel disengaged from their immediate boss(es); that two-way communication is sorely deficient; and that employees rarely get the daily guidance, resources, feedback, and reward that they need.
Management
Part of the problem is that all too often, people are promoted to management positions not because if their people skills, but because of their competency in one area or another. Consequently, they fail to lead, manage or supervise on a daily basis.

But what about micromanaging? Tulgan says that what is often labeled “micromanagement” is really a consequence of not managing well. For example, if a manager asks an employee to check in every step of the way in order to complete simple tasks, “it is most always because the manager has not prepared the employee in advance” to able to make those simple decisions. Proper management means making sure that the employee understands how to carry out the task and responsibilities, and is equipped with the necessary tools and skills to do so.

It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss is written for undermanaged employees. If the manager isn’t doing it, Tulgan says it is up to the employee to manage the boss. He writes, “In order to be a high-performer in today’s workplace, you need to create highly engaged relationships with every boss, whether that boss is great, awful, or somewhere in between.” Undermanagement is for low-performers. He lays out a seven step plan to manage your boss beginning with learning to manage yourself first.

Tulgan urges us to take responsibility for our part of the management relationship. Are you undermanaged? And as a leader, are you paying attention to management basics: providing direction and guidance, holding people accountable, dealing with failure, and rewarding success?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

11.22.10

The 7 Habits of Highly-Performing CIOs

CIO Edge
Specialization often gets us noticed in the workplace, but to deliver on the promise of that knowledge requires leadership. And that’s a different mindset. In The CIO Edge, authors Graham Waller, George Hallenbeck and Karen Rubenstruck, look at the challenges facing the chief information officer. It’s a another case of what got you here won’t get you there. They write:
Focusing on leadership and people skills—the “soft” things that many CIOs tend to minimize in their quest to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities of managing IT—is in fact the biggest determinate of their success, or failure.
In other words, your job is to deliver results through your ability to influence people. As CIO you will ultimately fail is you can’t inspire others to get the right work done. You can’t do it alone. They have found that the highest performing CIOs have these seven traits in common:
  1. Committed to being a leader first and delivering results through people.
  2. They lead differently than they think—they think analytically while acting collaboratively. A highly-performing CIO is an incredibly smart, technologically savvy professional who also has the critically important, highly developed interpersonal skills required to do the job effectively.
  3. Connect deeply with people by cultivating their “softer” side. They are good at relating to people and making connections through three particularly important competencies: Openness and being receptive, caring and relating (being approachable).
  4. Forge winning relationships—up, down and especially sideways with internal peers, with external suppliers and with company customers. Having good relationships makes it far easier to get things done.
  5. Master communication so that messages not only are understood but also compel needed action. Leaders are always communicating. People process information in different ways and therefore they are skilled in communicating their message in different ways.
  6. They spend an inordinate amount of time and energy to inspire others to follow them. They get people excited to accomplish things via IT on behalf of the enterprise.
  7. They build people, not systems. By developing people to the fullest extent possible, four things happen: you unleash the power of the organization, you increase the power of IT, your job becomes more fulfilling and you build a sustainable legacy.
In their research, the best CIOs told them that business acumen trumps technical knowledge. “The point is not to have superior business knowledge in each function area (logistics, finance, marketing, etc.), but rather to know how all these things come together.” Then you can see better where IT fits in and can add value.
Business acumen is an incredibly important trait to possess. There isn’t anything you do in corporate IT that you can’t buy somewhere else.
–Randy Spratt, CIO, McKesson


You need to be a good business leader first, and a technology leader second. I would say that you probably need to spend somewhere around 60 percent of your time on the business and, you know, 30 percent to 40 percent dealing with IT-related matters.
–Robert Runcie, chief administrative officer, Chicago Public Schools
As CIO, what matters is “understanding that your number-one job isn’t mastering the technology. It is providing collaborative, participative leadership through which you can create the relationships, commitments, shared visions, and common purpose that enable success.” Leadership amplifies your value.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

10.15.10

You Already Know How to Be Great

Leadership
One of the hardest things we will attempt to do is to act on what we already know to do. It’s that difficulty that lies behind much of our search for the next big thing; some way to get around or make easier that which we know we should be doing. It is never easy but by applying some new thinking we can get out of our own way.

Alan Fine states in You Already Know How to Be Great, that performance improvement is most often an issue of reducing the interference that’s getting in the way of using the knowledge we already have. Fine says that we have to get right the three elements that facilitate the use of the knowledge we already have. They are:

Faith: Our beliefs about ourselves and our beliefs about others. High performance is more likely when we believe that we can learn and do better. The absence of Faith could be described as insecurity.

Fire: Our energy, passion, motivation, and commitment. High performance is more likely when we are excited about learning and doing. The absence of Fire could be described as indifference.

Focus: What we pay attention to and how we pay attention to it. High performance is more likely when we pay attention in a way that will quiet our minds. The absence of Focus could be described as inconsistency.

High performance happens when we “get rid of the interference that blocks these natural, inherent human gifts.” Focus is the most powerful tool for removing distractions and thus the “most effective way to release Faith and Fire.” If we “create a singular focus on one or more critical variables of the task, we’re far more likely to create the flow state that creates high performance.”

More than instructing, Fine believes we would be better off looking to what is blocking Faith, Fire, and Focus in our organizations, performers, families and teams. Unleashing these qualities facilitates the use of knowledge.
As managers, leaders, coaches, or parents, we’re incredulous to think (or more likely, it never even occurs to us to think) that without our excessive instructing, regulating, controlling, directing, and intervening, people might actually be able to perform with greater confidence, more enthusiasm, and more effective focus.
Fine introduces the GROW process as a way of creating focus. The process asks: “What is my Goal? What’s the Reality? What are my Options? What’s the best Way Forward?

GROW increases Decision Velocity [the speed and accuracy with which we make decisions]. It helps reduce interference, clarify thinking, identify options, and chunk down the challenge into doable tasks. It unblocks Faith, Fire, and Focus and frees people to use the Knowledge they already have.

As leaders, we tend to approach most situations by providing more information. We actually nourish the expectation that we are to be telling people what to do, when we really need to be working to help them get what’s inside of them out. Fine calls this inside-out coaching. It’s less about providing more Knowledge and more about releasing the Faith, Fire and Focus that's already there in the performer. It’s more Focus coaching than it is Knowledge coaching. “It’s easy for coaches to get blindsided by what they think people have to pay attention to—to get so focused on the task that they miss the window through which a person can actually pay attention.”

“When leaders simply tell people what to do (which is often the case), the result is often a lack of engagement and accountability on the part of the employee and little or no performance improvement. One of the primary observable signs of an outside-in approach is people constantly asking managers, leaders, teachers, or parents what to do.” As a coach, the biggest challenge isn’t the performer; it’s your own interference.

You Already Know How to Be Great is about coaching ourselves and others to remove the interference that is blocking performance. It is full of applications of inside-out coaching and the GROW process he advocates. As such, it is an indispensable book for coaches or leaders of all types.

Related Interest:
  quickpoint: Getting Out of the Way

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:57 PM
| TrackBacks (3) | Human Resources , Learning , Management , Teamwork

09.20.10

Do You Argue With Reality?

Leadership
Chris Thurman wrote in The Lies We Believe, “The number one cause of our unhappiness are the lies we believe in life.” Too often, we operate apart from reality. Given a choice between reality and our version of it, we are inclined to choose the latter. It is a central tendency of human beings. The result is drama not peace.

Instead of getting the results we want,” says Cy Wakeman, “we end up with reasons, stories, and excuses for why things didn’t work out—leading to more drama, disengagement, judgment, and ineffective leadership.

In Reality-Based Leadership, Wakeman presents a much-needed wake-up call. We can ditch the drama by getting in touch with what is. Quit making up stories. Quit arguing with reality. Ditching the stories that are causing us stress. “We all tell ourselves stories and live with the resulting drama.” It sounds like:

“I shouldn’t have to do this—it’s not part of my job description.
“Our department is always having to clean up after others’ mistakes.”
“The boss just doesn’t get it.”
“Management only care about the bottom line.”

“You are arguing with reality whenever you judge your situation in terms of right and wrong instead of fearlessly confronting what is.” You need to respond to the facts, not the story you create about the facts. This is easier said than done. Interwoven in our stories are our egos, insecurities and identities. (At one point Wakeman suggests we ask, “Who am I as a manager or as an employee when I believe this story?”) We like our stories. They make us look better. They place the blame somewhere south of us. If other people are always coming up short in our stories, then it’s all about us. But letting go of our stories is not always easy as we have a lot invested in them.

Too often our criticism is about setting us apart from others and not about helping them. It says a lot more about us than it does those it is directed towards.

Wakeman says, “When you are judging you are not leading.” In her analysis of case study about Steve and a team he dreaded working with, she concludes, “his biggest obstacle is his belief that they are a negative group. What if he just dropped that whole story and simply responded to reality directly? The phone rings? Answer it. The team asks a question? Answer it, or teach them where to find the answer. The team shares what worked in the past? Listen and lead them into the future. The team requests some time with the leader? Engage with them—lead! When Steve began to lead the team rather than judge and criticize, the team began to change for the better.” She adds, “When you focus your energy on what you are able to give And create rather than what you receive, you are truly serving.”

Do you see any applications in what you and involved in? Wakeman insightfully writes: “What is missing from a situation is that which you are not giving.

Operating out of a judging mindset of “I know” or “I am right” effectively shuts down the potential to learn or accomplish anything. Moving on based in reality requires setting the story aside and asking, “If I set the story aside, what would I do to help?”

The minute you start judging is the very minute you quit leading, serving and adding value. When you’re in judgment, you are dealing with your story—not with reality. Wakeman suggest that when you get off-track:
  1. Do a reality check. Get back to the facts of the situation b y editing out anything that you can’t absolutely know to be true. “What is the next right action I can take that would add the most value to the situation?” Direct your energy on that action.
  2. Get clear about motives. Seek to be successful rather than right. Is it about you?
  3. Be the change. Practice those virtues that you have determined to be lacking in others.
  4. See others through a lens of love and respect—not anger and fear. When faced with those whose personalities are different from ours, or whose behaviors have reached a stress-induced inappropriateness, work to see through those behaviors and identify their needs or goals. Ask yourself, “What are they striving for?” Then ask, “How can I help them achieve it?”
  5. Invoke a clearer, higher perspective. When you sense that conflict is getting personal, be prepared to return to a professional perspective by asking your team to clarify the overreaching goal of their work together. “Given our goal, what do you think is the best way to move forward?”
What stories are you telling yourself that causing you to operate in your own world? While it may be cognitively economical, it is costing you far more in every other area.

Related Post:
  The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Learning , Management , Personal Development

06.29.10

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Leadership
Much of what constitutes good leadership can be summarized in two words: respect and selflessness.

How we relate to those two words will determine how we lead. Consider two assumptions that lie at the opposite ends of the spectrum:

• Really intelligent people are a rare breed and I am one of the few really smart people. People will never be able to figure things out without me. I need to have all the answers.

• Smart people are everywhere and will figure things out and get even smarter in the process. My job is to ask the right questions.

What you believe has a big impact on the performance, engagement, loyalty and the transparency you find with those you lead and interact with. In Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown refer to those with the mindset represented by the first assumption as Diminshers and those with the mindset represented by the second assumption as Multipliers. It explains why some leaders create intelligence around them, while others diminish it.

The value of Multipliers is that is shows what these assumptions about people look like in practice and how they are reflected in your behavior. How would you approach your job differently if you believed that people are smart and can figure it out? With a Multiplier mindset, people will surprise you. They will give more. You will learn more. What kind of solutions could we generate if you could access the underutilized brainpower in the world? How much more could you accomplish?

It’s not that Diminishers don’t get things done. They do. It’s just that the people around them feel drained, overworked and underutilized. Some leaders seem to drain the “intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room [has] a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb.” In short, Diminishers are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.

Multipliers get more done by leveraging (using more) of the intelligence and capabilities of the people around them. They respect others. “Multipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others.” These are not “feel good” leaders. “They are tough and exacting managers who see a lot of capacity in others and want to utilize that potential to the fullest.”

The authors have identified five key behaviors or disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. You are not either/or but are somewhere along a continuum. These are all learned behaviors and have everything to do with how you view people. We don’t have to be great in all disciplines to be a Multiplier, but we have to be at least neutral in those disciplines we struggle with.

DIMINISHER
MULTIPLIER
The Empire BuilderHoards resources and underutilizes talentThe Talent MagnetAttracts talented people & uses them at their highest point of contribution
The TyrantCreates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capabilityThe LiberatorCreates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work
The Know-It-AllGives directives that showcase how much they knowThe ChallengerDefines an opportunity that causes people to stretch
The Decision MakerMakes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organizationThe Debate MakerDrives sound decisions through rigorous debate
The Micro ManagerDrives results through their personal involvementThe InvestorGives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success


They have developed an assessment tool you can use to see where you are. Importantly, the first place to begin is with your assumptions about people. If you don’t have that straight the rest is just manipulation.

As with most behaviors, we do them because we feel we have to. They are self-perpetuating. We jump in where we shouldn’t and come to the rescue. Under our “help” (domination) people hold back thereby reaffirming our belief that they just couldn’t do it without us. And they can’t or rather won’t. Instead they quit while still working for us or move on.

We see this in ourselves, in others and in organizations of all types. Leaders are especially prone to run over people, because after all, they have the vision, the know-how and the desire to get it done. We have to slow down and remember that we are not there just to get the job done, but to develop others to get the job done. They can (and need to be able to) do it without us. It’s our job to show them how.

In many ways, as leaders, we can become accidental Diminishers. The skills that got us into a position of leadership, are not the same skills we need to lead. Leadership requires a shift in our thinking. Wiseman and McKeown write, “Most of the Diminishers had grown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal—and often intellectual—merit. When they become ‘the boss,’ they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of ‘subordinates.’"

Here are some thoughts—out of context—from the book that will get you thinking:

“Marguerite is so capable she could do virtually any aspect of girl’s camp herself.” But what is interesting about Marguerite isn’t that she could—it is that she doesn’t. Instead, she leads like a Multiplier, invoking brilliance and dedication in the other fifty-nine leaders who make this camp a reality.

One leader had a sign on her door: “Ignore me as needed to get your job done.” She told new staff members, “Yes, there will be a few times when I get agitated because I would have done it differently, but I’ll get over it. I’d rather you trust your judgment, keep moving, and get the job done.”

The path of least resistance for most smart, driven leaders is to become a Tyrant. Even Michael said, “it’s not like it isn’t tempting to be tyrannical when you can.”

Policies—established to create order—often unintentionally keep people from thinking. At best, these policies limit intellectual range of motion as they straitjacket the thinking of the followers. At worst these systems shut down thinking entirely.

“It is just easier to hold back and let Kate do the thinking.” [They resign: “Whatever!”]

It is a small victory to create space for others to contribute. But it is a huge victory to maintain that space and resist the temptation to jump back in and consume it yourself.

An unsafe environment yields only the safest ideas.

[Multipliers] ask questions so immense that people can’t answer them based on their current knowledge or where they currently stand. To answer these questions, the organization must learn.

His greatest value was not his intelligence, but how he invested his intelligence in others.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:28 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Learning , Management , Thinking

06.23.10

Developing a Small-Wins Strategy for Growth

When moving through difficult times, it is helpful to develop a small-wins strategy. In difficult times, deficit-thinking is so easy to fall into and often becomes the norm. It is hard to defeat but by highlighting small-wins you help to create the kind of abundance-thinking needed for growth and forward momentum. A strategy of small-wins helps to develop the kind of outlook associated with abundance-thinking—self-efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience.

A small-wins strategy also helps to eliminate the tendency to be consumed by past disappointments, obstacles and failures. The need to look for “what is working now” is key to moving forward. It opens your thinking to possibilities and paves the way for improving processes.

Small-wins focus on the here and now. What can we do now and what can we safely ignore or eliminate. It is an antidote to the fixation error trap. It’s easy to caught up in “everything”—the full impact of what is happening and the habits and perspectives that have become so much of who we are—that we become overwhelmed and unable to act at all. Fixation errors keep us from noticing what is really happening, separating us from reality. Reassess after each win and keep moving to build momentum.

Begin by breaking tasks and issues down in to manageable pieces; pieces that you can take responsibility for and act on now. If you are not in a position to implement this strategy on an organizational level, adopt it for your team or even individually. Lead from where you are. It’s contagious.

Of Related Interest:
  The Nature of Small Wins

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:35 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Problem Solving , Teamwork

06.09.10

Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage

We live in a reliability-oriented world. And understandably so. We want predictable outcomes. We want things to keep working as they have always been—perfectly.

Success. Repeat. Success. Repeat.

But that thinking ultimately limits our growth and quite possibly harbors the seeds of our own destruction. It can be (very) valuable to a point, but it isn’t adaptable because by its very nature it has to leave something out of the equation. While reliable outcomes “reduce the risk of small variations in your business, they increase the risk of cataclysmic events that occur when the future no longer resembles the past” and the reliable is no longer relevant or useful.

To remain relevant—to foster innovation—you need to incorporate into your thinking outcomes that are valid. That is, outcomes that produce a desired result even if the solution employed can’t produce a consistent, predictable outcome. A perfectly valid solution is one that produces a result that is shown, through the passage of time, to have been correct. It is best to have a system that incorporates both—validity and reliability—into their approach. Balancing and managing the two approaches—analytical and intuitive—is what design thinking is all about.

In The Design of Business, Roger Martin presents the knowledge funnel to show how knowledge moves. Each stage represents a simplification and ordering of knowledge. At the beginning is a mystery; a question. It is the observation of phenomena. Things we see but don’t yet understand. knowledge funnel

The next stage is a heuristic, “a rule of thumb that helps to narrow the field of inquiry and work the mystery down to a manageable size.” Heuristics don’t guarantee success but do increase the probability of success.

The last stage is the development of an algorithm. “An algorithm is an explicit, step-by-step procedure for solving a problem. Algorithms take the loose, unregimented heuristics—which take considerable thought and nuance to employ—and simplify, structuralize, and codify them to the degree that anyone with access to the algorithm can deploy it with more or less equal efficiency.”

Martin uses the example of the development of McDonalds to illustrate how they proceeded down the knowledge funnel. In 1940 the McDonald brothers opened their first drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California. It did well, but by 1950 they began to lose business. Food was getting cold before it was delivered and families were put off by the hoards of teenagers they attracted. They had to develop a winning heuristic. They reduced and standardized the menu, and implemented their Speedee Service System.

Ray Kroc saw an opportunity in it and bought them out. While the Speedee Service System was good, Kroc thought it left too much to chance. So he refined it and simplified it down to an exact science. The new system left nothing to chance and it was repeatable. “Kroc relentlessly stripped away uncertainty, ambiguity, and judgment from the processes that emerged from the McDonald brothers’ original insight. And by fine-tuning the formula, he powered McDonald’s from a modestly prosperous chain of burger restaurants to a scale previously undreamed-of.”

