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LeadershipNow 140: March 2009 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from March 2009:
  • Engagement issues? First, forget the idea that emerging leaders must conform to the existing culture. Respect it? Absolutely.
  • A lack of creativity in an org may not be the employees; it’s more likely it’s the org itself. Does your org suffocate ideas?
  • Managing the mood is crucial: Tough trading conditions like these test character as much as business acumen. tinyurl.com/dgaxuy
  • Life Lesson: The more you help other people with their hurts, the easier it is to handle your own. ~ Scott McKain
  • Jac Fitz-enz: Not only is a “best practice” subjective – it’s transitory.
  • Humility: Understanding the danger of being educated beyond your intelligence.
  • Steve McKee said, "You can cut your way to survival but not success."
  • Growing people requires that we reinforce improvements along the way - before they've "made" it. Don't wait.
  • At work or at home, the more support you build into the system, the faster you can grow people.
  • Lack of accountability paves the way to mediocrity.
  • Atlas Shrugged is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history. ow.ly/Vgd and ow.ly/Vgg
  • FT: “Timidity, confusion and populism have been the enemies of effective action.”
  • This makes a good case for not criticizing others. tinyurl.com/covj5n
  • Diplomatic Gifts: It's only natural that Obama's eye drifts to the discount bin at the video store. ow.ly/Tqy
  • “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who still undecided.” -Casey Stengel
  • T Jeary: "If you are the first person to see that something needs to be done, you are probably the best person to do it."
  • Focus found in ability to boclk out all things we don't like about ystrdy & things we worry about tomorrow & do next correct thing we need to do today
  • FT: “The great mistake was to rely merely on self-interest in - as imperfect and as important a market as - the financial sector.”
  • “Business television makes the crisis feel like it has the tempo of a videogame. But this isn’t Wii Economy. It is plate tectonics.” WSJ
  • Building self-confidence is the starting point for unlocking the potential of yourself and others.
  • 2008 Bestsellers Fiction: The Appeal by Grisham / The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by Wrobleski / The Host by Meyer / Cross Country by Patterson
  • 2008 Bestsellers Non-Fic: Last Lecture by Pausch / Purpose of Christmas by Warren / You: Being Beautiful by Roizen & Oz / Outliers by Gladwell
See more on twitter Twitter.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:39 PM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


Emotional Intelligence – How To Get It

Emotional Capitalists
Corporate psychologist Martyn Newman says that “being intelligent about your emotions is critical to your success as a leader. If leadership is ultimately the art of accomplishing extraordinary things through ordinary people, then building emotional capital is how you achieve it.”

Competence will only get you so far. You need emotional intelligence to implement your ideas. In his book Emotional Capitalists, he writes that today’s leaders must focus on emotional capital. That is, “the energy, the enthusiasm and commitment in the hearts of everyone connected with the business.”

The idea of emotional intelligence was popularized by Daniel Goleman and it is given form in this EI toolkit. Newman offers practical guidance to how it is developed and applied.

He categorizes the emotional intelligence of effective leaders into five broad components: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Social skills and Adaptability. These are skills that can be developed by anyone motivated to do so. There are ten competencies associated with these components, but there are seven that he has isolated that he has found to absolutely essential for leaders to focus on. They are:

Self-Reliance: “Being self-reliant does not mean that you just go out and do your own thing. It means being secure enough in yourself to turn to others and take into account different points of view while regarding yourself as finally responsible for working out what has to be said or done.”

Assertiveness: It’s not about being aggressive or passive but it’s about “being able to communicate your message honestly and directly, while respecting the fact that others may hold a different opinion or expectation.” It requires clear communications and self-control.

Optimism: “Individuals and organizations who view their setbacks in the context of progress are much more likely to continue in their efforts towards success.”

Self-Actualization: This is the power behind sustained high performance. Passion. “Passion is an emotional competency you can develop by focusing your attention on your discontent – what you are unhappy with or what you’d like to do better – and then cultivating a vision of how things could be different.”

Self-Confidence: “Solid self-confidence is important because it is the platform that supports your ability to respond actively and positively to value-creating opportunities.” Building self-confidence is the starting point for unlocking the potential of yourself and others.

Relationship Skills: “Why would you want to perform at your best when you don’t feel leadership is genuinely interested in you as a person?”

Empathy: It is about “demonstrating that you can see the world from another person’s point of view.”

Newman shows how you can develop each of these competencies and how you can deal with some of the toxic behaviors and thinking that you may have acquired over the years. It is a very helpful book that also offers readers an opportunity to take the Emotional Capital Inventory to measure your personal level of emotional capital. Check it out!

