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03.17.14

How to Avoid One-Dimensional Thinking

Dead EndWhat undermines far too many leaders is that they don’t want feedback; they don’t like to be or feel they should be questioned. Unfortunately, this position takes them out of “leading” and into their own heads. They become focused on their own one-dimensional thoughts and agenda.

As human beings, we easily deceive ourselves in ways that are completely unknown to us. To lead well we must encourage feedback. In The Moment of Clarity, authors Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen state, “As a leader you cannot be sure that you are always making the right interpretations or know the right path.” They recommend creating a “brain trust” of advisors that in include the following three kinds of people:
  1. Reconfigurators. These people are “great at spotting new opportunities and inspiring the company with fresh ideas.” They have the “ability to sense ideas, insights, and practices that are not on the company’s radar and to redefine them as business opportunities.”
  2. Articulators. These people are “excellent in translating new thinking into the practical, everyday activities of the company.”
  3. Conservators. These people focus on “maintaining the operation of the company.” While these people may be skeptical of too much change, “they are fast at understanding when change is inevitable and will help diffuse the fresh ideas of the reconfigurators to the mainstream of the organization.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 PM
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03.11.14

Lessons on Team Performance from Elite U.S. Military Units

Execute
James Murphy says American business has an execution problem. Why? Because we make things complex. “Complexity is the mortal enemy of good execution.” We tend to combat complexity with even more complexity. Simplicity is the SEALs answer to a complex world.

In Courage to Execute, Murphy walks us through a simple process used by America’s elite military units that will improve an organization’s ability to execute and achieve goals. “Their courage, confidence, and capabilities stem from a relentless, time-proven process of conditioning, training, planning, executing, and improving.”

Soldiers morph into Rangers—individuals into teams—when they get a sense of who they are and what they’re a part of. “Together, the army’s core values and the Ranger Creed create a unique organizational identity that breeds unit and trust. This is the glue that holds everything together.” Successful organizations are able to focus and execute according to purpose. “Principles are like cardinal rules so important to you organization that they should never be broken. They are things you always do or never do. They are your guardrails.”

To align everyone in your organization create and pursue a common high definition destination. “Think exclusively in high definition and create a specific, detailed, granular, crystal-clear picture of what you’ll look like and how you’ll be operating when your organization reaches its intended future destination.” Keep in mind, “General ideas lead to general execution, and that get’s sloppy.”

When you plan your “mission” ask, is it clear? Is it measureable? Is it achievable? Does it align with your high definition destination? Every plan should be run by a red-team. “Red teams play the role of adversary.” They “identify potential risks, holes, or contingencies that the original group may have overlooked.”

Once you begin to execute, “never let yourself or your team lose sight of where you are relative to your objective and your threats.” Utilize checklists and cross-checks to help avoid task saturation. The moment you have too much to do or resources to do it, you lose focus on the most important thing. “When people become task saturated, they either quit, compartmentalize, or channel. In each case, their performance deteriorates rapidly. Quitters stop working or stop being productive. Those who compartmentalize appear busy but focus on tasks that accomplish little. Most of us, however, channel our focus onto one thing and ignore the rest. None of these behaviors lead to a good outcome.”

Murphy says debriefing is the essence of teamwork. “Organizations that don’t debrief often equate failure with retribution or negative consequences.” (And often for good reason.) But it is an opportunity to improve and to see if something systemic might have caused the problem. Murphy advocates the STEALTH debrief: Set the time, Tone, Execution versus objectives, Analyze execution, Lessons learned, Transfer lessons learned and end on a High note.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:30 PM
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10.30.13

The 8 Elements that Bring People Together

Finding Allies, Building Alliances
Working together to solve a common problem provides us with a more complete picture of the problem, and can offer us more options, synergies and solutions, than we could achieve by working alone. Many of the issues we face will require collaboration at some level to solve or even manage them.

In Finding Allies, Building Alliances, authors Mike Leavitt and Rich McKeown, state, “The ability to get things done with collaborative networks is the next generation in human productivity.” We need to be able to form and work with and through value alliances. Value alliances are “a group of participants with aligned interests in pursuing an outcome with value for each of them.” These alliances can last long enough to solve the issue they came together to solve or they can be ongoing as an alliance enterprise to oversee the solution to the problem.

But value alliances are not always easy. “Value alliances require that participants subordinate their egos, their agendas, their preferred styles, and their biases—not to mention their organizational agendas—in favor of a shared benefit.” Some people just don’t have the aptitude—the collaborative intelligence if you will—to work well with others. “People with high collaborative intelligence make an effort to understand the views and needs of others; they listen honestly, thoughtfully and objectively. They don’t lock into positions prematurely. While they may possess strong points of view, they make an effort to hear other perspectives and will adjust their points of view once convinced they need adjusting.”

The authors have had a lot of experience creating, working with, and successfully resolving problems through effective value alliances. They share the good and the bad and the lessons learned along the way. They answer why you form value alliances, the eight key elements required for a collaborative effort to succeed, how you select productive participants and how you deal with the inevitable issues that come up dealing with other people. Their case is well thought out and clearly presented.

From their experience they have discovered why some collaborative efforts have failed and why others have succeeded. From that background they detail the 8 elements required for a collaborative network to succeed:

1. A Common Pain is a shared problem that motivates different people/groups to work together in ways that could otherwise seem counterintuitive. Value alliances “exist at the intersection of self-interest and common interest.” We often become collaborators when we discover that we can solve a problem on our own. “Few people are willing to place themselves in a collaborative position of they have an alternative.” (As a side note, leaders, because of their position and the authority it brings them, usually have an alternative—my way or the highway. The best leaders collaborate anyway.)
Collaborations require time, money, and people. The collaborative process is more complex, slower, and messier than independent decision making. To be willing to give up a degree of independence and control, a given leader must believe the problem poses a serious threat to the enterprise.
2. A Convener of Stature is a respected and influential presence who can bring people to the table and, when necessary, keep them there. “The inability to turn down an offer is one sign that you’re dealing with a convener of stature.” The book lays out the roles and responsibilities of the convener.

3. Representatives of Substance. The collaborative participants must bring the right mix of experience and expertise for legitimacy and have the authority to make decisions. Look for participants who possess at least one and ideally all three varieties of substance: authoritative, cognitive, and reputational. Sometimes it is wise to create additional layers of participants beyond the primary or core group. “Omitting people from the collaboration often guarantees that they’ll become external critics or even saboteurs.”

4. Committed Leaders are individuals who possess the skill, creativity, dedication and tenacity to move an alliance forward even when it hits the inevitable rough patches. Value alliances require committed leaders who fulfill many of these ten roles: organizer, diplomat, technician, teacher, counselor, matchmaker, salesperson, referee, judge, and disciplinarian. “If committed leaders can consistently achieve consensus, they will move the alliance forward. Finding consensus is an art form that alliance leaders must master.”

5. A Clearly Defined Purpose is a driving idea that keeps people on task rather than being sidetracked by complexity, ambiguity and other distractions. It is important to identify and deal with purpose creep—“an inexorable broadening of scope that eventually makes it impossible to relieve the common pain that drew the group together in the first place.” The authors provide a step-by-step guide to creating a purpose in a collaborative setting. They advise, “find a golden mean: big enough to matter and small enough to do.” And add, “As a committed leader, you need to develop a sixth sense for when people are setting goals that are too difficult to achieve or too wide-ranging; you also need to grasp when you’ve shrunk the purpose to the point that its achievement won’t have any real impact.”

6. A Formal Charter establishes rules that help resolve differences and avoid stalemates. The three crucial parts of a charter are: the Purpose section, the Principles section, and the Operating Procedures.

7. The Northbound Train is an intuitive confidence that an alliance will get to its destination, achieve something of unique value, and that those who aren’t on board will be disadvantaged. The idea is, “decisions that matter to me are going to be made and I need to be there. The train is headed north and I want a seat on it.” They explain why a northbound train slows and what to do about it. “The feeling generated by a northbound train is what carries the collaboration to its destination.”

