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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Leadership Apology

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does not apologize. Everyone makes that mistake too!
In the course of leading a group of people on a mission toward a vision, over time every leader will make mistakes, insult someone, or otherwise hurt feelings. It just happens if you're doing your job as a leader under pressure to get the job done.
Added to that, we all have both strengths and challenges of character--part of being human. Thus, coming up short as a leader just happens as a byproduct of the job and who we are. So, how do you deal with mistakes? Answer: The apology...one of the most powerful tools in the leadership toolbox.
I've read two books that deal with the magic of apology. Ken Blanchard and Margaret McBride's The One Minute Manager and Marshall Goldsmith's What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
I suggest you check both books out. But essentially the pattern of apologizing is the following.
  1. Admit to the other person that what you did was wrong--not you acting at your best.

  2. Tell them you're sorry that you hurt them and that you feel bad about it.

  3. Ask for their forgiveness.

  4. Let them know what you'll do to stop that behavior.

  5. Enlist their help.

  6. Follow up.
Example: A leader makes fun of a suggestion in a staff meeting and immediately sees the expression of hurt of the person's face. Directly after the meeting, the leader should say:
  1. I make a couple of unkind remarks about your idea. I was wrong.

  2. I'm sorry, and feel like I a jerk.

  3. Will you please forgive me?

  4. I not only promise not to do it again, but if you ever hear me saying something flip or stupid, I ask that you let me know immediately.

  5. I'm going to tell the rest of the staff the same thing. I really have to curb my big mouth.

  6. I'll check back with you in a couple of weeks to see how I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wallet Exercise: Values



Working with leadership clients, I often ask them to pick from a list of standard values to determine their personal and professional values. So words like honesty, courage, creativity, personal accomplishment or wealth, get plucked from a long-established list. Researchers would call this self selecting/self reporting. It's like asking someone: "Do you love your mother?"
Everyone is compelled to say, "Yes." But here's the real kicker question: When's the last time you called, visited, or wrote your mother?

It's not what you claim as a value but what you actually do that matters. Something I'm now asking clients to do is to look at their list of charges from their credit cards (or debit) and their check books to see what they actually did--bought, spent their hard earned cash for. So, when you have time, pull out your wallet, so to speak and see what you have inside it. Whose pictures and what mementos do you tot around, and then look carefully at how you've spent money over the past year. Wherever it aggregates is something you value.

The Jefferson Tombstone Exercise


In my executive coaching practice, I used to ask executives what was important to them in life or what was their vision…things like that. Often, they would look at me with a kind of a deer-in-the-headlights look or a “say what?” look. Over time, I’ve come now to ask them the tombstone question. I got the idea from Thomas Jefferson (and since then I’ve heard it used by a number of others).
Jefferson wanted to be remembered for three specific achievement in his life—even though he served as president and US minister to France. Thus, he designed his own tombstone and wrote his own inscription, which reads that Thomas Jefferson was "author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia" and, as he requested, "not a word more."
I simply ask each of my executive clients very early on in our coaching engagement to list the 3-5 things that she or he wants to be remembered for in each of their lives. In short, if people got up at a funeral to speak words about you, what would you want them to say? This a powerful exercise to help leaders fast forward to the big things in their lives. Simply put, at the end of it all what was central to your life? Give this a try if you really want goals to shoot for that have meaning to you and the world.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chinese Food, Teams and a Sense of Urgency



The day after Christmas, my tech guy, Dean, and I were eating at a Chinese restaurant—which looked like the cafeteria of a large college at noontime. Every college student, who was home on holiday break, had descended on the restaurant because it’s good and reasonably priced. I watched the waitresses, the hostesses, and the busboys, who moved like gazelles to get everyone service. One dropped off the food, another poured water, and another cleared the checks.

I have long been interested in restaurants, having run one before. And whether it’s fast food or not, restaurants always run more efficiently when they’re busy, as teams pull together. Put a sense of urgency on top of any organization and if it’s healthy, the team pulls together. If you want proof of the reverse, go into any restaurant that’s empty and order. I wager, more often than not, the service will be abysmal. Far smarter to come back when things are booming and teams are working together. Remember the old maxim…if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
Happy New Year

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Leadership in Healthcare: Hospitals, Gangs, and Corporate Health



I had an interesting conversation with an executive coaching client who is a doctor at a large hospital. Like all big institutions, hospitals tend to get specialized into departments. Makes sense. But like most organizations (businesses, churches, clubs, associations…) that naturally form silos, hospitals can also hurt themselves by such specialization. Silos create gangs of sorts…albeit intellectually smart ones…but gangs nonetheless—of in-groups and out-groups. Such silos/gangs become possessive of their intellectual capital and even their physical territory.

So, I asked my client when hospitals worked at their best. His answer: When a patient is crashing, and the focus of the entire organization is on one thing—the patient’s welfare. This sense of urgency becomes the great unifier—it breaks down the turf wars and naturally helps people give up their egos in favor of the greater purpose—the patient’s life.

On a separate occasion, one CEO told me that the economy presents a perfect opportunity for change: It will force us to unite and focus on our common purpose within the company—corporate health.

Consider your own organization: Where are the gangs and what could unify them quickly?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tribal Leadership

I saw these foks present their findings at the International Coach Federation conference in Montreal this year. Very fascinating stuff. Here's a hit from my daily alert on leadership from Google:

Tribal Leadership:Leveraging Natural Groups: The Dynamics of ..."Tribal Leadership" is the story of a research project that mapped the key leverage points of tribes to ascertain whether they are more powerful than teams.Suite101 Articles - http://www.suite101.com/

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Presidential Leadership (video)

As we near president-elect Obama's inauguration, I think it's worth watching respected historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who discusses what we can learn from American presidents about leadership, including Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. See this video on presidential leadership from TED.COM--a terrific site indeed.

Learning Organizations

See this video on organizational learning. Excellent piece on why organizations like GE become learning organizations...to keep pace with the changes in the world.

Legacy Leadership



Legacy Leadership by Jeannine Sandstrom and Lee Smith is both an excellent primer for emerging leaders and a strong reminder for experienced leaders. The five legacy practices of vision & values, collaboration & innovation, influence & inspiration, diversity & community, and responsibility & accountabilityare vital behaviors for a successful leader. Sandstrom and Smith provide not only the theoretical underpinnings of leadership but also the practical applications necessary for a leader to leave behind a vibrant and sustainable organization.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Focus on Results, not Reasons


Note: Check out the book Enlightened Leadership: Getting to the Heart of Change by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug. Published in 1994, this book is still a great read for leaders.

The authors (Oakley and Krug) have developed a model that focuses on the power of goals. There simple theory—you get team energy by moving forward toward the goal, but you drain energy by staying focused primarily on the reasons things aren’t working 100%. They build their case based on goal theory—people hit what they aim at far more often than not. But it’s deciding what the goal is that’s tricky. These guys, rightly say, focus the goals on the “results” you want and not the “reasons” why you’re not hitting them. Again—focus on the track and not the wall, as they tell racecar drivers.