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Practical Intelligence
While we are on the topic, Jossey-Bass released in paperback two essential volumes on social skills and common sense: Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success and Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense. Management consultant Karl Albrecht deftly illuminates these topics with such great stories, examples and humor that you will find them not just a great read but you will quickly identify with the ideas he is presenting with your own experiences. The insights contained in these books are immediately applicable in your relationships on and off the playing field.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Newswire: The Myth of the Lone Star

    Amid mass layoffs and a deteriorating economy, snapping up star talent is getting easier. But before investing in a marquee player at the expense of the rest of your team, consider this: Stars shine brighter when surrounded by other stars.
  • The Myth of the Lone Star: Why One Top Performer May Not Shine as Brightly as You Hope
    by Boris Groysberg, Linda-Eling Lee and Robin Abrahams, Wall Street Journal

    The idea that you can catapult your firm into the big leagues with one or two top performers is a myth -- one we call the "lone-star myth." The truth is, in the absence of equally talented colleagues, stars probably won't excel at their jobs or stick around for very long.

    High-quality colleagues bring four important things to the table:

    Creating Knowledge: In today's complex economy, even star performers can't master all the levels of expertise needed to be good at their jobs. That's why expert colleagues from other parts of the firm are crucial as sources of information.

    Providing Feedback: Another advantage of high-quality colleagues is that they can be the most astute and valuable sounding boards and critics of a star's work.

    Delivering Products and Services to Clients: In many industries -- advertising, investment banking and engineering, to name a few -- star performers rely on colleagues to position and deliver their product or service to clients. If the client-facing colleagues can't do that effectively, it won't matter how wonderful a star's work is -- it will be for naught. On the flip side, having a high-quality conduit to customers provides stars with valuable market intelligence that can improve their work.

    Enhancing Reputations: Finally, high-performing colleagues can help a star's reputation shine even brighter because clients tend to think more highly of people who work for firms with a track record of excellent work. This is referred to as the "halo effect." In addition to keeping clients happy, the halo effect can benefit stars by creating greater access to resources outside the firm.

    Surrounding a star with other stars is a win-win. They add that “The more stars you have, the better they will perform, and the more likely they are to stick around. To get the best of your top performers, maintain a ‘no-jerks’ policy: Stars who don't play well with others won't benefit you in the long run.” (See Robert Sutton’s The No-Asshole Rule)
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
| Comments (0) | NewsWire


MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership

Philip Delves Broughton, author of Ahead of The Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School, writes in the Financial Times about MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership. Broughton observes:
What business schools can teach is organisational behaviour. They can teach compensation systems and recruitment processes. They can offer classes on cash and non-cash incentives, on training, promotion and the value of a corporate culture. They can offer frameworks for negotiations, strategy decisions and implementing change. But when they bundle this up and call it leadership, they risk leaving their students with the faulty impression that they are now qualified, if not obliged, to go into the world and lead. It breeds the arrogance for which MBAs are mocked.

He continues, “Great leaders tend to be those who can synthesise, simplify and persuade. They provide clarity so that those below them can do their best to achieve a common goal. But leadership should not be the brass ring at the climax of every business career.
It is the merit of Broughton to remind readers of the problems of surrounding leadership education. He is right. Business schools are best at teaching the competencies that business leaders need when performing their tasks. And at this point in time, they are probably rethinking what that means.

Teaching leadership – as in take these classes and read these books and you are a leader – is something else. Broughton correctly asserts that MBA students often walk out into the world thinking that they are uniquely equipped to lead the world. It’s an arrogance that is rarely appreciated in the real world and an approach that does not serve them well in the long-term.

Books and lectures do not make you a leader, but they can give you the tools to become a leader through the practice of leadership. They point you in the right direction. They fast-track your awareness. They are extremely valuable but they do not make you a leader. That label is earned, not taught.

Broughton states, “Not all MBAs can be leaders, nor need they be. Every business needs followers: people who are good at what they do, who are able to implement the plans laid out by leaders.”

Here is where discussions of leadership often derail. Broughton is confusing leadership with position. Position is the brass ring and there are a limited number of those to go around. Most people will to be left out. He’s right. We can’t all have position, but we can all be leaders. Likewise we are all – regardless of our position – followers. The idea that “I’m a leader, not a follower” is a foolish notion and belies the ignorance of what leadership really is by anyone who states it. Leadership is intentional influence. Basic to a proper understanding of leadership is the understanding that leadership is not position and does not make you a leader.
There was a time when management was just management, the science of providing organisational support for innovators and salespeople to win customers and revenue.

Managers tracked resources, physical, financial and human, and tried to improve efficiency. Occasionally they made an acquisition or pushed into new markets, and this was strategy.

But somewhere along the line management morphed into the sexier-sounding “leadership”. Managers were globe-trotting executives – catalysts for change. They had a business press eager to turn them into icons, to photograph them in their penthouses, preening over their empires as if they, rather than their shareholders, owned them.

Business schools were eagerly complicit in this super-sizing of management. They no longer educated mere MBAs. They were churning out “future leaders”.

Business does not need any more leadership courses – particularly not at the MBA level.
No, business schools need leadership courses. They just need better ones. They need courses with a proper emphasis about leadership. I appreciate his phrasing – “this super-sizing of management” – but management and leadership go together. They are often separated so that we can, by pulling them apart, see how they fit together. We need both and we need to be practicing both. One is not better than the other. A good leader manages. A good manager leads.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 AM
| Comments (0) | Education , Followership , Leadership Development , Management


The Bull Inside the Bear - Is You!

