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LeadershipNow 140: May 2009 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from May 2009:
  • Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders HBR  http://ow.ly/9Piu
  • Mulally on Ford: "This is a huge enterprise and the magic is, everybody knows the plan." How well are you communicating?
  • Edison’s genius lay in his ability to conceive a fully developed marketplace, not simply a discrete device ~Tim Brown IDEO
  • Our competencies enable and restrict the range of leadership roles we will be able to perform well.
  • How to manage the clever squad: It is time to reframe the debate about talent and start thinking about clever people.
  • All the truly grt armies in history had a cause that inspired the individual to remarkable heights of courage & endurance ~Eisenhower
  • The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make weaknesses irrelevant. ~Peter Drucker
  • We don’t first find leaders and hope they take on the qualities of a servant. We need to find servants and let them be leaders ~Cole
  • To paraphrase Thomas Carruthers, a leader is one who makes themselves progressively unnecessary.
  • Life reveals who we are inside. Life is the test of the measure of your leadership. ~Neil Cole  http://ow.ly/8aDf
  • A model of action or agreement: Some leaders simply tell people what to do, while others try to build consensus..  http://tinyurl.com/rbyh3d
  • Fund mgr James Chanos explained in 2007, "It is the regulated bits of the system you should worry about!" How true.  http://ow.ly/6F6c
  • No such thing as dysfunctional org because every org is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets. We want it that way!
  • Soar above the skyful of lies: If we are to manage the increased flow of information, first we have to learn to ...  http://tinyurl.com/o3jcv7
  • Rick Smith: To be successful, you need to earn every relationship. Good Post:  http://ow.ly/5Pfj
  • If we keep our focus too tight, we may miss the opportunities all around us.
  • 'Shrink to Win' Isn't Much of a Strategy  http://twurl.nl/bkf6bj
  • Goodbye Bland Affluence  http://twurl.nl/up47pe
  • A man should swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more revolting in the day ahead ~Nicolas Chamfort
  • The Secret faithful have been left standing at curb dutifully visualizing a new Ferrari as the repo man takes the Ford  http://ow.ly/4HY7
See more on twitter Twitter.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:42 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


The How of Innovation

Rodin on Innovation

JUDITH RODIN, the then president of the Rockefeller Foundation, delivered a month ago, a thought provoking presentation on the process of innovation and its importance to solving the challenges faced in the 21st century. She believes that innovation is a skill that can be taught. Additionally, believing too, that innovation is not just a product, it’s a process, the Rockefeller Foundation is focusing their funding on the how, not just on the what. Below I have pieced together some excerpts from that speech:

Edison was arguably the first modern innovator: not just an early electrical tinkerer, but a systems thinker—a visionary—who recognized that how you innovate is as important as what you invent.

Tim Brown, CEO and President of the design firm IDEO, said it well in a recent Harvard Business Review essay: “Edison’s genius,” Brown wrote, “lay in his ability to conceive a fully developed marketplace, not simply a discrete device. Edison understood that the light bulb was little more than a parlor-trick without a system of electric power generation and transmission to make it truly useful. So, he created that too.”

Today, for firms and institutions in every sector—from the smallest nonprofits, to the biggest corporations, and at every level and branch of government—the financial crisis affords a crucial moment for innovation. And, perhaps surprising to some, according to the Wall Street Journal, America’s largest companies spent nearly as much on innovation during the last quarter of 2008 as they did during the last quarter of 2007, even as revenue declined nearly 8 percent. Call it the lesson of the iPod, the fruit of Apple’s 42 percent increase in R&D expenditures during the downturn between 1999 and 2002: Businesses that sow seeds of innovation during periods of economic contraction, studies attest, perform significantly better over the long run than those that make big cuts.

Too often, though, innovation is considered a right-brain activity. It’s equated with intuition—with a feeling that emerges from the gut-up or cortex-down. But innovation can also be a left-brain skill—an achievement of methodical experimentation, not just “aha!” inspiration. Innovation is a way of working, not just something you work on. Not only a product; a process.

In today’s world, innovation processes look different for two important reasons: First, because of technology and global interdependence, innovations that work in one place can be transmitted, translated, and transformed to work in another. Second, the intellectual processes—the methodologies—that enable innovation are increasingly user-driven, and not only by people in Manhattan, but also by those in the far reaches of Mumbai and Manila.