Asking the right kind of questions can keep team energy up by focusing on the results and hitting their goals.

In fact, when focused on the reasons “why” something is not working, team energy gets drained by constantly asking Why-based, problem focused, blame-tinted questions like:
--Why are we behind schedule?
--Why did you do it that way?
--What’s the problem here?
--Who did this?

Questions focused solely on the “reasons” why something’s not working, turns into a downward, vicious spiral. Teams keep searching for the errors and in doing so drain their energy. This is not to say that we never ask such questions, rather that they not be the sole focus or our questions. Rather, stay focused on the desired results.

The authors suggest a method for focusing on getting “results” by asking what they call Effective Questions (EQs). These questions focus on moving forward toward the results (goals). Here are typical EQs suggested that stay focused on results:
--What have you accomplished so far on the project that you’re pleased with?
--What about the accomplishment are you MOST pleased with?
--How would you describe the way you want this project to turn out?
--What are your specific objectives?

The authors also suggest a general template for asking Structured Effective Questions:
--What’s already working?
--What makes it work?
--What’s the objective?
--What are the benefits if we achieve this objective?
--What can we do to move closer to our objective?

Finally, here’s some of the best advice I ever got as a kid from my aging Italian mother, Margaret: When I complained about something not working out perfectly, she used to say to me: “Stevie, it ain’t a perfect world.”

You get what you focus on

Note: Check out the book Enlightened Leadership: Getting to the Heart of Change by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug. Published in 1994, this book is still a great read for leaders.

Nothing earth shattering here: You get what you focus on.

However, that maxim goes two ways. There’s an old saying regarding race drivers: Watch the track, not the wall. The reason is simple: If you focus on the track and you stay on the track. If you focus on the wall, you hit the wall!

Just ask any traffic cop about this phenomenon, and he or she will tell you that many police officers get hit while giving traffic tickets because other drivers focus on the flashing police lights and actually hit what they focus on! This is one reason that officers now park at an angle when they stop cars on the road—to shield themselves from oncoming-focus-entranced drivers.

Here’s a simple experiment you can do at home: Fill a cup very full with water and carry it from one room to the other. The first time you do this, focus on where you’re going, not the cup of water. The second time, focus on the water and NOT spilling it. I guarantee you that when you focus on the destination, not the barrier—slopping the water onto the floor—you’ll be much better off.

Same is true at work. Focus on results, not reasons why something’s failing. Focus on what you have to do to succeed and you’re much more likely to hit the mark. Lots of work these days on zero defects—in fact focusing too much on defects, actually attracts them and can make you crazy searching for them. Better to focus on 100% results (positive) side of the equation, not the reasons (blame) side of the equations. Also, does wonders for keeping teams positively energized. See the next post for more on that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

IBD's Top 10 Secrets to Success

Investor’s Business Daily has spent years analyzing leaders and successful people in all walks of life. Most have 10 traits that when combined, can turn dreams into reality. Each day IBD highlights one—The following is their list with a case example from IBD.

1. HOW YOU THINK, IS EVERYTHING:
Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment.
2. DECIDE UPON YOUR TRUE DREAMS AND GOALS:
Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
3. TAKE ACTION:
Goals are nothing without action. Don’t be afraid to get started now. Just do it.
4. NEVER STOP LEARNING:
Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills.
5. BE PERSISTENT AND WORK HARD:
Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.
6. LEARN TO ANALYZE DETAILS:
Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.
7. FOCUS YOUR TIME AND MONEY:
Don’t let other people or things distract you.
8. DON’T BE AFRAID TO INNOVATE; BE DIFFERENT:
Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
9. DEAL AND COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE EFFECTIVELY:
No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.
10. BE HONEST AND DEPENDABLE; TAKE RESPONSIBILITY:
Otherwise, Numbers 1-9 won’t matter.

Quarterbacks and Leadership

I thought this one made sense for all of us who study leadership: Quarterback Leadership Requirements: It Boils Down to Managing Many Diverse Relations On & Off the Field

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Study on Power

The Center for Creative Leadership has conducted a study on power. Here's a summary from CCL's Web page:

  1. Make relationships a priority
  2. Don't overplay your personal agenda
  3. Maximize your communications network
  4. Be generous with information
  5. Be an expert
  6. Tailor your power to reward others
  7. Reward with words
  8. Punish with purpose
  9. Teach others

"Some stats from the research: Power is simply "the potential to influence others." CCL recently surveyed 280 leaders about the nature of power at work. Key findings include:

  • 94% rated themselves as being moderately to extremely powerful at work. There is a notable correlation between a leader's level in the organization and how powerful they believe themselves to be at work.
  • 28% agree that power is misused by top leaders in their organization.
  • 59% agree that their organization empowers people at all levels.
  • 41% indicated that they would feel more powerful at work if they had more formal authority. "


    Advice

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Five Dimensions of CEO Performance to Consider

In an article by former serial (10 times!) CEO, Stephen Kaufman, in the HBR (October 2008, p.52), he describes a much more complete method to evaluate CEOs other than just a few financial metrics. His system, developed when he was CEO at Arrow Electronics, involves each board member actively interviewing and observing firsthand the CEO at work, especially rating her or him in the following 5 areas:
1. Leadership: How well did the CEO motivate and energize the organization, and is the company’s culture reinforcing its mission and values?
2. Strategy: Is it working, is the company aligned behind it, and is it being effectively implemented?
3. People management: Is the CEO putting the right people in the right jobs, and is there a stream of appropriate people for succession and to support growth goals.
4. Operating metrics: Are sales, profits, productivity, asset utilization, quality, and consumer satisfaction heading in the right direction?
5. Relationships with external constituencies: How well does the CEO engage with the company’s customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders?

A pretty good set of dimensions for any CEO or senior executive in a company.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Leadership: Fred Smith, CEO FedEx

Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx is interviewed about leadership by the Washtington Post.

Darden Leadership Speaker Series: Kevin Plank CEO Under Armour


Darden welcomes Kevin Plank, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Under Armour to the Darden Leadership Speaker Series. In 1996, then 23 year old Kevin began selling high performance T-shirts out of the basement of his grandmother's apartment in Washington, D.C. Twelve years later, Under Armour has established itself as the fastest growing sports apparel company in the world, with revenues approaching $700 million. Recorded October 3, 2008. Click here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top Leaders: Extensive Study Reveals Key Characteristics

Daniel Goleman and David Boyatzis (leaders in social and emotional intelligence), in collaboration with the Hay Group, have studied top leaders in hundreds of companies over two decades and determined seven (7) qualities of the best leaders:
1. Empathy
a. Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
b. Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
2. Attunement
a. Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
b. Are you attuned to others’ moods?
3. Organizational awareness
a. Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
b. Do you understand social networks and their unspoken norms?
4.Influence
a.Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
b.Do you get support from key people?
5.Developing others
a. Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
b. Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
6.Inspiration
a.Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?
b.Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?
7. Teamwork
a. Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
b. Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

*The above information from Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, Harvard Business Review, September 2008, pp. 74-81.