The problem is getting stuck in any one stage. We tend to operate within a knowledge stage as opposed to moving across the knowledge stages. We need to explore and question, we need to exploit our solutions, even reducing them to a repeatable, efficient, formula where possible, but we need to be doing these things simultaneously.
The vast majority of businesses follow a common path. The company is birthed through a creative act that converts a mystery to a heuristic through intuitive thinking. It then hones and refines that heuristic through increasingly pervasive analytical thinking and enters a long phase in which the administration of business dominates. And in due course, a competitor stares at the mystery that provided the spark for this company, comes up with a more powerful heuristic and supplants the original business.
McDonalds did well for decades, but eventually the heuristic (Americans want a quick, convenient, tasty meal) changed (Americans want a healthier menu). The solution for McDonalds is to go back and rethink the mystery and develop new rules of thumb to guide them. A trip back through the knowledge funnel.

design of business
Avoiding this cycle is the job of the leader—a leader at any level. Martin writes, “CEOs must learn to think of themselves as the organization’s balancing force—the promoter of both exploitation and exploration; of both administration and invention.” This is design thinking. We need to develop our design thinking skills, analyze what’s working and why, and at the same time revisit the original mystery while considering entirely new mysteries. “The design thinker develops the capacity for observation, for seeing features that others may miss. The design thinker, in the words of novelist Saul Bellow, is ‘a first-class noticer.’” Always cycling through the knowledge funnel.

Of Related Interest:
  How to Develop Integrative Thinking
  Roger Martin on Assertive Inquiry
  Integrative Thinking: The Opposable Mind

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:28 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Management , Problem Solving , Thinking

05.17.10

Serve to Lead: Make Your Life a Masterpiece of Service

Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
–Martin Luther King. Jr.
Serve to Lead
“Everyone can lead because everyone can serve,” says James Strock. “When service is the basis of leadership, everyone can be a leader.” What’s more, “We’re in a new era, with new rules, new ways to serve—and much greater accountability.”

Serve to Lead puts the focus of leadership where it should be. Too often, people think of leadership as being about the leader. A leader who serves has greater influence. Service—not control—leads to trust and increased influence.

In an excellent chapter on management, Strock helps to place management and leadership in perspective and explains some of the nuances of tough love and accountability. “Management is encompassed within leadership.” As leaders we must develop management skills.
“Ultimately, management is a key to extraordinary service. Individual performance has the limitations of an individual. You may be a virtuoso. Yet, if you are determined to express your individuality in a more expansive way, you must develop management skills and engage others in a larger enterprise.

To achieve ever deeper relationships with greater numbers of customers and other stakeholders, you must master management. Day in and day out, that means you must serve those with whom you work, enabling them to serve ever more effectively.
Filled with examples and quotes, Serve to Lead is well thought out and one of the best books you’ll read on how to think about service and how to get your leadership to be one of service.

Strock urges us to make our life a masterpiece of service. It begins by asking the question—who am I serving—throughout our life, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Importantly, it is not a question that we should apply to only one area of our life. It should be an approach we take in all areas of our life—our time, our money, our relationships and thoughts.

As an ongoing practice, he suggests we continually ask ourselves four questions:

Who am I serving?
How can I best serve?
Am I making my unique contribution?
Am I getting better every day?

Service isn’t easy. It doesn’t always get noticed, but it is what leading is all about. If that is hard to swallow, you need to ask yourself, why do I want to lead?
How many people are trapped in their everyday habits: part numb, part frightened, part indifferent? To have a better life we must keep choosing how we’re living.
–Albert Einstein

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:42 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

04.28.10

We Have Met the Aliens and They Are Us

We live in a time—aided by advances in science and communication—that is obsessed with quantifying, labeling and optimizing. Generational studies are no different. While identifying and labeling the generations is valuable for understanding and discussion, if we are not careful we can lose some connection to their humanity—their sameness. While generational studies can help us to understand where people are at, if want to engage them, we would do well to remember what they are.

A generation comes and a generation goes. Each carries with them their own reaction to the former generation that raised them and their own disbelief of the reactions of the next generation to their own. Yet, each generation is not a new subset of humans; a curious new life form that needs to be studied and obsessed over. They are human. They are like us.
"That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another."
—Adlai Stevenson
We do a disservice to any generation when we coddle them and commoditize them. What generation doesn’t want everything just right? But life doesn’t work like that. Our ideals keep us pushing on, exploring, reflecting, and innovating, but our disappointments and the imperfections we uncover, help us to learn compassion and build character. Every generation has difficulties to overcome and excesses to curb. Every generation is faced with the prospect of growing up. And each generation does it from a different perspective. A perspective that they gained from their observation of those that came before them. And they will hand a different perspective, a different emphasis, over to those that come after them.
"Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn't have anything to do with it."
—Haim Ginott
Like us, they are reacting to their upbringing and the world it created and bringing with them an attempt to find some greater idealism. Similarly, they need to learn balance, curb excesses, and rediscover forgotten behaviors and values. They need to learn compassion, the freedom that comes from admitting that you don’t know it all, and the value in what has come before them. No one generation excels completely in all things. All have different pieces of the life puzzle. All begin by placing a different weight on what is important and need to work to find the balance that makes their life more complete.

We all share a humanity that spans generations. Human nature doesn’t change. Not everything the previous generation did was bad. Often it was good and necessary, but was executed poorly. We can be thankful that while previous generations were concerned with “work-life balance,” they decided they had better keep their focus on the tiller so that we would have the opportunity to run on the deck, criticize their methods and endlessly debate whether or not the figurehead represents us well.
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
—Mark Twain, Old Times on the Mississippi, Atlantic Monthly, 1874
A study of generational differences, more than anything, helps us to understand the consequences of our behaviors. What has worked and what hasn’t. Why an over-emphasis on this causes a problem there. If we can learn from it, we profit. However, our natural reactivity causes us to not learn as we should or build on the lessons of those that came before us. Human beings are not hard-wired with the lessons learned from the previous generation. So we all start at the beginning—learning and relearning—in the context of the world we find ourselves in. Each generation must come to the same place at the end of their lives as the one before it. All need to grow up. We need to become practiced at learning from each other; valuing each generation for where they have been, what they are learning, and the perspective they bring.

In a more connected world, the consequences of our behavior are greater. We have more reach. What we do affects more people and for longer periods of time. This creates a critical need for wise leadership.

Each generation will rewrite their world. Their thoughts and ideals aren’t new. Their emphasis is. “Treat Millennials with respect and dignity. Don’t over-manage them. Make them feel included.” Really? This isn’t generation specific. We all desire those things.

Generational analysis also reminds us that not everyone sees things the way we do. “By understanding other generations’ perspectives,” writes Tamara Erickson in What’s next, Gen X?, “we are better able to position our ideas and requests in ways that are likely to have positive results and avoid at least some of the frustrations of today’s workplace.” There are many good books in print that help to highlight the challenges that current generations face, their perspectives, and how we might learn from each other, and offer points of connection to help bridge the gaps. Here are several: All generations face the same human issues but from different perspectives and with different tools. But they all look for connection, meaning and contribution. They all want to add value and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

Leadership is based on an understanding of human nature. Leadership isn’t changing. It’s adapting. Issues change. Culture changes. Approaches change. We have met the aliens and they are just like us.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:28 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Management , Motivation

04.26.10

Leading Outside the Lines: Mobilizing the Informal Organization

informal organization
Right now, the informal elements of your organization are either working for you or against you. Yet for most leaders, say Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan, authors of Leading Outside the Lines, the informal organization is poorly understood, poorly managed, and often disregarded because it is too hard to think about.
The formal organization has its own way of attracting, selecting, developing, and rewarding people—but it rarely has the power to affect promotion or compensation. Therefore, those who rise to influential positions in the hierarchy are more likely to be more comfortable with and skilled at using the formal organization than the informal….Informal leaders rarely have the kind of explicit qualifications that can be easily documented or communicated, much less evaluated.
The informal organization lies in the human side of the enterprise and as most things that reside there, it is hard. Unlike the formal side with its top-down, rational approach, the informal is fuzzy, constantly changing and hard to measure. So it is understandable that we would like to somehow ignore it or work around it. But, “if you want your entire organization to improvise frequently and energetically in response to fast-moving change, formal management techniques alone won’t get you there. You need help from the informal side as well. Mobilizing the informal organization helps support formal management mechanisms, increasing their chances of success and deepening their long-lasting impact on the organization.

For leaders, the challenge is to find the balance between the formal and the informal elements of the organization in their particular situation, to achieve concrete, measureable results.

When trying to make a change, our default tactic is to explain “in excruciating detail why the new plan is important.” We think if they get the logic of it, they will get behind it. But they often don’t. People need an emotional connection. Simply formalizing a new set of rules, programs, and structures will not pull the company's culture along. “To that end, leaders need to be able to translate vision, targets, and strategies into personal purpose, accomplishments, and choices that each one of their people can understand and feel good about pursuing.”

The authors make the distinction that while the formal organization is best when dealing with predictable and repeatable work that needs to be done efficiently and without variance, the informal organization is best suited to unpredictable events—surprises that need to be sensed and solved. They add that in many cases, when activity in the informal organization starts to repeat itself, it “is a signal for broader changes that need to be made to the formal organization.” To move beyond “best practices” and the status quo—to get to “best performance”—a leader needs to learn to mobilize the power and plasticity of the informal.

What You Can Do Now
  • Identify and understand the key elements of the informal organization (e.g., back channels, shared values, beliefs) that are at work in the organization at all times.
  • Know which personal and emotional motivators work (e.g., pride in the work itself). Formal motivators, such as money, can be counterproductive. They can actually undermine the natural pride people take in their work.
  • Develop bottom-up and cross-organizational approaches that complement and accelerate hierarchical efforts. “The more admirable enterprises take advantage of three motivational vectors: top down, bottom up, and peer to peer….Motivational leaders invariably treat their subordinates as peers as often as they can.”
  • Design meaningful "values" that are tied to specific behaviors and results. And not just values-displayed. But values-driven; values that are “lived, breathed, and drawn upon to guide day-to-day actions and decisions.”
  • Enlist employees adept at managing both sides of the organization. They call them “fast zebras.” These are people who absorb information quickly, adapt to sudden challenges, and act constructively.
  • Mobilize peer networks and communities to spread knowledge, behaviors, and message. Not manage. “Leaders need to prod the informal organization, to guide or herd it in the right direction without trying to control or constrain it.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:05 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

04.14.10

The Little BIG Things

the little big things
In many ways leadership is about taking an oath of excellence. To a leader, excellence matters. Excellence requires “re-imagining” (to borrow a Peters’ term) your world done excellent. Leaders see things differently and this difference can be taught. Teaching excellence—one behavior at a time—is what The Little Big Things by Tom Peters, is all about.

Some of what you will read in TLBT has been presented on the Tom Peters blog over the years. But for this book, the posts have been edited, revised, organized and conveniently packaged. It’s a compilation of 163 behaviors you can put into practice to achieve excellence in any endeavor. As such, it is not meant to be read straight through. Jump in anywhere it looks interesting. The process here is: read—consider—implement—repeat.

Tom, as we’ve said here before, is good at boiling things down to basics. You’ll find opportunities to pursue excellence in basic insights that produce big results.
Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.
—Henry Clay, American statesman (1777-1852)
Sometimes the little-big-things can seem too “soft” or beneath the demands of business. Tom explains: “Ideas like conscientiously showing appreciation are matchless signs of humanity—and the practice thereof, in my opinion, doubtless makes you a better person, a person behaving decently in a hurried and harried world….Acts of appreciation, to stick with my theme of the moment, are masterful, even peerless, ways of enthusing staff and partner and client alike, and, hence, greasing the way to rapid implementation of damn near anything. That is, ‘Soft is hard’ is wholly pragmatic—and more often than not, effectively implemented, makes the bottom line blossom!”

Excellence has to be challenged into existence. The Little Big Things does just that.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:00 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

03.23.10

Leading in Turbulent Times

I think Victor Fung of the Li and Fung Group (the Chinese multinational founded in Guangzhou in 1906) summed up well the sense of the kind of change we face today:
A lot of people say, hey, this is a once in a century type of problem. We haven’t had anything like this since the 1930s. You hear all these statements, and they seem to imply that this is once in a lifetime, after I get through this one, boy, am I glad I will never have to face this again. But I’m not so sure. I think we are seeing both the compression of cycle time – how quickly the cycles come and go – and also the amplitude of the swings getting more and more severe. The world has fundamentally changed.

Leadership
I think we all understand that this type of change requires a special kind of leadership. Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have collected in Leading in Turbulent Times the lessons learned from over thirty CEOs, Chairmen and other senior executives who are prevailing in spite of a challenging environment. It’s a valuable look at how some frontline leaders are finding the right balance between seizing the opportunities as they present themselves and managing the accompanying risk.

Rather than typical conversations focused on financial matters, Kelly and Hayes found that three strong messages emerged from their interviews:

Passion Rules – these leaders are driven by a real passion for their business, their organization and the people they work with.

Hard Times Call for a Mastery of Soft Skills - especially communication but also empathy, mentoring and coaching. (“This is a timely reminder that cost control is a business basic, but extracting great performance from people is always based on more complex and subtle motivational tools than pure fear.”) A CEO in Germany observed that whenever a leader talks about change, employees always expect the worse. Learning to motivate and engage people in spite of the crisis becomes critical.

Think Long Term – these leaders refuse to bow under immediate pressure. They use short-term pressures to harden their focus on long-term objectives.

Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan says, “We need to be much more flat, creating a collegial team-based leadership style so that you can leverage a lot more of people’s intellects and capabilities and make them participate in decision making.” This requires a level of social skills that hasn’t been demanded of leaders in the recent past and so I imagine this necessitates a lot of learning-as-we-go. At the same time we have a more educated workforce that brings with it other issues that require fresh approaches. Henry Fernabdez, CEO of MSCI Barra observed, “They figure things out very quickly. They tend to be more open to change but, on the other hand, they’re smart and can become cynical and harder to change.” As a result, the job of leadership is changing.

Through revealing and personal interviews, Kelly and Hayes have analyzed the current situation beginning with how to recognize the early signals, mobilizing people to act, navigating a new course, preventing "mutinies" by engaging the resistors, and learning to be flexible in the face of the unpredictable.

To live in these turbulent conditions requires that you dig deep. Leaders need to develop and constantly improve; a deeper self-knowledge; new perspectives. As they note, this isn’t easy. “It is a bit like trying to get fit when you are in the middle of a title fight.” A positive mental attitude is critical says Mark Frissora of Hertz:
The shadow of a leader is huge so it is very important that we walk out of this room with smiles on our faces, and talk about the opportunities. We need discipline, but at the same time we need to make sure that we always put a positive frame of reference on everything we’re doing.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Management

02.03.10

The Right Fight

The Right Fight
If you believe that the single most important thing leaders have to get right is alignment, if you think that the leader’s time is best spent promoting teamwork and making sure everyone is on the same page and playing nice, then you might want to take a look at Saj-Nicole Joni and Damon Beyer’s book, The Right Fight.

The book is based on a counterintuitive premise: In an environment where alignment is the only goal, alignment robs us of necessary dissent, of the checks and balances that mitigate risk, and of the tensions that create innovation and sustainable value. In short, you need to systematically orchestrate the right fights but … you need to fight them right.

The Right Fight principle is based on the idea that you learn and grow by the right amount of friction and stress. “A certain amount of healthy struggle is good for organizations and for individuals. Indeed, people and organizations perform optimally when they are under the right kinds and amounts of stress.” They add, “With alignment and properly managed tension, organizations hit a sweet spot and start realizing their potential.”

Citing a studies by Theresa Wellbourne of eePulse, the single greatest predictor of poor performance is when employees are happy or complacent and thus unmotivated to change. The second greatest predictor is when employees are overwhelmed. Both groups exhibit a low level of energy. They conclude that, “Tension in the right measure creates the emotional energy people need to change.” The trick for leaders is to avoid these extremes. “Knowing where and when to use tension is critical. Knowing how to work through the tension is equally important.”

They lay out three principles that identify right fights and three more principles that clarify the rules of engagement. The first three Right Fight Principles will help you in identifying and eliminating destructive tensions:

Right Fight Principle #1: Make it Worth Fighting About. Make it Material. “A right fight has to create significant value, require integration of multiple perspectives, and change the way work gets done in an organization. In short, a material fight is worth the trouble.”

Right Fight Principle #2: Focus in the Future, Not the Past. “Obsession with past performance, or intense interest in decisions made months or even years before, is a dead giveaway that your organization is stuck in a wrong fight.”

Right Fight Principle #3: Pursue a Noble Purpose. “Right fights connect people with a sense of purpose that goes beyond their own self-interest, unleashing profound collective abilities to create in ways they didn’t think possible.”

The final Right Fight Principles guide you in fighting right fights right:

Right Fight Principle #4: Make it Sport, Not War. “Right fights, like sports, have to have rules. One of the key tasks for leadership in a right fight is to define the parameters so everyone involved understands how to participate and what it takes to win.”

Right Fight Principle #5: Structure Formally but Work Informally. “You need to structure right fights through the ‘formal organization,’ but work out the tensions created by those fights through the ‘informal organization.’”

Right Fight Principle #6: Turn Pain into Gain. “There is a fine line between productive tension and destructive distress, and no two people draw that line in exactly the same place. For right fights to be fought right, leaders need to make sure no one is put under unbearable pressure. Turning pain into gain requires leaders to relate to their team members as individuals and to figure out what creates synergy, stretches skills, and honors outcomes for each of them.”

There are case studies to illustrate each of these principles in action. It’s easy to see the negative side of tension: focusing on the past, stigmatizing the losers, fighting over turf. “But without tension, nothing moves.” Tension creates an opportunity for leaders to help their organizations fight the right fight.

Of Related Interest:
  Focus on the War, Not the Battle
  A Pyrrhic Victory

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:57 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Learning , Management , Problem Solving

12.02.09

Managers Can (and Should) Be Leaders

Managing
It has become commonplace to regard managers as inferior to leaders. Leaders are out front getting things done and managers are … what are they doing? This is, in part, due to our proclivity to label people as one or the other.

Henry Mintzberg is the antidote to that kind of unproductive thinking. He writes in a book simply titled Managing: “we should be seeing managers as leaders and leadership as management practiced well.” While I have maintained that there is value in separating the functions of managers and leaders for the better understanding of both, in practice, they shouldn’t be two different people.

Mintzberg believes that managing is a practice that is learned on the job through apprenticeship, mentorship, and direct experience. He has good cause to assert that we should be more concerned about “macroleading;” people that manage by remote control; too far above it all. “We are now overlead and undermanaged, he writes.” By obsessing over the glories of leadership, we lose our grasp on the realities of management. And our leadership is all the worse for it. “The more we obsess about leadership, the less we seem to get.”