The Bull Inside the Bear
If you’re looking for a candid explanation of the financial crisis and what you can do about it, you couldn’t go wrong with investment manager and former Federal Reserve economist Robert Stein’s new book, The Bull Inside the Bear. He puts a perspective on recent events that paves the way for rational thinking. I found his review of the fundamentals of economics in the context of the financial crisis to be most helpful. Here are several excerpts:
  • We must look at the present in the context of the past. This helps to keep things in perspective that the sky really isn’t falling and financial Armageddon isn’t upon us.
  • The events of 2008 stemmed from a breakdown in the financial system, not the economy. The economy was already weak and this was a hit where it really hurt. But the economy was still standing…. Our economy survives recessions and can combat inflation, but a meltdown of the system that supports the economy is a different story. Inflation is not the front page story, although it will be in the future. First we have to survive the credit crisis, and then we must prepare for a change in long-term economic fundamentals like inflation.
  • The remedy for a problem in one sector becomes the tonic to boost activity and opportunity in another. The key is to look for the remedy and follow it where it flows. And that, in a nutshell, is the bull inside the bear. (Now the next bubble is the last leg of trade positions in Treasuries: Bonds.)
  • The recurring cycles of expansion, peak, contraction, and trough, have not changed—thankfully. We need all four for a healthy economy, the contraction just as much as the expansion, even though most people think of contraction as “negative” or “bad for the economy.”
  • I would advocate changes in mark-to-market accounting to avoid massive writedowns of depreciating assets.
  • Contraction of the credit market has led to classic deleveraging…. The problem is one of delveraging of assets and the lack of liquidity. Deleveraging is just a fancy way of saying that a particular asset—a house, for example—can only be valued based on factors such as the location, size, type of property, and so forth. If this sounds like a return to the good ol’ days when a perspective buyer with a down payment in cash met with the local banker to discuss a mortgage, it is.
  • As for your own home sweet home, appreciate it as a place to live, whether it’s a lot in the city or a house in the distant ex-burbs. This is your home, your castle—not your ATM machine.
  • I can’t see the necessity of making more than a few changes in your portfolio each quarter or actually each year. Try to wait for at least two data points before jumping in. (He shows you where to get those data points and how to analyze them.)
The subtitle, Finding New Investment Opportunities in Today’s Fast-Changing Financial Markets, is well met and should be reviewed by anyone considering where to go next. I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:

Bull and Bear
"Having a long term view and the discipline to stay the course is commendable. However, a multiyear time horizon for your investment portfolio doesn’t mean buy, hold, and forget about it. You need to be actively engaged as an investor. That means staying nimble and alert, with an eye on the big picture." (Key: Utilize ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) to diversify your portfolio.)

"The more educated and empowered you are, the better decisions you will make—not by listening to the talking heads on television or reading the latest bog posting. You will do your own homework and your own research, paying attention to the economic indicators that tell you what’s happening. This is not difficult, and it will put you in the driver’s eat as you make investment decisions based on better rationale than buy-hold-and-forget it or panicking and following the crowd."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:20 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business


Collapse of Distinction: How Do You Get People Thinking About You?

Collapse Of Distinction

I'VE SEEN Scott McKain speak on a couple of occasions and he is all about customer experience in both content and delivery. His new book Collapse of Distinction, is no different. The collapse of distinction is a cultural phenomenon of not just blandness, but sameness. McKain writes that it has become a “corporate and professional nightmare.”

The current economic environment makes this book all the more important. The problem isn’t just the economy though; it’s that the economy exposes a problem that is more easily ignored in a good economy. To ignore the collapse of distinction now, can be fatal.

Today customers want value more than ever. How will you create that value? Low price isn’t the answer, but without doing the homework, that’s really all you’re left with. McKain writes, “If you cannot find it within yourself to become emotional, committed, engaged, and yes, fervent about differentiation, then you had better be prepared to take your place among that vast throng of the mediocre who are judged by their customers solely on the basis of price. It is the singularly worst place to be in all of business. If you aren't willing to create distinction for yourself in your profession—and for your organization in the marketplace—then prepare to take your seat in the back, with the substantial swarm of the similar, where tedium reigns supreme.”

Three factors conspire to destroy differentiation:
  • Capitalism Produces Incremental Advancement. We tend to make the “safe” moves not the “smart” ones. Difficult times seem “to enhance our desire to play ‘follow the leader’ with our competition.
  • Dynamic Change Is Delivering New Competition. We try to replicate the perceived advantages of the dynamic new competitor. “Unfortunately, despite your best intentions, you cannot out-original the initial player in almost every situation.”
  • Familiarity Breeds Complacency. What we are familiar with we take for granted. This translates into lack of attention.
Coming to grips with this propensity of human behavior takes a lot of effort. We would rather “execute the least progressive, most conforming activity [we] can to achieve the success [we] desire.” However, McKain lays out the process to overcome sameness to lift you or your company out of the doldrums, as clearly and as simply as possible.

