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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

HBR September: The Boss from Hell!

This the fourth of several postings this week regarding the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which I highly recommend you purchase for your executives.

Case Study: Surviving the Boss from Hell
By David Silverman

In this fictionalized case study, David, a project manager works for Thaddeus (called the “Commodore”) who micromanages, interrupts, dominates, calls ad hoc meeting that interrupt everyone’s schedule…and is generally a narcissistic egomaniac who’s executive career has stalled itself—no doubt! The question is should David take an offer from another part of the firm…a lateral one with no pay increase…essentially starting all over. Or, should David stay where he is. Several experts offer their candid opinions.

My pick…Brad Gilbreath’s thought: Leave for the new lateral opportunity. Research reveals that such bosses from hell can lead to high blood pressure, even psychiatric problems. My advice to David: Run, don’t walk.

Monday, September 28, 2009

HBR: High Potentials in the Downturn

This the third of several postings this week regarding the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which I highly recommend you purchase for your executives.

High Potentials in the Downturn: Sharing the Pain
Nancy Carter and Christing Silva

In a survey of business school graduates, the authors from Catalyst polled them about how they were doing during the recession. A few stats:

--10% lost their jobs…but it would have been worse, had they used the last in first out rule for high potentials.
--6% had their hours reduced…small potatoes for these high potentials.
--20% of high potentials went job hopping…significant, I’d say.
--19% of women vs. only 6% of men were laid off. I’d be reviewing your EEO policies on this one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

HBR September 2009: How to Use Language (in business)

This the second of several postings this week regarding the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which I highly recommend you purchase for your executives.

How to Use Language
By Neeli Bendapudi and VenVenkat Bendapudi

Like any action a leader takes, it’s not just what the leader does but how he or she does it. Delivery has always been a critical part of communication—thus understanding the audience. These researchers have discovered that leaders who “resonate” often strike an analogous tune that reverberates or resonates well with their colleagues. For example when then-BAE Systems CEO, Walt Havenstein (now at SAIC) communicates with engineers even about non-technical issues, he uses engineering symbols like > or <. Others use analogies like those related to movie making and such. Tuning into an audience’s language, customs and stories is not new….Aristotle discussed these very tenets, but It’s good to have research reinforce a old master like Aristotle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

HBR: Innovating a Turnaround at Lego

This the first of several postings this week regarding the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which I highly recommend you purchase for your executives.

Innovating a Turnaround at Lego
By David Roberts on and Per Hjuler

Near bankruptcy, Lego decided to re-invent innovation—a bit like preparing to prepare. In essence, they distributed innovation across the company and directed the distribution by a cross-functional leadership team: The Executive Innovation Governance Group. This Group distributed resources to the following 4 types of groups:

--Functional Groups: to create core and enabling business processes.
-- Concept Lab: to create new products.
--Product and Marketing Development: to develop the next generation of existing products.
--Community, Education and Direct: to support customer communities.

Result: Lego’s revenues are up 19% and profit is up by 30%.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sample Fierce Conversation Script


This is the FINAL of several posts this week based on my review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (The Penguin Group 2002)—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

I ask clients to “script out” their fierce conversations and then practice them before meeting with the other person. Based on the above scenario, here’s what a sample script might look like. Note that it’s fairly brief and to the point. Remember the main objective is to LISTEN to what the other person has to say in response to your introduction of the issue at hand.

Sample Scenario:
1. “Joe, I want to talk about our working relationship.”
2. “Last week in a meeting, you told me to shut up and listen. And two weeks ago, you cut me off when I was offering an observation about the new building plans.”
3. “When you say things like “shut up” especially in a public setting, I get angry and insulted…then de-motivated and unhappy.”
4. “There’s some important things at stake here. Our working relationship and the success of our division.”
5. “Look, I know I’ve contributed to this problem, by not speaking up on the first day when you told me to shut up. I just thought that behavior would stop over time, but it hasn’t, and I’m very concerned.”
6. “I want to resolve how we can work together in a way that works for you and also gives me the kind of respect I think I deserve.”
7. “I want to understand what’s happening from your perspective. What do you think about what I’ve said?”
Publish Post


NOW LISTEN to what Joe has to say.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fierce Conversation: The Resolution

This is the fourth of several posts this week based on my review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (The Penguin Group 2002)—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

Resolution: Now it’s time to move toward agreement about the next steps.

a. Ask questions that move you toward resolution: Example: “What have we learned? Where are we now? Where do we go from here? What do we need to do now to resolve this situation?

b. Make an agreement about holding each other responsible: Example: “I’m wondering what you and I need to do specifically and on a timeline to help change this situation as a win-win for us both. Do you have any thoughts about what we can do? Would you be interested in brainstorming this to move it forward?”

c. After this meeting, you may consider summing up what happened and setting out some deadlines, without sounding like a field marshal!