Managing is a page-turner (if you’re into this kind of thing). Mintzberg always makes you stop and think. He’s at his best when he’s leveling the playing field. As we’ve stressed on this blog before, leadership isn’t evolving. Leadership (and management) are a fundamental human activity. How they are practiced may change depending on the context, but their essence remains unchanged. Much of what we have to learn and relearn are fundamental principles regarding how people get along and work together.
Managers deal with different issues as time moves forward, but not with different managing. The job does not change. We buy new gasoline all the time and new shirts from time to time; that does not mean that car engines and buttons have been changing. Despite the great fuss we make about change, the fact is that basic aspects of human behavior—and what could be more basic than managing and leading?—remain rather stable.
Mintzberg has distilled management thought into a general model of managing—what do managers do? They operate on three plains of activity, from the conceptual to the concrete: They act through information. They work through people. They manage action directly. And they need to operate on all three planes. “Too much leading can result in a job free of content…and detached from its internal roots.” A blending of all three planes into a dynamic balance is required and is best learned on the job. “No simulation I have ever seen in a classroom … comes remotely close to replicating the job itself,” says Mintzberg.

He playfully addresses the conundrums of managing like: How to keep informed when managing by its own nature removes the manager from the very things being managed? How to delegate when they are better informed than the people to whom they have to delegate? How to maintain a sufficient level of confidence without crossing over into arrogance? How to bring order to the work of others when the work of managing is itself disorderly? And how do you do all these things at once?

Managers are flawed. “If you want to uncover someone’s flaws, marry them or else work for them. Their flaws will quickly become apparent. So will something else: that you can usually live with these flaws. Managers and marriages do succeed. The world, as a consequence, continues to unfold in its inimitably imperfect way.” [He adds in the notes: “Not always. Politicians seem to become particularly adept at hiding flaws during elections until they become fatal in office.”] We are successful to the extent that our weaknesses are not fatal relative to the situation we are in. Commitment is the key; commitment “to the job, the people, and the purpose, to be sure, but also to the organization, and beyond that, in a responsible way, to related communities in society.”

He concludes, “To be a successful manager, let alone—dare I say—a great leader, maybe you don’t have to be wonderful so much as more or less emotionally healthy and clearheaded.”
No institution can possible survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”
That’s good news!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:43 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Management

11.20.09

Lead Your Boss

A can-do person himself, Theodore Roosevelt once advised, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Lead Your Boss
Roosevelt’s admonition is easier said than done. Most of us are not in a position to implement sweeping change by the wave of our hand. And some of us are in a counterproductive culture where sticking your head up is a good way to get it knocked off. But we can learn to do what we can, with what we have, from where we are.

It means that we must learn the art of leading from the middle—from among rather than from in front. And if we are honest, in most contexts, we find ourselves leading from the middle. (CEOs included) We are trying to influence the people around us, above us and below us. So learning to appropriately and effectively lead in this way, will impact our success in most areas of life.

John Baldoni has written a primer on leading from the middle with Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up. What I appreciate about his writing is that it is down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts, and easy to connect with. He is aware of the fact that it is not easy and can be fraught with peril. He writes,
Those who lead from the middle are those who think big picture and can do what it takes to get things done so their bosses and their teams succeed….Those who succeed at leading from the middle also are artful and adept managers.

Not so easy to do, but it is possible when you rethink and reframe what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it. That is, you are not acting for yourself, but you are acting for the good of the organization. This requires initiative, persuasion, influence, and persistence and no small amount of passion.
Baldoni says that leading up begins with answering three questions:

1. What does the leader need?
2. What does the team need?
3. What can I do to help the leader and the team succeed?

As he suggests, this is a selfless act that speaks to the heart of leadership. It requires people who can think for themselves and take the initiative to make things happen. Answering the three questions, taking the initiative and making it happen is the trick and is the focus of the rest of the book.

Lead Your Boss walks you through every critical step of leading up. It provides instruction for overcoming those inevitable obstacles and you’ll find tips and strategies for:
  • Thinking like a boss, without stealing the boss’s spotlight, and establishing trust with peers.
  • Turning ideas into action by thinking critically (and strategically), reframing opportunities, and challenging conventions.
  • Let others create the how by giving the team direction, setting clear expectations for behavior and performance, and then stepping back and letting team members get things done.
  • Breaking down the doors, beginning with mastering the principles and means of influence and then balancing the need to look out with the need to lead up.
  • Working the system with attention to managing the details, determining priorities, and using organizational politics to everyone’s advantage.
  • Demonstrating resilience by acknowledging failure, knowing when to give in without giving up, exerting and exuding strength, and excelling at turning setbacks into comebacks.
  • Preparing others to lead by recognizing achievement, investing in talent (and differentiating talent from skill), and making leadership personal.
  • Leading with passion… Yes, character and conviction matter!
Leading up is not a solitary job. “Leading up requires the ability to develop the talents of others; this is important for two reasons,” writes Baldoni. “One, you need to demonstrate that you know how to lead others; and two, putting others into leadership positions gives you the time you need to think and act strategically, that is, to lead your boss and your team more effectively.”

Below is a two and a half minute video that provides a good overview of the book by author John Baldoni:


Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:26 PM
| TrackBacks (2) | Followership , General Business , Leadership , Management

11.02.09

Nestlé's Paul Bulcke on Staying the Course

Paul Bulcke became chief executive of Nestlé SA in April 2008. An inauspicious time to take over the world's largest food company. Deborah Ball reports on an interview with Bulcke. In the short (2:35 min) video embeded below, he reflects on being authentic, developing a culture of competitive intensity and making people feel they have ownership.


He says, “If your strategy is right, stick to the strategy. Maintain your inspiration which is long term, but do act short term.” Here is a brief excerpt from the article:
WSJ: What is the worst piece of management advice you've received on how to deal with a downturn?

Mr. Bulcke: The worst thing would be to start to react to short-term pressures and jeopardizing your long-term view. That's selling your soul because it loosens up your long-term inspiration and the discipline of your organization. That is a very dangerous place to be.

WSJ: How do you motivate people?

Mr. Bulcke: You talk about things. In spite of thinking that this is a huge company, we have many ways of connecting, and even more now than ever before. My team transmits this and the multiplying effect is tremendous. I go to almost all of the training courses that we hold at a center near here—I've been 20-25 times—where I talk about things. When you're consistently talking about these same things, you feel the traction and feel the company move quite rapidly in that direction.
Bulcke adds, “We are a long-term company. We are not going to do what I sometimes call "Hoopla" management, and do something damaging. We will be responsible.”

Of Related Interest:
  Business Leaders Have Much to Learn From Orchestras, says Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:53 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Management

09.04.09

How to Have More Productive Performance Appraisals

Leadership
Paul Falcone asks “Does the thought of conducting a performance appraisal for your employees make you cringe?” In Productive Performance Appraisals, Falcone and co-author Randi Sachs set out to make the process more comfortable for all involved. They say that performance appraisals are nothing more than an ongoing feedback system. It also “represents a system of ongoing engagement with your subordinates that creates for them an environment of job satisfaction and motivation” and it will also “help you build a culture that focuses on performance excellence."

The most important result is not the rating and encouragement of the employee, but the actual process itself. “By working together to analyze and evaluate the employee’s performance as well as his place within the department and the organization as a whole, and by setting goals for the near- and long-term future, you and your employee can strengthen your relationship and become a team of two adults working toward a common, agreed upon goal.”

Here are several tips:
  • Document, document, document. Keep a performance log on each and every employee and update it frequently. How often do we let this slide?
  • Treat monetary issues and promotions separately from performance appraisal discussions.
  • Get employees’ input before making decisions on reassignments or new tasks.
  • Learn how to give employees criticism without arousing hostility.
  • Avoid the word “attitude” in discussions and documentation and use terms like conduct and behavior instead.
  • Always follow up on areas on concern. Don’t look to continually find fault with the employee’s work—you made your point at the performance appraisal. Find out what they are doing right and encourage them to keep it up.
The section on common problems and effective solutions is especially helpful in developing a fresh approach to performance appraisals.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:17 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Management

09.02.09

The Court Jester and the Illumination of Blind Spots

Court Jester
On Twitter last month I wrote, “As a leader, if you are not encouraging candid feedback, you are just asking for trouble. Do you have a court jester?” It’s a valid question.

French politician Bernard Tapie wrote “If you haven’t got people around who’ll tell you when to take a running jump, you're not a proper boss.”

Manfred Ket de Vries has long advocated the need for a so-called “organizational fool.” He writes, “Leaders in all organizations need someone like this who is willing to speak out and tell the leader how it is. That is precisely the role of the fool.”

David Riveness has given us The Secret Life of the Corporate Jester that delves into the specific task of the Court Jester—the concept of jestership. Leaders most often don’t receive the unvarnished truth and most organizational cultures don’t encourage it. As a result blind spots in their thinking keeps them “from recognizing critical information, powerful choices, and clear paths to follow.” The lack of truth also creates a cycle of arrogance that feeds on itself.

The jester concept is a perspective we need to incorporate and encourage in those around us. The jester understands that “in organizations, flawed actions result from an incomplete awareness and understanding of organizational truth.”

Riveness suggests that the jester philosophy can be adopted in three distinct but complementary ways:
  • A philosophy an individual commits to in order to further his or her own abilities and growth: an internal jester. Something we all need to readdress. This is the best place to begin and will give you credibility when trying to work on the next two.
  • A philosophy an individual commits to in order to further another’s abilities and growth: an internal jester for others; to provide a voice when no one else will speak.
  • A philosophy committed to by a group of people in order to further the entire group’s abilities.
Jestership, Riveness writes, “could involve speaking your mind more often, speaking up for those that choose not to, challenging the status quo and illuminating the blind spots you uncover in more public ways. Remember to use your jester skills to perform all of the above with subtlety, creativity, and grace because this role can be very tricky—even dangerous if entered into haphazardly.”

Most people aren’t ready to have their blind spots uncovered, so begin with your own. The example you set, will in time, draw others to the jester philosophy.

The author’s web site can be found at CorporateJester.com

Related Interest:
  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:52 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

08.11.09

Newswire: The Evolution of Military Leadership

NewsWire
    Friend and colleague Karl Moore (McGill University) interviews U.S. Army Commanding General Martin Dempsey on how the military is moving toward a model where trust is a currency more valuable than control. Here are a few excerpts:
  • Leadership Lessons From a Four-Star General
    by Karl Moore, The Globe and Mail

    The essence of leadership, and the way you interact, the way the leader interacts with the led, has remained fairly constant, it seems to me. But, ... the environment has become so much more complex, and that's the big difference I see, in the challenge we've got in developing our leaders – to deal with that complexity and uncertainty, in a way that I didn't have to until I probably became a colonel.

    We think our more likely threats we'll encounter will be networked. And we have a phrase, that "to defeat a network you have to be a network." So, I think where we're heading is to more trust than control. And we have been the quintessential hierarchical organization. And, in that capacity, leadership will move around the table. Now, we'll always have our rank structure. We'll always have our disciplines. But I think that you will see us evolve into an organization where trust is as much the coin of the realm as control is.

    There's a very deliberate process where we take concepts and turn them into requirements, and requirements and turn them into resources. And that has to happen in a hierarchical fashion, so that the government can continue to function. And we have to “nest into” that process. So, at the Department of the Army level in particular, there will always be a hierarchical structure that essentially allows us to compete for resources based on concepts and requirements. But, below that, I think, absolutely we are seeing that there's real potential in decentralizing.
* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:59 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , NewsWire

07.27.09

5 Leadership Lessons: Getting Your Relationships Right

5 Leadership Lessons
When we think of leadership we naturally regard the objective and view with suspicion the subjective. We value hard data over soft data; reason over instinct; the external world over the internal world. John Townsend writes that “Great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world. You, as a leader, are probably more trained, prepared, and experienced in the external world than you are in the inner one.”

Townsend wrote Leadership Beyond Reason to help you understand and utilize the soft skills – that which is beyond reason. He says “you ignore what is beyond reason at your own peril….Leading from your inner world ultimately produces better results in your leadership.”

He divides our inner world into five areas: values, thoughts, emotions, relationships and transformation. As leadership is about connecting with those you lead and a primary focus of leadership, let’s pull five lessons from Townsend on relationships:
Leadership Beyond Reason


1  “You internalize anyone who is significant to you, past and present. As well, the people you are leading are currently internalizing you. As a leader, you have the responsibility of knowing that people are storing mental and emotional pictures of how you relate to and lead them.” These are our relational images. It reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare, “There is a history in all men's lives.” This includes you too. We relate to others in ways that others have related to us. This of course has an impact on the connections we can make with others.

2  Develop good and healthy relational images. “Take in the good and forgive and grow from the bad.” He explains, “Some of your own significant relationships may have been with people who were cold, controlling, manipulative, self-centered, critical, or even abusive. This can create distorted or nonfunctioning pictures of how relationships should work.” Is your leadership drawing on images that don’t work for you?

3  “An important relational ability for leaders is to see people as separate from you and from their roles with you. Your people want to work with you, or they wouldn’t be with you. But you aren’t their reason for existing. They have lives, dreams, and concerns of their own. You need to be able to identify and understand that. Sometimes leaders assume everyone has the vision as strongly as they do or are as committed as they are. That can be a mistake and can undo what you are trying to accomplish with them.”

4  “Relationship provides the bridge over which truth can be conveyed. In your leadership, your people will experience truth in the absence of relationship as harshness, judgment, or condemnation. They will resist it and refuse it, either actively or subtly. Truth is hard to swallow if you don’t feel connected with the truth teller. That is why being “for” the other person, letting them know that, and being as emotionally accessible as possible, at the time of the reality, is critical.” Often “counseling” or performance appraisals derail on this issue as no sense of being “for” the other person has been established. Trying to develop a relationship “at the time of the reality” is too late. Do it now.

5  “The better you can relate, the better you will be able to influence and motivate…. Passion is ignited when the real self connects with the right task environment…. You can’t create passion, not for yourself or for anyone else. Your job is to create the right environment for the chemistry to happen. You do this by personal research. You must spend the energy to know your people and learn which tasks intersect with their passions. It will be different for different individuals; it’s not a one-style-fits-all program. But when you develop this relational ability, and get to know the insides of your people, the value and benefits are enormous.

Developing your relational abilities will help you read the landscape. Townsend adds, “The leader who misses relational aspects is surprised when people become distant, resentful, or just leave. The relational leader sees the signs coming a long way away and has time to do something about them.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:51 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Human Resources , Management , Motivation , Positive Leadership , Teamwork

07.14.09

Disconnecting Horizontally

In his excellent analysis of How Rome Fell, historian Adrian Goldsworthy makes some interesting observations about how we tend to disconnect horizontally from anyone or anything outside of our group. We lose our sense of place and this makes any change so much harder. People resist change when they can't see the bigger picture and why it is necessary. The challenge is to cross our self-imposed boundaries into a world not of our own making and connect to the outside both personally and organizationally.
rome
It is only human nature to lose sight of the wider issues and focus on immediate concerns and personal aims. In the Late Roman Empire this was so often about personal survival and advancement – the latter bringing wealth and influence, which helped to increase security in some ways, but also rendered the individual more prominent and thus a greater target to others. Some officials enjoyed highly successful careers through engineering the destruction of colleagues. Performing a job well was only a secondary concern…. The game was about personal success and this often had little connection to the wider needs of the empire.

All human institutions, from countries to businesses, risk creating a similarly short-sighted and selfish culture. It is easier to avoid in the early stages of expansion and growth. Then the sense of purpose is likely to be clearer, and the difficulties or competition involved have a more direct and obvious impact. Success produces growth and, in time, creates institutions so large that they are cushioned from mistakes and inefficiency. The united Roman Empire never faced a competitor capable of destroying it. These days, countries and government departments do not easily collapse – and Western states do not face enemies likely to overthrow them by military force. In the business world the very largest corporations almost never face competitors that are truly their equal. Competition within the commercial market at any level is obviously rarely carried out on entirely equal terms.

In most cases it takes a long time for serious problems or errors to be exposed. It is usually even harder to judge accurately the real competence of individuals and, in particular, their contribution to the overall purpose….For the vast majority of people, their work is less open to the public gaze, but is similar in that the real consequences of what they do are not obvious. Comparatively few people these days actually make or even sell something, or work in a profession where at least some of the goals are obvious. A doctor or a nurse knows if their patient recovers. A hospital manager operates at a completely different level, dealing with numbers and budgets and not individual patients. Such distance is inevitable and in many walks of life the wider goals are even less clear.
And this on ever expanding bureaucracy:
By their nature bureaucracies tend to grow. This was true in the Roman Empire, let alone with the massively larger government agencies of modern countries. Individuals within a department obviously have to focus on a particular task. It is only natural to believe that with more people they could deal with this more effectively. The larger they grow, then the more distant most members will be from the reality of the overall function of the department, and they will become even more removed in their way of thought to anyone outside. This is not inevitably a bad thing, but it does mean that they will continue to expand unless restrained, since their problem or concern is the only one they will see.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:55 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Government , Management

06.03.09

Whatever Happened to the Rugged Individualist?

I Hate People
“Corporate America is in the midst of a crisis” write Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon in I Hate People! “The spirit of the individual has played a huge part in forging our nation’s history. Yet the scourge of teamwork pap has made solo efforts in companies seem unwanted, crazy, even dangerous.

“Instead of thinking of yourself as a staffer in a big company, the manager of a division, or a top executive, you begin to define yourself in concrete individualistic terms. You are a brand unto yourself. Brainstormer extraordinaire. Marketing whiz. Charismatic project leader.”

At the same time the soloist is not a loner, a recluse or a maverick. They fit smoothly within a group, playing with it expertly while often leading or accompanying fellow members. I Hate People! Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job is a guide for navigating through the kinds of people in the workplace that make us all miserable and undermine rugged individualists.

How do you know if you're a Soloist, or at least destined to become one? The easiest sniff test is how many times a day you mutter, shout, or even think to yourself, "I hate people!" But not all People Haters are necessarily Soloists.

Littman and Hershon have created the Am I a Soloist Quiz to help you determine the depth of your Soloist leanings. The higher your score, the more Soloist blood in your veins.

A. The portion of the day I prefer working by myself is . . .
  1. one hour.
  2. two hours.
  3. four hours.
  4. six hours.
  5. all day.
B. My favorite part of the day is . . .
  1. staff meetings.
  2. status meetings.
  3. dinner or cocktails with clients.
  4. lunch with colleagues.
  5. meeting with my boss.
C. I'm most comfortable working in a team with . . .
  1. ten or more people.
  2. seven to nine people.
  3. five to six people.
  4. two to four people.
  5. nobody.
D. An empty office makes me feel . . .
  1. creepy.
  2. lonely.
  3. unmotivated.
  4. at home.
  5. excited.
E. When I get to the office in the morning, I usually . . .
  1. bring in doughnuts and coffee for everyone.
  2. say hello to people and ask about their evening.
  3. nod to people I run into between the front door and my desk.
  4. grunt and head to my workspace.
  5. head to my workspace.
F. When I see an empty conference room, I think . . .
  1. I hope I didn't miss the meeting.
  2. I hope I set aside enough time for the meeting.
  3. the meeting is about to start.
  4. how can I get out of the meeting?
  5. what a great place to write my report.
G. When I dream of the perfect office, I visualize . . .
  1. a glass fishbowl in the center of the action.
  2. the latest collaborative open-space environment.
  3. small work-group offices.
  4. a cubicle.
  5. four walls and a door that locks.
H. The place I do my most creative work is . . .
  1. at my desk.
  2. in a meeting room.
  3. in the break room.
  4. at home.
  5. outside.
I. I like a boss who . . .
  1. checks up on me periodically.
  2. asks what I'm working on in the morning.
  3. gives me weekly assignments.
  4. asks for monthly status reports.
  5. rarely comes in.
J. I like a coworker who . . .
  1. is friends with everyone.
  2. regularly breaks up the day with office gossip.
  3. freely converses during breaks and at lunch.
  4. barely interacts with just a few people.
  5. minds his own business.
YOUR SCORE
10–15Forget it. You, my friend, are a teamworker, through and through.
16–25Though more comfortable in a team setting, you occasionally like your alone time. Soloist larva.
26–35Stretching your Soloist muscles. Yes, you like people a little too much.
36–45Strong Soloist. You could be teaching others if you weren't spending so much time alone.
46–55Cream of the Soloist crop. No one's getting in your way, and that's the way you like it.