How to Protect Your Job in a Recession

To help work through this uncertain economic time, here's what the Harvard Business review says in a nutshell (How to Protect Your Job in a Recession--Sept. 2008, p. 113-16). The following is a direct quote:
Article at a Glance:

--If you want to survive, act like a survivor. Be confident and cheerful. Stay focused on the future by concentrating on the customer, without whom nobody will have a job.

--Give your leaders hope. They agonize over layoffs, so cut them a break. Empathizing with your boss will give you an advantage.

--Be a corporate citizen. Companies like team players. Research shows that collegiality may trump competence when push comes to shove.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Center for Creative Leadership Podcasts

Center for Creative Leadership...see their podcasts. Here area just a few....rest are on their site: CCL Leading Effectively Podcast Series - All Podcasts


10 Principles for Working Across Generations — Using these 10 principles will help you look past the stereotypes and become a more effective leader to people of all ages.

6 Ways to Make Conflict Productive — Here are 6 ways to produce positive outcomes from conflict.

Becoming Resilient: Leadership, Uncertainty, and Learning to Thrive in Times of Change — Discover the five areas you can develop to increase your resiliency.

Beware of Your Strengths — A popular notion has taken hold in many management-development circles: Managers need focus only on their strengths rather than develop weak spots. But such thinking needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of reality, says the Center for Creative Leadership.

Beyond Words: Communicate with Actions and Attitude — Does your communication style rely solely on what you say? Learn how to use actions and attitudes to communicate more effectively.

The Big 6: An Active Listening Skill Set — Apply these six skills required for active listening and you will not only be known as a good listener - you will become a better leader as well.

Authentic Leadership

Executive Summary from HBR:

Podcast: The best leaders are not the "follow me over the hill" type, says Professor Bill George. Rather, they're the people who lead from the heart as well as the head, and whose leadership style springs from their fundamental character and values. George discusses his new book True North, co-written with Peter Sims. Here's the podcast.

One Minute Entrepreneur



The One Minute Entrepreneur is a quick and useful read for people starting their own business. The hints along the story's way are simple but useful. Here are some:
--"You can't predict the good that can come from helping or forgiving someone."
--"To live a happy and fulfilled life, be generous with your wealth, time and talent."
--"Working people today want a partnership relationship, not a top-down hierarchy."
--"The best management includes day-to-day coaching that catches people doing things right and redirects their efforts when they are off base."
--"Profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people."

Tony Mayo's Blog

Tony Mayo is a friend and a top-flight executive coach. I like his blog a lot--it's clear, concise and to the point. So, I'm adding it to my favorite's list. Give Tony's Blog a look. Well worth it. Tony Mayo's Blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

TED--Ideas worth spreading

TED
Week of December 06, 2008

This week: New inventions and new worlds: Second Life


Second Life Philip Rosedale is the creator of Second Life. He talks about living (and learning) online, and the shifts in society that are coming as more and more of us live through avatars. He sees profound changes coming in education -- and so do the TEDsters who've joined the discussion on this talk.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Greatness

A friend just sent this to me and I cannot resist posting it:

"Woody Allen made an interesting observation about why we often don't get what we want:

'I've often said the only thing standing between me and greatness is me.'"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Opening Chapter--The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest

Read the opening chapter of The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest

Marshall Goldsmith, the most respected executive coach in the country, has high praise for this new book: “Many executives have heard about executive coaching but don’t know what it actually looks like. Through this business fable, The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest, Steve Gladis has given such inquiring executives a clear picture of the entire executive coaching process from start to finish. I enjoyed all the fictional characters with their own quirks and issues, many of which I’ve seen in my own Fortune 500 clients. Steve has done an outstanding job, and the next time someone asks me what executive coaching is all about, I’ll say, ‘Just read The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest.’ ”

Although executive coaching has become increasingly popular with organizations across the globe because of its effectiveness, many people don’t know what it looks like until they actually commit to the process. The confidentiality involved in coaching between coach and client is somewhat responsible for the mysteriousness of the process. That’s why Dr. Steve Gladis has written The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest to help leaders better see and understand how executive coaching works.

Written as a business fable, The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest is the story of a gifted executive coach, J. C. Williams, and his coaching relationships with his varied business clients—all with their own professional challenges. The book offers engaging stories, has believable characters with realistic problems, and illustrates the structure and content of the coaching process. The book is a quick read—something any busy executive could read on a flight between Washington, DC and Boston—and is time very well spent, not only for the individual executive but for her or his company’s future.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Calling All Women Leaders


Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women shows women how to lead…it’s that simple and powerful. The authors are two former women Marine Corps Captains, Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, both of whom have had successful corporate careers and since formed their own leadership company, Lead Star http://www.leadstar.us/.

As a former Marine Corps officer myself, I recognized some of their key points and loved their many specific and compelling stories—a nice mixture of Marine and corporate stories. I actually felt like I really got to know the character of the authors well…and they’re quality folks. Read the book and you’ll see. In fact I’m giving it to my two daughters, both professionals, as a great leadership course to help them as they lead in their fields. Here are the chapter titles…that really come alive when you read the stories that help you see their leadership principles in action:

1. Meet and exceed the standards you ask of others—lead from the front.
2. Make timely decisions—find the 80% solution.
3. Seek to take responsibility before you begin to place blame.
4. True leaders dedicate themselves to service—take care of those you lead.
5. Think before you act—especially before you overreact.
6. When faced with a crisis—aviate, navigate, and communicate.
7. Courage + Initiative + Perseverance + Integrity = Success.
8. Don’t cry over something that won’t cry over you.
9. Say you’re sorry only when you’re at fault.
10.Always lead as you are.

This book is really worth the read—if you or someone you care about wants to lead a family, a group, or a team—at home, as a volunteer, or at work.

Also, check out their Web site: http://www.leadstar.us/

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Witness to History and Leadership

Last night we all witnessed history. From the streets of Selma and Montgomery during the Civil Rights movement, to an African American president elect in 2008. One headline I read today said, “Change Has Come.” In fact, change goes on every day in every fiber or our bodies, our society and our world. The challenge now for us all is to support President Obama as he leads, something I’m confident he can and will do with this opportunity--mandate.

I can remember clearly when there were no African American quarterbacks in pro football. How that has changed, as has the face of football. So, whether you voted for Barack Obama or John McCain, the time to rally around Obama’s leadership for a common cause, the health and welfare of the United States, is the only option.

Tribes and Leadership


Seth Godin has written extensively on marketing in the past. In his new book, Tribes, he’s opened a new door to an old concept: Tribes. We all live in, work in, and play in tribes—though it’s not always obvious. As the French say, “Fish are the last one to find out about water.” Because tribes are all around us, we often take them for granted, like fish take water for granted.

