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01.31.14

LeadershipNow 140: January 2014 Compilation

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twitter Here are a selection of tweets from January 2014 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:50 PM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

01.30.14

4 Ways Spin Harms Us

We all spin – just a little. Spin

We all tell stories in such a way as to make ourselves look good or at the very least understandably wrong.

Of course there’s good spin and bad spin. Each play with reality a bit, but good spin is never a lie. It’s always on the level. It’s designed to highlight the positive and the uplifting. It opens us up to possibilities that were not readily apparent to us.

Bad spin is a lie. It misleads and exaggerates. It’s opportunistic; design to benefit the spinner. It distorts reality and narrows our possibilities. It’s short term thinking. It may benefit us in the moment but it spoils us in the future.

Bad spin harms us in a number of ways:

First of all, it demonstrates a lack of personal responsibility. Rather than facing the facts and dealing with them is displays our penchant for changing the facts to justify our mistakes.

Second, it signals that we are immature in our understanding of success and failure. We should celebrate lessons learned and communicate that mistakes are a part of the growth process. Bad spin communicates that winning is the only thing and is to be valued more than teamwork and support.

Third, it nullifies the feedback we get. The feedback we get is critiquing the spin and not the reality—it becomes delusional. Feedback based on spin confirms what we want to believe but it is worthless because it’s critiquing a lie. Only feedback based on reality is helpful.

Fourth, it distances us from each other. We become cynical of each other. We lose trust. We lose respect for each other. We want straight answers from each other but we are never sure if we are going to get it. It becomes more difficult to be open, transparent, and non-judgmental.

We crave smooth answers in times like these. Uncertainty makes us crave comfortable answers. Fear makes us accepting of reassuring rhetoric. But if it isn’t honest, it only dumbs us down.

We can avoid bad spin if we respect each other, seek the truth, welcome growth, and make ourselves and others accountable for what we say and do.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 PM
| Comments (0) | Communication

01.28.14

Overcoming the Problem of Willpower

Willpower

Small Move Big Change
Our willpower is simply outmatched by our habits and attitudes. The solution says Caroline Arnold in Small Move, Big Change, is translate your goal into microresolutions—small but meaningful behavioral changes.

Instead of commanding yourself to be an organized person or lose weight through willpower—to be what you are not—the idea is to define explicit actions to practice, one by one, until you begin to do what an organized or fit person does automatically. “Microresolutions focus on doing, not being. Being different follows, rather than precedes, deliberate action.”
The more change we impose on ourselves, the more resistance we must overcome. And yet we nearly always shoot for an instant transformation, resolving to be slim, to be neat, to be on time. Such wannabe resolutions require changing scores of behaviors and put us broadly at war with autopilot.

The intense focus of a microresolution helps expose our veiled mindset and the subtle interplay among habits, attitudes, and values that block progress. Like a scientific experiment that alters a single variable at a time in order to precisely observe cause and effect, the single-minded focus of a microresolution exposes the source of our resistance to change. Once identified, a negative mindset can be addressed, undone, even turned in support of our objectives.

Arnold’s microresolution system is organized into seven rules:

Rule 1: A microresolution is easy. The easier it is, the less you’ll be tempted to talk yourself out of it. Rather than resolving to walk to work every day, an easy microresolution would be to walk to work one day a week.

Rule 2: A microresolution is an explicit and measurable action. Your resolution must focus on a specific change of behavior, not a result than can be achieved in multiple ways. Rather than say “eliminate 100 calories a day,” a microresolution to cut a habitual afternoon snack of a candy bar in half is an explicit and measureable action.

Rule 3: A microresolution pays off up front. To “lose twenty pounds by summer” does not have an immediate benefit. “Stop eating after 8:00 pm” does.

Rule 4: A microresolution is personal. Finding the most effective resolution requires careful self-examination.

Rule 5: A microresolution resonates. It’s positive rather than negative. Instead of “I resolve not to be defensive when receiving feedback,” you might reframe it as, “I will listen, acknowledge, and give thoughtful consideration to feedback.”

Rule 6: A microresolution fires on cue. Establishing a strong link between an action and its cue is essential for making a new behavior automatic, and a careful framing overall will help you nail your resolution and make practicing it more enjoyable.

Rule 7: Make microresolutions just two at a time. Limiting your resolutions ensures that you have the attention and endurance to stick with a behavioral shift until it becomes autopilot.

“The art of self-improvement is not about perfection but about priorities,” write Arnold. In part two, Arnold applies these rules to specific areas of self-improvement such as sleep, fitness, diet, clutter, and relationships. Small Move, Big Change is engaging to read and easy to relate to. It will help you overcome the willpower problem and make progress with any changes you’re faced with.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Change

01.20.14

8 Reasons to Seek Out Ambiguity

Ambiguity

C
HANGE BRINGS with it chaos and ambiguity. We want order.

Ambiguity makes us uncomfortable so we want things ordered as soon as possible. But if we move too fast, we can miss out on the value that ambiguity brings. We need to embrace ambiguity until we have rung the last drop of value out of it.