d. While fierce conversations seem difficult, they gets much easier every time you use them. AND they make a real difference in our personal and professional happiness. Remember, problems unaddressed only get bigger and tougher if not addressed by a fierce conversation.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fierce Conversation: The Interaction

This is the third of several posts this week based on my review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (The Penguin Group 2002)—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

Interaction: This is the time where you LISTEN a lot. It’s actually the guts of the conversation (and takes the most time if done right), where you listen and inquire as the person begins to respond and talk based on your invitation to resolve the issue. You must LEARN in this phase and the only way to learn is to interrogate and LISTEN.

a. Inquire into your partner’s views. It’s hard, but you need to LISTEN and PROBE….talking will interrupt the valuable flow of information you will need to eventually construct resolution. By ONLY asking What, How, Who questions, you can keep the conversation alive…and keep the other person talking and you LISTENING. Examples: “What does it look like when you say I talk too much? How can we approach the problem so we both get what we want?”

b. You should also paraphrase, so the person knows that you understand…not judging. “So, I’m hearing you say that you’re hurt by my response to the way I’ve been treated, is that right?” Am I hearing that correctly? “

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fierce Conversation: One Format

This is the second of several posts this week based on my review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (The Penguin Group 2002)—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

Here are these steps to a fierce conversation with a hypothetical example:

Opening Statement: Author, Susan Scott, suggests scripting this out and rehearsing it. Write it out and rehearse as if you were in a movie. Here are the seven components of the opening statement. This statement usually takes a minute: 60 seconds. It is to the point but powerful…not rambling but very focused. What follows is an example of a direct report chatting with his boss (Joe) about their relationship:

a. Name the Issue: Put a name on it to identify the issue, clearly and succinctly. Focus will help the solution process. Example: “Joe, I want to talk about our working relationship.”

b. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change. Find an incident or behavior that hits the heart of the issue without rambling on—which gets very distracting and undercuts your point. Example: “Last week in a meeting, you told me to shut up and listen. And two weeks ago, you cut me off when I was offering an observation about the new building plans.”

c. Describe your emotions about this issue. It’s important to let people know how you feel, otherwise they’re clueless. Often, a clear declaration about how you feel can be disarming. Example: “Joe, when you say things like “shut up” especially in a public setting, I get angry and insulted…then de-motivated and unhappy.”

d. Clarify what’s at stake—for the person you’re talking to, for you, and for the company. Example: “There’s some important things at stake here. Our working relationship and the success of our division.”

e. Identify your contribution to this problem. What have you done to help produce the very results that are making you unhappy. In short, how are you to blame for the situation. Example: “Joe, I know I’ve contributed to this problem, by not speaking up on the first day when you told me to shut up. I just thought that behavior would stop over time, but it hasn’t, and I’m very concerned.

f. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue. Be sure to use the word “resolve.” It’s not a termination or a win-lose word…one that shows hope and an interest in clearing things up. Example: “Joe, I want to resolve how we can work together in a way that works for you and also gives me the kind of respect I think I deserve.”

g.Invite your partner to resolve. Now that you’ve succinctly set up the problem (in less than a minute), you need to invite the other person to join the conversation…time to listen. Example: “I want to understand what’s happening from your perspective. What do you think about what I’ve said?”

When all is said and done, this part of the conversation is only 1 minute--it's important to keep it focused and brief.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fierce Conversations



This is the first of several posts this week based on my review of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (The Penguin Group 2002)—available on Amazon. I highly recommend this book for solving problems and building deeper relationships—in both your personal and professional lives.

It’s often difficult to have tough conversations with other people, especially people we care deeply about. Susan Scott wrote Fierce Conversations about how to do just such a thing…have a difficult or fierce conversation. Scott maintains that “the conversation is the relationship.” Unfortunately, most of us have very surface-like conversations in our daily lives and never get down to the stuff that matters. Fierce Conversations teaches people how to have conversations they need, not enjoy. In the end, every conversation changes the relationship either for the better or the worse. And as tough as fierce conversations are to have, they build the relationship by surfacing important issues.

This week I’ll review the book in depth and provide a working example.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Something Better: Talent Review


This is the FINAL of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.

I love this quote from the book: “One of Rooney’s mantras is that in order to transform a culture, there is just one fundamental choice: you have to either change people, or change people.” Leaders are rated not just on “What” they do…their competencies but also the “How”…the style/manner they treat others, especially direct reports, along the way. Pretty simple but profoundly powerful considerations.

Every year the senior executives rate the leaders of the company. Leaders get a “What” rating on reaching goals, targets and overall perception of leadership within the company. Then they get a “How” rating that comes from their direct reports about how leaders conform to the Dynamic Organization culture. The culture survey (described earlier in this series) is the basis for this annual assessment.