A tribes he explains is any group of people who want to connect to an idea and a leader. Godin then spends much of the book talking about how people have connected and how leaders have stepped forward to say, “Ok, I’ll lead.” It’s not clear if this is a marketing book about leaders or a leadership book about marketing. But either way, he delivers the message that people want to get connected and be led. His challenge is that we (individually) have to step up to the challenge of leading and connecting.

The Internet and social networking devices like Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in and so many others allow us to step up, plant a flag and yell: Here I am with this idea, anyone else interested?

I’m reminded of what happened to me when I moved to Cleveland from Monterey, California. I was training for the Boston Marathon and wanted to connect with local runners in Cleveland, just as winter was rolling in. Every Saturday morning at 7:30AM, I went to a park that linked up with trails called the Emerald Necklace, which went for many miles around Cleveland. At first, I ran alone. But I invited every runner I could run up to and chat with (while running) to join me each Saturday. Three years later, we had a hundred or so people regularly on Saturday morning, and had we had started a running club that had many hundreds of members.

Seth Godin, as usual, has something to say that’s worth listening to.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dare to Dream

Rick, a friend of mine, is a chief of police. While on a trip to North Dakota with his father-in-law, the both of them visited a museum in Fargo that housed a full-scale Viking ship! Here’s the story in a nutshell from their Web site:
A DREAM
In 1971, Robert Asp, a guidance councilor at Moorhead Jr. High School, began his dream to build a Viking ship and sail it to Oslo Norway. Asp built the Hjemkomst in a former potato warehouse in Hawley, MN that he rented in 1974. Six years later, Robert Asp sailed his ship on Lake Superior. He died of Leukemia in December of that year. In the summer of 1982, Robert Asp’s family and friends sailed the Hjemkomst 6100 miles from Duluth, MN to Bergen, Norway where they arrived on July 19,1982.
Learn about the voyage, including the storm 500 miles from New York that created a crack in the hull nearly 14 feet long that almost caused the crew to head back to North America. See how the crew lived during the 72-day voyage.
Feel the massive ship; touch the water-worn wood. You will see why it symbolizes the Center's theme, "Dare to Dream."
http://www.hjemkomst-center.com/ship/main.htm
How many of us would take on such a journey? I’m not sure who the bigger hero is—Robert or his family. But notice that it only takes one man with a dream to inspire others toward the same dream—the essence of leadership.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ministers as Leaders of Change

One of the smartest leaders I ever met was a guy called Sam. We had a chance recently to talk, and I asked him about the kind of leadership experiences he had as a minister. While he was able to rattle of several, I found the following to be particularly interesting and kind of a leadership signature of Sam.

He was placed into a ministry in which one lay member had taken over much control of the church. Sam wanted to make changes without alienating this very powerful member. So, each year Sam would find someone who wanted to take over one of the tasks from the lay leader. Then Sam would go to this strong headed leader and ask him if he would relinquish just one area in order to let this other church member participate, get more engaged. The conscientious leader agreed to these small concessions until after 12 years the transformation had taken place—without anger or acrimony. Sam said, “ I never thought I’d stay for 12 years!” Some change just takes time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Emotional Social Effectiveness for Leaders


A Coach’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence: Strategies for Developing Successful Leaders
By James Bradford Terrell and Marcia Hughes with contributions from Julio Olalla, Terrie Lupberger and G. Lee Salmon

This book teaches coaches how to use the same approach that experienced FBI agents employ when interviewing witnesses, victims, or even criminals: Look well beyond the surface of the conversation at the person’s language, emotion, and body language (somatics). I particularly liked the authors’ framing their key focus as Emotional Social Effectiveness—because it is more than emotional intelligence (which sounds both high-brow and out of touch). The authors also introduce five critical techniques, which resonated with me as an executive coach and former FBI agent. Here they are with my personal interpretation of what they mean in a nutshell:
1. Value Self—Respect and trust ourselves
2. Value Others—Respect and trust others
3. Responsive Awareness—Be aware and act wisely
4. Courage—Do the right thing
5. Authentic Success—Balance meaning with achievement

The book not only provides a sound theoretical explanation of each of these techniques, but it also offers a number of concrete examples and case studies. I especially liked the chapter, “Coaching to Enhance, Develop, and Strengthen Emotional and Social Competencies in Government Leaders” by contributing author Lee Salmon (Federal Consulting Group, U.S. Department of Treasury). I only wish that this book had been around when I was teaching and coaching at the FBI Academy in a previous career. It would have helped me and my internal clients a great deal.

I felt like this book was an important read for me as an executive coach and will serve as a great reference book for the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leaders Who Incite Emotional Calming or Emotional Rioting

Watch a young child (a toddler), fall, and you’ll witness something that happens in business all the time. The child immediately looks at the mother, father, or guardian. If the caretaker expresses mild concern, even a kind of lightheartedness—assuming it was not a major accident—then the child gets up, dusts off and heads for the original destination. However, if the caretaker reacts in a highly charged emotional way (perhaps by making a very distressed face or exclaiming something in a high pitched, fearful voice) the child will often start crying, in an attempt to match and react to the emotion coming toward him or her.


Leaders have an invisible megaphone permanently attached to their voice box. This unseen amplifier is called positional authority. We are all wired to listen to authority with much greater intensity than similar words coming from a colleague. Of course there are exceptions to this, say when you don’t trust your boss or don’t know the situation well. But on the whole, leaders have their voices amplified without ever intending to do so. Therefore, in uncertain times if a leader passes down the emotion from above, with the same intensity it came down to him or her just by passing it down the line, it intensifies the message.

So, it’s important for leaders to learn how to deflect, not ignore much of which comes down from above. Uncertain economical times like these are a perfect example. Investment advisors or bankers who calm people’s fears are far more likely to have clients who make good, rational decisions. Whereas, advisors, who are anxious themselves, will exacerbate already skittish investors, who might well make poorer (stress-induced) decisions.

Leaders can cause emotional calm or potentially emotional riots
just by the way they pass down information through their invisible microphones.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Leadership: Attitude and Aptitude

Motivational speaker and sales training guru, Zig Ziglar once said: “It is your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude.” Recently in a new book, The Breakthrough Company by Keith McFarland, one CEO said that he hired for attitude and then trained aptitude. Both of these quotes struck home for me because too frequently, we read a resume that includes entries referring to Princeton and Yale and Harvard or Stanford Business School—along with McKinsey or Booz Allen, and we go gaga—a bit like an intellectual love at first sight. The candidate interviews well, is bright, personable and shining. But some months later, we see a poisonous attitude seep into the culture and when we track it back to our superstar, we try to re-train them…educate them into a new attitude. Hard stuff. I’m not saying it can’t be done or that we shouldn’t try. Certainly executive coaches can help. But wouldn’t it be easier in the long run to hire attitude? In many cases, you can train aptitude.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hovering Helicopters and Leadership

When I was a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and heading for Vietnam, I was studying artillery at Fort Sill Oklahoma. I had made a friend, an Army helicopter pilot, who was also a student in my artillery class, which was taught by a an arrogant (I’m ashamed to say) Marine Corps Captain. This instructor tended to berate people in a kind of demeaning way: “What, you can’t understand that simple equation?” One day the arrogant instructor said something demeaning to my Army friend, who had been a decorated pilot in Vietnam. The pilot just looked up and asked:


“Hey, Captain, can you hover?”