Indeed, technology married with interdependence gives birth to momentous changes not only in the ways we lead our lives and engage with the world, but also in the ways we learn, store, and share knowledge. Information is no longer a static, objective article, classified by Dewey decimals. It’s fluid. Because of innovations like wiki, for example, shared, collaborative knowledge development emerges in real-time from people with diverse experiences and perspectives.

The implications are incredibly far-reaching, particularly when applying “open” innovation, an approach that emerges from the revelation that the collective wisdom of strangers can be channeled to develop solutions to an array of challenges.

This entirely new concept is called “collaborative competition.” Collaborative competition facilitates two broad areas of learning: First, it identifies clusters and blank spots among proposed solutions. Problem-solvers can easily see where their counterparts are focusing and where there may be white space to propose alternative possibilities. Second, it enables collaborative revision and iteration. The sooner applicants submit their proposals, the earlier they can see others’ ideas, and the further they can sharpen their own thinking.

Still, the what was less important than the how. Hundreds of people, who never met each other—and likely never will—joined together to solve a common problem, pooling their expertise and putting their ideas into practice. This is a new way of working only possible in an interdependent world. This is smart globalization.

Like the invention of other tools—the telephone, the electrical grid, the accountant—the evolution of innovation practices helps people connect and communicate, compete and collaborate with one another in fundamentally new ways. These practices emerge not a moment too soon, for today is our once-in-a-generation opening for innovation in health care and infrastructure, energy and education, the environment, and economy—21st-century challenges that cannot be mastered with 20th-century ideas.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:29 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation


Culture Eats Strategy

Culture Eats Strategy

You’re so busy grasping technology in one hand and science in the other, you have no hand left to grasp what’s really important. It’s the human spirit, that’s the challenge, that’s the voice, that’s the expedition.
—John Travolta as George Malley in the film Phenomenon

Transforming Your Leadership Culture
TO create transformation change in an organization you need to change the culture. This may seem to go without saying, but we often try to make changes without changing the underlying belief systems. Belief systems drive behavior. In Transforming Your Leadership Culture, authors John McGuire and Gary Rhodes write, “Organizational culture holds your organization’s aspirations and the spirit of the place. Its beliefs and values define the organization’s core.” To illustrate how endemic the force of belief is within a culture, they relate the following example:

Mike, a vice president at National Bank, a prestigious financial organization, tells the story of what came out of an all-day meeting of a group of vice presidents at headquarters: “We brought in VPs and directors from all our locations. We needed to use the largest conference room in the building and had to get special permission to do so.”

At National Bank, “permission” wasn’t simply an issue of scheduling. The large conference room was located on the top floor of the building and used exclusively by senior executives, not by vice presidents. The vice president and director offices were on the floors below; lower-ranked employees were lower still, filling in the middle floors; the ground level housed administrative and support operations. The furnishings in the building changed by floor too. The top floor featured leather chairs, high-quality wood desks and tables, artwork, and attractive kitchen and washroom facilities. Below that level, floors housed progressively less expensive furnishings.

The night before the meeting, Mike was working late in his office finishing up his presentation: “A couple of guys from our maintenance staff kept walking past my office with chairs from the meeting room down the hall. I didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I arrived on the top floor for our big meeting. The maintenance staff had replaced all the leather chairs from our floor.”

Here the power of the culture reveals itself: no one had told the maintenance staff to trade out the chairs. There was no policy or precedent for doing so. The maintenance crew made its own decision, based on its understanding that certain chairs went with certain levels of status. Without question, they simply followed the cultural norm. The cultural authority and trappings of status were so embedded in the organization that it didn’t even occur to them that vice presidents might sit in executive chairs while meeting on the executive floor.

“Change won’t take hold in operations without change in culture to back it up,” say McGuire and Rhodes. Understanding organizational culture, why it persists, how to change it, and where that change begins is the subject of their book. What beliefs are undermining your change efforts?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:37 PM
| Comments (0) | Change , Culture


Creating a Sustainable Business Environment

Creating a Sustainable Business Environment

CHARLES HANDY writes that to repair the damage to the image of business, leaders of those businesses should bind themselves to a form of the Hippocratic Oath, “Above all, do no harm.” It means doing more than being legal. It means being ethical. It means taking the lead in creating sustainable environments for both individuals and the world they live in.

Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resort, says that “the organization of the future will pay as much attention to people and leadership strategies as it does to products and services.” He adds that “good leaders are environmentalists: their responsibility is to create a sustainable business environment—that is, one that is calm, clear, crisp, and clean, with no pollution, no toxins, and no waste—in which everyone flourishes.”

To that end, leaders must create an inclusive workplace where every employee can contribute to the best of their ability. In The Organization of the Future 2, he suggests ten goals you can set for yourself where you can impact your organization’s culture:

  1. Know Your Team. Get to know them as people. Know their skills, talents, goals and understand their potential.
  2. Engage Your Team. Ask them for their opinions.
  3. Develop Your Team. Stay engaged with your team members and know where they can benefit from training, mentoring and other forms of development.
  4. Greet People Sincerely. Don’t get so busy that you don’t notice other people.
  5. Build Community. Think of your team as a community with all of its diversity. Get to know their differences so you can leverage these dynamics.
  6. Listen to Understand. Show you care enough to listen. This is MBWA (Management By Walking Around). Get out and give people your complete attention and listen to what they are saying as well as what they are not saying. Take the time.
  7. Communicate Clearly, Directly, and Honestly. This is one where we all fall short from time to time. Use ordinary words and say what you mean. That doesn’t mean rude, blunt or intimidating. Listen for understanding.
  8. Hear All Voices. Encourage other people to share. Practice the Four Cast Member Expectations:
       • Make Me Feel Special
       • Treat Me as an Individual
       • Respect Me
       • Make Me Knowledgeable, Develop Me, and Understand My Job
  9. Speak Up When Others Are Excluded. Be on the lookout for people who are being excluded (for whatever reason) and bring them along.
  10. Be Brave. Have the courage to do the right thing, encourage your team to do the same and let them know that you have their back when they do.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management


The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

THE question of who’s running the organization is a critical one in this economic environment. Many boards are being asked to do what they were never prepared to do. The challenges and pressures are immense. In a critically important book for directors—Owning Up—world-renowned adviser Ram Charan says the economic downturn is a wake-up call to corporate boards. “Boards need to own up to their own accountability for the performance of the corporation.”

Increasingly, "governance now means leadership, not just over-the-shoulder monitoring and passive approvals. Boards must fiercely guard their companies against the threats of rapid decline and sudden demise, while at the same time helping management seize the opportunities that tumultuous change presents but are hard to see in the daily fray of running the business. The board that does both turns governance into a competitive advantage." And all of this without micromanaging. It’s quite a balancing act. [Charan: “Asking questions of an operating nature is not in itself micromanaging, as long as the questions lead to insights about issues like strategy, performance, major investment decisions, key personnel, the choice of goals, or risk assessment.” Why and how is key.]

Charan offers fourteen questions that “get to the heart of the unique issues that boards are facing now.” I think the questions are as insightful and provide as much food for thought as the answers they might evoke:

Question 1: Is the Composition of the Board Right for the Challenge?
Question 2: How Are We Addressing the Risks that Could Put Our Company over the Cliff?
Question 3: Are We Prepared to Do Our Job Well When a Crisis Erupts?
Question 4: Are We Well Enough Prepared to Name Our Next CEO?
Question 5: How Well Does the Board Own the Strategy?
Question 6: How Can We Get the Information We Need to Govern Well?
Question 7: How Can Our Board Get CEO Compensation Right?
Question 8: Why Do We Need a Lead Director Anyway?
Question 9: Is Our governance committee Best of Breed?
Question 10: How Do We Get the Most Value out of Our Limited Time?
Question 11: How Can Executive Sessions Improve the Ownership Function of the Board?
Question 12: How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?
Question 13: How Do We Stop from Micromanaging?
Question 14: How Well Prepared Are We to Work with Activist Shareholders and Their Proxies?