8. Defining Common Ground. “Participants and leaders need to discuss the beliefs and ideas that they take for granted in their collaborative efforts.” A Common Information Base keeps everyone in the loop and avoids divisive secrets and opaqueness. “Defining common standards boils down to the capacity of collaborators to reach foundational agreements.” People are coming from all different places with different values and beliefs, but to get to the point where there is a recommendation or decision that everyone can buy into, and to hold the collaboration together until that point is reached, “Agreement about operating modes and information protocols is necessary.”

Quote 
Finding Allies, Building Alliances brings clarity to an important topic. Collaborations are not easy. But it is the job of leadership. This book will help you to better understand the dynamics of collaboration. Interestingly, they explain why the Articles of Confederation could not work and why the United Sates Constitution does.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:43 AM
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09.23.13

8 Ways to Have a Successful Partnership

Leading Forum
This is a post by August Turak, author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity

In a marketplace gone global, productive partnerships are more crucial than ever. Partnering has become so critical that the word "coopetition" had to be coined to describe companies that partner in some areas while competing in others. Yet very few partnerships ever deliver on their symbiotic promise. Why?

The single biggest mistake we make in our partnership efforts is treating potential partners as if they were end users. While the interests of partners and end-users must overlap they are seldom if ever identical. Through many years of business experience, I learned some great lessons on what it takes to produce a successful partnership.
  1. Know your customer. In every potential partnership there are actually two customers, the partner and the end-user, and we must know them both. If you think you can sell a partner by merely "demoing" your wonderful product you have not grasped this essential point.
  2. Ask questions. There is no substitute for grass roots research. Don't figure it out. Get out there and find out by talking to your partner's customers and sales force.
  3. Beware of Magic Bullets. Getting executives into a room and hammering out a contract doesn't make a deal. Every partnership is like moving a stubborn mule. Corporate may push from behind, but there must be boots on the ground pulling on the harness from the front as well. This means priming the pump through joint sales calls and other marketing efforts.
  4. Think Small. Whenever possible, use a roll out rather than a blanket launch into a distribution network. Every cleaning solvent recommends trying it first on some inconspicuous place, and this applies to joint ventures as well. Not only will we uncover potential hitches but managing the critical buzz is much easier. Always remember that people talk and that first impressions are critical to making a deal successful.
  5. Get the Buzz Working for You. Military science teaches us to focus scarce resources at the critical spot. With partners focus on one district, a couple of offices, or even a couple sales reps. Flood the zone with whatever it takes until a clear cut victory has been won. This approach produces a proven template for future roll outs, and positive word of mouth will mean the rest of the distribution network will be awaiting their turn with eager anticipation rather than sullen resistance.
  6. Rely on Persuasion Not Coercion. Always remember that a heavy handed "push" from corporate headquarters often backfires. If for example, a sullen sales force refuses to sell your product, it will be your product not the sales force that your partner will blame. Winning hearts and minds upfront among the rank and file is much more effective than relying on diktats and quotas from corporate.
  7. Find a Hero. When a deal struggles both partners play the blame game. One blames poor salesmanship while the other blames the product. The easiest way to sidestep this situation is to find people to play "hero" during the initial roll-out and focus on them. Once these early adopters are moving product, others will not be able to blame anyone but themselves for missing targets. Besides, watching peers make money is far more motivating than a month of training and pep talks.
  8. Do Most of the Work. One time Walmart went shopping for sunglasses. The vendor with the best sunglasses at the lowest price didn't get the lucrative partnership. Instead it was the vendor who arrived at the meeting with their sunglasses already tagged and bar-coded to Walmart's spec. The glasses were already mounted on display cases custom designed to take advantage of some unused space the vendor had ferreted out from a typical Walmart floor plan. And the vagaries of inventory management, pricing, and product placement had already been solved by the vendor as well.
Our partners are busy people, and the more of their work we are willing to shoulder the more value we add and the more control we have over how our product is eventually positioned. With some planning and thoughtful engagement, you will find more success through strategic partnerships.

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Trappist Monks
August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, award winning writer and author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week, and is a popular leadership contributor at Forbes.com. His website is augustturak.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:41 PM
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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
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02.20.13

Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race

Leading Forum
The iconic Sydney to Hobart Race, a 723-mile deepwater challenge—often called the "Everest" of offshore ocean racing—is considered one of the toughest in the world. Unpredictable weather and seas make each race demanding, but in 1998, an unexpected "weather bomb" hit the fleet, creating 80-foot waves and 100-mile-per-hour winds.

Many bigger, better-equipped boats tried to maneuver around the storm, but the crew of the AFR Midnight Rambler chose to head directly into its path. After battling mountainous waves and hurricane-force winds in the Bass Strait, the tiny 35-foot boat arrived safely in Hobart, 3 days and 16 hours later—winning the coveted Tattersall’s Cup.


There are two central themes in Into the Storm. The first is the importance of exceptional teamwork in overcoming challenges at The Edge. The second is the value of distributed leadership—a team culture that allows every person to provide direction when he or she has expertise that will help the team succeed.

The story of the AFR Midnight Rambler exemplifies the power of exceptional teamwork and distributed leadership. But where does this leave a formal team leader—the skipper of a boat, the CEO of a corporation, the commanding officer of military unit, or the President of the United States, for that matter? Is there a unique role that he or she needs to play? I believe there are some critical things—some unique responsibilities—that fall to the skipper.

The leader needs to keep the team aligned.

The varied performance of boats in the Sydney to Hobart Race underscores the importance of having a coherent, unified team. Some boats, like the Midnight Rambler, demonstrated extraordinary cohesiveness even under the most terrifying, life-threatening conditions. At the other end of the alignment continuum, some crews were fragmented, with key team members at odds with each other—in a leadership vacuum.

Adrienne Cahalan, one the world's best navigators, has had a chance to observe the role of the leader in more than twenty-five years as a professional competitive sailor. She has been named Australian Yachtswoman of the Year twice—and has been nominated four times for World Yachtswoman of the Year.

Cahalan characterized the leader's role this way:

"Skippers need to keep the team focused. They need to keep an eye out to see if someone is wavering, or a faction developing. They need to have the skill to manage all the personalities, to bring them together and to get them working toward their common goal. Not everybody's perfect, so a good leader is able to deal with imperfections. And they need to be able to do it all under pressure."

Managing personalities and bringing people together can be challenging in any situation. But the pressure of a storm—or a tough business obstacle—calls for exceptional leadership.

The leader needs to demonstrate passion.

The leader's passion is a magnetic force that pulls other people in. Describing the impact of Ed's enthusiasm, one crewmember observed:

"What makes Ed an exceptional leader is his desire to win. He is committed to driving the boat as fast as it can go. And he can take risks because of his comfort and trust in the team."

No one who has ever sailed with Ed Psaltis has any doubt about his absolute, total commitment to winning. He is so passionate that his excitement sometimes needs to be offset -- by humor, or by the composure of others. But there is no mistaking the electric spark that comes from a leader who is excited to win. That enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a contagion that leads to victory.

The leader needs to instill optimism and confidence that the team will succeed.

Ed Psaltis and navigator Bob Thomas have a close relationship. They have complementary personalities, with Bob's cool demeanor balancing Ed's passion. Both Ed and Bob joined forces during the storm, and their combined leadership provided a reassuring presence for the crew. Crew member "Mix" Bencsik recalls:

"Their leadership played a large part in making sure that no one gave up. Ed and Bob constantly instilled optimism and confidence that we could handle the conditions, and that the crew had the ability to win."

While there was no question about Ed's formal role as skipper, Ed and Bob together reinforced a sense of unified leadership. And because of their close personal relationship, they were able to send a joint message of reassurance and optimism.