“What?” asked the Captain instructor.

“Can you hover a helicopter?”

“NO!” exclaimed the Captain, at what must have seemed and irrelevant question.

“Then, I guess we’re even!” said my Army friend.

Not a bad thing to think about as a leader. We all have differing gifts. The trick it to recognize them and not put others down who don’t have the ones we might happen to have.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Persuasion--50 Ways

How to Be Persuasive
Excerpts from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive

I've been a huge fan of Dr. Bob Cialdini for many years and have used his classic book Influence in university classes and courses for years. Now he has collaborated with colleagues Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. and Steve Martin (the Ph.D. not the comedian!). The new book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive is an excellent read for any student of the discipline and any business person who wants to improve business. Here are just a few examples:
1. Reciprocity: In one experiment a social scientist Randy Garner tested the effect of yellow 3M Post-it Notes. He sent out a survey and cover letter three different ways: one set of surveys contained a yellow sticky post-it on top of the cover letter with a handwritten note requesting completion on the sticky note; one set of surveys had a handwritten request only on the cover letter; the final set of surveys contained only the cover letter and survey, with no personalized note of any sort. The results: 75% survey completion rate for the first group (with the handwritten Post-It note); 48% return rate for the second group (with the handwritten note on the cover letter itself); and 36% with only the cover letter. I just bought more sticky notes!
2. Commitment/Consistency: Researcher Anthony Greenwald discovered that when people are asked whether they will engage in socially desirable behavior (such as, “Will you vote?”), they usually answer “yes.” Those people who answer yes tend to live up to their promise (remain consistent with their previous commitment) at much higher rates than those never asked. For example at one restaurant (where people notoriously are no shows despite reservations), one manager changed his request from "Please call if you have to cancel" to a direct question: "Will you please call if you have to cancel?" People always answered "Yes." The results are in: Just by asking the question versus getting people to answer yes (which they are compelled to in such socially desirable situations), the manager dropped his no-show rate from 30% to 10%--a huge revenue booster to be sure. Will you read my latest book The Journey of the Accidental Leader?
3. Consensus: In an experiment involving compliance of hotel guests used to measure the effect of social pressure or consensus, researchers (Goldstein, Cialdini, and Griskevicius) simply placed a sign in each hotel room asking guests to reuse towels for the sake of the environment. There was an immediate uptick in the number of people who cooperated. When the wording on the sign was altered to not only appeal to the environment but also that the majority of guests complied with this request, the compliance rate shot up 26%. Finally, when the sign was altered yet again, this time to say that not only did most guests reuse towels, but also that guests who had stayed in the very room being asked to ruse (direct peers), had in fact, recycled, the compliance rate shot up to 33%. Please recycle this paper after you read it!
4. Liking: Benjamin Franklin once wrote: ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Though this sounds counter-intuitive, it is not. Researchers (Jecker and Landy) conducted a study in which participants won money during the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, the researcher approached one group of winners and asked if they would be willing to return some of the money they’d won from the researcher because he had used much of his own personal money to run the experiment. The rest of the group was not asked. In a follow up survey, the group that was asked the favor rated the experimenter high than the un-asked members of the group. Bottom line message here: Ask people for help. Not only will you likely get a return for asking, but they’ll also like you more.
5. Authority: Everyone has experienced the effect of authority on influence. From bosses asking us to stay late to football coaches telling us to drop down and give them twenty push-ups and from products recommended by the American Medical Association to the advice given to us by our lawyers—authority helps us make up our minds quickly. In one experiment, the researchers (Pfeffer, Fong, Cialdini, and Portnoy) asked participants to play the role of senior editor for a book publisher dealing with an experienced author. The “senior editors” were asked to consider sizeable book advance for the author. The editors were divided into two groups: One group read positive comments about the author, which were made by the author himself. The second group read the identical comments made by the author’s agent. The result: the “editors” rated the author’s comments more favorably on every element of comparison, especially likability, when those comments were made by a third party (the agent) than by the author himself. Bob Cialdini and his colleagues have written a great book—I suggest strongly that you consider reading it!
6. Scarcity: Brian Ahearn of State Farm Insurance Company is responsible for recruiting new independent insurance agencies from across the country to partner with State Farm, thus giving State Farm expanded territorial coverage. And every year, Brian and his team send out recruitment letters with little direct success from the mailing. More recently, he decided to use the scarcity principle in his letter by using legitimate information about the offering. His new letter now includes that while they are looking for new partners, they were looking for only 42 firms nationally and that State Farm had already lined up 35 firms. His letter contained this sentence: ‘It’s our sincere hope that your agency will be one of the remaining agencies that we appoint before the year end.’ Within days, he began to get eager responses from agencies that did not want to lose out on the opportunity. Scarcity derived from legitimate information drives behavior.

That’s it, if you want more…lots more about persuasion, go to Amazon today buy the book: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive( 2008, Free Press).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wisdom from Michael Scott--The Office

The character, Michael Scott, lead in The Office, remains one of my favorite backhanded examples of leadership. In the scene below he's helping Dwight remember some inspiration offered (by Michael) in the past.

A note here, Marshall Goldsmith, the country's leading executive coach and mentor to me and so many others, has said that only thing some executives have to do to improve their leadership is just stop being a jerk!

See how this clip supports that theory: Michael inspires Dwight.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hedgehog for careers

This is in response to a question posed on Marshall Goldsmith's Harvard Blog.

I think it's great to do what you love until you can't do it anymore. And, I'm not sure we need to set any deadline on that. In my coaching practice I've used the hedgehog concept from Jim Collin's work (Good to Great)to help executives, especially Boomers find their next playing field.

In fact, the other day when talking to a bunch of senior police executives I asked them to draw three intersecting circles. I suggested that in the first circle they place anything that good at now and could become world class with practice and development.

In the next circle, I ask them to look at that list (good-to-great list in the first circle) and put in the second circle only the ones that they're passionate about. Note: many of us are good and could be great at things we just don't like all that much...like driving a car or conducting audits (UGH).

Then in the final circle, I asked them to look at the first two circles and figure out a financial model (a fee process/schedule) that will make them a decent salary if they were to perform the other two circles well. In other words, answer the question: How can I make a living at the other two circles?

If you spend time on this process, the chances of finding something you can love for the rest of your life are pretty good. If you can only fill in the-good-to great circle and the passionate circle (but not the money one), then you have a HOBBY...not a bad thing either.