How do you grab attention? How do you get people thinking about you? How do you get the opportunity to use the combination of your expertise and talent?

You can differentiate yourself on product, price, and/or service. For most of us, the only real way we are going to differentiate ourselves is through service. McKain lays out the Four Cornerstones of Distinction and devotes a chapter to each explaining how you apply them in your situation: Clarity, Creativity, Communication and Customer-Focus. Each chapter ends with an executive summary and solid action-points to get the ball rolling.

He says that we have to profitably create experiences that are so compelling to our customers that loyalty is assured. Your organizations survival may depend on the concepts presented in this book. “What is compelling about you, what will create points of distinction about you, and what will establish a connection between us?”
You do not need to change everything about how you do business to create distinction. Start by walking through your list of points of contact with customers, reframing and redefining how you perceive each moment of interaction. From these new perspectives, you can then begin to create specific points of differentiation with your customers. By developing your professional laundry list from the exercise—and recognizing that if these practices are the industry standard, then they will almost always fail to create distinction for you—you are taking an important first step in disciplining yourself as a professional to develop differentiated methods and tactics. Different is not just good, different is better.
UPDATE: Collapse of Distinction has been updated and retitled: Create Distinction: What to Do When ''Great'' Isn't Good Enough to Grow Your Business (2013)Collapse of Distinction
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Of Related Interest:
  Iconic: How to Attain the Ultimate Level of Distinction

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:56 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Marketing , Vision


What To Do When Growth Stalls

growth stallsIt happens to every company. No one is exempt from the cycles of business. It’s not a question of competence or enthusiasm. It’s normal. “Generating consistent growth is just plain hard, no matter how smart, experienced, or talented you are. As one of the company leaders we interviewed told us, it’s like ‘trying to keep an ice cube from melting.’ It can be done, but only in the right environment.”

Steve McKee has written an insightful analysis of the problem. When Growth Stalls “is about generating growth for your company at a time when growth may be nothing but a glimmer of hope in your mind.”

There are external forces that we all fall victim to: economic upheavals, aggressive competition, and changing industry dynamics. But McKee’s research has identified four internal factors that work against recovery and often paralyze you:

Lack of Consensus. Consensus doesn’t mean management by committee. It means “agreement among an organization’s senior leadership about the nature and purpose of the company and where it’s intended to go.” McKee writes, “Consensus issues are hard to identify and unpleasant to face. But if you have a consensus problem, things can’t get better until you recognize it.” Only then can you work together to uncover the genuine issues you are facing. Everyone needs to be on the same page working from the same playbook.

Loss of Focus. “No matter how big the company, its management team has only a finite amount of resources—money, time, talent, energy—at its disposal. The less focused those resources become, the less muscle management can muster to move the company forward or, if necessary, pull it out of a ditch.”

Loss of Nerve. Probably the most insidious factor. When growth stalls, as McKee points out, it’s confusing. “Great leaders are supposed to be firm, decisive, and sure-footed. When things go wrong, you just fix them. That is, until the problems spin beyond your control.” It’s discouraging. “When the road drops out from under the company, the CEO’s own discouragement can be difficult to hide.” It’s contagious. “It’s one thing to struggle privately…it’s quite another when the discouragement and disillusionment hit you so hard you can’t hide them. When the CEO is worried, everybody’s worried.” It's paralyzing. “You don’t have the luxury to think strategically when things are so desperate.” It’s wearying. As one CEO told him, “I wasn’t so much scared as ticked off and drained. I was tired of pushing the rock up the mountain like Sisyphus.”

redlightWhen you’re struggling to keep your head above water, taking risks is the last thing you want to do. Ironically, some risk taking is just what is needed. Nobel Prize winner Myron Scholes “believes that companies should outsource as much ‘generalized risk’ as possible and focus on ‘idiosyncratic risk’; that is, risk related directly to a company’s core competency, where the company’s unique knowledge has a chance to produce better-than-expected results.”

Marketing Inconsistency. “The companies with the strongest track records do everything they can to maintain a consistent identity in the marketplace, even as the economy moves up and down, competitors come and go, and consumer tastes shift.”

When Growth Stalls
These four factors can create a vicious cycle that can be crippling. The first step is to step back and understand that while it is common as a leader to feel guilt, “that attitude is not only unhealthy and unproductive, in most cases it’s just plain incorrect….As long as denial, doubt, and fear—and in some cases, sniping, finger-pointing, and other destructive behaviors—are wreaking havoc with your internal dynamics, you’ll remain stuck in the vicious cycle.”

McKee shows you how to identify and deal productively with these factors. Writing from personal experience, he uses good examples and appropriate metaphors to explain what is happening when growth stalls. This adds to the book’s credibility and the friendly, thoughtful tone of his writing. If your growth has stalled, you need this book to help you get your company back on track.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:00 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Problem Solving


Stimulus Package 2 - Free Book: Greater Than Yourself

StimulusPackageHere’s a stimulus package to get you thinking. It’s a package designed to serve as a catalyst to help you to find ways to make things work and get things done. While you might think of it as a piece of good fortune, don’t think of it as a bailout. You’ve still got to do the inside work.