Ambiguity draws attention to what we don’t know.
Ambiguity gives us space to unlearn.
Ambiguity gives birth to new thinking and tools.
Ambiguity exposes opportunity.
Ambiguity ignites the spark of growth.
Ambiguity expands awareness.
Ambiguity is humble.
Ambiguity asks questions.

Ambiguity and order are tensions to be managed. There is a time and a place for both. Generally speaking, order reproduces—ambiguity creates. Order helps us to leverage our resources. But if we rush too fast to establish order we set ourselves up to repeat the thinking that got us to the point of needing the change in the first place. If we don’t allow ambiguity to do its work, then we might find that the order we establish is incomplete—not well thought out—and doomed to failure.

Functioning with ambiguity requires a great deal of emotional intelligence—the ability to control your emotions, perceive other’s emotions and to facilitate the expression and understanding of all emotions.

Without ambiguity we become dinosaurs.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:36 AM
| Comments (0) | Thinking

01.15.14

Leading Views: Pervasive Learning

Leading ViewsDan Pontefract makes a point in his book, Flat Army, about learning at the speed of need. He quotes Samuel Johnson, “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” We can’t know everything but we as a connected leader, we do well if we know where we can find it.

Success in leadership is not about what you know but the knowledge you can access. We need to focus on continuous learning or what Pontefract calls Pervasive Learning: The switch from a “training is an event” fixed mindset to “learning is a collaborative, continuous, connected and community-based” growth mindset.

The skills we need now are reflected in this statement from British Columbia’s Ministry of Education:
[The current curriculum] tends to focus on teaching children factual content rather than concepts and processes – emphasizing what they learn over how they learn, which is exactly the opposite of what modern education should strive to do. In today’s technology-enabled world, students have virtually instant access to a limitless amount of information. The greater value of education for every student is not in learning the information but in learning the skills they need to successfully find, consume, think about and apply it in their lives.

Students will focus on acquiring skills to help them use knowledge critically and creatively, to solve problems ethically and collaboratively, and to make the decisions necessary to succeed in our increasingly globalized world.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:14 PM
| Comments (0) | Learning

01.14.14

The 5 Disciplines of Wiki Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01.08.14

5 Leadership Lessons: Amplified Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons
Amplified Leadership by Dan Reiland is about developing leaders. While it is written with a church audience in mind, the principles and values work in other arenas as well. It deserves a wider audience. He places the development of leaders into a five-step process: Establish a Relationship, Engage a Follower, Embrace a Team, Coach an Apprentice, and finally, Mentor a New Leader. Here are five lessons from his book:

1  Leaders with character do not set themselves above the people. They roll up their sleeves, get involved, and show the way. Those of us who are leaders are the models, the ones people look to as examples. So we must live in a way that is worthy of the high calling of leadership.

2  It is often said that true community requires authenticity. But it’s also true that you can’t express authenticity outside of community. Authenticity requires healthy relationships. As a leader, you need a small group of friends, perhaps three to five, who give you absolute permission to be yourself at all times. If you get “off track” in some way, someone in the group will be there to let you know. This increases your ability to be self-aware and improves your comfort level with your true self. This honest and healthy feedback from your circle of friends will give you confidence to express yourself without fear when you are in less familiar territory—a place leaders know all too well.

3  Great partnerships have a way of purifying leaders’ motives. To make a partnership work, leaders must set their agendas aside (not the vision, but any personal agendas). Wise leaders remain open to new ways of doing things and are gracious enough to accept that things will not always go their way. This is what you have to give up to go up. If you let other strong leaders on the team, they will have differing opinions. And if they are putting great ideas on the table, you would be wise to consider them. You won’t always get the credit or public attention when you participate in a partnership. But receiving credit should not be your goal. In fact, I hope your ministry develops such a strong culture of giving credit away that it becomes second nature for your team members to celebrate other leaders’ contribution over their own.

4  I’m passionate about mentoring others. That’s what good leaders do. They teach others how to lead. It doesn’t matter if you mentor ten leaders or hundreds in your lifetime. What matters is that you mentor someone. Are you investing in any new leaders? If so, how are you making a difference in their lives? Will someone lead better because of you?

5  Leaders who are good at developing others make an intentional effort to keep improving personally. They keep the fire inside hot. You may have years of experience and be well beyond the level of the person you are mentoring, but eventually you will have little to offer if you stop growing as a leader. If you don’t keep the fires hot, your “leadership balloon” is going to come down. Do you reinvent yourself? Reinventing yourself is about staying out of a comfort zone. Any leader can fall into this place of comfort if he is not growing, stretching, learning, and changing. It is lethal to a leader when everything is balanced, stable, known, and in pleasant symmetry.

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All of these lessons underscore the need for a leader to be able to develop and maintain good relationships. Not only is leadership about relationships, but the ability to maintain good relationships helps to draw a leader outside of themselves and consider the needs and gifts of others. If we are not surrounded by good relationships our leadership quickly narrows down to and stagnates around our own thoughts. Selfish thoughts then rule our decision making.