- Posted by Steve Gladis

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why everyone loves mothers

I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing on a Saturday morning. Something I’ve done for many years. As I’m working on a new book, The Transparent Leader, I noticed a young mother, maybe in her mid-twenties with her 18-month old daughter. I know because I asked her! She let her daughter explore the shop, put her in big chairs to experience them, and held her when she got fussy. That’s when it dawned on me, why mothers as leaders, are so revered and loved. They are constantly engaged in their child’s development. Good mothers never give up on a child, no matter what. And, they’re always acting in the best interest of the child, even when it means disciplining them.


Pretty damned good lesson for us all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Leadership Voices

Here are some excellent interviews by leaders:

From the Washington Post: Looking to build your business or take your management skills to a higher level? CEOs from recognizable companies and leadership experts weigh in on what skills are needed to succeed.

You have to wait about 15 seconds for the ad to pass...worth the wait.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Turst and Business Development

Just posted this on Suzi Pomerantz's Blog, whic I enjoy: www.suzipomerantz.com

The best business development advice I know started with the work of Aristotle in his book Rhetoric. He said that in order for speakers to be believable, they had to do three things well: Show good sense, good character and good will. These three elements comprise: Trust. With high trust, there is no customer you can’t work with and without it no customer you can work with.
Good Sense is basic competency in your business. In short, knowing your business well. To be of value and even competitive, you must know the substance of your craft.
Good Character is all about honesty, integrity and courage to do the right thing. If a client sees that you stand for what you say…say-do, you deliver what you promise, and make things right when you don’t, there’s little they won’t do for you.
Good Will: Simply put, clients must believe that you have their best interest at heart—you care for them in an enduring way. Trust comes not as a one-shot deal but a sustained relationship that good clients want.
Final word—to be trusted you need all three of these (Good Sense, Good Character & Good Will)…not one or two. And if you do, watch the clients you get and the referrals they’ll send your way.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Your Next Career Adventure

Just posted the comments below to Marshall Goldsmith's Harvard Site:

I agree with Marshall, with a twist. Sure, I think it's great to do what you love until you can't do it anymore. And, I'm not sure we need to set any deadline on that. In my coaching practice I've used the hedgehog concept from Jim Collin's work (Good to Great)to help executives, especially Boomers find their next playing field.

In fact, the other day when talking to a bunch of senior police executives I asked them to draw three intersecting circles. I suggested that in the first circle they place anything that good at now and could become world class with practice and development.

In the next circle, I ask them to look at that list (good-to-great list in the first circle) and put in the second circle only the ones that they're passionate about. Note: many of us are good and could be great at things we just don't like all that much...like driving a car or conducting audits (UGH).

Then in the final circle, I asked them to look at the first two circles and figure out a financial model (a fee process/schedule) that will make them a decent salary if they were to perform the other two circles well. In other words, answer the question: How can I make a living at the other two circles?

If you spend time on this process, the chances of finding something you can love for the rest of your life are pretty good. If you can only fill in the-good-to great circle and the passionate circle (but not the money one), then you have a HOBBY...not a bad thing either.

Trophies and Leaders

A friend of ours, Tom Ryan, was talking about all the trophies his two boys (now grown) and he had accumulated over years. Trophies for swimming, running, soccer and the like that line the shelves of his family room. But after thinking about the scores of trophies, Tom had this keen insight: Despite all the trophies, who did everyone in the family go to when they needed advice or consolation—not to the trophy holders—but Judy, Tom’s wife. Like my wife, Donna, Judy has no trophies with her name on them, but possesses the greatest prize: Wisdom. Maybe we should have a Wisdom Trophy—but that would be a man thing wouldn’t it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Persuasion and Influence

Bob Cialdini is a social scientist at Arizona State University and has studied persuasion for many years. His book Influence is a classic that I've used in my university classes. A very readable author, he's written extensively on the topic and has a new book out 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. Here's an interview on NPR worth listening to, especially during this election season. I'm getting my copy next week.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93872977&sc=emaf

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter (a review)


John Kotter, professor emeritus of the Harvard Business School, has just written his newest book, A Sense of Urgency. I was contacted by the Harvard Business Press to review an advance copy, and I did so to my advantage. It’s an excellent explication of the first tenet of Kotter’s now well known 8-step change theory (From his book Leading Change):

  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
  2. Create a guiding coalition.
  3. Develop a vision and a strategy.
  4. Communicate the change vision.
  5. Empower employees for broad-based action.
  6. Generate short-term wins.
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change.
  8. Anchor new approaches in the culture.

Kotter believes that urgency is critical to this whole process; simply put, no urgency—no change.

Kotter drills down into the weeds on establishing a sense of urgency and gives the reader some clear reasons for improving companies:

Successful companies tend to be complacent and do little; companies that raise a false sense of urgency run around like chickens with their heads cut off—frazzled; only those companies working off a true sense of urgency tend to produce change that matters. Kotter further explains that complacent and under-fire companies are too focused on the internal (strengths and weaknesses) and very little on the external threats and opportunities. If you’ll recall the well-known strategic planning mantra S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats), Kotter’s urgency theory makes a lot of sense. Again, the progressive and productive companies look not just inward but especially outward—at how opportunity and threats must be faced squarely.

To increase this sense of urgency, the author provides a simple but effective strategy: "Create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making some progress each and every day and constantly purging low value-added activities--all by always focusing on the heart and not just the mind."

You’ll need to read the book for the valuable detail that Kotter provides. The following is a cursory overview:

  1. Bring the outside in (connect to the customer and the world outside the corporate walls).
  2. Behave urgently every day (make urgency—not anxiety or anger—part of the culture focused on external opportunities and threats).
  3. Find opportunity in crisis (be careful but look for opportunity in the midst of any crisis).
  4. Deal with the NoNos who block change (neutralize and remove those urgency-killers, who will keep the group in a deadly complacent static state in an ever-changing world. Healthy skeptics are not a threat, but the NoNos are).

Kotter has hit the nail squarely in this easy-to-read book. Having seen all sorts of companies up close, I think Kotter has described a practical method for getting people to be productive—by creating a real sense of urgency.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leadership and Executive Coaching Quotes

Today, I read a great report from The Federal Consulting Group--part of the US Treasury Department that offers executive coaching to the federal government. To be upfront, I've been an outside coach repenting this group with federal clients. After reading this report, The FCG Executive Coaching Guide: Steps for a Successful Coaching Partnership, I was struck by the quality of quotes in the text. So, here are some of the quotes:

  • "Our chief want in life is somebody who makes us do what we can." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "When two men in a business always agree, one of them is unnecessary." Unknown
  • "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." ~Elmer Letterman (who?)
  • "Chance favors the prepared mind."~ Louis Pasteur
  • "Personally, I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught." ~Winston Churchill
  • "When you hire people who are smarter than you are, you prove you are smarter than they are." ~ R.H. Grant
  • "Learning is a willingness to let one's ability and attitude to change in response to new ideas, information and experiences." ~ Peter Vaill
  • "The significant problems we face cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." ~ Albert Einstein
  • "Over the long run, superior performance depends on superior learning." ~Peter Senge.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wooden on Leadership

I love basketball—that’s my bias. So, getting to look over the shoulder of the greatest college coach in history—in my estimation—was a thrill. Wooden’s original notes in his own handwriting give this book a kind of authenticity few such books offer. It’s as much a scrapbook on his leadership as it is a primer for leaders. His famous Pyramid for Success, comprised of 15 elements, gets a bit tedious, but the stories and the bon mot’s (“It takes 10 hands to score a basket.”), the sidebars and clips from his game and practice plans are delightful and worth the read.