We are giving away five copies of Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber. Greater Than Yourself is based on the premise that great leaders become great because they cause others to be greater than they are. GTY is a one-on-one development process where you choose to help someone become more capable, competent, and accomplished than you are.

For a chance to get a copy, leave a comment on this post telling us who you have selected for your Greater Than Yourself project and we will randomly select five recipients on Monday, March 23, 2009. The opportunity to participate in this Stimulus Package will close on Friday, March 20, 2009.

Related Interest:
  Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge

UPDATE: Five respondents have been chosen at random. Thanks for participating.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:44 PM
| Comments (0) | Books


ReQuotes: "You're gonna like the way they sound. I guarantee it!"

Weekend Supplement

In an issue of Direct magazine, you will find legendary copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis in his usual good form. In his Curmudgeon at Large column he ponders “how successful certain events would have been if the principals had been shrewd and savvy enough to pick up some of our advertising and marketing talk.”

Here are several outtakes:
  • For example, visualize how much more dynamic Lincoln's Gettysburg Address would have been with a single simple insert: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war. But wait, there's more!
  • Or Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall. Results 100% guaranteed.
  • Now that we're in gear, let's include Paul Revere: “One if by land. Two if by sea. Three if you call before midnight, June 15.” Or maybe, “The British are coming. Act now.
  • Ah, a classic: “I disagree with what you say, but now, for a limited time only, I shall defend to the death your right to say it.”
  • We can bring poetry into the mix. After all, too many Elizabethan poems were flat and colorless. Let's give John Donne some punch: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. For everything else, there's MasterCard.
  • We can't leave the immortal bard gasping for inclusion. Here's Juliet, staring worriedly from her balcony. “O Romeo, Romeo, frankly, I'm puzzled. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Weekend Supplement


Newswire: The Cult of Shareholder Value

    The Financial Times is currently running a good series on the Future of Capitalism. “The credit crunch has destroyed faith in the free market ideology that has dominated Western economic thinking for a generation. But what can – and should – replace it?” Below are a few highlights from today’s analysis:
  • A Need To Reconnect
    by Justin Baer, Francesco Guerrera and Richard Milne, Financial Times, March 13 2009

    Long-held tenets of corporate faith - the pursuit of shareholder value, the use of stock options to motivate employees and a light regulatory touch allied with board oversight of management - are being blamed for the turmoil and look likely to be overhauled. "We are in uncharted waters," says Jack Welch, the former General Electric boss who embodied an era when the untrammelled interplay of market forces, domineering chief executives and the laser-like focus on quarterly earnings rises reigned supreme.

    Today, that focus on the here and now is seen as a root cause of the world's economic predicament. "Immediate shareholder value maximisation, by itself, was always too short-term in nature," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld at Yale School of Management. "It created a fleeting illusion of value creation by emphasising immediate goals over long-term strategies." Even Mr Welch argues that focusing solely on quarterly profit increases was "the dumbest idea in the world". "Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy," he says. "Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products."

    Many business leaders object to what they regard as the growing encroachment by the state and other interest groups on their ability to run the company. "If there is a danger in the current situation, it is that we don't know how to exit from this little adventure in socialism so that the private sector can do what it does best - which is to innovate, grow and create jobs," says John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, the lobby group for some of America's largest companies.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , NewsWire

Shrink to Grow and Other Backward Steps Forward

Money Makers
In The Moneymakers (i.e., long term winners – consistent performers), author Anne-Marie Fink addresses foundational business issues from her experience as one charged with understanding whether businesses were solid, long-term moneymakers – or rotten tomatoes – before investing with them. Fink has spent more than twelve years studying businesses and investments, as a vice president and analyst at JPMorgan Asset and Wealth Management.

Not all of the concepts are new – is there such a thing? – but they are all important, well thought out and presented in a way that will make you stop and reconsider your approach. These concepts are divided up into eleven lessons that she has formulated from observing real-world businesses that work. The eleven lessons are:
  1. Think like an investor to establish your edge. Investors focus on economic profit to distill businesses down to the most important factors.
  2. Problems in business are like cockroaches – there’s never just one. How to catch problems before they infest your business
  3. Avoid the trap of profitless growth. Additional profit is an illusion if it consumes too much capital
  4. Don’t be a customer fanatic. When to listen to and when to ignore your customers. Customers don’t know your business, and what you should deliver, as well as you do.
  5. Business forecasts are as reliable as weather predictions. Planning too far into the future raises risk and lowers rewards. How to position yourself for the future to come to you, rather than actively pursue it.
  6. Economics always trumps management. Ignore bedrock economic laws – such as supply and demand – at your peril; it is akin to ordering the tides to stay in place.
  7. Why happy employees don’t make for high-performance workplaces.
  8. Good performance requires inefficiency and duplication. How maximum efficiency produces suboptimal results by stifling innovation.
  9. Megatrends start as ripples. How to position your business to ride long-term waves, not be swamped by them
  10. Don’t delay performance gratification since we’re all dead in the long run. Most bold transformations base their hopes on some mythic future. Go for them with incremental steps that bring home the bacon today.
  11. Shrink to grow. Why expanding a bad (low-return) business means you just have more of a problem, and how a step backward is often the best way forward.