The leader needs to set an example.

Ed realizes that people are watching him, and he makes a conscious effort to set an example. Coming off his watch as helmsman, Ed will take a forward position on the rail. In this exposed position, he is subjected to the first onslaught of water and spray. It is cold and uncomfortable, but it is clear that Ed is not afraid to do his share.

Ed will also take his turn in "the bad bunk." It seems that every boat comes equipped with a berth that—for one reason or another—is undesirable. Nobody wants the bad bunk, but Ed makes sure that he takes his turn. He is sending a message.

Leaders need to set an example on a daily basis, but there are some moments that are different. There are times when leaders need to inspire others though fortitude, courage, and skill. One such moment came for Ed Psaltis in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race.

Mix Bencsik reflected:

"I've been through a lot of storms with Ed. Sitting on the side of the boat—wave spotting while he was helming -- was something that made me feel really proud. I thought, Here's a person who has my life completely in his hands. He was performing extraordinary feats of strength and seamanship, holding a 35-foot boat on the right course in those conditions."

"Ed was giving more than 110 percent. The well-being of the boat and crew were in his hands, and he didn't falter. It was an outstanding feat of seamanship. Even to this day, it's quite emotional to talk about. That was his finest moment."

Not every leader has the ability to steer a boat through a storm like Ed Psaltis. But there comes a time when every leader needs to be willing to step up and give "more than 110 percent." For every leader, there can be a finest moment.
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Into the Storm
Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race is by by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Jillian B. Murphy. Dennis N.T. Perkins is CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty and change. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DNTP Jillian B. Murphy is the director of client services at Syncretics. She works in the areas of leadership, executive coaching, and team effectiveness. Follow her on Twitter @jbmurf For more information please visit syncreticsgroup.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:44 PM
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11.26.12

The Four Leadership Traits of Highly Collaborative Leaders

Collaboration taps in to a broader pool of ideas. It maximizes the talents and abilities of your people. An inclusive culture is more flexible and adaptable. People are highly motivated, work harder and are more creative.

Collaboration
However, collaboration isn’t something you can put on. For it to work you have to believe in it. You can’t order it. Collaboration begins at the top. If leaders model it, others will too. Collaboration isn’t technique. It’s culture.

If a leader believes that everything rises and falls on their talent and ability, and resources are for their sole use, collaboration is DOA. Moreover, it severely limits the organization.

Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese report in The Collaboration Imperative, that there are four leadership traits of highly collaborative leaders:
  1. They focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness. Leaders do what they say they will do and don’t take disagreements personally.
  2. They relentlessly pursue transparent decision making. “There’s a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision-making process. When you’re open and transparent about the answers to three questions — who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real — people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made.” Being mysterious about decisions doesn’t make a leader more powerful. It is an illusion.
  3. They view resources as instruments of action, not as possessions. Collaboration is attainable only if you are willing to share resources as well. “The more transparent the environment, the more willing leaders will be to share resources in support of the shared goals of the entire business, and the harder it will be for resisters to hoard them.”
  4. They codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards. When collaborative behaviors are “codified into an end-to-end system across your organization, the greater the odds of collaboration succeeding when you’re not there to reinforce cultural norms. As you define the decision paths of your organization and build a common vocabulary to make those decision paths as transparent as possible, take the time to establish clear parameters. Who gets to make decisions? Are all decisions tied to funding? These are the types of questions to which everyone must know the answers.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:43 AM
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11.15.12

Resilience: How We Can Learn to Bounce Forward

Resilience
All of us will be tested from time to time on our ability to adapt—on our resilience.

The goal of resiliency is not necessarily to bounce back, but to bounce forward. It is the ability to maintain your purpose even while adapting your methods.

“If we cannot control the volatile tides of change, we can at least learn to build better boats,” write Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy in Resilience. “We can design—and redesign—organizations, institutions, and systems to better absorb disruption, operate under a wider variety of conditions, and shift more fluidly from one circumstance to the next.”

Resilience-thinking is not the same thing as being in a defensive mode. It’s engaging the world in a different way. They discuss tight feedback loops, dynamic reorganization, built-in countermechanisms, decoupling, diversity, modularity, simplicity, swarming, and clustering, as proactive ways to encourage resilience. They don’t give check-lists or quick fixes (indeed, there are none) so you’ll have to think about the ideas they offer. Most of the ideas are quite useful in principle on a personal level.

TRANSLATIONAL LEADERS

Interestingly—but not surprising—they found that resilient communities had a special type of leader: a translational leader. “These leaders demonstrated an uncanny ability to knit together different constituencies and institutions—brokering relationships and transactions across different levels of political, economic, and social organization.” They were leading from the middle out.
Translational leaders do not dispense with hierarchies; they recognize and respect their power. Instead, standing at the intersection of many constituencies, translational leaders knit together social networks that complement hierarchical power structures. Rooted in a spirit of respect and inclusion, these complementary connections ensure that when disruption strikes, all parts of the social system are invested, linked, and can talk to one another.
It sounds like they have a high degree of emotional intelligence or ego-control. That necessitates a leader that is reflective and operates from strength rather than weakness; a grounded mindful leader.

ADHOCRACY

Many of the lessons learned from the disruptions discussed in the book boil down to adhocracy, say the authors. Adhocracy is adaptive, creative, flexible and non-permanent organizational style. “In the digital age, an adhocracy can be put together in a plug-and-play, Lego-like way, well suited in fast-moving, fluid circumstances where you don’t know what you’ll need next. If it were a musical genre, adhocracy would be jazz.” (Robert Waterman on Adhocracy.)

They caution: “When systems are structurally overconnected … or when interventions are bureaucratically imposed on communities rather than developed with them, there is no space for adhocracy to germinate.” Of course formal organizations have a role to play. “But when we focus too strongly on them as the sole actors in response to a disruption, we don’t just ignore, but can actually smother the opportunities for these kinds of successful, improvisational approaches to emerge.”

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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
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08.08.12

Leadership by Choice

Leadership
Leadership is always a choice. In Leadership by Choice, author Eric Papp says it means “making a conscious choice to positively influence those around you by managing yourself and leading others in four areas: communication, leading teams, productivity, and personal development.”

Communication — How well do you listen, ask questions, and speak with influence? How many of our problems are caused by lack of listening?

We listen better to people we like, but we can learn to listen with liking to anyone. What prevents us from doing so is preconceived ideas and ideas that we have about someone. “Sometimes while listening to someone, thoughts flood your mind – “can this person do anything for me?” “I probably won’t like this person,” or “Who likes them anyway?” – influencing how you listen.” Listen with liking.

Leading Teams – How well do you establish trust, healthy conflict, and achieve results with others?

A culture of blame teaches people that they can avert their own responsibility by blaming others. “When you breed and teach a culture of no accountability, it’s very hard to reach anything above mediocrity.” Without accountability you can’t lead. Papp suggests five ways to hold yourself accountable: 1. Don’t overextend yourself; 2. Take action before you speak. Actions speak louder than words; 3. Have an accountability partner; 4. Chart your progress. Write down daily or weekly actions that chart your continual growth; 5. Aim for consistency, not perfection.

Productivity – How well do you spend your time and how focused are you?

You are responsible for being productive. Know where your time is going, plan the day before, focus on high-payoff items, and delegate for results and not the process. (Forcing someone to do things your way is not delegating for results. It makes for a very stressful environment and is also counterproductive.)

Personal Development – What are you doing to develop yourself?

Where do leaders find their inspiration? “When we retreat to silence, we tap into the inner calm that allows us to search for answers.” Lead with silence.

We must learn to deal with stress. Papp suggests that we enjoy silence, create a gratitude list, get your sleep and take naps, allow for mistakes, help someone (giving is a great stress reducer), and make a decision to enjoy life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:25 AM
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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
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04.18.12

Master the PRIMES

Primes
“Master the Primes and you can master leading groups,” says Chris McGoff. The Primes are 46 universal patterns of group behavior that show up every time people join up in groups to solve problems, drive change, and transform systems.