In good times, not enough consideration has been given to question one. Does the board have enough depth of knowledge or experience to ensure the organization stays on track? “Directors as a group must have the specific skills and perspectives needed to carry out their responsibilities.” And these skills must evolve with the times. “If the composition of the board is not appropriate, it is the failure if the [governance] committee. The board must empower the committee to actively shape the board composition.” Bad directors drive out good directors. It’s time for a check-up. Charan’s questions help boards do just that.

Additionally, while squarely aimed at directors, Charan’s questions serve a wider audience of leader’s as well. The questions speak to any leader of the need to “own up” to the responsibilities found in their own context. Are we up to the challenge in the area we have chosen to lead? Are we dealing with the issues? Are we trying to identify the issues early and get ahead of them? Are we learning so that we are better able to perform? Are we aware of our impact? All of these questions speak to the need for personal accountability. Addressing Charan’s questions is the way forward.

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A Brief Interview with Ram Charan No Brilliant Jerks

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:03 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

The Accountability of Boards: A Brief Interview with Ram Charan

A Brief Interview with Ram Charan

SOMETIMES events in our life serve to remind us of what is important. Recent events have reminded us of the importance of accountability. Not so much holding other people accountable, but in holding ourselves accountable. Leadership is serious business. Are we taking it seriously?

Our decisions affect the lives of other people. If we are not qualified to make the right kinds of decisions or are not seeking the advice we need then we can adversely affect the lives of many others. There is no middle ground on accountability.

LeadingBlog: As you point out in Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask, the expectations and accountability of boards has changed. In that light, the composition of boards needs to be taken seriously. Although it seems to be more of a non-profit sector phenomenon, too often it seems directors placed on boards as a reward or perk or as a favor or condition of some other performance. Have you found this to be an issue and how would you deal with such a politically volatile situation?

Ram Charan
Ram Charan: We need to look forward, not backward. The debacle of 2008 has clearly proven that many a board failed, particularly in the financial services industry. There is legislation forthcoming in which the proposal is to separate the CEO and chairmanship jobs. People are now looking at the independent directors and especially at the chairs of the committees, and at whether the board chair is separate from the CEO. Investors are now looking at the chair as well. Boards are now squarely responsible for the company’s performance. Make no mistake, the trend has begun where outside interest groups have now forced decisions on directors for reelection and directors' decision on pay.

Going forward, you need people on the board who understand business, who have domain knowledge, and are part of a diversified board. Those days of friends, rewards, and perks are almost over, when people were rewarded for favors, personal contacts, or good things in the past. There may be some remnants, but this all has changed. We now have professional outside agencies that systemically evaluate boards, their composition, and attendance, and those evaluations are circulated widely to investors and analysts. Boards need to take it seriously and be accountable.

LeadingBlog: Obviously, an organization’s vision—and its strategy for executing it—is critical. You say that the board needs to own the strategy. Just how involved should the board be in determining that strategy and ensuring that it is communicated throughout the organization in a way that it can be articulated and specifically or functionally applied by the people in that organization?

Ram Charan: No company can operate successfully without a good strategy. Strategy is proposed by the CEO and his or her team, but in the past, it was proposed, then there was a two-hour and it got approved. Those days are over. Board members want to engage in a discussion of strategy over time, in several iterations, so they understand the competition, the markets, the business model, and the nuances, and through this discussion, they approve the strategy. Anybody who approves it must own it. They don't circulate it. They get the CEO to circulate it and to communicate throughout the iterative process. But boards going forward cannot say strategy belongs to the CEO, not us. That period of lack of accountability is over.

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14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask No Brilliant Jerks

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:01 AM
| Comments (0) | Interviews


Three Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Custom-Built Leadership
Robin Ryde explains in Custom-Built Leadership that there are three questions that will bring clarity to your leadership mandate. They will provide “a personal manifesto for how you will lead. They open up and provide entry to a place where your priorities, personal preferences and ambitions can be properly examined.”

How Long Have I Got? This is a question not just about tenure, but the legacy you wish to leave. This will help you to determine your priorities. Your time frame will determine your pace and help you to determine what skills and resources will be of the greatest value to you.

How Grand Is My Plan? This question has to do with your ambition and encompasses three key considerations: your appetite for taking on varying degrees of ambition, your freedom to operate, and your inheritance (it’s rare that we inherit positions of leadership as a clean slate). Timing will certainly affect your level of ambition.