Even for the moneymakers, eventually something goes wrong. What distinguishes them is how the handle it. A downturn is an opportunity to step back in order to move forward. She calls it shrink to grow. Here are ways she suggests to make the most of a downturn in business:

• Fess Up   Don't massage your numbers. You will only postpone the day of reckoning and make things worse when that day arrives. Don't let the short-term pain of admitting to disappointing numbers determine your execution and your spending. Good managers and partners will stand. If you have a good strategy and execution, earnings will come back and your stock price with it.

• Fish or Cut Bait   Don’t let hubris, fear of admitting a mistake, or concern about walking away from a prior investment keep you from exiting a problematic business. Consider the value of your time when considering whether to exit a business. [And I thought this was key:] Exit underperforming operations even if it means opting out of a potentially lucrative long-term trend. The trend may not be “ripe.” By getting gout of the business now, you will be able to retrench and come back later. Look for alternative ways to participate in the trend rather than stubbornly sticking with a losing proposition.

• Shrink to Grow   Shrink troubled operations down to their profitable core; if there is no profitable core, either sell or close the operations. Err on the side of cutting too much rather than too late.

• Amputation or Minor Surgery   Assess whether a slowdown is cyclical or long term, temporary or permanent, and calibrate your response accordingly. Even as you make cuts to respond to a slowdown, continue to invest to drive growth when the cyclical slowdown ends. Improve the mix of your business.

She adds, “Exceptional leaders take steps backward in troubled times so they can lay a solid foundation for future growth.” Ask:

Are the changes that are causing your operations difficulty rooted in long-term trends or cyclical events, or even a combination of both factors?

Have you considered a “shrink to grow” strategy?

When deciding where to invest during a difficult time, what are the goals of the spending? Will it produce a more efficient way to conduct your business? If so, then spend. Does it provide the next leg of growth when the market returns? If yes, then invest – but somewhat more cautiously, since you do not know when the market will return. Does the investment produce better returns but only at volume levels above currently depressed levels? If so, then perhaps tinker around with the idea, but do not invest serious funds to it.

In times like these, this book is certainly a place to spend some time.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:10 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Management


Six Ways Companies Mismanage Risk

Ohio State University professor René Stulz writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Of course, financial institutions can suffer spectacular losses even when their risk management is first-rate. They are, after all, in the business of taking risks. When risk management does fail, however, it is in one of six basic ways, nearly all of them exemplified in the current crisis. Sometimes the problem lies with the data or measures that risk managers rely on. Sometimes it relates to how they identify and communicate the risks a company is exposed to. Financial risk management is hard to get right in the best of times.” Obviously, risk assessment needs to be tempered with time-tested experience and calculated risks need to cast a wider net when calculated. In summary, here are his six paths to failure:
  1. Too much reliance on historical data. It’s only a partial guide to the future.
  2. Reliance on narrow daily measures to reduce risk.
  3. Knowable risks have been overlooked. A big picture approach is needed.
  4. Concealed risks have been overlooked. Reward downside reporting. Unreported risks tend to expand. Sound familiar? Know What You Don’t Know
  5. Failure to communicate effectively. Need the ability to explain what is happening in clear, precise and most importantly, simple terms.
  6. Risks not managed in real time. Essential for quick response.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:07 AM
| Comments (0) | Management , Problem Solving


Strategic Presence: The Power that Fuels Leadership

Tony Jeary, author of Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life, is a coach to some of the world's top CEOs. In his book he brings together practical ideas to help you get out of your own way. A critical aspect of getting things done through others is presence – your presence. To influence others you need to know how they perceive you and adjust your communication with them accordingly. Here, Tony discusses what he calls strategic presence:
Strategic Acceleration

The goal of leadership is to produce superior results on purpose and that makes leadership a results contest. The challenge of leadership is to persuade and motivate those they lead to produce the results they want. When people voluntarily and enthusiastically do what their leaders ask them to do and the desired results are achieved, leaders are considered to be effective and successful! The question is how do leaders really get others to voluntarily and enthusiastically produce the desired results? There are many parts to this puzzle, but there is none greater than a condition I describe as Strategic Presence.

Here is a great story that illustrates Strategic Presence and also illuminates its effect. A student from a foreign country was enrolled in the middle of a school year. During the first day of class, the other kids in the class were doing what kids do. There was a lot of giggling and staring and posturing for the new arrival. The new student was dressed in a way that did not meet the expectations of a few of the other children and eventually one of them (the class clown) began to make jokes about the new student's appearance.