Faced with the need for transformative change, a leader’s ability to form and sustain effective groups is critical. The Primes will help you to understand the reasons behind what is blocking the progress of your group.

Each of the Primes that McGoff identifies challenges you to take a look at fundamental components of group dynamics by asking key questions. For example the Change versus Transformation Prime asks, “Are you fixing or creating?” The distinction between fixing or creating is important and requires a different approach. What kind of problem are you trying to solve? Fixing is about making a better, faster, cheaper past. Fixing involves corporate improvement programs like Activity Based Costing, Six Sigma and others.”These tools are effective when a better past is the desired outcome, but they’re dead weight in the business of transformation.” Creating is about transformation—imagination, declaration, invention, and innovation.

The Trust the Universe Prime asks, “Is your vision limited to what you have already seen?” This Prime is a mindset that understands that we don’t know what we don’t know and whatever we need to realize is out there in the future somewhere. But…“Trust in the Universe is a myth. It’s a required myth, an essential myth for any true leader, but a myth just the same. Embracing this Prime is the only real way to create transformative possibilities.” Importantly, McGoff adds, “Leaders understand that although Trust in the Universe promises no guarantees, it gives us the ability to imagine without limit and watch what shows up.”

The PrimesThe section on gaining a shared perspective asks questions like, “How do you help people to see the ‘whole thing’?” and “How do you help people to see the same ‘whole thing’?” The S-Curves Prime is recognizing that “every system has a time of ‘figuring it out,’ a period of growth, and then an inevitable collapse if no change is made. But there is hope: you can build a second curve before the first one goes down. However, you have to get the new curve started before the first one even begins to peak.” The question is, “Where are you on your current S-curve?

The Facts, Stories, and Beliefs Prime is the need to distinguish facts from stories from beliefs. There is one of each in the following sentences: “Our revenue was $50 million last year (FACT), and that is simply not enough (STORY). Marketing is inept (BELIEF).”

One of the last Primes discussed is an increasingly difficult one: A Clearing. How skilled are you at creating nothing? A clearing in your schedule, your office or meeting place, or your mind: a space where possibilities can exist.

The Primes leaves you with plenty to think about. Each concept is illustrated with “back-of-the-napkin” style illustrations, and explained with tangible examples. The Primes will show you where you can grow as a leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:03 PM
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04.12.12

The Essential Member You Need on Your Team: The Synergist

Synergist
In trying to understand the dynamics of team interactions, Les McKeown writes in The Synergist, that people tend to act primarily in one of three naturally occurring styles: the Visionary, the Operator or the Processor. (A free assessment is available online.)

The Visionary thinks big, generates creative ideas, and takes risks. They also become irritated by detail and can disengage easily when bored.

Operators get stuff done. They take the Visionary’s big idea and translate it into actionable tasks. They like to be left to work alone and will do whatever is necessary to complete the task they’re given, even if it means breaking a few rules.

Processors devise and monitor the systems and procedures necessary to enable an organization or enterprise to deliver consistent results in a complex environment. They think linearly and objectively, and are averse to undue risk.

The problem is that as stand-alone approaches they get in each other’s way because each achieve a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction in very different, often competing ways. Not surprisingly, teams (or any group of people trying to achieve something together) come to gridlock because fundamentally they have different motivations, different goals, and different perspectives. As a result, it’s just a matter of time until any group or team will implode, gridlock, or simply underperform.

Since the point of a team is to “pool the knowledge, experience, and skills of each individual member in order that they may together produce high-quality decisions on behalf of the enterprises as a whole,” another style must be introduced. That style or role is that of the Synergist.

The Synergist is not focused on their own way of doing things, but rather on what is best for the organization, team or group. This “helicopter view” gives them a better vantage point from which to interact with the team in a positive way. McKeown notes that “the Synergist is a style that anyone can emulate irrespective of their natural style. Any Visionary, Operator, or Processor can (and should) learn also to be a Synergist.”

The Synergist style isn’t persistent and intervenes with the team only at key moments to resolve conflict, choreograph the other style’s interactions, harmonize their output, and move them effectively on to their next topic or project.

McKeown’s explanation of each style is illuminating and might help explain why your team interacts the way it does and what can be done about it. In a chapter devoted to each he explains what the style is, how for work for one, how to work with one, and how to work as one.

Get your team to take the assessment and talk about the results. A lot can be accomplished if we add the Synergist to our individual styles instead of insisting that the world work just the way we see it.

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Moving beyond our own perspective can create unseen opportunities and forward movement. Learn the role of the Synergist and add it to your leadership style.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:04 PM
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03.22.12

5 Leadership Lessons: Leading Any Team to Success

5 Leadership Lessons

Fistitude is a fable about a basketball team at a small private high school that is struggling through a rough season. The coach must take a leave and it is up to the interim coach to try to turn things around.

Fistitude
Through Fistitude—each finger representing a success attitude—author Sean Glaze presents five lessons to build leaders and teamwork. Glaze illustrates that leadership is taking personal responsibility for what happens, holding yourself accountable and setting an example for others. Here, described in brief are five success attitudes:

1  Frustration is a symptom of higher aspirations. It’s a gift. It lets you know that you are wasting your time and need to change something. Millions of people just tread water day after day and year after year because they never decide on the paradise they want to row toward. Too many of your friends think they have to wait for something to happen to them—they think that they are supposed to graduate from school and go find themselves. And the truth is, you can’t find yourself. You create yourself. And you create yourself by choosing what island you will row to.

2  Words create your reality. Think about your mind as a fertile field. Every day, you plant seeds on that field—and those seeds are thoughts and those thoughts are the words and ideas that you choose to accept from yourself and others. Your life will be the harvest of the seeds you allow to grow there.

3  Nothing changes until you start something. Results aren’t determined by what you are capable of doing—they’re all about what you are willing to actually do. If you start doing something different, it will eventually inspire others to join you because they’ll see the change in you and want it for themselves.

4  You have to let others know you’re committed to something special and share your enthusiasm, your vision, your words, your plan of action. When you share your goals and dreams, two things happen. First, you begin to build support and gather enough talent and effort to make something happen that you could never accomplish by yourself, and second, you advertise everyone’s commitment to accomplishing the goal because you promise each other to row together.

5  Obstacles are sometimes put there to test us, to see how badly we want to fight for what lies behind them. When you try anything difficult, you will have to fail a few times before you become ready to achieve it. You will be tempted by convenience, by distractions, by criticism, and by doubt, but you must stay committed to what you began.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 AM
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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
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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.

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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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09.09.11

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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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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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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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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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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05.17.11

Do You Have a Virus in Your Group?

It’s not unusual to find in a group, a person that just doesn’t seem to fit in; someone we would rather do without. Often we find them irritating simply because they are coming from a different perspective—a different agenda—than the rest of the group. While this can be annoying, these people provide a very important service to the group. Consider the experience Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda relates in Redesigning Leadership:
Working in a group where there are considerable differences and disagreements can be a pain. When I was in my twenties I worked at a small foundation in Tokyo. There was one gentleman whom everyone disliked. I asked the director, a wise and esteemed scientist who cofounded one of the largest corporations in Japan, why he didn’t just fire the guy. He gave me a quizzical look, as if that would be idiotic, and then replied, “Well, we need him, because an organization is like the human body. It needs viruses like him so the body can learn how to survive and remain strong.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." In like manner, Maeda says that after he began speaking with “the virus” more often he began to see his unique value. He had a different background from the rest of the team and therefore brought a different perspective. His point of view helped him to avoid making certain kinds of errors.

When we understand the unique value each person brings to the group, we can learn to appreciate the friction that sometime arises—maybe even see it as the learning opportunity it is.