How Broadly Will I Lead? As a leader you will certainly operate within a system. The question is how far will you travel into the domains that affect your issues that stand outside your formal locus of influence.

Ryde pragmatically discusses each of these questions and candidly describes the rewards and pitfalls of the kinds of decisions we make. This book is an important read for anyone taking on a new leadership task or looking to recalibrate the task they are currently in.

Ryde writes, “A long-term leadership strategy requires a very different approach to a short-term campaign. Leadership on a grand scale calls upon a different set of skills to a business-as-usual plan. Leaders who wish to influence a broad range of people and institutions need to develop different qualities to those with a narrower engagement plan.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:56 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership


Confusing Principles and Approaches

Great by Choice

IN How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins makes a case for why the fall of previously great companies does not negate prior research:
The principles in Good to Great were derived primarily from studying specific periods in history when the good-to-great companies showed a substantial transformation into an era of superior performance that lasted fifteen years. The research did not attempt to predict which companies would remain great after their fifteen-year run. Indeed, as this work shows, even the mightiest of companies can self-destruct.
Of course, the same is true of the classic by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, In Search of Excellence. The failure or declining performance of some people and organizations does not negate the basic message. It is part of being human to get ourselves off-course—even when we know better. The failure of the exemplary companies to maintain their hold on greatness or excellence does, however, hold an important lesson for us. It’s all too easy to move away from our core values. They are always under fire and it takes courage to hold the course. Everything we do has to be continually reviewed and realigned to our core values.

As you know, knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two different issues. More to the point, doing the right thing once and doing it consistently over time in the face of circumstances that would derail us, is a matter of character.

We depart from our core values over time for all kinds of reasons. Doing the right thing doesn’t always give us an immediate payoff in the way we typically gauge success. Doing the right thing is often its own reward. In time, life happens to us and changes our thinking and encourages compromise. Comparing ourselves to others creates doubt. Cynicism is always at the door demanding a hearing and makes sense in a world that rarely works according to plan; a world that is seemingly more irrational than rational. Life changes our friends and they influence us too. All of these circumstances conspire to make us grow or self-destruct. It’s a choice we make every day.

This leads us to a cautionary note. In the search for timeless and universal principles that can be applied in any organization, you will frequently find confusion between principles and approaches. Principles are timeless and universal, but approaches are not. Humility is a timeless and universal principle. The Hedgehog Concept is an approach and therefore is not timeless or universal. The approach has been around since recorded time, but is contextual. It will work in some situations and not in others. Approaches change. Principles do not. Principles speak to matters of thinking and behavior that go beyond the moment and to a higher purpose. Approaches are tools. Principles give us meaning. It’s best not to confuse the two.

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Great by Choice Finding Your Flywheel

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:02 AM
| Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3) | Personal Development , Thinking


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?

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.

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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) | Five Lessons , Teamwork


Seth Godin at TED

Here is Seth Godin's talk at TED on the marketing of an idea. It gives a good overview of his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:05 PM
| Comments (0) | Marketing


Sebastian Coe On Creating a Winning Culture

Sebastian Coe

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?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:27 PM
| Comments (0) | Culture , Management , Teamwork


Your Acknowledgment List

Your Acknowledgment List

I WANT TO to draw your attention to two closely related posts by Rick Smith. They address two important issues. First, the need to get good, solid support and feedback, and second, the importance of appreciation. Here are some of the key points he shared:

Earlier in my career, I was an executive recruiter, and what always struck me is just how lonely these men and women were. Not Tom Hanks on a desert island lonely – these people were surrounded by people clamoring for their attention. Rather, they were lonely in the sense that they rarely if ever could find a safe place to collaborate with peers around real problems. Their superiors were always looking for the answers, their subordinates were looking for direction. When they were able to interact with those outside of their companies, it was almost always at functions for their industry (i.e. their competitors). Everywhere these executives go, that have to present themselves as if they know the answers, as if they are supremely confident. But guess what? Even the most heralded execs share the same uncertainties as the rest of us. They just aren’t allowed to show it.

Peer support is critical to any career. But the higher you go in a leadership role, the fewer opportunities you have to lean on peers for deliberation and problem-solving. For any leader (yes, including the president), maintaining a trusted support network of true peers is critical.