If Wooden decided to be a CEO, he would have been one of Jim Collins good-to-great leaders. Instead, he chose to teach others to become leaders.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hit the Ground Listening--The First Few Months

For many new leaders, there's a real urgency to hit the ground running. We all want to impress our new bosses that we have what it takes to make change, turn a profit, and succeed. After all, isn't that why we were hired? Well, yes and no.


CEOs and senior executives, the good ones, want us to succeed but not at the expense of the culture—especially if the company is doing well. Successful corporate leaders expect (but don't always tell us) a leader who will respect the corporate culture, figure out what it is, and make changes accordingly and appropriately.

In his book, The First 90 Days Michael Watkins warns against this run in and start changing everything, action imperative. A friend of mine and CEO of a large association conducted an informal survey with key executives on his mailing list. This fellow is a former headhunter and political insider in Washington, DC with an enviable database of high-placed folks. He asked these executives, what was the single piece of advice they would give incoming leaders. The overwhelming piece of advice: Listen.

I just had lunch with a senior FBI executive, who told me exactly the same thing. He said that baring emergencies or things that are just plain broken, he wants one of his new CEOs—called Special Agents in Charge for the field offices of the FBI in every major city in the county—to be people who listen and “respect” the culture of the office.

So, there you have it…three smart people telling us the same thing. Stop, look, and listen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


A fascinating book that looks into the most common derailers for CEOs and executives. David Dotlich and Peter Cairo explain a litany of sins....like Arrogance, Melodrama, Volatility, Habitual Distrust, Aloofness and a host of others you'll want to read about.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Emotional and Social Intelligence for Leaders

Background

Daniel Goleman, nationally known psychologist and author of books on emotional and social intelligence, spoke at Google’s headquarters on the topic. He explained that our primitive brain, the amygdala (walnut sized and positioned about mid-brain) acts as the brain’s sentinel as it scans incoming sensory data to see if what’s perceived is a threat. In more primitive days, it sent the signal to the brain: “Do I eat it or does it eat me!” It’s a hair trigger, and excites the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary Gland and Adrenal Cortex System), which activates fight, flight, or freeze activity. The autonomic nervous system gets activated and stimulates the heart rate, blood pressure and hormones. An “amygdala hijack” sometimes occurs and is characterized by a sudden urge to strike out (verbally, physically or by e-mail!) without thinking—that we regret later. It happens to even the smartest of people because when the amygdala takes over the brain, we get dumb and react without thinking, which can cause many interpersonal upsets in relationships.

When activated by an outside stimulus, the amygdala sends a message to the Pre-Frontal Cortex, which is the both the integrator and regulator for emotions. Acting as a regulator, this higher road of the brain assesses the stimulus sent gushing into it from the amygdala and determines whether it should shut down the amygdala or agree with it and allow the body to prepare for the onslaught. Essentially, it regulates our appropriately personal and social responses to any situation.

Leadership

Good leaders, it seems, have at least four characteristics to help them cope with the world. Two (self awareness and managing emotions) deal with the emotional intelligence of the individual leader and his or her ability to deal with the world. Two others (humor and rapport) deal with social intelligence or being in sync with others.

Emotional Intelligence:

Self awareness—good for personal and business decision making. Self unaware people and leaders tend to chronically handicapped by not being able to control the amygdala make poorer choices. Such people have diminished cognitive capacity because, especially in amygdala hijacks, the brain only focuses on the threat and can do little else.

Managing emotions—disturbing bad emotions that get in the way of both rational thought and decision making—and ultimately human motivation to do this or that. If you can’t inhibit the amygdala, you’ll have problems making good decisions.

NOTE: When the HPA axis (hormones) are low—you are bored. However, a certain amount of stimulation and motivation (like a deadline, etc.) the more cordisol secreted (HPA) and performance goes up and at an optimal level—and we end up in a state called FLOW—brain state attention fully focused, your skills challenged, and it feels really good. Feeling good is key indicator for optimal cognitive function. But, too much HPA activity—too much stimulus—you feel FRAZZLED. Adrenalin rushes in and takes over—you’re preoccupied and cannot function rationally or at your highest levels.

Social Intelligence

Social brain theory—what happens when two or more people connect mentally and get attune to the internal state of others. Mirror neurons…discovered by Italian scientists mapping neurons when monkey raised its arm. One day they noticed that the arm raising cell fired when monkey not doing anything…except when the researcher ate ice cream…monkey’s brain fired. Social brain operates unconsciously. Social brain knows when a conversation is over, or another is angry…mirror neurons sense the state. There’s emotional subtext.

Humor: Top leaders laughed three times more than other leaders. Mirror neurons seem to be at work here in a brain-to-brain humor dance. And top leaders seem to get how this works and use it effectively.

Rapport: Physiology of two people in rapport…if rapport is off physiology, is independent and unaligned. But when in sync, rapport results and both are in full attention, non-verbals choreographed, and if feels good.

Meditation (based on studies) has been found to be a way to develop the Pre-Frontal Cortex. Meditation strengthens this regulation part of the brain so you can build capacity to control amygdala hijacks, and when we meet with stress. The story of the experiment with a meditative monk and the confrontational professor is worth listening to. The monk was so calm in the debate that he actually calmed down the professor (both were wired for physiological measurement). So, if we can develop and strengthen the controlling section (left side) of the Pre-Frontal Cortex through meditation—we can spread calm and rationality.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Executive Transition: The First 90 Days