The German poet Heinrich Heine once remarked, “Great genius takes shape by contact with another great genius, but less by assimilation than by friction.” Maeda adds, “Learning is said to be most potent when ‘cognitive dissonance’ occurs. Said more simply, we learn best when we are wrong.” Cognitive differences can lead to progress, understanding and wisdom.

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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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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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04.25.11

Manage Through Ego and Conflict

Miracle on Ice
It was called the “Miracle on Ice.” On February 22, 1980 the U.S. Olympic hockey team did the unthinkable. They beat the unbeatable Russian team. But team goalie Jim Craig says is was not a miracle. It was the result of hard work and one of the “best demonstrations of team chemistry in sports history.” In Gold Medal Strategies, Craig illustrates that the principles that got them there in 1980 can be applied to any team.

Here Craig talks about an issue every team has to deal with—ego:

We weren’t big shots. We weren’t stars. If we were going to do something great we needed each other and had to do it together. We couldn’t afford to wallow in our differences to get laid low by towing egos.

We needed to manage through ego and conflict.

More great efforts have been undone by ego left unchecked and conflict not resolved than can ever be imagined. This negative energy brings down sports teams, companies, political campaigns, armies, and even societies and nations.

Gold Medal Strategies
But the thing is this—ego and conflict can be healthy if managed and controlled. When they are not controlled, they become a monster that eats your group from within.

Managed and controlled, ego and conflict are energy and a source of winning ideas and inspiration. Not managed and controlled, they cause people to fight each other, not the competition—and that is a formula for losing.

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Craig offers several strategies for managing ego and conflict like, finding a buffer or go-between, respect the role that each team member plays, respectfully agree to disagree, and be prepared to sacrifice for the good of the team.

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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

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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
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Management , Problem Solving , Teamwork

01.20.10

What Your Group Needs to Become Extraordinary

Extraordinary Groups
Why do most groups fall short of their potential and only a few groups become extraordinary? To find out Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan say we need to dig deeper into the wants, needs and motives that cause people to work together. They define an extraordinary group as one that “achieves outstanding results while members experience a profound shift in how they see their world.” They exhibit:
  • A compelling purpose that inspires and stretches members to make the group and its work a top priority
  • Shared leadership that encourages members to take mutual responsibility for helping the group be successful
  • Just-enough-structure to create confidence to move forward, but not so much as to become bureaucratic or burdensome
  • Full engagement that results in all members jumping in with enthusiasm, sometimes passionately and chaotically, regardless of role
  • Embracing differences so that group members see, value, and use their diversity as a strength
  • Unexpected learning that translates into personal and group growth
  • Strengthened relationships among members characterized by trust, collegiality, and friendship
  • Great results, tangible and intangible
In Extraordinary Groups, they present the Group Needs Model. Extraordinary groups experience a transformative shift “because the group experience satisfies core needs that members intuitively bring to any group they join.” The model identifies six core group needs forming three pairs:

Extraordinary Groups Model
  1. The Individual: Acceptance of self (knowing and accepting ourselves for who we are) while moving toward one's Potential (sensing and growing into our fuller and better selves)
  2. The Group: A Bond with others (our shared sense of identity and belonging) that grows while pursuing a common Purpose (the reason we come together)
  3. The World: Understanding the Reality of the world (understanding and accepting the world as it is and how it affects us) while collectively making an Impact (our intention to make a difference and our readiness to act)
When two or more of these needs are experienced you are likely to describe the group experience as memorable. While it might seem to happen by chance, it's a choice. Any member of a group, aware of these needs as expressed in a group setting, can take the steps necessary to move that group to a more transformative, extraordinary experience. Meeting these core human needs is accomplished best in small groups (2 to 20 people).

To accomplish this, you want to be a facilitative leader as opposed to a directive leader. With the group needs model in mind, the authors suggest that you “stand back from your group to consider the individual members, their collective purpose, and the world in which they operate” and ask “How might this group experience meet those needs?” Then consider the eight indicators of extraordinary groups (listed above) to see if they are present. Do members of the group seem energized, hopeful, connected and positively changed?

A group leader needs to frame an inspiring purpose, lead with a light touch, keep the issues discussable, manage the world around the group acting as a buffer and facilitator, make sure the right people are on the team (those people with the knowledge, skills, or experience to tackle the group’s purpose), and integrate the Groups Model into their approach. Ask yourself questions like: “How will this meeting meet the needs of acceptance and potential, bond and purpose, reality and impact?” “Where and how can we use our differences as a group strength?” “Is there enough room in the agenda so that members have time for those more in-depth and sometimes complex conversations?”

Extraordinary Groups offers practical advice on implementing the Groups Model into your own group situation. All of the suggestions offered are accompanied by examples, reflection questions and sample actions for both you and the group. By paying attention to group needs you can more consistently transform ordinary groups into something more energizing, connecting and affirming.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1) | Teamwork

12.07.09

Got Wingmen? Never Fly Solo

Got Wingmen
Air Force fighter pilot Rob “Waldo” Waldman learned how to overcome fear, anxiety, and self-doubt to fly combat missions that pushed him to his limits by disciplined training and the help of his wingmen. Wingmen are people with different backgrounds, skills, and experiences unified under one agreement—to never think or act alone.

A wingman watches your back. In Never Fly Solo, Waldo threads real world experiences to encourage the development of a check-six culture. Check-six refers to the six o’clock position where the jet is most vulnerable—the pilot’s blind spot.

Waldo says, “There is a limit to how much you can learn on your own. A good wingman will give you mission-critical feedback, catch your errors, ask questions, and propose challenging scenarios to push you to grow in your skills and mental discipline.” Encouraging others to look out for our blind spots requires a great deal of mutual trust. “These trusted partners, male or female, are your wingmen.”

Of course, this means first, not being afraid to acknowledge that you need help and then being able to ask for it. This is all the more difficult if you haven’t built trust in yourself and invested the time to build trusting relationships with others. You’ve got to “walk the flight line.” Get out and build relationships with those people you work with—treating each other as people first and coworkers second. “It’s the relationships we build and the people whom we trust that give us the courage to take risks and make ourselves better.”

Never Fly Solo
By being willing to say, “I don’t know,” or “I messed up,” we create a transparency that will attract others to us and “create the type of environment where people won’t be afraid to make mistakes. They will also be more likely to check your six as well.”

Additionally, we have to keep our “radar sweeping for a wingman, coworker, or peer who may be experiencing a challenging time in her life. Don’t let her get isolated.” Be supportive and find her some help if necessary.” It is the worker that keeps to themselves—trying to fly solo—that check out, become unmotivated, complacent and careless. “Never feeling invested in the company’s mission, they do the minimum, and everyone suffers.”

In today’s environment, communication, feedback, and mutual support are critical Waldo says because:
  • Human beings make mistakes.
  • We each have a limited perspective.
  • We operate in stressful environments that lead to tunnel vision and task saturation.
  • Most professionals undervalue communication and teamwork.
  • Faulty communication can kill a mission as well as a relationship.
  • Errors increase when there is no definable set of teamwork standards and skills.
“An effective check-six environment frees up communication and removes barriers to growth, so that all members of the team feel empowered to speak up and ask questions.” It also builds team confidence.

We all need wingmen and the best way to find a wingman is to be one!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:29 AM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork

11.09.09

Building Teams that Capitalize on the Innate Creativity of Everyone on the Team

  • Do you think there is untapped talent and unspoken knowledge on your team?
  • How much of your team’s energy is wasted with irrelevant, personality-based infighting?
  • Do your team members hold themselves accountable for living up to their commitments?
  • Which department does your team have the greatest conflict with?
  • Do you see the spark of creativity going on around you, perhaps that others aren’t seeing . . . yet?
Leadership
Everyone has the ability to be original—to do something no one else would think of—to be creative. Many of us downplay our creative ability or find ourselves in an environment where our contribution isn’t valued as it should be.