  On the author's I Hate People web site, you will find a blog, free I Hate People! Do Not Disturb signs, videos and more.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:55 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Teamwork

05.27.09

Creating a Sustainable Business Environment

Charles Handy writes that to repair the damage to the image of business, leaders of those businesses should bind themselves to a form of the Hippocratic Oath, “Above all, do no harm.” It means doing more than being legal. It means being ethical. It means taking the lead in creating sustainable environments for both individuals and the world they live in.

Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resort, says that “the organization of the future will pay as much attention to people and leadership strategies as it does to products and services.” He adds that “good leaders are environmentalists: their responsibility is to create a sustainable business environment—that is, one that is calm, clear, crisp, and clean, with no pollution, no toxins, and no waste—in which everyone flourishes.”

To that end, leaders must create an inclusive workplace where every employee can contribute to the best of their ability. In The Organization of the Future 2, he suggests ten goals you can set for yourself where you can impact your organization’s culture:
  1. Know Your Team. Get to know them as people. Know their skills, talents, goals and understand their potential.
  2. Engage Your Team. Ask them for their opinions.
  3. Develop Your Team. Stay engaged with your team members and know where they can benefit from training, mentoring and other forms of development.
  4. Greet People Sincerely. Don’t get so busy that you don’t notice other people.
  5. Build Community. Think of your team as a community with all of its diversity. Get to know their differences so you can leverage these dynamics.
  6. Listen to Understand. Show you care enough to listen. This is MBWA (Management By Walking Around). Get out and give people your complete attention and listen to what they are saying as well as what they are not saying. Take the time.
  7. Communicate Clearly, Directly, and Honestly. This is one where we all fall short from time to time. Use ordinary words and say what you mean. That doesn’t mean rude, blunt or intimidating. Listen for understanding.
  8. Hear All Voices. Encourage other people to share. Practice the Four Cast Member Expectations:
       • Make Me Feel Special
       • Treat Me as an Individual
       • Respect Me
       • Make Me Knowledgeable, Develop Me, and Understand My Job
  9. Speak Up When Others Are Excluded. Be on the lookout for people who are being excluded (for whatever reason) and bring them along.
  10. Be Brave. Have the courage to do the right thing, encourage your team to do the same and let them know that you have their back when they do.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management

05.22.09

The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

Owning Up
The question of who’s running the organization is a critical one in this economic environment. Many boards are being asked to do what they were never prepared to do. The challenges and pressures are immense. In a critically important book for directors—Owning Up—world-renowned adviser Ram Charan says the economic downturn is a wake-up call to corporate boards. “Boards need to own up to their own accountability for the performance of the corporation.”

Increasingly, "governance now means leadership, not just over-the-shoulder monitoring and passive approvals. Boards must fiercely guard their companies against the threats of rapid decline and sudden demise, while at the same time helping management seize the opportunities that tumultuous change presents but are hard to see in the daily fray of running the business. The board that does both turns governance into a competitive advantage." And all of this without micromanaging. It’s quite a balancing act. [Charan: “Asking questions of an operating nature is not in itself micromanaging, as long as the questions lead to insights about issues like strategy, performance, major investment decisions, key personnel, the choice of goals, or risk assessment.” Why and how is key.]

Charan offers fourteen questions that “get to the heart of the unique issues that boards are facing now.” I think the questions are as insightful and provide as much food for thought as the answers they might evoke:

Question 1: Is the Composition of the Board Right for the Challenge?
Question 2: How Are We Addressing the Risks that Could Put Our Company over the Cliff?
Question 3: Are We Prepared to Do Our Job Well When a Crisis Erupts?
Question 4: Are We Well Enough Prepared to Name Our Next CEO?
Question 5: How Well Does the Board Own the Strategy?
Question 6: How Can We Get the Information We Need to Govern Well?
Question 7: How Can Our Board Get CEO Compensation Right?
Question 8: Why Do We Need a Lead Director Anyway?
Question 9: Is Our governance committee Best of Breed?
Question 10: How Do We Get the Most Value out of Our Limited Time?
Question 11: How Can Executive Sessions Improve the Ownership Function of the Board?
Question 12: How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?
Question 13: How Do We Stop from Micromanaging?
Question 14: How Well Prepared Are We to Work with Activist Shareholders and Their Proxies?

In good times, not enough consideration has been given to question one. Does the board have enough depth of knowledge or experience to ensure the organization stays on track? “Directors as a group must have the specific skills and perspectives needed to carry out their responsibilities.” And these skills must evolve with the times. “If the composition of the board is not appropriate, it is the failure if the [governance] committee. The board must empower the committee to actively shape the board composition.” Bad directors drive out good directors. It’s time for a check-up. Charan’s questions help boards do just that.

Additionally, while squarely aimed at directors, Charan’s questions serve a wider audience of leader’s as well. The questions speak to any leader of the need to “own up” to the responsibilities found in their own context? Are we up to the challenge in the area we have chosen to lead? Are we dealing with the issues? Are we trying to identify the issues early and get ahead of them? Are we learning so that we are better able to perform? Are we aware of our impact? All of these questions speak to the need for personal accountability. Addressing Charan’s questions is the way forward.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

05.11.09

Sebastian Coe On Creating a Winning Culture

Sebastian Coe, Olympic gold medalist, politician, business leader and chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games, has written an inspiring book on the mental preparation required for winning in any endeavor. The Winning Mind is a fast-paced collection of life experience that offers evocative insights and expert coaching.
The Winning Mind


Coe believes that leaders are shaped by their “environment, by their ambition, by their role models, by the support they are given as they progress through life and by sheer determination. Our aim must always be that there should be no limit to what an individual from any background can achieve with focus and application — provided they recognize and grab their opportunity with both hands.”

Coe says that teams are most productive when they understand the part they play in achieving the final outcome. This requires very clear leadership. “Part of this is ensuring that the work culture is constructive, positive, inclusive and constant.” He offers this advice for creating a winning culture:
  • It means encouraging open and honest communication
  • It means being aware of when to lead and when to allow people to make their own decisions about the most appropriate course of action
  • It means making time for people to ask questions. An effective leader will always be prepared to discuss the rational behind how and why things are being done in a particular way. You can tell a lot about someone form the kinds of questions they ask. Listening to your team is a useful way to identify tomorrow’s managers and leaders.
  • It means allowing people to take calculated risks – within their own area of responsibility – even if it means the risk of failure (provided that failure can be contained). There are times to act and there are times to let things roll. (It’s a very instinctive thing.)
  • It also means paying close attention to the quality of the physical environment within which people work. An effective team needs room to think, breathe, talk and work. These days, remote working and flexible working hours are not only possible, they can enhance productivity too. If managers trust their people, man different work styles are possible.
  • It means encouraging people to maintain balance in their lives
Coe says that a leader is really working to his own obsolescence. “You know you are doing a good job if the right decisions are being made even when you are not present. As my coach once said to me, ‘I know my job is done, because you did exactly what I would have asked you to do had I been there.’”

How well are you nurturing the conditions necessary to be able to put complete trust in your team?

[Note: The Winning Mind is currently available only in the UK. AmazonUK]

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:27 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Teamwork

05.06.09

Ten Leadership Skills You Need For An Uncertain World

Leaders Make the Future
Uncertainty is a part of life. Uncertainty is a call for leadership. Creating clarity from uncertainty is a leader’s stock in trade. Unquestionably some periods of time are more demanding than others. Times like these call on leaders to take a broader view of who and why they are leading and the impact they are having on the world around them. While this is very demanding for any leader, it is also more meaningful.

In Leaders Make the Future, futurist Bob Johansen reports that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will only get worse in the future. “Solvable problems will still abound, but top leaders will deal mostly with dilemmas which have no solutions, yet leaders will have to make decisions anyway.”

Johansen emphasizes ten leadership skills that will help leaders to cope and thrive in the volatile decade ahead. “We need not passively accept the future. Leaders can and must make a better future.” Although it’s “hard to even think about the future if you are overwhelmed by the present … looking to distant possibilities can provide new insight for the present.” The ten skills he lays out move from the instinctual to the complex and build on each other. Here is a summary of Johansen’s work for you to think on:

1. Maker Instinct: The ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. Future leaders will need both a can-do and a can-make spirit. The maker instinct is what separates the leaders from the powerless.

2. Clarity: The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how it gets made. How can you as a leader, create and communicate with clarity in confusing times – without being simplistic?

3. Dilemma Flipping: The ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved – into advantages and opportunities. We must be able to nurture the ability to engage with hopelessness, learn how to wade through it to the other side, and flip it in a more positive direction. Think Roger Martin’s concept of the “opposable mind.” How can you remake a situation with no solution?

4. Immersive Learning Ability: The ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments; to learn from them in a first-person way. Immersive learning requires active attention, the ability to listen and filter, and to see patterns while staying centered – even when overwhelmed with stimuli. Leaders can’t absorb everything, so they must filter out extraneous information and learn how to recognize patterns as they are emerging.

5. Bio-Empathy: The ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns. It is big-picture thinking that respects all the multiple interrelated parts and nonlinear relationships, as well as cycles of change.

6. Constructive Depolarizing: The ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement. The next decade will be characterized by diversity and polarization. The temptation is to pick sides, but that is rarely a good strategy.

7. Quiet Transparency: The ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you – without advertising yourself. This begins with humility. Leaders who advertise themselves and take credit for their own performances will become targets. Are you self-promoting?

8. Rapid Prototyping: The ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. Fail early, fail often, and fail cheaply. Accept failures as important ingredients to success and learn from them.

9. Smart Mob Organizing: The ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media. Leaders are what they can organize. Can you organize smart mobs using a range of media?

10. Commons Creating: The ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit other players – and sometimes allow competition at a higher level. Can you create commons within which both cooperation and competition may occur?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , General Business , Leadership , Management

04.24.09

What Games Do You Play?

Games At Work
We all play games. We play them for the promise of reward they hold. They function as a coping mechanism to help us to navigate uncertain and challenging settings. But they are self-serving and drain people of energy and commitment. “They lock people into routines and rituals that hamper flexibility and thwart change efforts.” They will never go away, but we can minimize both the frequency and their effect.

“A lack of knowledge about games allows them to thrive” say Mauricio Goldstein and Phillip Read in their book, Games At Work: How to Recognize and Reduce Office Politics. “The more you know the better able you’ll be to limit their damage and turn the energy of your people in more productive directions.”

You might have played or been involved in some of these common games they mention:
  • Gotcha …where people act as if they receive points for identifying and communicating others’ mistakes.
  • Gossip …the rumor mill is used to gain political advantage.
  • Low Budget …where managers purposely low-ball budget requests as a negotiating ploy.
  • Marginalize …effectively exile individuals from teams or groups because they challenge the status quo, or aren’t one of the boss’ people.
  • Blame …individuals seek scapegoats in order to excuse failure.
  • Gray Zone …deliberately fostering ambiguity or a lack of clarity about who should do what to avoid accountability
  • Pecking Order …people play favorites and put others in the doghouse as an exercise of power
  • Pessimism …people artificially inflate the difficulty of an assignment in order to create lower expectations
  • Big Idea …suggesting visionary strategies and concepts to communicate one’s creativity and vision without regard for whether the ideas can be implemented.
  • No Bad News …avoiding or suppressing negative data in relentless pursuit of a positive approach.
“Games meet powerful needs" they write, “whether for approval, promotion, camaraderie, or continued employment, and may seem to participants that they can’t get those needs met any other way. Therefore, even when their eyes are opened to the existence of games within their group, they do nothing. Even though they know that games are bad, the alternative seems worse.” So they can’t simply be eliminated by edict.

The authors give managers the tools to “diagnose” the games that people play in their company. Using a three step process entitled AIMAwareness, Identification, Mitigation—with specific examples from global companies that illustrate both the games and their solutions, Goldstein and Read provide a clear outline for managers to address and end the games people play in organizations. They also present five principles to keep in mind:

To game is human. Your goal is to have fewer and less.

Games flourish during times of high anxiety. Companies need anxiety to fuel performance, however this anxiety and stress needs to be channeled into productive rather than manipulative behaviors.

Your company’s games are not comparable to another company’s games. Different organizations have different game ecologies.

Minimizing game playing starts at home. As soon as you deny that you play or facilitate games, you’ve limited your options for dealing with them. Recognizing this tendency in yourself helps you deal with these issues at a personal level.

Dialogue is a natural antidote to games. Don’t embark on a course of “gamocide” – that is. Don’t create programs and policies to punish game playing. This will serve only to create more games. Speaking openly and honestly discourages game playing.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:23 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management

04.20.09

How to Hit the Ground Running

Hit the Ground Running
Stakes are high. Whether you are just starting out, trying something new or just starting each day with the understanding that you need to be putting your best foot forward, you need to know how to get up to speed, make the right decisions, and produce the right results fast. You need to hit the ground running.

If you could sit and learn from some of America’s best CEOs, you could discover the right steps to take to insure your success while avoiding many of the pitfalls that come from learning from one’s own experience. In Hit the Ground Running, Jason Jennings has made that possible. He has selected ten CEOs that created more economic value for their companies than all of the other CEOs of America’s top one thousand companies during the study period. They made the decisions that allowed them to achieve great results on issues we can all relate to by adhering to, sometimes counter-intuitive principles. From interviews and observation, Jennings has compiled these principles into ten lessons from each of these CEOs that if applied, will help you to hit the ground running.

Rule 1: Don’t Deceive Yourself—You Will Reap What You Sow   Let the Golden Rule guide every decision. Richard Smucker says, “In matters of style, swim with the current but in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Rule 2: Gain Belief   Leaders gain belief by being authentic and humble, getting rid of regal trappings, proving their worthiness, asking others for belief, and surrounding themselves with others who are also trusted. "I need everyone to respect and support one another and work with each other. Everything else is B.S." says Fred Eppinger of the Hanover Group.

Rule 3: Ask for Help   Howard Lance CEO of Harris Corporation “has a keen sense of humor and doesn’t have a problem generating a laugh even at his own expense.” He says, “Sometimes you have to take the veneer and let people see you for who you really are and share a chuckle or two.” To “hit the ground running" requires that you admit that you don’t have all the answers and engaged the assistance of others when assuming new duties.

Rule 4: Find, Keep, and Grow the Right People   Ronald Sargent’s strategy at Staples is to promote from within, move people around, identify rising stars, make everyone an owner, communicate with your workers and make diversity your priority. Promoting from within “creates a career culture that encourages people to stay longer and stretch their skills.”

Rule 5: See Through the Fog   Pat Hassey, CEO of Allegheny Technologies told Jennings, “It’s the job of the CEO to see through the fog and to be a destination expert. People want to know where the company is headed, what their future holds, the opportunities that exist for them, and what their role is going to be. And they don’t want to wait forever to find those things out.” (See page 97 for Hassey’s well thought out Team Rules that all team members have to agree to part of a Hassey-led team.)

Rule 6: Drive a Stake in the Ground   Jennings writes, "Driving stakes into the ground allows a leader to provide a clear vision about what the company is, where it’s headed, and how it’s going to get there so it can hit the ground running. But it isn’t for the faint of heart. Once you’ve driven a stake in the ground you have to talk about it and promote it relentlessly.” Mike McCallister, CEO of Humana says, “The problem with most businesses is that instead of driving a stake in the ground, they stick a toe in the water and when it gets hard or boring they start thinking about it too much, begin questioning their decision and pull their toe out, changing things, and starting all over again.”

Rule 7: Simplify Everything   "Oversimplify everything! Sit down and ask, `If I could start with a blank sheet of paper today and create the best answer, what would I do?'" says Jeff Lorberbaum, CEO of Mohawk Industries.

Rule 8: Be Accountable   “Setting a personal example of accountability is where many leaders fall short,” writes Jennings. “Instead of starting by being accountable themselves, they use the threat of accountability as a tool to drive others.”

Rule 9: Cultivate a Fierce Sense of Urgency   Keith Rattie, CEO of Questar says, “You must have a sense of urgency—if one doesn’t exist, the CEO’s job is to create one. The mind-set needs to be ‘We’re not as good as we know we have to be.’” Rattie adds that it will be time for him to leave when he loses the “sense of urgency and the belief that we have to be better tomorrow than we are today… it’ll be time to get somebody else in the chair who will bring a new pair of eyes and fresh thinking to the job.”

Rule 10: Be a Fish Out of Water   The CEOs interviewed don’t fit the typical picture of what a CEO should be. They have been described as “humble, authentic, accessible, highly ethical, compassionate listeners and truly, believable committed to doing the right thing for all stakeholders.”

Jennings skillfully weaves the thoughts from these business leaders into coherent and practical lessons. You will find all kinds of great advice in this book, much of it delivered in an almost off-the-cuff manner that belies its value. But it makes this insightful and crisply written book great reading.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

More Useful Quotes from Hit the Ground Running by Jason Jennings

These quotes are from Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for New Leaders by Jason Jennings

Ronald Sargent CEO of Staples warns, “I think a leader has to do something big, new, and different within the first one hundred days and make sure that it’s properly communicated to everyone. If people don’t know what’s going on they’ll assume nothing is going on.”

“The three most important observations I made early on in my career,” says Pat Hassey of ATI, “were that most people are loyal and want to do a good job and be successful, that offering a sincere thank you goes a long way, and that a soft response is always better than a harsh one.” Hassey also remarked, “I promised I’d never let myself get into a position where I’d stop growing. Everybody has a question, an idea, and an opinion, and if you take the time to listen, you’ll end up with a better business. There’s no such thing as a dumb question or idea.”

Mike McCallister, CEO of Humana: "We try to treat all of our people like they are adults, which sounds like straightforward common sense, but it's amazing how many businesses don't."

Goodrich CEO Marshall Larson: “The one thing I did know is that if all leaders in the company thought like me and acted like me, we’d end up with groupthink and make on hell of a big mistake someday and march off the side of the cliff like lemmings.”