As the scene was progressing toward chaos, the teacher was about to intervene when a girl stood up and told everyone to stop picking on their new classmate. The girl reminded them that it was scary to be new in a school and they needed to be kind to the student and make them feel welcome She reminded them they should treat this new person as they would want to be treated if they were in a new country and a new school. After class, the teacher called the girl aside and said, "That was a very brave thing you did. Why did you do that?" The girl replied, "Because that is what my Mom and Dad would expect me to do!"

This story powerfully illustrates the essence and the effect of what I call Strategic Presence. The girl had merely done what she knew her parents would want her to do. Her parents had succeeded in creating a positive presence in her mind, which gave her the willingness and courage to do what she did. Most importantly, the presence of her parents was so authentic that they did not have to be physically present to inspire their daughter's good behavior.

Leaders create impressions that exist in the mind of every person they lead. It is a presence that defines the perceptions people have of their leaders and what they believe about them. It is this overall persona that I am referring to when I use the term Strategic Presence and there are two types: Positive and Negative. Leaders are constantly creating and presenting images of influence that produce both.

The most important fact about Strategic Presence is that it produces two possible reactions in others. It either produces voluntary cooperation or it produces various forms of resistance. If leaders generate positive Strategic Presence, people will be more likely to support what they want, most of the time. However, if perceptions of leadership are negative people will substitute resistance for cooperation. The possibilities of how people will respond to Strategic Presence are limited to cooperation or resistance. There is not much middle ground between them. As someone once said, "you are either for us against us!" It is easy to see why creating an authentic, positive strategic presence is critical for the execution of a vision.

Creating positive Strategic Presence is not a strategy of manipulation. The positive strategic presence leaders project must be authentic. Failing the test of authenticity means the very image leadership hopes to establish will be perceived as deceptive and disingenuous, or worse. People are very perceptive and they will see through efforts to project a phony persona for the purposes of manipulating their behavior. So, why shouldn't a leader's strategic presence just be allowed to be what it is?" That is a great question and the answer is simple. Many leaders are misunderstood and create perceptions that really don't match their intent. So, understanding how Strategic Presence is created will minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.

So, how is strategic presence is created? What are the things about leadership that speaks the loudest about it? What creates the perceptions that combine to produce Strategic Presence? There are two components that contribute to strategic presence: values and behavior.

Our values are established by what we believe to be right, wrong, true, false, acceptable, unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. Let's face it, we have all developed deep, strong opinions about many things as we live our lives. Our opinions spring forth from your values and your values influence what we actually do.

Our values and beliefs impact 5 categories of that drive our behavior, and it is our behavior that creates Strategic Presence. The five categories that drive behavior are:
  1. Work ethic
  2. Integrity
  3. Judgment
  4. Courage
  5. Willingness to help others
So, if you want to be a great leader, you need to have great values and your values must be demonstrated in the action you take. This is the essence of Strategic Presence and it is truly the power that fuels leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:54 PM
| Comments (0) | Communication , Leadership , Motivation , Personal Development


7 Vital Behaviors of Effective Problem-Finders

Problem Finders

IN Know What You Don’t Know, Michael Roberto has identified the key skills and capabilities required to ensure that problems do not remain hidden in your organization. Keep in mind that problem-finding does not precede the processes of continuous improvement.
Know What You Don't Know
Learning does not follow a linear path. Take the athlete who practices her sport on a regular basis. She does not always discover a problem first and then practice a new technique for overcoming that flaw. Sometimes, an athlete sets out on a normal practice routine, and through that process, she discovers problems that diminish her effectiveness. In sum, the processes of problem-finding and continuous improvement are inextricably linked. A person should not focus on one at the expense of the other, nor should he expect to proceed in a linear fashion from problem discovery to performance improvement. We often will discover new problems while working to solve old ones.

Here are seven vital behaviors of effective problem-finders. To discover the small problems and failures that threaten your organization, you must do the following:
  • Circumvent the gatekeepers: Remove the filters at times, and go directly to the source to see and hear the raw data. Listen aggressively to the people actually doing the work.32 Keep in touch with what is happening at the periphery of your business, not simply at the core.
  • Become an ethnographer: Many anthropologists observe people in natural settings, which is known as ethnographic research. Emulate them. Do not simply ask people how things are going. Do not depend solely on data from surveys and focus groups. Do not simply listen to what people say; watch what they do—much like an anthropologist. Go out and observe how employees, customers, and suppliers actually behave. Effective problem-finders become especially adept at observing the unexpected without allowing preconceptions to cloud what they are seeing.
  • Hunt for patterns: Reflect on and refine your individual and collective pattern-recognition capability. Focus on the efficacy of your personal and organizational processes for drawing analogies to past experiences. Search deliberately for patterns amidst disparate data points in the organization.
  • Connect the dots: Recognize that large-scale failures often are preceded by small problems that occur in different units of the organization. Foster improved sharing of information, and build mechanisms to help people integrate critical data and knowledge. You will "connect the dots" among issues that may initially seem unrelated, but in fact, have a great deal in common.
  • Encourage useful failures: Create a "Red Pencil Award" philosophy akin to the one at Build-a-Bear. Encourage people to take risks and to come forward when mistakes are made. Reduce the fear of failure in the organization. Help your people understand the difference between excusable and inexcusable mistakes.
  • Teach how to talk and listen: Give groups of frontline employees training in a communication technique, such as Crew Resource Management, that helps them surface and discuss problems and concerns in an effective manner. Provide senior executives with training on how to encourage people to speak up, and then how to handle their comments and concerns appropriately.
  • Watch the game film: Like a coach, reflect systematically on your organization's conduct and performance, as well as on the behavior and performance of competitors. Learn about and seek to avoid the typical traps that firms encounter when they engage in lessons learned and competitive-intelligence exercises. Create opportunities for individuals and teams to practice desired behaviors so as to enhance their performance, much like elite athletic performers do.