“A lone firefly—like the lone genius—does not ignite the imagination of others,” writes Kimberly Douglas in The Firefly Effect. “It takes the brilliant light of many, and the creative effort of the entire team, to truly spark innovation with impact.” The job of the leader is to “create a safe environment in which every member of the team can knowingly and proudly claim those differences, and apply them in an optimal way to achieve the goals of the team.” The leader must provide the processes that will allow every other member of the team to see each other in this new light.

These differences can create heat. “Fireflies know how to shine without creating heat—without wasting energy on unnecessary conflict.” Differences should compel us to look at individual differences more creatively. The team’s focus is key. “One of the most important things that a leader can do is keep the team focused on the real competition; those who exist outside the walls of the organization…. Making this the focus keeps people from clashing within the group. When this focus is lost, infighting and bickering among the team members thrives.” This means learning to communicate more and better. It means learning to view conflict in a new way; not as a destructive, inevitable evil, but rather as a constructive source of creative abrasion.

The Firefly Effect is about releasing that spark of creativity that exists inside all of us and channeling it in a productive way. Douglas provides down-to-earth, tested and practical methods for inspiring your team and leveraging their innate abilities. She shows how you and your team can capitalize on what is right about the people on the team.

The Firefly Effect is a changed mindset about working with others. It is a dynamic that is on display anytime you see children chase fireflies.
  • Few children chase fireflies alone. The excitement comes from the sharing of effort and results with others.
  • Everyone is clear on what the goal is—to catch fireflies—and enthusiasm remains high, because their target is so well understood and so simple.
  • Each individual knows his or her task. No one needs—or wants—a dictating leader. (See chapter 13: What to Do if the Leader is Keeping Too Tight a Lid on the Jar?)
  • Children do not criticize one another on a good firefly hunt. Everyone is clearly giving his or her best effort.
  • The group eagerly seeks out new and better ways to realize a successful result.
  • In the end, there is joy in what they accomplished together.
Douglas provides much to think about and implement:
Two key components drive powerful teams: where they’re going and how they’re going to work together to get there. The answers to these questions are inextricably tied. It simple means asking, you want to capitalize on team members’ unique differences to what end? You want to promote creativity and innovation targeted toward which business objectives, problems, or opportunities?

The team leader’s job is to create the fertile environment and clarify the landscape so that everyone knows what is important. Set the stage for the team’s success, and make effective functioning a priority. People can then make their own decisions—from compliance to commitment, from forced effort to discretionary effort—based on the best possible information that you can give them.

You tend to have a very different perspective from the top—directing the change happening to those below you—then when you are the person to whom this change is being made. Your role as the leader is to…help them see your perspective and perceive how these seemingly disparate projects and initiatives all fit under the large umbrella of a critical new strategic direction. Without this common understanding, you lose the power of their coordinated, focused efforts.
In the end, Douglas illuminates the idea that “a single person has a substantial amount of power to truly make a difference in an organization by first believing in something, and then taking action on it.” That’s leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 AM
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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
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Human Resources , Management , Motivation , Positive Leadership , Teamwork

06.15.09

The Disease of Me

"The force of selfishness is as inevitable and as calculable as the force of gravitation"
—Hailliard
The Winner Within
Pat Riley argues that whether we know it or not, all of us are team players and it is through the team that we find significance. Yet the team can be undermined by the Disease of Me. In The Winner Within, he describes it as the overpowering belief in the importance of oneself. “The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they’re part of the team is to sacrifice. It is so easy to become selfish in a team environment.” The Disease of Me is ever present, but it can be anticipated and overcome. Riley lists the following symptoms of the disease:
  • Inexperience in dealing with sudden success
  • Chronic feelings of underappreciation
  • Paranoia over being cheated out of one's rightful share
  • Resentment against the competence of partners
  • Personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate
  • A leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries
  • Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully
Riley cautions, “Without that sacrifice, you’ll never know your team’s potential, or your own.”

What about the teams in your life? Are they due for a checkup?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:11 AM
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06.08.09

Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way

Ron Karr
Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way by Ron Karr provides more evidence that leadership isn’t just about a few titled people at the top. It is a choice to think differently. Leadership is a choice to think differently about anything you do. Selling is no exception and is closely linked to the functions of a leader. Leadership is not always about people we “lead” in the conventional sense, but is frequently about people we must influence. Karr writes, “Whether you sell a product, a service, or an idea, you must be able to influence other people as leaders do.”

It begins with being able to and understanding the need to engage others in continuous strategic conversations as part of the normal way of doing things—a process Karr has termed Integrated Dialogue. Integrated dialogue is a conversation of shared purpose that draws people out “to create a powerful relationship, one that identifies whole new zones of mutual opportunity, addresses far-ranging issues, and positions you as an invaluable resource: a leader.”

As with all leaders, sales people too will succeed when they fully appreciate the many relationships inherent in their success. Sales leaders lead a whole cast of people in their own organizations from the customer service, tech people to accounting and senior management. In addition they lead not only their customer or end user but also many points of contact in their customer’s organization that are likely to have some input on the buying decision like operations, accounting, purchasing and senior management. Gone are the days where everything filters through the salesperson. “Your success as a salesperson depends on your ability to build and sustain coalitions both inside and outside your organization. You must create and lead the coalition, no matter what you are selling.” This will resonate with any leader:
Your job is to manage multiple constituencies and alliances, and to use those alliances to identify new and better ways of generating the desired results. Your job is to do what most salespeople don’t do: lead the conversation with your prospects and customers about the results they need, the problems they have, and the obstacles they face.

To make this happen you must possess and develop the belief that you have everything you need and can build on that, the belief that you can improve any area of your life, everything is possible, preparation maximizes your potential, and your customers—the people you need to influence—come first.

After laying the groundwork, Karr defines and explains the seven traits that great sales leaders share:
  • Visualize: Begin with the end in mind
  • Position: First impressions lay the foundation for the entire relationship
  • Build Alliances: They reach out; sales leaders leverage their influence
  • Ask Good Questions: Sales leaders ask powerful questions that uncover opportunities to enhance customer outcomes and results
  • Create Powerful Value Propositions: They create and deliver a powerful value proposition based on a simple formula that is based on both tangible and intangible incentives that motivate buyers to take action
  • Communicate Persuasively: They inspire action in others by delivering messages that are congruent with the larger purpose
  • Hold Themselves Accountable: Personal accountability matters. People are accountable to other people—not organizations
Karr demonstrates how to move from task-oriented selling (which is what most salespeople do) to purpose-oriented selling. These principles are worth bearing in mind on a personal development level as well. Karr encourages, “The bottom line is that you have the ability to increase your sphere of influence and sales just by the way you act toward those you are trying to influence.” Change your conversations, change your outcomes. Leaders in any field will find much here to assimilate into their daily activities. Read it and grow.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:15 AM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Communication , General Business , Marketing , Personal Development , Teamwork

06.04.09

Are You Dealing With Insecurity?

Building Your Leadership Resume
We all harbor some insecurity; even if it’s just trying to hide the fact that we do. But it is not something we can ignore. Too much insecurity can cripple our leadership and anyone we lead.

In Building Your Leadership Resume, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor Johnny Hunt outlines nine characteristics of an insecure leader:

•  An insecure leader has a hard time giving credit to others. “Why should praise seem like an unrecoverable cost? It is a gift that gives back to everyone.”

•  An insecure leader keeps information from his staff. “When you release information, you convey trust and confidence to others. When you conceal it, you convey just the opposite: no trust, no confidence.”

•  An insecure leader doesn’t want his staff exposed to other leaders—people who may possess qualities you don’t, people who may have skills your staff wishes you had. “When one person grows the whole team grows….Give your people the best—even better than you are.”

•  An insecure leader is often a micromanager. “He’s a control freak.” Nothing can happen that they are not fully aware of. They fear things will fall apart without them. This kind of oppressive control can wring the life out of your team.