Goodrich CEO Marshall Larson: "Any CEO who thinks he can pull all the strings that make things happen is kidding himself.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

03.23.09

MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership

Philip Delves Broughton, author of Ahead of The Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School, writes in the Financial Times about MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership. Broughton observes:
What business schools can teach is organisational behaviour. They can teach compensation systems and recruitment processes. They can offer classes on cash and non-cash incentives, on training, promotion and the value of a corporate culture. They can offer frameworks for negotiations, strategy decisions and implementing change. But when they bundle this up and call it leadership, they risk leaving their students with the faulty impression that they are now qualified, if not obliged, to go into the world and lead. It breeds the arrogance for which MBAs are mocked.

He continues, “Great leaders tend to be those who can synthesise, simplify and persuade. They provide clarity so that those below them can do their best to achieve a common goal. But leadership should not be the brass ring at the climax of every business career.
It is the merit of Broughton to remind readers of the problems of surrounding leadership education. He is right. Business schools are best at teaching the competencies that business leaders need when performing their tasks. And at this point in time, they are probably rethinking what that means.

Teaching leadership – as in take these classes and read these books and you are a leader – is something else. Broughton correctly asserts that MBA students often walk out into the world thinking that they are uniquely equipped to lead the world. It’s an arrogance that is rarely appreciated in the real world and an approach that does not serve them well in the long-term.

Books and lectures do not make you a leader, but they can give you the tools to become a leader through the practice of leadership. They point you in the right direction. They fast-track your awareness. They are extremely valuable but they do not make you a leader. That label is earned, not taught.

Broughton states, “Not all MBAs can be leaders, nor need they be. Every business needs followers: people who are good at what they do, who are able to implement the plans laid out by leaders.”

Here is where discussions of leadership often derail. Broughton is confusing leadership with position. Position is the brass ring and there are a limited number of those to go around. Most people will to be left out. He’s right. We can’t all have position, but we can all be leaders. Likewise we are all – regardless of our position – followers. The idea that “I’m a leader, not a follower” is a foolish notion and belies the ignorance of what leadership really is by anyone who states it. Leadership is intentional influence. Basic to a proper understanding of leadership is the understanding that leadership is not position and does not make you a leader.
There was a time when management was just management, the science of providing organisational support for innovators and salespeople to win customers and revenue.

Managers tracked resources, physical, financial and human, and tried to improve efficiency. Occasionally they made an acquisition or pushed into new markets, and this was strategy.

But somewhere along the line management morphed into the sexier-sounding “leadership”. Managers were globe-trotting executives – catalysts for change. They had a business press eager to turn them into icons, to photograph them in their penthouses, preening over their empires as if they, rather than their shareholders, owned them.

Business schools were eagerly complicit in this super-sizing of management. They no longer educated mere MBAs. They were churning out “future leaders”.

Business does not need any more leadership courses – particularly not at the MBA level.
No, business schools need leadership courses. They just need better ones. They need courses with a proper emphasis about leadership. I appreciate his phrasing – “this super-sizing of management” – but management and leadership go together. They are often separated so that we can, by pulling them apart, see how they fit together. We need both and we need to be practicing both. One is not better than the other. A good leader manages. A good manager leads.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , Followership , Leadership Development , Management

03.13.09

Shrink to Grow and Other Backward Steps Forward

Money Makers
In The Moneymakers (i.e., long term winners – consistent performers), author Anne-Marie Fink addresses foundational business issues from her experience as one charged with understanding whether businesses were solid, long-term moneymakers – or rotten tomatoes – before investing with them. Fink has spent more than twelve years studying businesses and investments, as a vice president and analyst at JPMorgan Asset and Wealth Management.

Not all of the concepts are new – is there such a thing? – but they are all important, well thought out and presented in a way that will make you stop and reconsider your approach. These concepts are divided up into eleven lessons that she has formulated from observing real-world businesses that work. The eleven lessons are:
  1. Think like an investor to establish your edge. Investors focus on economic profit to distill businesses down to the most important factors.
  2. Problems in business are like cockroaches – there’s never just one. How to catch problems before they infest your business
  3. Avoid the trap of profitless growth. Additional profit is an illusion if it consumes too much capital
  4. Don’t be a customer fanatic. When to listen to and when to ignore your customers. Customers don’t know your business, and what you should deliver, as well as you do.
  5. Business forecasts are as reliable as weather predictions. Planning too far into the future raises risk and lowers rewards. How to position yourself for the future to come to you, rather than actively pursue it.
  6. Economics always trumps management. Ignore bedrock economic laws – such as supply and demand – at your peril; it is akin to ordering the tides to stay in place.
  7. Why happy employees don’t make for high-performance workplaces.
  8. Good performance requires inefficiency and duplication. How maximum efficiency produces suboptimal results by stifling innovation.
  9. Megatrends start as ripples. How to position your business to ride long-term waves, not be swamped by them
  10. Don’t delay performance gratification since we’re all dead in the long run. Most bold transformations base their hopes on some mythic future. Go for them with incremental steps that bring home the bacon today.
  11. Shrink to grow. Why expanding a bad (low-return) business means you just have more of a problem, and how a step backward is often the best way forward.

Even for the moneymakers, eventually something goes wrong. What distinguishes them is how the handle it. A downturn is an opportunity to step back in order to move forward. She calls it shrink to grow. Here are ways she suggests to make the most of a downturn in business:

• Fess Up   Don't massage your numbers. You will only postpone the day of reckoning and make things worse when that day arrives. Don't let the short-term pain of admitting to disappointing numbers determine your execution and your spending. Good managers and partners will stand. If you have a good strategy and execution, earnings will come back and your stock price with it.

• Fish or Cut Bait   Don’t let hubris, fear of admitting a mistake, or concern about walking away from a prior investment keep you from exiting a problematic business. Consider the value of your time when considering whether to exit a business. [And I thought this was key:] Exit underperforming operations even if it means opting out of a potentially lucrative long-term trend. The trend may not be “ripe.” By getting gout of the business now, you will be able to retrench and come back later. Look for alternative ways to participate in the trend rather than stubbornly sticking with a losing proposition.

• Shrink to Grow   Shrink troubled operations down to their profitable core; if there is no profitable core, either sell or close the operations. Err on the side of cutting too much rather than too late.

• Amputation or Minor Surgery   Assess whether a slowdown is cyclical or long term, temporary or permanent, and calibrate your response accordingly. Even as you make cuts to respond to a slowdown, continue to invest to drive growth when the cyclical slowdown ends. Improve the mix of your business.

She adds, “Exceptional leaders take steps backward in troubled times so they can lay a solid foundation for future growth.” Ask:

Are the changes that are causing your operations difficulty rooted in long-term trends or cyclical events, or even a combination of both factors?

Have you considered a “shrink to grow” strategy?

When deciding where to invest during a difficult time, what are the goals of the spending? Will it produce a more efficient way to conduct your business? If so, then spend. Does it provide the next leg of growth when the market returns? If yes, then invest – but somewhat more cautiously, since you do not know when the market will return. Does the investment produce better returns but only at volume levels above currently depressed levels? If so, then perhaps tinker around with the idea, but do not invest serious funds to it.

In times like these, this book is certainly a place to spend some time.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:10 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management

03.11.09

Six Ways Companies Mismanage Risk

Ohio State University professor René Stulz writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Of course, financial institutions can suffer spectacular losses even when their risk management is first-rate. They are, after all, in the business of taking risks. When risk management does fail, however, it is in one of six basic ways, nearly all of them exemplified in the current crisis. Sometimes the problem lies with the data or measures that risk managers rely on. Sometimes it relates to how they identify and communicate the risks a company is exposed to. Financial risk management is hard to get right in the best of times.” Obviously, risk assessment needs to be tempered with time-tested experience and calculated risks need to cast a wider net when calculated. In summary, here are his six paths to failure:
  1. Too much reliance on historical data. It’s only a partial guide to the future.
  2. Reliance on narrow daily measures to reduce risk.
  3. Knowable risks have been overlooked. A big picture approach is needed.
  4. Concealed risks have been overlooked. Reward downside reporting. Unreported risks tend to expand. Sound familiar? Know What You Don’t Know
  5. Failure to communicate effectively. Need the ability to explain what is happening in clear, precise and most importantly, simple terms.
  6. Risks not managed in real time. Essential for quick response.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Problem Solving

02.06.09

Mastering Uncertainty

Neal A. Hartman, a senior lecturer in behavioral and policy sciences at Sloan School of Management, MIT, offers this advice in the Financial Times, concerning how a leader should behave in this uncertain business environment.
Managers must also pay close attention to their own actions during uncertain times. Because many people perceive uncertainty as frightening, leaders need to display behavior that brings about a sense of trust and credibility. Uncertainty is often a source of stress, but it is how people react to this stress that determines the kind of decision-making that occurs. Effective managers are those who develop the emotional maturity to behave rationally and confidently in stressful and uncertain situations and they must nurture this ability in their employees as well.

Managers should also build social support systems, both inside and outside the organization. Managers who work with effective teams can share experiences and gain new insights, enabling them to deal more effectively with uncertainty and sudden change.

Because uncertainty is stressful, it is important that managers learn how to manage stress. A person’s ability to deal with uncertainty is better if they exercise, maintain a healthy diet, sleep well and talk about the issues. If one considers uncertainty as a vehicle of possibilities rather than a threat to current norms, the attitude is much more positive.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:26 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Management

01.26.09

You Can’t Order Change: Making Ethics and Compliance a Clear Competitive Advantage

When Jim McNerney became CEO of Boeing in 2005, change wasn’t an option. It was mandated. In 2005 Boeing was facing investigations into illegal business practices, there was the sex scandal, revenue was down, and key people were jumping ship. In short, it wasn’t the place to work.
You Can’t Order Change


But even when everyone agrees that change is necessary – even vital – it doesn’t come easy. It still has to be approached in a careful and respectful way. You Can’t Order Change, by Peter Cohan, is about how McNerney brought about that change in Boeing. How he cleaned up the mess and changed the culture and revitalized the organization.

Probably the biggest task that faced him was the quagmire created by years of costly ethical problems. He had to settle a lawsuit with the government and create a culture of ethics and compliance. This has to be done by example and system changes that encourage ethical behavior and compliance.

He said in Boeing Frontiers, “I plan to make leadership development a focus across the company because I believe that as we strengthen our leadership capacities, we can have a positive impact on the company's overall performance. As I've said before, better leaders make better companies. And effective leadership, at all levels of an organization, is based on a foundation of trust, integrity and escape-free compliance. As we turn up the gain in leadership-development training, we will embed in it an equal emphasis on how leaders can lead with ethics and integrity.”

Cohan writes that McNerney made sure that ethics wasn’t a passing fad, but a value that had teeth in it. If the leaders of the organization “have not been behaving in a way that’s consistent with Boeing’s values, he expects them to change their behavior. And if they don’t meet McNerney’s expectations, they lose their leadership roles.”

Step one for McNerney, of course, is getting the leaders to act ethically; to set he example. Cohan cites this statement from McNerney:
We also realize it all starts with leadership. If an organization’s leaders don’t model, encourage, expect and reward the right behaviors, why should anyone else in that organization exhibit those behaviors? Companies have to take the hugely important step of driving ethics and compliance through their core leadership and Human Resources processes. This must be … and must be seen to be … a central part of the whole system of training and developing leaders and of the whole process of evaluating and promoting people. This is the key.”
Critical also to this change is a system that supports and rewards people for getting results ethically and gets rid of people who don’t. Cohan writes, “McNerney let people know that he wanted them to discuss problems and not bury them.” If people didn’t talk about ethics and compliance, he would bring it up. “Ultimately, McNerney want to avoid surprises about ethical problems that originate at lower levels. I know and you know … that one of the absolute perquisites for success in ethics and compliance is the belief that it is OK for people to question what happens around them.”

McNerney’s methods and approach to change have gotten him dramatic results and they are worth studying.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:35 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Ethics , Human Resources , Management

01.23.09

Step One: Reality Check

Reality Check
We have written here that this is the season to rethink, explore, fine tune what works, discard what doesn’t and set a new course. Essentially what we need is a reality check. No longer can we skate by on surplus. Guy Kawasaki’s new book, Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition, is a good place to begin.

It would be unfortunate if the book’s heft – 474 pages – made it too intimidating to pick up because it’s full of great insights, clever thought and often provocative ideas that will make you see things in a new way. I don’t recommend reading it from cover to cover. It’s not that kind of book. It’s more of a highly readable, reference tool that you’ll want to refer to again and again. Besides, unless you were born in this century, you’ll need some time to allow your brain to create some new circuitry.

There aren’t any shortcuts given here. Often life and especially entrepreneurship, is about grinding it out; sticking to what you believe in until it works. It’s not about sticking to your competition either. It’s about focusing on what you can do to add value to your customers and the world. Frank Sinatra famously said, “The best revenge is massive success.” What drives your competition crazy is your success.

The 94 chapters are based on his highly regarded blog, How To Change the World. The topics cover everything from the start-up, maintaining, growing your business to communicating your message and surviving what comes your way.

Some takeaways:
  • Postpone, or at least de-emphasize, touchy-feely goals. (The free cafeteria and laundry service is the reward not the catalyst.)
  • Follow through on an issue until it is done or irrelevant.
  • Establish a culture of execution and reward the achievers.
  • The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. 10 Slides. 20 Minutes. 30-point Font.
  • Be able to explain something in thirty seconds.
  • The purpose of school is not to prepare for working but to prepare for living.
  • Don’t coerce or dominate, reconcile conflicts, and give power to get power. That’s how to influence people.
There’s more, but it would take 474 pages. Better get the book.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:21 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Marketing

01.19.09

Hitting Your Goals by Knowing What Matters

Relevance
“The trouble with an overload of information isn’t just that it’s confusing. It’s that the data have conflicting implications,” writes David Apgar in Relevance: Hitting Your Goals By Knowing What Matters. Today, data is cheap so we make more of it. But in generating more of it, we unwittingly complicate our decisions. The problem is in determining what is relevant.

Two tests help to determine the usefulness of any piece of information. First, is its specificity “because you can draw more conclusions from precise outcomes rather than vague ones.” And secondly is its relevance. “Relevance has to do with how well a piece of information tests your expectations.”

Apgar suggests that while we have become used to less relevant data we have developed two bad habits. “Instead of devising a specific strategy to meet a financial goal like a sales or profit target, we’re increasingly tempted to enumerate requirements for meeting the goal…. Requirements are not strategies. An unlike strategies, there’s little to learn when they fail to work.” And then there’s our growing reliance on red herrings. “Red herrings are results that appear to confirm your plans but in reality are merely consistent with them.” We end up chasing after the wrong thing.

It leads to an unintended use of the balanced scorecard. “It’s too easy for organizations to fill out balanced scorecards with lists of obvious requirements for success that resemble ingredients in a cookbook. The trouble isn’t that the ingredients may be wrong; it’s that they run so little risk of being wrong. As a result, they end up saying very little.” The strategy should look more like a recipe than a list of ingredients. There is little chance of the ingredients being wrong. You can execute the ingredients, but the recipe is what needs to be tested.

Apgar offers a quick and efficient way to get the indicators that test strategic assumptions and devising better performance strategies. He writes, “A leader must both promulgate polices clear enough to test and be ready to change them. Clarity and a critical attitude are great virtues when combined. Instead of avoiding leaders with simplistic or nuanced approached to the world, organizations and countries alike need leaders who alternate between them.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:21 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Problem Solving

01.09.09

The Accountable Leader

Brian Dive tells us in The Accountable Leader that many organizations have difficulty developing leaders and fostering effective leadership because they have never considered the context they must lead in. The organization must be structured, Dive contends, so that all leadership roles from top to bottom have well-defined decision rights. In other words, accountability needs to be structured into the very fiber of the organizational architecture at all levels. Accountability, organizational design and leadership are three inextricably linked factors.
An organization is in flow, or in a state of equilibrium, when the required number of management layers (vertical architecture) matches the effective reach (or span of control) over the relevant resources that the organization needs in order to achieve its purpose.
After briefly explaining the problem and the key concepts used in correcting it, he begins to present practical application of his ideas for creating accountability within an organization.

The Accountable Leader
He addresses questions such as: How many layers of management are necessary? How do leadership requirements change at different levels? How can potential leaders be identified? How can they be developed? How should people be rewarded?

Beyond the useful correctives to organization architecture and accountability, Dive also makes an important distinction between Managerial leadership (operational in nature) and Strategic leadership (changing the organization) for leadership development. Each requires different abilities and approaches in decision-making style and accountability. “Operational accountability is ensuring that existing assets and resources continue to perform better. The resources are given. Problem-solving remains related to actual events, rather than the abstract.” With Strategic accountability “problem-solving moves into the abstract domain. Solutions have to be found that require mental modeling, as they do not yet physically exist.”

On leadership development, Dive writes that “many organizations still confuse values, skills and competencies” and “it is one of the main reasons why so many leadership development programs fail.” Here are several thoughts in this regard:
Although values and skills, especially technical skills, play an important role in who should work in an organization, they are not reliable guides for assessment of potential and who should be promoted.

Values are badges of belonging. They should end the message: “If you do not share our values, you cannot be a member of our family.” But you do not promote people for demonstrating the organizational values. The person at the front line should have as much integrity as the CEO, otherwise neither should be in the organization.

Skills influence performance. They should not be confused with the concept of potential to lead at the next level of accountability. Technical and professional skills increasingly give way to the importance of general skills. The best math teacher in a school is not necessarily the best candidate for the role of school principle.

But performance is about current leadership. Potential is about future leadership. This is a key distinction. The higher the progression into the upper reaches of an organization, the less relevant professional skills and performance become as predictors of future performance.

It is critical that the behaviors are linked to accountabilities. This is because different levels call for different qualities of decisions. It is important to identify the appropriate behaviors that align these. These aligned behaviors are called competencies in this context. They indicate who has potential to move to a higher level and perform successfully. This is the basis of true leadership development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Management , Teamwork

11.18.08

The Secrets of the Millennial Generation

karl moore
Talking Management is a weekly videocast that McGill University’s Karl Moore hosts for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Recently he recorded a presentation on how to manage and lead today’s youth. The Business Strategy Review, published by the London Business School, identified Moore among a group of world’s greatest business thinkers. In this 20 minute video, he provides not only some practical ideas but an understanding of the context that produced the Millennial generation.

Here are some excerpts:
The job of the manager is not to have the ideas but to support them. That is saying that innovation comes from everywhere, not just from the center, not just from the top of the pyramid, not just from the old people, it comes from throughout the organization. This fits with the business need. A manager, a leader must now spend more time listening and looking for others' ideas and empowering them than in merely trying to be the great strategist. We have heard this for a while but I think that it seems more compelling today than in the past. It is just more true. It used to be that global firms would have a head office in a country and that is where ideas would come from but probably the main advantage of being a global multinational organization is that you are getting ideas and innovation from all over the World rather than from one place.

Emotions are more of a part of the conversation. It is a huge area of interest in work because we see that emotions are how you get the great energy out of people.

A renewed need for purpose is what young people particularly—but the boomers are getting there as well—is a sense that materialism is not enough. Having two Mercedes is not enough.