Adapted from Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen by Michael A. Roberto

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:25 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Nuggets , Problem Solving


Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge

Greater Than Yourself
You’ve heard “invest yourself in others” and “pay it forward.” Steve Farber has his own unique twist on these ideas and he calls it Greater Than Yourself.

The Greater Than Yourself (GTY) concept is based on the premise that great leaders become great because they cause others to be greater than they are. GTY is a one-on-one development process where you choose to help someone become more capable, competent, and accomplished than you are. It has three parts to it: Expand Yourself, Give Yourself and Replicate Yourself.

The life-long process begins with you. “You have to expand yourself before you can help make others greater.” That means that you have to make sure that everything that is you is constantly expanding. No matter how much you think you know or are, “you can always learn more, you can always experience more, you can always connect more and love more.” The point of which is to give it all away.

Giving it all away always brings out the cynics. But Farber deals with that too. Giving it all away seems to imply subtraction – like a zero-sum-game – to many people. But it’s not. Giving it all away really adds to who you are. Parents get it, but when we get outside that relationship, an improper self-interest kicks in and we miss the bigger picture.

In this business fable set along the California coast, Faber skillfully explains the true nature of giving it all away to become a creator of masters. GTY has life changing possibilities if you commit to it. Expanding yourself “is a practice that should become part of your life. Integrate it into your thought process and into the way you make decisions. Will X add to your inventory? Will it expand an item that is already there? If so, do it; if not, don’t.”

When you think of giving of yourself, money may not be part of it. You have other resources like “your talent, your knowledge, your connections, your confidence, your trust” and last but not least, “your time.”

In the end you want to replicate yourself. That is, you want to make sure that the people you elevate are doing the same for others.

In an organizational context, it might look like this: “Everyone on my team and in our company should become significantly greater as a result of working with one another.” But, “I’m not trying to hire people who are more talented than me, I’m trying to hire people with heart, desire, drive and mad potential, and then encourage all of them to bring out the best in one another by giving fully to one another. See the difference?”

Farber admits that this isn’t easy to do initially. In response, he challenges us to pick just one person to make a GTY project. “Raise that person; boost him or her above yourself. Start there and see what happens.”

He has created a web site with examples and resources to get you going. In particular, there is a four minute video of a GTY project conducted by the Up With People organization, that is a good overview of what this is all about and the impact it can have. The participants in this GTY project don’t rule out that great things can come in small packages. The tendency is to pick someone who is already doing well and then working to make them greater; jump on their bandwagon so to speak. There’s certainly nothing wrong in that, but perhaps the most impact can come from taking someone who really needs a leg up and connecting them to what they need.

Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge. Pick one person and give of yourself to make their life better—than yours!

u > i

del mar

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:23 PM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Positive Leadership


First Look: Leadership Books for March 2009

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

  Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life by Tony Jeary
  Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership by Steve Farber
  Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe
  The Deciding Factor: The Power of Analytics to Make Every Decision a Winner by Larry E. Rosenberger and John Nash with Ann Graham
  Inside Rupert's Brain by Paul La Monica

Strategic Acceleration Greater Than Yourself Know What You Don't Know How We Decide Inside Rupert's Brain</a><br>
<i>Paul La Monica</i>

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Books


Protect Your Lunch with Anti-Theft Lunch Bags

Weekend Supplement

As more and more people brown bag it, this handy little item might be of interest.

Tired of having your food stolen by sticky-fingered coworkers or roommates? Bullies taking your kid's lunch? Well, worry no more . . . Anti-Theft Lunch Bags are sandwich bags that have green splotches printed on both sides, making your freshly prepared lunch look spoiled. Don't suffer the injustice of having your sandwich stolen again! Protect your lunch with Anti-Theft Lunch Bags.

These sandwich size (food-safe reusable and recyclable LDPE) bags may still be available from the designer the. (no that's it - "the.") the. is the official marketplace for amusing and eclectic wares designed by the. team. Mihoko Ouchi and Sherwood Forlee make up the. team. They have other interesting products they have designed on their web site. Have a look.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Weekend Supplement



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