•  Insecure leaders are too needy of praise. “For this reason, more than perhaps any other, they can’t really be leaders. When someone needs his followers to always be telling him how wonderful he is, he works in direct opposition to the heartbeat of leadership, which is: building into other’s lives.”

•  Insecure leaders don’t provide security for those they lead. “If the mood and environment in the office is one of fear, second-guessing, and self-doubt, you can be sure an insecure leader is in charge.”

•  Insecure leaders take more than they give. Instead of validating and encouraging others, they are focused on receiving it.

•  Insecure leaders limit their best leaders. “Insecure leaders cannot genuinely celebrate the victories won by others.”

•  Insecure leaders limit their organization. “Not only does insecurity throttle down the horsepower of individual team members; it results in putting restraints on the whole church or organization.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:37 AM
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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
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Teamwork

05.13.09

5 Leadership Lessons: Amp Your Team, Rock Your Business

5 Leadership Lessons
If you were alive in the 70s, you no doubt will remember the band 38 Special (i.e., Caught Up in You and Hold on Loosely). In Jam! by Jeff Carlisi, Dan Lipson and Jay Busbee, 38 Special founding member Carlisi has culled the lessons in teamwork and leadership from his two decades with the band. Businesses and rock bands share a lot of the same issues. “Both require the right mix of marquee names and supporting cast. And both can suffer more from success than they can from failure.”

1  Whenever you find yourself part of a new team, Carlisi says you should be asking yourself these questions:
What’s my role in this group?
What do I bring to the group that no one else can?
How am I contributing to (or detracting from) the success of the group?
How much responsibility will I have in keeping the group afloat?
Which of my teammates can I learn from, and what can I learn?

2  Your career will take a downturn. There’s no way around it. So prepare for that downturn by surrounding yourself with the smartest and most effective support team possible. They’ll pick you up when your down and help you find a way out when you’re lost.

3  It’s OK to be small but if you’re got bigger dreams, you’ve got to understand what’s necessary to achieve them. We knew we needed a change. We needed to stop following in the footsteps of our forefathers. Everything we were trying to do had already been done by people who were much, much better at it than we were. What’s the point of trying to do something when you’re only 50 or 75 percent as good as the best? Why not break out and be the best in your own field?

Jam
4  The criticism isn’t the end product; improvement is. All too often, criticism is its own end, giving someone a chance to vent frustrations without thinking of the long-term consequences or opportunities. But the idea with criticism is (or at least should be) helping to improve everyone’s game so that the entire team is working at a higher level. “You were terrible!” is useless, damaging criticism. “You were terrible, but here’s what you can do to improve” may not be the most effective approach, but it’s at least got that component of advice. “This could be better, and here’s how,” is a less blaming, more constructive approach.

5  Times change and tastes change with them. You’ve got to accept that fact going into any endeavor … so do everything you can to prepare for them. Your work is a large chunk of your identity. And when it goes, a large chunk of your self goes with it. There’s no way to prevent that, but you can start searching around to make connections between what you’ve done before and what you could be doing next. Eventually something will click for you, and when it does, you’ll find it every bit as rewarding as your previous career.

* * *

Related Interest: Sex, Leadership And Rock N' Roll: Leadership Lessons from the Academy of Rock by Peter Cook Cook cites Sydney Pollack on authenticity:
You go to leadership school, and try to pitch your voice the same way that the boss did there, and have your office decorated the same way his is, and that’s not real leadership. Real leadership probably has more to do with recognizing your own uniqueness than it does with identifying your similarities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:38 PM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Teamwork

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
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Management , Teamwork

01.22.09

What to Look for in a Team of Advisors

In 1976, Stephen Hess wrote in Organizing the Presidency that in choosing Cabinet members, while the notion of a Cabinet “type” can be overdrawn, there are qualities that the President should look for in public executives.

Persuasiveness. “This is necessary in large, hierarchical organizations where leaders have limited control over personnel and where the tug of inertia may be considerable.”

Personal stability. “This calls for a sturdy internal gyroscope, stamina, and the ability to work under pressure.

Broad-gauged intelligence. “…ability to conceptualize, to see the policy implications and consequences of their actions.”

Flexibility. “They must do so without losing site of the President’s ultimate goals.”

A sense of duty. “Unlike the President and members of Congress, they are not elected. This means, paradoxically, that they must have an even sharper sense of responsibility than an elected official.”

A thick skin. They “should be lightning rods for public unhappiness and, if they are doing their jobs properly, they will deflect from the President as much criticism as possible.”

Patience and impatience. They must be able to “deal with endless procedures,” hearings and meetings and yet at the same time they “must prod their subordinates to do better and must use their impatience with the status quo as a constructive tool of management.”

These qualities might well be considered when looking for any team of advisors.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:28 AM
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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
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Management , Teamwork

01.06.09

Strengths Based Leadership

The fact is, many leaders do not really know their strengths. Not only does this lack of self-awareness bring about unintended consequences to one’s behavior, but also it can lead to disengaged employees and undue stress in the workplace and beyond. Donald Clifton remarked:
What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.
Strengths-Based Leadership
In Strengths Based Leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie present a new leadership version of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. (An access code is included with the book so you can take the new assessment online.) The assessment is design to help you see how your top five strengths fit into their newly identified four domains of leadership strengths: Executing strengths, Influencing Strengths, Relationship Building strengths and Strategic Thinking strengths. You will find that this knowledge is useful in creating well-rounded teams. As they note, "Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be."

Unique to this book, is a study of 10,000 followers. When they asked them why they followed, four basic wants and needs emerged: trust, compassion, stability and hope. Once you have identified your strengths, they will give you specific suggestions for meeting those needs.

The idea of strengths based leadership is not to ignore your weaknesses as some have mistakenly misunderstood. But the emphasis for any leader should be a deep understanding of what they bring to the table and not trying to be something they are not. Rath and Conchie write:
The most effective leaders know better than to try to be someone they are not. Whenever they spot an opportunity, they reinvest in their strengths…. Leaders stay true to who they are – and then make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage in the long run to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
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03.07.08

Inspiring the Will of the Team

General W. Wallace
Earlier this year, General William S. Wallace, Commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, delivered a speech to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Coaches Academy Breakfast in San Antonio, Texas. He spoke about the influence that leaders and coaches have on the teams they lead. Here are a few excerpts:

The ability to inspire and make a difference in a young person’s life is an awesome responsibility. Good coaching brings out the very best in both players and coaches. Coaches, like Army Drill Sergeants, teach a lot more than just skills and tactics, they teach determination, discipline, and character, both in and out of uniform.

Coaches and military commanders face a similar prospect; how do you develop and maintain a winning organization year in and year out, when the capabilities and competence of your “bench” and the cohesion of your unit are constantly in flux?

To develop formative training and innovative leaders you have to instill a “Warrior’s Spirit” in your players. And to cultivate a “Warrior’s Spirit”, you must first establish the core identity, direction and doctrine for your organization.

But the development of a “Warrior Ethos” is not a goal line or battlefield revelation.

It is a principled work ethic that builds mental stamina as well as physical prowess. Coaching character is as much, if not more, about the will of the coach as it is about the will and the work of the athlete. The “will of the Coach”, I like that. It emphasizes that the onus for results resides with the one who leads, who teaches, and who sets standards for the unit.

As combat and football are both human endeavors, there exist some very real and decisive elements to these contests of wills that dramatically affect their conduct and outcome. “Shifts in momentum,” “seizing the initiative,” “fan base and fanaticism,” “national will,” “officiating,” “media bias,” “play making,” “pressure,” “injuries” and “leadership;” are all indisputable and unpredictable aspects of these activities.