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

01.06.14

Booknotes: 14 Ideas from The Power of Something Stupid

BooknotesThe Power of Starting Something Stupid is about finding the courage to do the things you don’t feel you are ready to do. Author Richie Norton explains that life-changing ideas are often tragically mislabeled stupid. What if the key to success, creativity, and fulfillment in your life lies in the potential of those stupid ideas? Stupid is the New Smart—the common denominator for success, creativity, and innovation in business and life. The New Smart is having the ability to discern when the label of "stupid" is masking a smart idea.
  1. “Wouldn't it be amazing if you could travel into the future, see where you messed up, and then go back in time to rearrange things in order to make your future better? You can. If you can foresee regret, you can mind-travel to the future. If you can train yourself to mind-travel effectively, you can intentionally affect your future by doing something about it today.”
  2. “If someone thinks your ideas, the dreams bubbling up inside of you, are stupid, welcome to the Club.”
  3. “Life is too short not to start something stupid.”
  4. “Here’s the deal: If you’re scared of choosing the wrong idea to start, you’re going to keep yourself from starting altogether. And on the flip side, if you try to start all of your stupid ideas at once, you’re bound to waste time, energy, and money (and go completely loco in the process). Plus, no matter how hard you focus, if you’re laser-focused on the wrong activity or activities, your laser is going to end up burning a hole right through your potential for success.”
  5. “Overcome the prideful need to measure your worth by how much more successful you are than others, by operating from a core belief grounded in abundance.”
  6. “Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.”
  7. “Don't allow life to pass you by because you are afraid of [looking] stupid.”
  8. “Creativity is at the heart of every stupid idea . . . creativity and stupid are interchangeable . . . because everything inherent to that kind of creativity requires breaking away from the norm, going against the grain, and leaning into risk and fear.”
  9. “Stupid goes in a loop. It’s cyclical. According to the Stupid Loop, a successful stupid project will become smart and even accepted and celebrated by the masses (or the niches.) However, once stupid normalizes, you have to ask yourself, ‘Do I stay the same, for better for worse, or do I innovate – return to stupid – for better for worse?’ Understanding the stupid loop, and why innovation is so vitally important, helps you develop the ability to check the pulse of the environment around you and adapt accordingly.”
  10. “If you want to stay relevant, constantly (and courageously) return to stupid.”
  11. “Projects allow us to experiment and determine what works and what doesn’t. They allow us room to fail and modify our ideas to achieve eventual success. Overcoming procrastination is about simplifying your life to make space for the activities that matter most.”
  12. “Anytime you postpone doing the things that are most important in your life, you are falling victim to procrastination.”
  13. “The art of ownership is a dying one. Everyone wants to point the finger somewhere else. Pride that comes from blame is dangerous, because it causes people to feel justified in their inaction.”
  14. “Creating a culture of transparent trust requires that you be able to speak difficult truth to one another.”


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:00 AM
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01.03.14

How do Leaders Gain Deep Insights?

Reality and truth and hard for leaders to come by—especially if they think they are the repository of all truth. Leaders can easily get swept up in the “truth” perpetuated by the faithful that surround them.

Like in Han Christian Anderson’s story, naked kings parade before followers too insecure and fearful to tell them they have no clothes on. These naked kings begin to believe that the world is a fixed landscape that they only truly understand.

Nigel Nicholson believes a way out is Management By Wandering Around. He writes in The “I” of Leadership, that “leaders need ways of getting under the wire; to penetrate the defenses and illusions that thickly sprout around all the interstices of power in organizations.”
Napoleon sleeping, wrapped in a blanket on the battlefield alongside his men; Gates inviting emails from the ranks of his global Microsoft empire; company patriarch Raymond Ackerman continually touring the stores of his South African Pick-n-Pay grocery chain; and numerous hands-on business leaders the world over walking the job in an unscheduled, intimate manner, chatting to their people.

Gaining insight means:

Getting out and talking to people you don’t normally rely on for information. For better or worse, Nicholson explains that people tell their leaders what they want to hear in order to be thought of well, to keep them confident in their own beliefs and out of the fear to remain on the winning side. Unfortunately, while this keeps the leader comfortable and warm, it also makes them delusional. The leader must break organizational designs that conspire to “separate leaders from their people and the truths they have to tell.” Gaining insight means cultivating quality feedback.

Of course, all of this makes the issue of humility that much more difficult. Without humility we can’t learn and become stuck in a cycle of repeating the same thinking and patterns of behavior we always have—often to our own detriment.

Nicholson writes, “the best bosses teach their people that they really do love the truth and are not afraid of it, even when it may reflect badly on them, but many doubletalk, like the remark of the legendary movie mogul, Sam Goldwyn, who reputedly said:”
I don’t want yes men around me. I want people to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:12 PM
| Comments (0) | Learning

01.01.14

First Look: Leadership Books for January 2014

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

  Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
  On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership by Alison Levine
  Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation by Adam Bryant
  Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership by Janice Marturano
  Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline Arnold

Leaders Eat Last On the Edge Adam Bryant Space to Lead Caroline Arnold

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:55 AM
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