Finally, I recall a famous Zig Ziglar quote: “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude.” I’m sure Jack Rooney would agree with Zig.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Soemthing Better: Leadership Development

This is the fifth of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.

Like General Electric leadership guru Jack Welch, Jack Rooney did not leave leadership development to chance. His program consists of an on-boarding process as well as a development program—centered on the Leadership Development Workshop.

Thanks to research reported by Harvard professor Michael Watkins (in his book, The First 90 Days), we know how important the on-boarding process is for any company and its employees. The fact is that 40-50% of executives coming into a company will fail in a couple of years and cost the company $2.7 million. Rooney seems to intuitively understand this stat…though not specifically mentioned in the book. So, in the first 6 months, U.S. Cellular offers intense on-boarding experiences including a general orientation, servant leadership and ethics training, and more.

Also, in the first six months all new leaders must attend the one week Leadership Development Workshop (LDW). Most attendees have found this leadership boot-camp transformational in helping them understand why the Dynamic Organization is so critical to the company’s success. Rooney places high importance on this workshop, and people who don’t take it seriously often go packing, and the word spread fast on this point.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Something Better: Internal Communications

This is the fourth of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.

Rooney believes that all employees have the right to know the “why" before being made to do the “what.” So he developed a internal strategic communication plan. Here are the highlights: Dynamically Speaking (a company newsletter); Listen Jack (Rooney’s responses to emails sent to him from every level of the organization); Leadership Forum (the annual meeting focused on leadership); Straight Talk (several times a year senior executives explain what and why they’re doing things); Kick-off Meeting (a first-quarter celebration at last year’s results and a look ahead at next year).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Something Better: The Employee Survey

This is the third of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.

The first and central evaluation tool is U.S. Cellular’s employee survey. A 29-question survey filled out by an amazing 97% (most organization would be happy with 60-70% response rates), rates how true the organization and its leaders have been true to the tenets of the Dynamic Organization. Every year employees rate, in addition to the organization, not only their immediate supervisor but also, their supervisor’s leader…so employees get two cracks at two levels of leadership. Rooney’s belief is that the way leaders treat employees (in this case associates) mirrors how employees/associates treat their customers. This survey is therefore central to any company intent on retaining customers. And if you’re a leader at U.S. Cellular, the results of the annual survey, announced at an annual meeting, are damned important to your future with the company. One quote I love from this section of the book: “On the topic of leadership, only the led get a vote.” Talk about a powerful enforcement of the culture!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Dynamic Organization

This is the second of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.


What helped Jack Rooney’s transformation of U.S. Cellular were the elements of what he called the Dynamic Organization (DO), which he’d used previously at Ameritech. The anatomy of such a DO consists of the following: a preamble, key components, core values, and desired behaviors. I’ll only mention a few (read the book for the entire lists):

--The preamble reads like a mission statement and is all about the company operating seamlessly aligned to its vision, values and behaviors. Jack (and the authors for sure) know that culture (vision, values and behaviors) are at the core of successful organizations. In short: No excellent culture, no excellence.

--Key Components: Associates (who deal directly with the customer) must focus on gaining, retaining and serving customers…thus, be rabidly customer centric. Leaders must focus on leadership and inspiration, not fear and control. And the organization must be goal driven, not myopically task oriented.

--Core Values: Here are a few: Customer focused, respectful, and ethical. Read the book to get the other 3.

--Desired Behaviors: While there are 10 such behaviors in all, here are a few: Trust, enthusiasm, flexibility, and common purpose.

--Finally, to build the dynamic organization, Rooney (working with the authors/consultants) used four tools: the employee survey, internal communications, leadership development programs, and a leadership talent review process.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Pursuit of Something Better


This is the first of several posts this week based on my review of the book: The Pursuit of Something Better by Dave Esler and Myra Kruger...available on Amazon. I highly recommend for senior executives who want a handle on how to build culture in a company.

If you have followed my blog (Survival Leadership) for a while, you’re aware that I review leadership books that I believe would help not only my executive clients but also any other leaders willing to read those books. Those books I review are usually from mainline publishers. HOwever, this book is a self-published book by two smart consultants.

What actually made me read the book was a quote on the back cover of the book by Jim Kouzes (of the famous leadership research team of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner).My indirect, albeit, personal connection with Kouzes and Posner was that I sat on the nominating committee for the American Society for Training and Development, which tapped the team to receive the 2009 Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award for their body of work over the years, which has had an impact on learning and performance in the workplace. In short, Kouzes and Posner know what they’re talking about. Here’s what they said about In Pursuit of Something Better: “This book teaches, inspires, and entertains, and it should be required reading in every business school, boardroom, and consultancy seminar.”

I agree with Kouzes and have recommended this book to executives, academics, and consultants. It’s a winner and guaranteed to change your perception about how to transform an organization. It’s also a “must read” for leaders who aren’t fully satisfied with the level of success they want for their organizations.

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