How do you develop that elusive “something” that soldiers and players draw on at “crunch time?” It is the character of the leader and the character of the organization that inspires loyalty across the formation, musters the reserves and evokes a “Warrior’s Ethos:”
  • I will always place the mission first
  • I will never accept defeat
  • I will never quit
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade
Coaching character is about demonstrating and developing the internal fortitude, mental toughness, confidence and conviction that only comes through shared goals, shared pain, shared fortune and shared values. Stirring the warrior’s spirit is an all or nothing proposition. You can’t half-step Trust or Integrity.

In football as in combat—to win the day, you’ve got to win the moment, and when that moment arrives it’s the character of the man, the character of the team and the character of the coach that will decide the contest.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:16 PM
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12.21.07

Lou Holtz on Bringing a Team Together

People want meaning and purpose in their work. The leader’s job is to create that meaning. Show them their part in it and its effect on them. Lou Holtz, University of Notre Dame Football coach and one of the top 15 winningest coaches in college football history, used to tell his freshmen players in their first meeting, “Gentlemen, in the comic strip Pogo, there was a character who once said, ‘The solution is obvious, either we become them or they become us.’ I can assure everyone in this room that we are not going to become you. You must become Notre Dame.

"I want you to learn everything we do at Notre Dame, how we do it, why we do it. It’s important that you learn our methods now so that when you become juniors or seniors you can provide the proper leadership for our younger players. That is essential if we are to enjoy continued success. We did not recruit you to change the University of Notre Dame but to conform to the morals and values of this great institution. You won’t change Notre Dame, but Notre Dame is going to change you.”

Holtz reflected that his speech “was establishing a standard, setting a tone from day one. We have all see many great companies and schools fail to pass on their rich traditions to the next generation. They are shortchanging their people. We gave our players something to live up to and few of them ever disappointed us. If your organization or team is performing poorly, perhaps it’s because you don’t ask enough of your people. Never be afraid to demand excellence. But remember, the standards you establish for others must reflect the standards you set for yourself. No one will follow a hypocrite.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:08 AM
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11.26.07

5 Leadership Lessons: James M. Kilts on Building the Right Team

5 Leadership Lessons

In his instructive memoir Doing What Matters, James Kilts gives credit to his team for the turnaround he engineered at Gillette. Picking the right people is key to the success of any team. Here are some of his thoughts on building the right team.

1  Effort is the price of admission. Everyone has to work hard, usually very hard. But if that effort doesn’t turn into results, something is wrong. Perhaps with the objectives or targets that were set. Or with the actions being pursued. Or maybe with the person involved. Whatever it is, effort without results indicates a problem that must be addressed.

2  Former Kraft CEO Mike Miles said, “We had a rule at Kraft that we were not going to hire any self-centered jerks.” Mime believes that there are enough smart people in the world so “you could pass up the smart jerks and wait for a smart, nice person to come through the door. If you did that you would have a society or culture . . . where people enjoyed their cohorts, [and] where they looked forward to coming to work every day.”

3  Weed out bad actors. Often, these were self-absorbed people who wanted to run a fiefdom in which their word was unquestioned. They were self-promoters who had no interest in developing people their people or working for corporate goals. Meeting individual targets and achieving personal self-fulfillment defined their efforts.

4  I especially like battle-tested managers. People who have had an easy road through there career and never ran into a tough business situation can be unreliable and unpredictable. If you observe someone when they are going through a difficult business situation, you learn a lot. You know if they can keep their composure, think clearly, and deliver the facts, honestly and with transparency, regardless of how bad the news.

5  The team aspect of leadership cannot be overstated. The team must be committed to the leader, but even more important, the leader must be committed to the team and to goals that go beyond your own self interest. You must believe in and be committed to the corporate objectives, to organizational goals, and you must give them a top priority.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:46 AM
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07.16.07

Making Your Team Swing

Wynton Marsalis
World renown Jazz artist, Wynton Marsalis, has some profound things to say about business and relationships that are worth reviewing. Earlier this year, USA Today's Del Jones interviewed Wynton Marsalis about principles found in both jazz and business.

Marsalis told USA Today, “When you listen to great jazz musicians, you hear the respect they have for each other's abilities. During a performance, most of the musicians' time is spent listening to others. You see the trust they have for each other because they are always making adjustments and improvising based on what someone else does.”

Marsalis acknowledges that trust and listening to others goes hand-in-hand, but he brought up another important point that I think applies to any functioning organization or relationship. He points to the mindset of being aware of what others are doing and making adjustments for them in what you are doing, for the sake of the whole group. It’s not pointing fingers and affixing blame. It’s being so tuned-in to others that you can absorb their mistakes and they can absorb yours without missing a beat. He calls it “swing.” Here is more on that concept:
Swing is a rhythm, an era in American history, and it is a world view. In this world view, there is a belief in the power of a collective ability to absorb mediocre and poor decisions. When a group of people working together trust that all are concerned for the common good, then they continue to be in sync no matter what happens. That is swing. It's the feeling that our way is more important than my way. This philosophy extends to how to treat audiences, consumers, staff or dysfunctional families. This may seem idealistic, but think about how church congregations recite, nearly together and completely unrehearsed. They proceed by feel. Swing is the single objective. It is the core that makes us all want to work together.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:05 AM
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07.04.07

All Team Members Should Be Leaders

British Rugby team England, has enlisted the help of the Royal Marines in Dorset to develop the leadership necessary to create a winning team. Brian Ashton, the head coach is making use of outside consultants too, to bring this team together.

England Rugby
The Times Online reported today that head coach Brian Ashton said “he had been surprised by some of the players in the 45-strong squad whose leadership ability has shone through over the past ten days. He suggested that this was, in part, because they had not previously been encouraged to operate as leaders, which seems an implicit criticism of the previous coaching regime. ‘It’s not about calling lineouts and running back moves,’ Ashton said. ‘It’s the ability to decide what to do when things are going wrong and make them go right.

It points to the fact that every member of a team needs to operate as a leader, whether they are the point leader or not. An effective team leader will be make sure that all aspects of a task are being covered and that they are coordinating without being dictatorial. This requires a lot of give and take. Additionally it is important that all members of a team know what everyone else is doing so that they can adjust and align themselves to the problems that any other team member may be facing.

The article continues. “’You need to pull players together, put them in a hostile and uncomfortable environment where they must work together to be successful, and they have done that.’ Some of the exercises designed by the Marines involved sensory deprivation, testing the ability to make decisions in extremes of tiredness….’This is the first time this group of players has been fit and available and the process of bonding as a group has been accelerated,’” Ashton said.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:13 AM
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06.26.07

Newswire: The Science of Team Success

NewsWire
    Steve W. J. Kozlowski and Daniel R. Ilgen write that “Given the centrality of work teams, it is more than a bit remarkable how much our society's perspective is focused on the individual. We school our children as individuals. We hire, train and reward employees as individuals. Yet we have great faith that individuals thrown into a team that has been put together with little thought devoted to its composition, training, development and leadership will be effective and successful. Science strongly suggests otherwise.”

“What team members think, feel and do provide strong predictors of team success—and these factors also suggest ways to design, train and lead teams to help them work even better.” They suggest that before we even get started, it would be prudent to ask whether or not a team is what is called for in the first place. Sometimes the work can be done more easily and effectively by an individual.

Their evidence indicates that while practical steps can be taken to improve the performance of teams, it rarely is. Leaders can play a crucial role in developing group skills. For example: "Prior to action, for example, the leader can help set team learning goals commensurate with current team capabilities. During action, the leader monitors team performance (and intervenes as necessary). As the team disengages from action, the leader diagnoses performance deficiencies and guides process feedback. This cycle repeats, and the complexity of learning goals increases incrementally as team skills accumulate and develop. This kind of feedback loop has been shown to reliably improve team thinking and performance."

Read the full article in the June/July 2007 Scientific American Mind or online at: The Science of Team Success by Steve W. J. Kozlowski and Daniel R. Ilgen

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:09 AM
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