To address this issue, I started World 50, Inc. in 2004, initially bringing together the world’s top 50 marketing executives (in a group called Marketing 50). For this small group of executives, it was as if a light was suddenly turned on. These people were STARVED for a safe environment. Their insecurities and frustrations came spilling out as if from a pressure cooker. They immediately jumped in a started to help solve each other’s problems. As one member commented, “It was as if I was talking to myself a year from now. How valuable is that!” Our firm quickly launched similar peer groups for nearly every office in the executive suite, with each group addressing this same, basic need.

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The days of “buying” people’s time, effort and attention are over. We are all volunteers. We actively choose who we will work for, and how hard we will work for them. We choose who our clients and partners will be. We choose whom to let into our inner circle of friends, those whom we will offer unconstrained support. And we choose our “weak ties,” those outside of our day-to-day whom we will offer a new idea or perspective, and occasionally our direct assistance.

To be successful, you need to earn every relationship. Leadership in the 21st century is based almost entirely on one’s ability to recruit and inspire others toward the future you are trying to create.

This thought became very clear to me this week, as I sat down to write the acknowledgments section for my next book, " title="The Leap" target="_blank">The Leap: How Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great (September 2009). Within an hour, I had cited nearly 100 people who had made a material contribution to my life’s successes in just the last few years.

Take a moment to write down your Acknowledgment list. Have you taken time to let them know you are grateful for their contributions? Would you show up on their acknowledgments list? How many volunteers do you have working for you?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 AM
| Comments (0) | Communication , Learning


Ten Leadership Skills You Need For An Uncertain World

Ten Leadership Skills You Need

UNCERTAINTY is a part of life. Uncertainty is a call for leadership. Creating clarity from uncertainty is a leader’s stock in trade. Unquestionably some periods of time are more demanding than others. Times like these call on leaders to take a broader view of who and why they are leading and the impact they are having on the world around them. While this is very demanding for any leader, it is also more meaningful.

In Leaders Make the Future, futurist Bob Johansen reports that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will only get worse in the future. “Solvable problems will still abound, but top leaders will deal mostly with dilemmas which have no solutions, yet leaders will have to make decisions anyway.”

Leaders Make the Future
Johansen emphasizes ten leadership skills that will help leaders to cope and thrive in the volatile decade ahead. “We need not passively accept the future. Leaders can and must make a better future.” Although it’s “hard to even think about the future if you are overwhelmed by the present … looking to distant possibilities can provide new insight for the present.” The ten skills he lays out move from the instinctual to the complex and build on each other. Here is a summary of Johansen’s work for you to think on:

1. Maker Instinct: The ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. Future leaders will need both a can-do and a can-make spirit. The maker instinct is what separates the leaders from the powerless.

2. Clarity: The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how it gets made. How can you as a leader, create and communicate with clarity in confusing times – without being simplistic?

3. Dilemma Flipping: The ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved – into advantages and opportunities. We must be able to nurture the ability to engage with hopelessness, learn how to wade through it to the other side, and flip it in a more positive direction. Think Roger Martin’s concept of the “opposable mind.” How can you remake a situation with no solution?

4. Immersive Learning Ability: The ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments; to learn from them in a first-person way. Immersive learning requires active attention, the ability to listen and filter, and to see patterns while staying centered – even when overwhelmed with stimuli. Leaders can’t absorb everything, so they must filter out extraneous information and learn how to recognize patterns as they are emerging.

5. Bio-Empathy: The ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns. It is big-picture thinking that respects all the multiple interrelated parts and nonlinear relationships, as well as cycles of change.

6. Constructive Depolarizing: The ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement. The next decade will be characterized by diversity and polarization. The temptation is to pick sides, but that is rarely a good strategy.

7. Quiet Transparency: The ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you – without advertising yourself. This begins with humility. Leaders who advertise themselves and take credit for their own performances will become targets. Are you self-promoting?

8. Rapid Prototyping: The ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. Fail early, fail often, and fail cheaply. Accept failures as important ingredients to success and learn from them.

9. Smart Mob Organizing: The ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media. Leaders are what they can organize. Can you organize smart mobs using a range of media?