We have to rethink the meaning of career for young people particularly but Boomers are getting into this as well…People want much more flexibility; on-ramps and off-ramps.
You can also read a transcript of the video on the Globe and Mail web site.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:32 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Management

11.14.08

Hiring the Right Skill Set and Motivating the Millennials

In raising and schooling our children in the U.S., it appears we have dropped our standards. And it shows. Finding the right people is becoming a more and more difficult proposition. (I enjoyed reading about Linda Zdanowicz's search for a dental assistant on her blog.) Tony Wagner, author of the The Global Achievement Gap has written am important book that should not be ignored by business leaders. It sets a meaningful agenda for a good dialogue between educators and business leaders and concerned parents about our educational system. Wagner has written the following for us:
Global Achievement Gap


In an economic downturn, employers need to be even more careful with their hiring decisions. And recent graduates from some of the best schools may not have the skills that matter most in the new global knowledge economy. In researching my book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need -- and What We Can Do About It, I have come to understand that there are "7 Survival Skills" for the New World of Work, and that employers must look beyond applicants' "pedigrees" to carefully assess whether they have the skills that matter most.

New Skills
Here are the Seven Survival Skills, as described by some of the people whom I interviewed:

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
"The idea that a company's senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside . . . The person who's close to the work has to have strong analytic skills. You have to be rigorous: test your assumptions, don't take things at face value, don't go in with preconceived ideas that you're trying to prove."
—Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies


• Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
"The biggest problem we have in the company as a whole is finding people capable of exerting leadership across the board . . . Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority."
—Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco


• Agility and Adaptability
"I've been here four years, and we've done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business . . . I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills."
—Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards


• Initiative and Entrepreneurship
"For our production and crafts staff, the hourly workers, we need self-directed people . . . who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems."
—Mark Maddox, Human Resources Manager at Unilever Foods North America


• Effective Oral and Written Communication
"The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It's a huge problem for us."
—Annmarie Neal, Vice President for Talent Management at Cisco Systems


• Accessing and Analyzing Information
"There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren't prepared to process the information effectively, it almost freezes them in their steps."
—Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell


• Curiosity and Imagination
"Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants . . . but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like -- he's adding something personal -- a creative element."
—Michael Jung, Senior Consultant at McKinsey and Company


Looking Beyond the Degree

The conventional thinking of many who make hiring decisions is that graduates from "name-brand" colleges are likely to be more intelligent and better prepared than students who have gone to second or third tier schools. But, in reality, what the degree may mean is that these students are better at taking tests and figuring out what the professor wants -- skills that won't get them very far in the workplace today. A senior associate from a major consulting firm told me that recent hires from Ivy League business schools were constantly asking what the right answer was -- in order words, how to get an "A" for the job they were doing -- and were not always very adept at asking the right questions, which was the single most important skill senior executives whom I interviewed identified. So what does this mean for the interview process?

First, listen carefully for the kinds of questions the applicant asks. Are they probing? Insightful? Do they suggest that the applicant has really prepared for the interview by trying to understand your business? Do you feel as though you or your company are being interviewed? If so, that's a very good sign.

How a perspective employee asks these questions matters, as well. Does he or she listen carefully and engage you in discussions? Is the potential new hire both interested and interesting? In addition to the ability to ask good questions, senior execs told me that the ability to "look someone in the eye and engage in a thoughtful discussion" is an essential competency for working with colleagues and understanding customers' needs.

Finally, perhaps the most important question you might ask is, "what do you want to learn or how do you want to grow in this job?" This question is essential for two reasons: First, the quality of the answer will tell you how reflective this individual is -- and how intentional he or she may about his or her own development. More than any specific skill, individuals must want to learn, grow, and improve continuously to be successful in today's workplace.

Motivating the Millennials

The second reason why this question is important goes to the heart of the problem of how to motivate new hires to do their best. In asking the question, "how do you want to grow," you are signaling to a prospective employee that you and your company are committed to developing the talents of your workers. Many employers worry that this generation lacks a work ethic. But in my research, I have discovered that this generation is not unmotivated but rather differently motivated to learn and to work. Above all else, they want opportunities to be challenged and to make a difference.

Describing the different work ethic of this generation, Ellen Kumata, who is managing partner at Cambria Associates and consults to senior executives at Fortune 200 companies, told me, "They don't see coming into a company as being a career experience. They don't want to climb the corporate ladder and make more money and please the boss. And so you can't manage them the same way -- you can't just put them into a cubicle and expect them to perform." Tracy Mitrano, who manages the Office of Information Technologies at Cornell University, agreed: "You have to make the work more interesting and allow them to work in different ways. They are prepared to work just as much and just as hard -- but not at a desk 8 hours a day."

Andrew Bruck was finishing a law degree at Stanford when I interviewed him last year. "We want to feel ownership. We have a craving for an opportunity to do something really important," he told me. "People in my generation have been in a constant state of training. Now they're excited to go do something. The more responsibility you give people, the better they produce . . . There are more and more recent law school grads who are willing to take a lower salary in return for an opportunity for more meaningful work."

Ben McNeely, a journalist, described to me the difference between his former employer and his current one. "At the paper where I worked previously, the publisher would kill stories if they portrayed an advertiser in a negative light. At the paper where I work now, I have an opportunity to contribute something in a growing community. I was brought in to cover the new bio-tech research campus under construction nearby, where the Canon towel factory used to be, and to cover health care issues, as well. I have support from the editor and publisher who both have strong journalistic ethics. I like it that the editor pushes Windham, who us to dig deeper."

Carie Windham, who graduated from college in 2005, told me about the best boss she's ever had. "He asked me where I want to be in 10 years. He talked to me about creating the experience I want to have. He understood I wouldn't be there forever . . . Mentoring is a huge motivational tool, someone showing an interest in you and giving you feedback. We want to feel we have a creative, individual role -- that we're not just working on an assembly line. We want to feel like we have ownership of an idea."

Hiring the right talent, then, is only part of the problem employers face today. Equally important is how businesses create challenges and learning opportunities that motivate the Millennials to do their best. Google, which had more than one million applications for 5,000 jobs in 2006, is the number one pick of a place to work for many of the Millennials. Listening to twenty-two year old Matt Kulick talk about his work, one begins to understand how profoundly many companies will have to change in order to attract and retain the best talent: "First, they (Google) share ideals that I believe in -- open source software. And their products are solving important problems for people -- doing good in the world. I believe in what they're doing -- these values are very important to me. I wanted to help out, to make a contribution. The second reason I came to Google is because they give me the resources I need to accomplish major things that will really make a difference in world. The third reason is the responsibility they give you from the day you start. It is a winning combination. It makes me happy to go to work every day."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

11.10.08

Not All Recognition Is Equal

The Wisdom of the Flying Pig is a compendium of people skills gleaned from the experience of consultant and trainer, Jack Hayhow. It is a short, entertaining read that quickly hits the nail on the head on a great number of issues and rewards you with practical takeaways. Wisdom of the Flying Pig

It is the great merit of Hayhow to remind readers of timeless principles for building relationships and getting work done through people. He reminds us, “No one responds well to manipulation—no matter how cleverly or skillfully the manipulation is done.
The first principle of effective recognition: Provide recognition in an honest and authentic way.

Some managers think any recognition is good recognition. That’s just not true. If you objective for giving praise is to get something in return—stop immediately. That’s manipulation, and it is overwhelmingly likely to do more harm than good. People can spot manipulation a mile away, and they hate it. Recognition must always be attributed to honest efforts and/or successful results. Anything else undermines the manager’s credibility and the employee’s passion, loyalty, and effectiveness.

We learn a lot from the managers we work with. One of these managers told us about the recognition technique that inspired the title of this book. We’ll let her tell you the story of the flying pig.

“One of my favorite recognition tools is the When Pigs Fly award. I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression when pigs fly. That expression usually means something is impossible. Well, I was walking through an airport, it was in Las Vegas I think, and I saw one of these silly flying pigs. I thought, WOW! That would be a perfect award when people do something really tough. So I brought one of the flying pigs home. Every so often we let our team decide who was accomplished the most impossible task and that person has the honor of displaying the coveted flying pig.
What are you doing to find what's right in people?

  The Wisdom of the Flying Pig is available at Amazon.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:25 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

08.22.08

What Do You Mean “Urgent Patience”?

urgency

An article in the September 2008 Portfolio magazine under the title Speed Kills, reports that “when Carlos Ghosn took over as CEO of Renault, he instituted a tough turnaround plan to save the company. Since then, seven workers have attempted suicide, and five have succeeded – one leaving a note that mentioned Ghosn by name.” As they admit, it may be a statistical anomaly, but it leads me to a caution that John Kotter describes in his book, A Sense of Urgency. It's termed Urgent Patience. He explains:

A Sense of Urgency
Behaving urgently does not mean constantly running around. Screaming “Faster-faster,” creating too much stress for others, and then becoming frustrated when no one else completes every goal tomorrow. That is false urgency. People who understand the basics—a faster-moving world, the need for more urgency—fall into the false-urgency trap far too often.

Because true urgency has this strong element of now, it can be easy to forget the time frame into which large changes and achievements fit. Behaving urgently to help create great twenty-first-century organizations demands patience, too, because great accomplishments—not just the activity associated with false urgency—can require years. The right attitude might be called “urgent patience.” That might sound like a self-contradictory term. It’s not. It means acting each day with a sense of urgency but having a realistic view of time. It means recognizing that five years may be needed to attain important and ambitious goals, and yet coming to work each day committed to finding every opportunity to make progress toward those goals. “Urgent patience” captures in two words a feeling and set of actions that are never seen with a false sense of urgency.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:38 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Management

08.12.08

Are You Having a No-Good, Very-Bad Day?

No Complaining RuleIf you are like most of us, anything going on but what you want, warrants a complaint. Not an action-oriented, let’s get this solved kind of complaint, but your everyday run-of-the-mill mindless kind of complaining that leads nowhere (except to more negative thinking).

Jon Gordon, author of The No Complaining Rule, says there are two main reasons why we complain: (1) because we are fearful and feel helpless and two, because it has become a habit. He urges us to outgrow the complaining habit. He cites a Gallup poll that finds that negativity costs companies nearly $300 billion each year.

“In life,” Gordon writes, “you have a choice between two roads. The positive road and the negative road. The positive road will lead to enhanced health, happiness, and success and the negative road will lead to misery, anger, and failure. Since your bus can’t be on two roads at the same time, you must decide which road you want to be on. And wen you complain you travel down the negative road.”

“In life,” Gordon writes, “you have a choice between two roads. The positive road and the negative road. The positive road will lead to enhanced health, happiness, and success and the negative road will lead to misery, anger, and failure. Since your bus can’t be on two roads at the same time, you must decide which road you want to be on. And when you complain you travel down the negative road.”

As former chronic complainer, Gordon effectively delivers his message through a story. The No Complaining Rule doesn’t rule out complaining – it requires that it be constructive.
Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their coworkers. If they have a problem or complaint about their job, their company, their customer, or anything else, they are encouraged to bring the issue to their manager or someone who is in a position to address the complaint. However, the employees must share one or two possible solutions to their complaint as well.
The No Complaining Rule
Gordon explains how do develop a positive culture by creating a culture where negativity can’t breed, grow, and survive. A crucial key is to all this is to focus on gratitude. “Research shows that when we count three blessings a day, we get a measurable boost in happiness that uplifts and energizes us. It’s also physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time. Two thoughts cannot occupy our mind at the same time. If you are focusing on gratitude, you can’t be negative. You can also energize and engage your coworkers by letting them know you are grateful for them and their work.”

Start a revolution in your own life, at work and at home. Download free No Complaining Rule posters and other tools from Jon Gordon’s web site. Have no complaining day!

Related Interest:
  10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:22 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving

07.09.08

Focus Like a Laser Beam

We all know that when we focus on something we leverage our efforts. Success Magazine founder Orison Swett Marden, wrote, “Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel.” But focusing, determining exactly what to focus on, and focusing on our strengths to make a tangible contribution, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Simplifying your life by eliminating as many of those things that take an inordinate amount of time and don’t contribute substantially to your goals is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. Yet it is important to keep in mind that habits drive most of what we do, the ways we react and respond and so we need to constantly review what we are spending our time doing.
Focus Like a Laser Beam


In her very practical book, Focus Like a Laser Beam, Lisa Haneberg writes, “Leaders need to know what laser focus looks and feels like. The first and most obvious sign of focus is that everyone knows what’s important.” To do this, people need to know what’s relevant. “When you define success, you define relevance.” She offers four questions to apply when trying to define relevance:
  1. Relative to all the things I could be doing, is this something that will have the greatest impact on the most important goals?
  2. Will this task improve results or effectiveness beyond what we are doing today?
  3. Will anyone notice if this doesn’t get done?
  4. If I ran into a contingency today and could only do two other tasks, what would I do? Would this task still be important?
Too often we “agree to do too much and then we are unable to execute well. To improve focus, leaders must change how they define what’s relevant and say no much more often….It’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly.” She encourages us to complete one great thing each day. “Great things facilitate and enable forward progress.”

Lisa maintains a blog about the craft of management and leadership called Management Craft.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:32 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

06.13.08

How to Survive the First 100 Days As the New Boss

The New Boss
The New Boss: How to Survive the First 100 Days by Peter Fischer is a practical how-to guide to help leaders avoid typical mistakes and pitfalls and provides a proven framework and systematic approach to managing leadership transitions. While not all of the material is new, it is a welcome and fresh perspective and contains relevant examples of dos and don’ts of successful leadership transitions. Fischer’s process is well thought out and easily adapted to your new role.

The chart below gives a brief overview of the issues addressed here.

Executives Who Make
Transitions Successfully
Executive Who Are Less
Successful in Transitions
  • Possess superior knowledge and familiarity with the field and readily distinguish between what is important and what is not

  • Recognize and develop key relationships, deal adroitly with hidden rivals and predecessors, build networks in the organization, and show that they are team-oriented

  • Know how to group the many issues and problems into a vision and to motivate the employees

  • Communicate with senior management on strategy and style of leadership

  • Have knowledge about the process of changing leadership and impart confidence and trust because they can assess developments
  • Often come from outside the field and take too long to get their bearings

  • Focus too much on the tasks to be accomplished, neglect the development of working relations built on trust, and tend to prefer to work things out alone

  • Pursue too many approaches at the same time without a persuasive strategy and focus on eliminating weak points

  • Accept unclear expectations from senior management

  • Are too easily surprised, concentrate only on changes and thereby neglect the employees’ need for stability and security


Fischer also cites John Gabarro’s work (The Dynamics of Taking Charge / HBSP / 1987) in this area. Gabarro notes that a crucial factor distinguishing successful from less successful leaders in a new positions was the relationship to key people. In his studies, 75% who were not successful in their new roles after 12 months had poor working relations with their key employees. They had conflicts over objectives, leadership style, and the criteria of effective performance.

I mention this in particular as this seems to me to be the most common reason new leaders are asked to move along before they really get anything done. The temptation is to go in “full boor” and show them what you know. After all that’s why they hired you. Right? But if you can’t get along and gain the trust and cooperation from the people and culture you are moving into, your competence won’t matter. Focus on the people first.

Also check out: The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:55 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

05.21.08

Imagine Time Is a House With Four Rooms

Dondi Scumaci relates the following analogy on time management in her book Designed For Success:

Imagine time is a house with four rooms, and all of your activities, tasks, and commitments must be placed into one of them. Each room has a name, and the name is really a goal.

The first room is called Maximize. Here you will place all of the things that make you better – the actions you can take to be more prepared, informed, knowledgeable, effective, and valuable. The goal is to spend more time in this room.

Into the second room you will gather the things that cause you to react. These are situations and circumstances that throw you into the frenzy of crisis mode. Call this room Minimize, because you want to reduce the amount of time you spend here. Stress also lives in this room. Incidentally, when you spend more time in the first room, you end up here less often.

Next is the room for everything that steals your time. You’ll recognize the activities that belong in here because they don’t add anything. They just take. This is where gossip, perfectionism, negativity, blame storming, fear, and worry live. This room is called Eliminate. If you pay close attention, you’ll be surprised how often you go into this room and how much time you actually spend here.

The last room is called Manage. It’s a place for meetings, interruptions, and communications. This is where conference calls, voice mail, e-mail, and “do you have a minute?” live. Some of these are essential and some, quite frankly are not. You must learn to tell the difference so you can out them in the rooms where they really belong. Quite often this is the most cramped room in the house, and you may find yourself climbing over things to search for what is lost in the chaos.
time management
With your first assessment, you are likely to find some activities living in the wrong room, and you may discover the room called Maximize is nearly empty. This goal is to take inventory, put things in the proper place, and spend your time where you will realize the greatest return.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

03.19.08

The Lack of Connection Burns Us Out

Fired Up or Burned Out
Michael Stallard's Fired Up or Burned Out, is a book that is worth returning to again and again. He writes that “connection meets basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth, and meaning. When these needs are met we thrive…. Conversely, the lack of connection will gradually burn us out.”

As leaders our lives touch more people than we can imagine. It is here that we are either making connections with others or we are not. We are either contributing to engagement or burn out. Stallard believes that after we delete the things that devalue others like inappropriate criticism, micro-managing and allowing others who do to continue to do so, we need to dial up the value in at least six important ways:
  1. Make a human connection with as many people as possible. Leaders need to acknowledge people. There’s no easier way to show you value people than to learn about them and use their names when you speak to them. Consider an intranet-based directory that includes employees’ names, pictures, and any information they feel comfortable sharing such as interests outside of work, favorite books, movies, quotations, and other information that communicates their unique stories.
  2. Treat and speak to employees as partners. Treating people below you in your organization’s hierarchy as equals rather than as inferiors enhances their sense of personal value.
  3. Help employees find the right roles. Providing assessment tools to enable people to identify their skills, temperaments, learning styles, thinking styles, and values, will help leaders place them in roles where they will be most likely to excel.
  4. Educate, inform, and listen to employees. If you don’t let people know what you are thinking, if you don’t inform them and hear their points of view, they’ll probably assume the worst. When people can’t see the direction they are headed, they naturally experience anxiety.
  5. Decentralize decision making. Companies have learned from experience that decentralized decision making improves moral by giving more control to lower-level employees. Greater autonomy, so long as it does not exceed a worker’s level of competence, fires up people.
  6. Recognize the human need for work/life balance. Leaders need to balance giving employees time off for urgent needs in their personal lives with being fair to other employees who have to do more work when a colleague is away. Encouraging people to get sufficient rest and relaxation outside work is an important way part of keeping people from burning out.
What is interesting about some of the above points is that they are so simple. So simple that we don’t place the importance on them that we should.

Stallard writes, “Unless the people in an organization have a strong sense of connection—a bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and spirit de corps—they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.”