According to Harvard Business School professor Michael Watkins, an executive gets 90 days (three months) to move from a value consumer (costing the organization) to a value creator (value added)—and thus hit the breakeven point. The faster this transition takes place the better off the organization is and the more likely the transitioning executive is to be successful. In fact, the failure rate for senior executive outside hires into a company is a whopping 40-50%, at a cost of $2.7 million per executive in both direct and indirect costs. Watkins does an excellent job setting up a new executive to succeed. He uses ten steps (PAMS-NAB-CRE)—I need mnemonics to help me remember things. Here’s the top line view of the book—but it’s the details of the how-to’s that will make a difference, so read the book—at least skim it.
1. Promote yourself: Don't get stuck trying to do your old job. Let go and move on and don't assume what got you here will get you there (what Marshall Goldsmith's latest best seller is all about).
2. Accelerate your learning: Get systematic and focused about learning first things first (akin to what Stephen Covey also suggests)
3. Match strategy to the situation: Diagnose whether the new challenge for the transitioning executive involves a Start up, Turnaround, a Reorganization, or Sustaining Success (STRS). This is a critical distinction make by the author.
4. Secure early wins: Grab the low hanging fruit of success to set the tone of a successful tenure with virtuous relationships and not vicious ones (John Kotter—a Harvard Professor and change icon talks about this a lot in hit books on change, including Leading Change).
5. Negotiate success: Your new boss is your critical connection to the organization. Understanding and meeting his or her needs and expectations, style and energy is important if only for survival purposes! Get consensus on your 90 day plan and life will be a better place.
6. Achieve alignment: As a high flyer in an organization, you need to assure alignment with your approach and the corporate strategy (Covey chats about this a lot in his later books).
7. Build your team: Most new executives inherit teams. The key is to keep the right ones and jettison the wrong ones (remember Good to Great—Jim Collins research taught us to get the right people on the bus and the wrong ones off it).
8. Create coalitions: Whether it's Survivor, prison or the corporate boardroom, you need to figure out your critical supporters early on to survive and thrive. Don’t ever forget both peers and subordinates as critical to your success.
9. Keep your balance: Change causes stress, which causes imbalance. Trying to stay true to core relationships is important—family, work and yourself. To me the old serenity prayer holds true here—God grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change; to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
10. Expedite everyone: Again—you live in a 360 world surrounded by a living organism called the company. It’s your primary job to adapt to the corporate culture. On the other hand, people around you will also be adjusting—help make it easy for them, especially make it easy for them to like you and see you as part of the organism and not a threat to it. Remember what organisms do when they feel threatened--they form antibodies and reject the new cell!
This book is worth a read when you’re an executive in this situation. It’s definitely worth showing to the head of HR, to a senior partner, and to the CEO. Like Woody Allen says, “Money is important if only for financial reasons!”


PS To remember the process—PAMS -NAB-CRE—think of a bunch of PAMS about to NAB a CREature. Hey, it was the best I could do on short notice!

Leadership: Building Successful Relationships

From the Harvard Business Review

The editor of the Harvard Business Review interviewed the leading scientist in human relations, John M. Gottman. At Gottman's laboratory in Seattle, the editor learned some insights that are not only good for saving a marriage but also may have some direct impact on the workplace. Made famous in Malcolm Gladwell's popular book Blink, Gottman can predict a divorce with 90% accuracy if he watches people argue together in his laboratory. In a nutshell, here's what Gottman relayed about relationships:

"Successful couples look for ways to accentuate the positive. They try to say "yes" as often as possible. That doesn't mean good relationships have no room for conflict. On the contrary, individuals in thriving relationships embrace conflict over personality differences as a way to work through them." Gottman adds that "Good relationships aren't about clear communications, they're about small moments of attachment and intimacy. It takes time and work to make such moments part of the fabric of everyday life."

So, if you're married or not, at work or at home, you might want to think about saying "yes" more often than "no" and taking the time every day to pat people on the back, ask about their families, or give them a high five.

Check out the entire article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, p.45, "Making Relationships Work." It's worth reading and passing along.

The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest



H
ere's what
Marshall Goldsmith
, the country's leadin
g executive coach, writes in the foreword of Steve Gladis' new book,
The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest:*

"Many executives have heard about executive coaching but don't know what it actually looks like. Through this business fable, The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest, Steve Gladis has given such inquiring executives a clear picture of the entire executive coaching process from start to finish. I enjoyed all the fictional characters with their own quirks and issues, many of which I've seen in my own Fortune 500 clients. Steve has done an outstanding job, and the next time someone asks me what executive coaching is all about, I'll say, 'Just read The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest.' "
~Marshall Goldsmith

* Author proceeds go to the Northern Virginia Community Foundation.

For special group offers
click here.



Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Transformational Leadership Question

"What's your dream?" That's the fundamental question I got from reading Matthew Kelly's newest book, The Dream Manager. As an executive coach, I look for powerful questions to ask my clients, and I find this question transformational. When you ask people what their dreams are, you reach into their very core--their purpose and drive for living. Unfortunately, dreams get buried in the business of doing life...commuting, working, taking care of the children, the house, and all the many things we do every day. But when you ask people "What's your dream?" you give permission to clear the cobwebs, and allow adults to become kids again to re-discover their dreams, their passions. And when a leader asks team members what their dreams are and helps them accomplish those dreams, there is nothing they won't do for that leader. The Dream Manager is well worth the read and sharing it with others, especially anyone with a dream--who may have forgotten it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lombardi on Leadership: "We Will Catch Excellence"

Bart Starr, former Green Bay Packers quarterback, recounted Vince Lombardi's first time addressing the team who had a dismal 1-in-12 record. Lombardi said: "Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process, we will catch excellence....I am not remotely interested in just being good."

(Source: Parade Magazine February 3, 2008 p. 8)

Saturday, January 19, 2008


A Guide for Leaders:

Easy to be great…hard to be good

Steve Martin’s book, Born Standing Up (Scribner, 2007) hit me in the gut, especially on page 139:

“The consistent work enhanced my act. I learned a lesson: It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical…. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.”

Martin writes clearly. It’s not great, but very good stuff. What’s so good is that it’s authentic. You get a sense that he peeled back the cover of fame to show you the working parts. Not always pretty, mostly a tragicomedy, Martin reveals the genesis of a comic icon, who has won an Emmy, three Grammys and was a recent (2007) Kennedy Center Honoree.

There’s a now famous joke about a tourist in New York City who asks a cab driver, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The cab driver answers, “Practice, practice, practice.” Reading Born Standing Up, I felt like Martin had been the tourist who not only asked that very question but also took the cab driver’s advice. Steve Martin was not an overnight wonder. He toiled long and hard in the vineyards of Disney World, Notts Berry Farm, nightclubs, small towns, show after show after show, night after night. It took him years of endless practice to climb the comedy ladder, to get recognized and then to be a star—which ultimately and ironically isolated him.

And while at times the book felt like his personal therapeutic memoir written at the direction of his psychologist to place his life in some sort of a meaningful order, it worked for me as a reality check. We all tend to look at success and consider that it appeared magically, as if the entertainer had won the fame lottery. However, reality is doing shows four and five times a day for years, often to crowds small enough to fit into a kids blow-up swimming pool. Night after night, great is easy….good is damned hard.

His life lesson rings true for everyone, especially leaders, the kind of people I, as an executive coach, work with regularly. Many emerging leaders, even experienced ones want the quick fix, the silver bullet, and there is none. No one becomes the CEO of General Electric, Merck, or Wal-Mart by winning some sort of leadership lottery. It’s all about practice, experience, and consistency. So let me recommend Steve Martin’s book to every emerging leader who asks the question, “How do you get to Wall Street?” My answer: Practice, practice, practice.

(Posted on Amazon.com on 1/19/08)

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