10. Commons Creating: The ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit other players – and sometimes allow competition at a higher level. Can you create commons within which both cooperation and competition may occur?

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Newswire: Making Management a True Profession

    May 4, 2009    "Unless corporate leaders take charge of their fate, government will become more and more a master" asserts David Gergen. He believes we can start by creating a true code of conduct.
  • How Business Can Stand Tall Again
    by David Gergen, Fortune
    Embrace the concept of corporate management becoming a true profession. Two professors at the Harvard Business School, Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria, are advancing an idea envisioned in the early days of industrial growth - that management should become a true profession like law or medicine, with a code of conduct, commitment to social responsibility, and professional boards of enforcement. Their efforts represent the beginnings of what must become a longer, deeper conversation about a new social compact between corporations and society. Our worst business leaders did indeed play a role in creating this mess. Now it is apparent that our best business leaders - and there are many out there - must step up and forge a path forward.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:07 PM
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The Four Roles of Mentors

In The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Ken Robinson writes that mentors serve us in one or all of the following ways:

Recognition. “I don’t know of any test or software program that can make the kinds of subtle, personal distinctions that differentiate an interest from a burning passion. A mentor who has already found the Element in a particular discipline can do precisely that. Mentors recognize the spark of interest or delight and can help an individual drill down to the specific components of the discipline that match that individual’s capacity and passion.”

Encouragement. “Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we meant them.”

Facilitating. “Mentors can help lead us toward our Element by offering us advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and even allowing us to falter a bit while standing by to help us recover and learn from our mistakes.”

Stretching. “Effective mentors push us past what we see as our limits. Much as they don’t allow us to succumb to self-doubt, the also prevent us from doing less with our lives than we can.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:49 AM
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Find Your Tribe. Find Your Passion.

The Element
Ken Robinson calls the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together, the Element. Illustrated by stories, many based on exclusive interviews, of celebrities, entrepreneurs, scientists, and other highly accomplished people who have found the Element, Robinson’s book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is an engaging and motivating resource.

Connecting with people who share our same passions and commitment helps in developing our Element. This is our tribe. “Often we need other people to help us recognize our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.”

Robinson says that for many people, finding your tribe is essential in helping you to find your Element. “Finding your tribe can have transformative effects on your sense of identity and purpose. This is because of three powerful tribal dynamics: validation, inspiration, and what we’ll call here the ‘alchemy of synergy.’”

Validation: It’s not just me. Although you may be most in your element when you are working alone, “there’s a tacit awareness of a field – the other writers, other painters, other mathematicians, other players, who enrich the domain and challenge their sense of possibility.” Physicist John wheeler said, “If you don’t kick things around with people, you are out of it. Nobody, I always say, can be anybody without somebody being around.”

Inspiration: How do they do that? “Members of a passionate community tend to drive each other to explore the real extent of their talents…. Tribes are circles of influence, and they can take many forms…. When tribes gather in the same place, the opportunities for mutual inspiration can become intense.”

Alchemy of synergy: The power of tribes is exemplified in the synergy created when groups of people with similar interests come together and create something much greater than any one of them could create individually. Robinson attributes this to the fact that creative teams are diverse, dynamic and distinct or purposeful.

Robinson says that tribe membership “helps people become more themselves, leading them toward a greater sense of personal identity.”

Finding your Element is not always easy. Fear is the most common obstacle standing between you and your passion. “These fears include the fear of failure, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of being found wanting, the fear of disapproval, the fear of poverty, and the fear of the unknown. You may also find that your background has never given you the opportunity to discover or explore your Element in the first place. You also have to face the impact of the image and expectations that other have of you have of you that put pressure on you to pursue a different path.

If you are looking to find or develop your passion – your Element – Robinson’s book is a carefully reasoned and practical guide to help you find the best in you. At the very least, it will make you think differently about yourself.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:26 PM
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First Look: Leadership Books for May 2009

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

  Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science by Charles S. Jacobs
  Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else by John Gordon
  The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald A. Heifetz, Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow
  The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger
  How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins

Management Rewired Training Camp Practice of Adaptive Leadership The Inspiring Leader How The Mighty Fall

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:46 AM
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