Of Related Interest:
  Employees Who Quit, But Stay On
  Gratitude: Is That a Stone On the Hill?
  Michael Stallard has a free downloadable ebook available at ChangeThis.com: The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Motivation

03.04.08

Five Tips From Atsutoshi Nishida on Overcoming a Crisis

Atsutoshi Nishida
The Wall Street Journal interviewed Toshiba Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida who recently pulled the plug on the company's HD DVD business. From that interview came the following wisdom regarding crisis leadership in particular but good ideas to keep in mind regarding the daily crises we often face in the minutia of our day.
  1. Keep in mind that business without risk is business without growth.
  2. Work with the facts. Listen to the market, not your ego.
  3. Act quickly and decisively. Delay makes things worse, not better.
  4. Be a proactive leader and clearly communicate your decisions.
  5. Be resilient and continue to innovate. Success is not forever, nor is failure.
That fifth step is important to keep in mind as it helps you keep things moving forward rather than getting bogged down in your current situation. Things change. Most things are cyclical. He explained the balance between practicality and enthusiasm in decision making.
I don't operate just on logic. I'm practical, but I also have enthusiasm, which is the side of me that's not practical. If you have that in addition to a strong will to achieve your goals, then you can overcome any adversity. For example, I used logic to rationally make the decision to quit HD DVD, but my enthusiasm allows me to move forward.

If you don't take risks, you make no progress. Situations change constantly, so if we can't change with them, then there's no future for us.
Enthusiasm too, helps us to reframe our problems in a way that is constructive. This is not a naive optimism, but an informed optimism that reflects the reality of the situation.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management

02.25.08

Miles’ Law and Six Other Maxims of Management

Rufus E. Miles, Jr. (1910-1996) was an assistant secretary under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and six H.E.W. secretaries. He developed from “memorable encounters with reality,” Miles’ Law and Six Other Maxims of Management. The law states: Where you stand depends on where you sit. He codified that which we should know intuitively. We see things and form judgments of things from our own perspective. We need to discipline ourselves to see things from other’s vantage point. To his law he added six maxims:

• Maxim 1: The responsibility of every manager exceeds his authority, and if he tries to increase his authority to equal his responsibility, he is likely to diminish both.

• Maxim 2: Managers at any level think they can make better decisions than either their superiors or their subordinates; most managers therefore seek maximum delegations from their superiors and make minimum delegations to their subordinates.

• Maxim 3: Serving more than one master is neither improper nor unusually difficult if the servant can get a prompt resolution when the masters disagree.

• Maxim 4: Since managers are usually better talkers than listeners, subordinates need courage and tenacity to make their bosses hear what they do not want to hear.

• Maxim 5: Being two-faced—one face for superiors and one for subordinates—is not a vice but a virtue for a program manager if he or she presents his or her two faces open and candidly.

• Maxim 6: Dissatisfaction with services tends to rise rapidly when the provider of the services becomes bureaucratically bigger, more remote, and less flexible, even if costs are somewhat lower.

These laws were originally published in September 1978. "The Origin and Meaning of Miles' Law," Public Administration Review, September – October 1978.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:22 AM
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02.11.08

Insultants Wanted

Breakthrough Company
We need people who will tell us like it is in the right way. Often we don’t like to hear what they have to say but we should never discourage them. Frequently, leaders are the last to know. Keith McFarland author of The Breakthrough Company, calls these straight-shooters insultants (inside consultants). He describes them as those people “willing to ask the tough questions that cause a company to think critically about its fundamental assumptions. The value of insultants is that they will go to great lengths to get their companies to reevaluate a position or adapt to a changing environment.”

If you think that you welcome these people, think again. A survey showed that while 90 percent of CEOs believed that their companies regularly implemented ideas that the CEO initially didn’t like, only 60 percent of their direct reports agreed.

McFarland reports that people tend to differ to authority and rank because they feel that they must know better. “But often authority figures are wrong, and if an organization doesn’t have a strong insultant culture, errors are likely to be propagated throughout the company.”

If you feel you are an insultant, don't think you begin by charging in like a bull in a china shop. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. You are trying to make the leader successful, not trying to show how smart you are or place the spotlight on yourself. Good insultants must learn to excel at relationships based on genuine care for others. McFarland offers these tips that one would do well to heed:
  • Be Empathetic. Yours isn’t the only point of view. Understand where others are coming from.
  • Don’t Attack. Finger pointing is not acceptable. “The most powerful tool in the insultant’s arsenal is the question—and knowing how to ask the right question at the right time.”
  • Don’t Triangulate. “Most people find talking behind someone’s back to be insulting—so effective insultants avoid it at all costs.”
  • Don’t Kid Yourself—Your Real Motivation Will Be Obvious. “If you mean to embarrass, demean, or criticize another person, while you might succeed in that goal, you will have unnecessarily sacrificed any opportunity you had to contribute change.”
  • Be a Grown-Up. “An insultant’s job is to make sure an issue gets a thorough vetting, not to convince everyone to see the world his or her way.”
  • Be Assertive and Persistent. “Not everyone will be receptive to the hard truth, so an insultant must be both assertive and persistent, returning to the issue as often as he or she thinks is necessary to get the point across.
As a leader, you gain nothing by not knowing what people are thinking. People with ideas and challenges to your way of doing things are not necessarily being insubordinate. They are practicing leadership. Leaders can encourage a candid environment be celebrating productive failure, involving people enough in the issues that they can make intelligent contributions, focusing on both employees and customers that have left the company, and using humor to encourage frankness and trust.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:47 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Change , Leadership Development , Management , Problem Solving

01.21.08

You Attract the People Your System Invites

Harvard Business
It’s no secret that healthy environments attract healthy people. Healthy people leave environments that are not or more often than not, get pulled down by them. Yet, it is something we tend to forget. When we find a system or environment that is wrong, there is something wrong at the top. It is from there that the change must come if something is out of kilter.

Harvard Business Review published an interview this month with Lazard CEO, Bruce Wasserstein. In Giving Great Advice, authors Thomas Stewart and Gardiner Morse relate his comments regarding attracting and developing good talent.
We have to want to attract a network of stars—people who communicate and cooperate but are entrepreneurial and stand out as quality individuals, who are not the cogs in a corporate machine. Quality people must be managed with customized approaches. The idea is to create a hothouse where young talent is nourished by our culture and people are encouraged to think creatively, think deeply, think about the long-term client relationship—but above all, think. I want them to reflect on what they are doing and why, and then wonder, “Can we do better?”

Management’s role is to help them. It’s an iterative process. Create an atmosphere where we can all teach one another and stimulate the imagination. Ideas are not hierarchical—they come from all levels—so allowing the talent of younger people to bubble up is our imperative.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:12 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

12.17.07

Applied Awareness

Apples Are Sqaure
In one of this year’s outstanding leadership books, Apples Are Square, authors Susan and Thomas Kuczmarski interviewed Lambert & Associates vice-president of Client Affairs Brian Sorge about seeing what isn’t there.

“Understanding others involves not only paying attention to what they say, but also when they don’t say anything at all,” Sorge believes. “I have always been very emotionally intuitive and that is not easy. I think what happens is that you tend to take on people’s fear and struggles. It allows for tremendous empathy, but also tremendous stress. I remember during speech class in seventh grade, some of the kids would go up there and be so nervous, and I would get tears in my eyes because I could feel their nervousness. I loved getting up and talking to people and giving a speech and I had no problem with it, but I would feel their pain profoundly.”

The authors write, “Good leaders take on the problems of the team. They sense difficulties and out themselves not only in the minds, but also the hearts of those around them. This empathy allows them to develop meaningful solutions that impact people on a personal level.”

Sorge adds the most important component to all of this:

“So many people lack what I call applied awareness. You can give me all the awareness in the world, but you also have to be able to translate that into behavior. In corporate America, it is okay to talk about behavior, but difficult to get beyond talking. That level is not deep enough to make an impact. It allows people to feel like they are changing when they really are not. It is very superficial.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:16 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

12.05.07

James Kilts on Developing People

In Doing What Matters, James Kilts, former chairman and CEO of Gillette Company, shares a story about developing people:

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to create the right environment and then give the employees development opportunities that enable them to realize their full potential. I like to use an analogy that I heard some years ago of the Japanese carp, known as the koi, to make the point.

The fascinating thing about the koi is that if you keep it in a small fish bowl, it will grow to be only about two to three inches long. Place the koi in a larger tank or small pond and it will reach six to ten inches. Put it in a large pond, and it may get as long as a foot and a half. However, if you put it in a huge lake where it can really stretch out, it has the potential to reach sizes up to three feet.

People, like the koi, will grow to the dimensions of their boundaries. Fortunately, unlike koi, we have the advantage of helping our people select their boundaries. And it is the leader’s job to set the kind of boundaries that allow people to reach their full potential.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:26 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

11.23.07

Why Leaders Don’t Compliment

In Results that Last, Quint Studer lists six myths and excuses as to why too many leaders resist giving people much needed compliments.
  • Big Head: “If I compliment them too much, they’ll get a big head!”
  • Complacency: “If I tell them they did a good job, they’ll get complacent!”
  • Martyrdom: “I don’t need a compliment; why should they?”
  • Another Day, Another Dollar: “They should just be happy with a day’s work for a day’s pay—in fact, they should be grateful to have a job at all!”
  • Scrooge Mentality: “I can give out only so many compliments a week!”
  • Pride: “This is hokey!”
Many of us are adept of finding what’s wrong. It’s easy to do and we are almost programmed from birth to do it. What isn’t so easy, but vital to the giving of compliments, is finding what people are doing right. Specific behavior that is recognized and complimented is the behavior that gets repeated.

Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939), founder of the Bethlehem Steel Company, said, “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”

In the often cited study by Gerald Graham, Ph.D. of Wichita State University, it found that employees consider personal, immediate recognition by their managers to be one of the most powerful workplace motivators. However, 58 percent of the respondents said their manager rarely, if ever, offered such simple praise. Graham concluded, “It appears that the techniques that have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least, even though they are easier and less expensive to use.”

Who should you be thanking?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:41 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Management , Motivation

11.14.07

Optimizing Luck

In a world of rapidly changing conditions, luck often seems to be the determining factor in the success of the best organizations. According to authors Thomas Meylan and Terry Teays, luck is something that can be optimized and built into your culture.
Their book, Optimizing Luck is a business profile of the highly successful, 18-plus year long International Ultraviolet Explorer astronomical project they were involved in for NASA.

While the chapter on leadership could have benefited from some more rigorous thought, they do outline six behaviors and procedures you can implement to amplify your natural abilities to succeed in any environment.

First, and most importantly, they stress the importance of hiring the right people. Look for people with sufficient skills and experience to do the job, aptitudes that will contribute positively to the organization and people with a passion for the kind of work you are hiring them for. (Seek staff reaction to the new person.) “If you don’t have the time to work through a hiring process that gets you the right people, how are you possibly going to have time to deal with all the misfits you end up with?”

Secondly, multiply your strengths through the power of delegation – or just let people do their job. If you have hired the right people with the right skill set, then you should be able to trust them to accomplish the task. “Without trust, delegation doesn’t happen. What you get instead is the making of assignments that you either micromanage or snatch back to do yourself.”

Third, become adaptable through the “master process of continuous habit management.” This consists of being alert to changes, continuously trying new things until you get the results you want, converting successful behaviors into personal habits and organizational procedures, and discarding obsolete habits when you realize it’s time to create new ones.

Optimizing Luck
Fourth, know how to operate in a lean environment before it is forced upon you. “If you have hired self-renewing employees, and you have given them the opportunity and resources to learn new skills, then they are well prepared to adapt to changes in your enterprise’s needs….Don’t think in terms of malnourished drudges. Think of slender gymnasts, flexible and agile and capable of an entire repertoire of tricks.”

Fifth, promote prompt and accessible communication to all who need it. Knowledge is the raw material you use to drive a business, it must reach everyone, whether it is good or bad news. “Without good communication habits, your organization may be too slow to take advantage of a surprise opportunity and end up not getting there first.”

Finally, build a system for recognizing and rewarding people that perform beyond their job description. “Your method of rewarding employees should encourage the behavior you want your employees to show.”

The key passage is this:
Differences in levels of success often come down to differences in personal habits. People employ decades-old systems of habits to get through the day. However, most people put no special thought into developing these systems. They pick up a few tricks from mom and dad and a few teachers and a lot from their peers, while growing up and going through school. And that’s where their habit-developing effort stops.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:10 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Management

11.12.07

Finding the Difference Makers in Your Organization

Stories about people who have gone above and beyond inspire us to be better than we are now. These stories of people who make a difference can help others to see themselves and their work in new ways. Stories help people to disconnect from the moment and project themselves in to a new place where things are possible.

Results that Last
Quint Studer writes in Results that Last, “I think difference makers are the world’s real heroes, the people working to make things better. You know who they are: those men and women who give extra effort without thinking of themselves. They may not get a lot of glory, but they are deeply appreciated by the people whose lives they touch.”

He suggests that we make a conscious effort to look for and collect the stories of those people that go above and beyond and know when to break the rules in order to make a difference. Then retell them over and over to make them a part of the organization’s culture. The stories should have a behavior-oriented point and help people to connect their situation to that of the heroes in the story. “Finding your heroes and recognizing their behavior is key because recognized and rewarded behavior is repeated.” Here are several ways he suggests we go about finding heroes in our organizations:
  • Harvest examples of extraordinary employee behavior, making sure to get the complete story and all the facts.
  • Look at customer feedback
  • Ask your customers about the level of service they receive at your organization
  • Develop a consistent program for recognizing your organization’s heroes and their stories. Make sure no one gets overlooked!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Management

11.05.07

The Art of Winning Others Over

If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.
—Henry Ford
The Art of WooIn The Art of Woo or "Winning Others Over," authors Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, make the case that wooing is one of the most important skills in a manager's repertoire. Research would seem to support this claim as people with strong social skills have been shown to command higher fees and salaries than equally talented but less socially adept colleagues. And they are no doubt more pleasant to be around.

Winning others over is an art. It is the ability to sell “your ideas to people within the context of ongoing, important relationships.” They maintain, “If you want to be a player in your organization, a successful partner with your customers or suppliers, a leader in your community, or even a good parent, you need to woo people to your point of view by putting your ideas across in convincing, relationship-friendly ways.”

To that end, they remind us that the idea in persuasion is not to defeat the other person but to win them over. The place to begin is in understanding your own persuasion style. They have identified five types—The Driver, The Promoter, The commander, The Chess Player and The Advocate—and have included a Persuasion Style Assessment to get you started. Whatever your preferred style tends to be, the idea is to strike a balance between what the authors identify as the "self-oriented" perspective-where focus is on the persuader's credibility and point of view-and the "other-oriented" perspective, which focuses on the audience's needs, perceptions and feelings.

They have created a systematic strategy or Woo Process, to aid you in skillfully getting your point across. In brief they are:
The Art od Woo


Step 1: Survey Your Situation, that is
• Forge and polish your idea,
• Map the decision process you face by understanding the social networks within the organization,
• Assess your persuasion styles, and
• Confirm your own level of passion for the proposal.

Step 2: Confront the Five Barriers, including
• Negative relationships,
• Poor credibility,
• Communication mismatches,
• Contrary belief systems, and
• Conflicting Interests.
Then transform these five barriers into assets.

Step 3: Make Your Pitch by
• Presenting solid evidence and arguments and
• Using devices to give your idea a personal touch.

Step 4: Secure Your Commitments by dealing with politics at both
• The individual level and
• Within the organization.

They note that authority plays a background role in most interactions and while it can be useful in some situations, it should not be relied upon especially where there are multiple stakeholders. They say, “The formal roles people occupy are the starting positions for a complex dance of organizational influence.” They also note that actually, the higher up you go in an organization, the less authority comes into play and the more important relationship and persuasion skills become.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership Development , Management , Motivation

09.03.07

Why Aren’t We Learning?

What Were They Thinking?
Jeffrey Pfeffer observes in What Were They Thinking? that while “learning organization” and “continuous improvement” have become cliché, few companies actually do those things that need to be done to make them smarter. He writes, “That’s because some of the things they need to do to learn are counterintuitive.” And we might add, are frowned upon socially. We would rather say, “We rarely (never) make mistakes,” instead of “We make mistakes, but we’re learning.” The latter just doesn’t have that ring to it. Culturally, mistakes have no glamour to them. To be free of them is everything. We are attracted to the person who seems to be on top of it all. The fact is, we all make mistakes. But are we learning?

It may seem counterintuitive, but the most successful people are making many if not more mistakes than most people. The difference is that they don’t try to cover them up. They acknowledge them, learn from them and move on. At IDEO, they believe that it’s better to make many smaller mistakes than one big one. Pfeffer writes, “But that ethos requires accepting that novelty and innovation are invariably accompanied by setbacks and failures. And embracing such a way of operating requires letting people fail—maybe even encouraging them to fail. After all, if nothing ever goes wrong, it must be because the capabilities of the system and its people have not been truly tested.” This applies on a personal level as well. Are you testing your capabilities?

Pfeffer proposes that organizational learning requires three things:

1. A clear understanding of reoccurring problems. “If the root causes of problems are not discovered and remedied, the problems will almost certainly recur . . . . Organizational learning thus requires people to direct others’ attention to problems so they can be noticed, diagnosed, and fundamentally fixed once and for all.”

2. The willingness to allocate resources to address the root causes of those problems. Research on health care organizations “found that those that learned best generally had a higher proportion of managers. . . . They were helping their employees learn, moving information across organizational boundaries, and essentially scanning the environment for common trends and themes, and then bringing that information to their people, who could collectively use it to enhance performance.”

3. Cultural values that foster learning—which means “encouraging employees to find, fix, and report mistakes rather than heroically patch things up.” Fundamental to this issue, is that we—businesses, churches, families, friendships—all too often punish (exclude, at least frown upon) those making mistakes and reward (promote, speak well of, hang-out with) those who don’t seem to be making any. Who would dare try to learn in that environment? Who would ask for help?

Related Posts:
  Who Will Succeed or Fail in the Corner Office?
  Growth: The Key to Leading for a Lifetime

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:54 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Learning , Management

07.26.07

The Consultant’s Tightrope: Knowledge-Innovators vs. Knowledge-Brokers

The British Economic and Social Research Council released a study led by Professor Andrew Sturdy, of Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick in the UK on The Evolution of Business Knowledge. Contrary to popular belief, the study concluded that, “management consultants are, like their immediate clients, more 'knowledge brokers' than innovators. Both groups are often more concerned with managing projects and getting the job done.”

tightrope
Professor Sturdy said: "The image of consultants as experts - the shock troops of the latest approach to management - doesn't match their day-to-day work with clients in projects.

"Typically, they are seen as outsiders, bringing ideas and organizational techniques which are new to their clients. But in reality, we found that prospective clients were unlikely to welcome consultants if their knowledge was 'too new'."

Perhaps this isn’t too surprising since consultants are themselves operating a business and must please the client as well. Sturdy explains: “the study findings suggest that consultants walk a tightrope between offering what might be seen as either a ‘helpful’ challenge or an unconstructive interference. So whilst clients were generally happy to be challenged, this was only if the consultant did so sensitively, showing a good understanding of the business.

“Consultants also needed to earn the respect of staff at all levels in the organization - something best achieved by demonstrating intelligence, commitment and willingness to engage with its problems, and respecting the knowledge of its employees.

Professor Sturdy said: "The real outsiders then, are those people not directly involved in the project team, often including the most senior management and the rest of the client organization.

"This is important, as it means that consultants are not as innovative or different as is often thought. But this can help in their role as knowledge-brokers. The main barriers then become the initial selling process, and later the implementation; typically still the preserve of managers more than consultants."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:02 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management

07.10.07

Six Disciplines for Excellence: Decide What's Important

Now in its new and improved second edition, Six Disciplines for Excellence by Gary Harpst is still one of the best field guides to business. It lays out a practical methodology to help you stay aligned with your mission using sound foundational principles. Through a series of repeatable annual, quarterly, weekly and daily cycles, this methodology will help you to successfully guide your business and quite frankly, your personal life as well. Not surprisingly, you will find that these disciplines are applicable to your personal life, because we are all subject to some of the same pressures that are present in any other system. six disciplines

I find that the most vital principle presented here begins with step one: Decide What's Important. Its importance is underscored in the fact that it is woven throughout the process and culminates in step six. The practice of repeatedly stepping back and asking how did we get here? and why are we doing what we are doing? is vital to sustaining any system.

While this is probably one of the most intellectually understood behaviors, it is in practical terms, likely the most overlooked discipline he presents here. It is overlooked because the pressures of the present lead us into directions and practices that we never intended and are often counter-productive. So we put it off, intending to address it later. Unfortunately, later rarely comes and the inconsistencies we create only breed more inconsistencies. Unnecessary actions and behaviors hang on long after their usefulness is gone.
Six Disciplines for Excellence


In business and life, we need to continually step back and reconsider what we are doing. Sometimes life happens – things happen we can’t plan on - and in the swirl of it all, we find ourselves doing that which we otherwise would not. His methodology helps to you to become more proactive and eliminate the tangents that distract you from what you should be doing.

Harpst writes:
Businesses are “systems” and they’re subject to forces similar to entropy. Once a small business makes plans, the chaos of everything changing around it gradually erodes those plans, like the warm water melts the ice. An organization must have a systematic and ongoing way to offset those forces, or it will eventually become ineffective to the point that its survival will be at stake. Or, using a different analogy, Stephen Covey once said, “We are too busy driving to get gas.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:49 AM
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07.06.07

JFK’s Leadership Style

As we have discussed before, the idea of the great leader as sole player is flawed. The point leader can’t do it alone. It takes many leaders to support the point leader. John F. Kennedy is said to have wondered how a man could conceive of seeking the job of the president when the problems were obviously bigger than mortal man should have to handle. It can only be done through people in an environment where they can do their best. Good relationships are vital to the success of any leader.
Walt W Rostow


The late W. W. Rostow served as a major adviser on national security affairs to Kennedy. His observations of Kennedy’s leadership style are instructive:
It did not fit the hierarchical pyramids to be found in textbooks on administration: it was like the spokes of a wheel. When he formed a bond it remained firm. His enormous energy permitted him to deal with a great many people on a bilateral basis, weaving their efforts into his tasks as he saw them. His method was that of the extended family.… He put each member to work in ways that could help, according to his talents.

It was rooted in an assessment of human beings that was both affectionate and hard-minded. He actively enjoyed the variety of talents and personalities that assembled around him as the drive for the presidency gathered momentum. He respected each man for what he was. There was reliability in his acceptance of men to work with him. There was also a firm assessment of where each might be useful and where not.
Kennedy was able to create an environment without too many layers that fostered more open communication. At the same time, this requires thoroughness on the part of the leader so as to be certain that each task is covered by a capable person, while coordinating and leading in a way that doesn’t become dictatorial.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:12 AM
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06.06.07

10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Jon Gordon writes in The Energy Bus, “No one goes through life untested, and the answer to these tests is positive energy.” Fortunately he is not referring to the kind of rah-rah positive energy that makes you roll your eyes and close the book as the title might suggest. Instead he refers to “the kind of positive energy consisting of vision, trust, optimism, enthusiasm, purpose, and spirit that defines great leaders and their teams.” energy bus

The Energy Bus is a well-executed fable that reveals 10 secrets for approaching life and work with the kind of positive, forward thinking that leads to true accomplishment - at work and at home. The story will resonate with anyone with any life experience at all. The 10 rules are:
  1. You’re the Driver of the Bus.
  2. Desire, Vision and Focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your Ride with Positive Energy.
  4. Invite People on Your Bus and Share your Vision for the Road Ahead.
  5. Don’t Waste Your Energy on those who don’t get on your Bus.
  6. Post a Sign that says “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your Bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more Passengers and Energizes them during the Ride.
  8. Love your Passengers. (How? Make time for them, listen to them, recognize them, serve them and bring out the best in them.)
  9. Drive with Purpose.
  10. Have Fun and Enjoy the Ride.
Jon Gordon's take on these rules is good and worth a look at. He has created a web site to support the book.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:24 AM
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04.30.07

A Pyrrhic Victory

Pyrrhus - Battle of Asculum
In 279 BC, 40,000 Romans battled for two days against 40,000 Greeks and their 20 war elephants in the hills of southeastern Italy near Asculum. The Greeks were under the command of King Pyrrhus. According to the great Carthaginian general Hannibal, he was the greatest general the world had seen since Alexander the Great.

The first day of battle accomplished little. The two sides fought an indecisive battle. Over the next day, the Romans were forced back, but Pyrrhus was unable to capture their camp. Finally, at the end of the day, seeing the futility of continuing, the armies separated. The Romans had lost 6,000 men and the Greeks 3,500 including many officers. It was a costly victory for Pyrrhus. At dawn the next morning, in response to congratulations for his victory over the Romans, the historian Plutarch relates that Pyrrhus confessed “one more such victory would utterly undo him.” The battle had been won at too high a cost. Although they never defeated Pyrrhus on the field, the Romans were able to win a war of attrition. Henceforth, no soldier would cheer a Pyrrhic victory.

We, too, have battles to fight from time to time. Some battles though, can be won at too high a cost. As Pyrrhus admitted, some battles can literally undo us. If we are not careful we can let situations and our ego get the best of us. We can undermine our purpose of serving and lifting up those we lead. Winning an argument can destroy our influence and cost us a relationship.

In Pearls of Wisdom, Joyce Brothers wrote, “There is a rule in sailing where the more maneuverable ship should give way to the less maneuverable craft. I think this is sometimes a good rule to follow in human relationships as well.” Relationships are what leadership is all about. As the leader we are the more maneuverable ship. Being immovable or stubborn, just because we are right, doesn’t move us closer to our goal. It is up to us to step back, bend, or give way and let the other person pass. Later we might try a different tack if it is really that important to make the point. Hitting a difficult person head on is rarely the appropriate action.

When we come up against conflict, we must ask ourselves if winning this one is really that important. How will winning affect my ability to work with this person? What is motivating me to win? We don’t need to fight every battle. We should choose battles that in the final analysis will strengthen our relationships and improve our effectiveness.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:53 AM
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03.16.07

Employees Who Quit, But Stay On

Engagement Is Not Enough
Are disengaged employees eroding your customer satisfaction, employee retention, productivity and profitability? Research has shown that the average employee engagement figures for the United States are: 30% Engaged, 54% NOT Engaged and 16% Actively Disengaged. Keith Ayers in his book, Engagement Is Not Enough, says that it is a leadership issue and the problem is critical. “Like a cancer, they spread their discontent and do their best to turn the engaged employees against you as well. Even if they don’t succeed, they will undermine the good work your engaged employees are doing by failing to complete their part of projects on time or lowering the overall quality of the job.”

According to the Gallup Organization, the problem usually begins in the first six months when an average of over 60% of employees switch off. This is basically due to the perceived realization that their expectations are not going to be met. They feel powerless to fix the situation and give up, but stick around at your expense. Ayers, warns us to avoid four primary obsessions that often result in managers unintentionally increasing the spread of the cancer of disengagement:

An obsession with financial results. “To drive myopically toward profit or achieving budget alone, ignoring the needs of employees, customers, and the culture and the values of the organization, is very costly to results.” How much more could you “achieve with passionate employees who go to extreme lengths every day to give their best performance?”

An obsession with control. “Control-based leaders assume that people cannot be trusted and send that message to their team. These autocrats are a liability to the organization, squashing natural enthusiasm, creativity, and ambition and driving away the most talented employees.”

An obsession with avoiding responsibility. “The number one cause of lack of engagement, poor employee performance, and staff turnover is the relationship the employee has with his or her immediate supervisor. If your team is not performing the way you want them to, first look at whether the leadership they are getting from you is what they need to be able to perform at their best.”

An obsession with logic. “Managers obsessed with logic and left-brained thinking are dismissive of feelings—they say that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. They do not believe engagement has anything to do with organizational performance or that people can be passionate about their work. Managers need to understand that emotional intelligence and right-brain thinking are critical skills to become successful leaders in the new global economy.”

Ayers offers a discussion of the leadership skills you will need to develop to create passionate employees. He correctly notes, “By now you may be thinking, ‘Don’t the employees have a responsibility to be engaged and perform at their best?’ And you’re right, they do. They should be engaged. But the reality is, in an average organization, 70 percent of them are not! Being right about what they should do won’t make them more engaged. Being effective as a leader will.”

According to The Conference Board, they reported that in looking at a cross section of studies, that all studies, all locations and all ages agreed that the direct relationship with one's manager is the strongest of all drivers. Not surprisingly then, they also reported that larger companies are more challenged to engage employees than are smaller companies.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 AM
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02.14.07

Simplicity: Focused and On Track

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Simple Solutions is directed toward getting things done. It’s about being able to “boil things down to their essence” and thereby bring complex issues down to a simple problem statement. To do this you must learn what is important to all stakeholders. Simplified problems are ones that can be acted one through effective, focused communication. Authors, Tom Schmitt and Arnold Perl provide some practical steps to build this skill. They define a continuum of leadership as: clarity of thought leads to simplicity, which leads to focus and powerful communication—the essence of leadership. Here are a few of the ideas found in this book:

Focus on the Amazing Goal, Not the Incremental. The deadly enemy of innovation is incrementalism. By just trying to make problems better a little bit at a time you can lose sight of the possibility of making a quantum leap. A useful question to help you look for amazing goals is, “What would have to be true in order to/for…?” The answer to the question helps you to think differently and make breakthroughs.

Be Directionally Correct. “The fact is there will never be enough time or information to help you arrive at the perfect answer. The right answer can be one that is directionally correct. In other words, the solution may not be perfect, but it’s in the ballpark. This paves the way for more action but at least you’re already working with the customer and aren’t stuck back at the starting gate, still refining the model in the search for the non-existent perfect solution”

Determination versus Distractions. Determination is the willingness and ability to overcome obstacles and to avoid distractions. “Determination requires continued focus and commitment to a project. It requires the business savvy to separate the core of an issue from ancillary matters and then to continue plugging away at the core.” It is important to note though, “determination is an art. It requires walking a fine line between passionate focus and blind stubbornness. Use your judgment to determine if the goal needs to be simplified, changed, or even abandoned altogether. Don’t confuse sheer stubbornness with determination.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:26 AM
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02.09.07

The Study of Leadership

In a 1969 keynote address in Tokyo, Peter Drucker made the following observation about an aspect of leadership—management:
There are management tools and techniques. There are management concepts and principles. There is a common language of management. And there may be even a universal "discipline" of management. Certainly there is a worldwide generic function which we call management and which serves the same purpose in any and all developed societies. But management is also a culture and a system of values and beliefs. It is also the means through which a given society makes productive its own values and beliefs. Indeed, management may well be considered the bridge between a “civilization” that is rapidly becoming worldwide, and a “culture” which express divergent traditions, values, beliefs, and heritages.

Management must, indeed, become the instrument through which cultural diversity can be made to serve the common purposes of mankind. At the same time, management increasingly is not being practiced within the confines of one national culture, law, or sovereignty but "multinationally." Indeed, management increasingly is becoming an institution—so far, the only one—of a genuine world economy.

Of course, along the same lines, leadership encompasses far more than the business or political environment we typically confine it to. From being the act of a few, it has become a personal responsibility. The issues we face today require a multidimensional understanding of leadership that is broader than most academic studies would give it. In fact the study of leadership is not the study of leadership at all, for leadership is the development of an individual’s whole being which is dynamic and ongoing.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:41 AM
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01.26.07

Connections: It’s a Lego World

Drucker: Lego world "The assumptions on which most businesses are being run no longer fit reality." Elizabeth Haas Edersheim explains in her new book, The Definitive Drucker, Drucker’s idea of the connectedness of business. Today, connections can be made in more and varied ways than ever before imagined. With his focus on people, he of course, refers here to more than just products and services but more importantly people, their talents and abilities and their ability to create. “In an organization, we can connect individuals' strengths, minimizing their weaknesses. And across organizational boundaries, we can connect the strengths of each corporation and provide the customer with far greater value than can any single enterprise.” She describes the Lego world we live in:

“…The management world is only flat if you take an industrial perspective. If you just want the lowest cost, the capabilities exist virtually everyplace in the world to get the lowest cost. But if cost is not your only concern and you recognize that the industrial world has given way to an information and knowledge driven world, you will see that Indiana and India are not interchangeable.

In the twenty-first century, businesses exist in a Lego world. Companies are built out of Legos: People Legos, Product Legos, Idea Legos, and Real Estate Legos. And these aren't just ordinary Legos; they pass through walls and geographic boundaries, and they are transparent. Everything is visible to everyone all the time. Designing and connecting the pieces is at least as important as providing them. It's crucial to remember that these aren't simply pieces of plastic or metal—they are not just factories or warehouses. They are also humans who program computers, train newcomers, and think about innovation as they prowl malls, libraries, and parks, coming up with new products. These pieces are constantly being put together, pulled apart, and re-assembled.

“My company's Legos—manufacturing, distribution, skills, and services—cannot be unique unto themselves; they have to connect with your company's Legos. I can build my company, but in a year or two, my CEO and I might have to tear down and rebuild part of it in a totally different configuration, perhaps with fewer American People Legos and more of your company's People Legos in Sweden or South Africa. Leading visionaries in business are expressing the same notion. Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, recently explained: 'What's more important than any one individual Lego is that you know how to build with all the Legos. With everything out there, all those programs and applications and accessories, what's important is the ability to find a way to connect fragmented software pieces Lego rather than simply finding the next piece of software.'

“…There are no competitors. Let me repeat that, because it's something that Peter Drucker loved to say: 'There are no longer competitors, just better solutions and more choices that can be put together in more ways.'”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:23 AM
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01.02.07

Study Says Two of Five Bosses Don't Keep Word

Nearly two of five bosses don't keep their word and more than a fourth bad mouth those they supervise to co-workers, according to a new study by the College of Business at Florida State University.

"They say that employees don't leave their job or company, they leave their boss. We wanted to see if this is, in fact, true," said Wayne Hochwarter, an associate professor of management in FSU's College of Business.

Working with doctoral students Paul Harvey and Jason Stoner, Hochwarter surveyed more than 700 people who work in a variety of jobs about their opinions of supervisor treatment on the job. The survey generated the following results:
  • Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" in the past year.
  • Thirty-seven percent reported that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
  • Thirty-nine percent noted that their supervisor failed to keep promises.
  • Twenty-seven percent noted that their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
  • Twenty-four percent reported that their supervisor invaded their privacy.
  • Twenty-three percent indicated that their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.

According to the researchers, "Employees stuck in an abusive relationship experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust. They also were less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their job. Also, employees were more likely to leave if involved in an abusive relationship than if dissatisfied with pay."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:45 PM
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05.05.06

Fire Someone Today

Fire Someone Today Fire Someone Today sounds like a book of contrary advice for bosses. Surprisingly, it is a book full of down-to-earth, practical and tested advice for leaders seeking to better their company and the lives of those who work for them. It is written in a conversational and helpful tone by Bob Pritchett, President and CEO of Logos Research Systems (makers of Bible Software).

Firing someone is never easy. Consequently, we often find ourselves doing everything we can to avoid facing the issue. And the reasons we come up with sound pretty good and effectively forestall the inevitable. However, Pritchett explains these are not just bad reasons; these are selfish excuses.
Compassion is caring about others, but retaining the employee who should be fired is all about caring for ourselves—it is never about the employee. We want to protect our investment, our presumptuous feeling of parental responsibility, our time and energy, even our reputation for "being nice." If employees quit, or were hit by the proverbial bus, we would find a way to address any real issues related to their sudden absence—we would have to, because their departure date would be out of our control.
Pritchett reminds us that firing the employee should be a last resort after trying to retain the person in a different position (in reality, not in name only). But if it has to be done, he explains how to do it right. When we don’t fire employees who need to be fired, we aren't doing anyone any favors.
When we don’t fire someone we should, our inaction is malicious. We are hurting our organization and wasting the employee’s time on a job with no future. Our motivations are most likely selfish; at the very best, we are just being stupid.
Some of the other great and immediately practical advice:
Nobody Needs an Optimistic Accountant: You should be optimistic about your business. Your salespeople should be optimistic about your business. Your parents, your children, your vendors, and your employees should be optimistic about your business. You do not want any negative, pessimistic, whining, cry-baby Chicken Littles on your team. Except for your accountant.

Your accountant, controller, bookkeeper, CFO — whoever it is that counts your money — should be a pessimist. Your accountant should not be the kind of person who thinks things are always going to get better. Your accountant should be the kind of person who thinks things are always going to get worse. Your accountant should be the kind of person who, when you say, "Good morning," responds, "We'll see."

You Can Always Find 5%: I have talked with lots of small business people who also live right on the edge. Their business is in a perpetual cash crunch because their expenses always seem to be right behind (if not a bit ahead of) their income. Five percent is often the difference between losing money and making money.

Now I understand that lots of individuals and businesses have financial difficulties that make 5% look like pigeon feed. That is a whole other chapter: Chapter 11. I am talking about the businesses that are basically doing all right, but seem to be perpetually treading water to stay at the break-even point. For these businesses 5% is the difference between profit and loss — and that is a big difference.

The good news is that you can always find 5%.
Fire Someone Today will help you too look at business problems through another lens and show you how to deal with them head-on in constructive and profitable ways.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:59 AM
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04.05.06

Stuffing the Dog

Actor Alan Alda wrote about a dog he had when he was eight years old. In his recent book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, he describes how he was so upset about burying his dog that his Dad suggested that they have it stuffed. In a Newsweek interview, he said, "It turned out to be a really terrible idea because the dog came back from the taxidermist with a hideous expression on its face that frightened everybody. After a while I started to think of that as an image of something that went a lot deeper than the dead dog, which is you can’t bring back anything to life. It’s really clear to me that you can’t hang onto something longer than its time. Ideas lose certain freshness, ideas have a shelf life, and sometimes they have to be replaced by other ideas. Hanging onto things the way you wish they were, I’ve come to see isn’t a good idea." He continued that there are a lot of ways we stuff the dog, trying to avoid change or hanging on to a moment that's passed.

We all of course, like to hang on to the familiar. What things are you hanging on to that once abandoned would allow you to move to the next level? Drucker used the phrase “creative abandonment” to describe the process by which people and organizations determine what they should stop doing. Have you stuffed the dog lately?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 AM
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