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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Your Next Move: The first few months

SECOND post: Review of Your Next Move: According to a survey of HR professionals, 70% agree that the first few months after a promotion determine ultimate success or failure at a job. In short, if there’s a bad few months, life gets tougher (vicious vs virtuous cycle). His advice in general: 1) Organize what you need to learn; 2) Prioritize your list; 3) Define your strategic intent/vision; 4)Assess and build your own team; 5)Plan your steps for success; 6)Secure some early wins; 7) Create supportive alliances.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Your Next Move: Surviving your next promotion

Michael Watkins has done it again with his latest book: Your Next Move (Harvard Business Press, 2009). A former professor at both the Business School and the Kennedy School at Harvard, Watkins scores a winner with his new transition book—which follows on the heels of his best seller The First 90 Days. With this new book, Watkins “officially” becomes THE guy when it comes to professional transitions. In fact, I think this book will get greater play than ...90 Days because it’s about all the most common types of promotional challenges such as, leading former peers, the international promotion/move, the realignment promotion, the turnaround promotion, and the on-boarding promotion. If you know someone either in the midst of a new challenge/promotion transition, this would make a great holiday gift. If not, just wait a year or two, and they’ll need it (transition is inevitable)! This week I’ll be reviewing Your Next Move in some detail in a series of posts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

HBR Briefs: Emotions in Business


LAST Post about HBR Briefs for November: “Why Repressing Emotions is Bad for Business” (Daniel Shapiro) A lot of leaders who have to make tough choices, especially in these uncertain times, think that they must divorce emotions from their communication style: WRONG. Shapiro’s research offers this bottom line: “Emotional investment can improve your relationships, increase trust, and promote satisfying, enduring agreements.” According to Shapiro, emotions [especially negative ones] arise from predictable concerns from a lack of: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role (change). He provides two brief but powerful examples of how people were laid off from two different companies. One layoff was done with respect, care and concern. The other, done unemotionally, cold, and uncaring. Take a guess at who threatened to sue the company!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

HBR Briefs: Making Better Decisions

HBR Briefs 2009: “Make Better Decisions” Thomas Davenport points to the undisciplined nature of decision making in companies. Witness the decision to engage in sub-prime loans, among others. The author suggest a methodology of four steps: 1. List and prioritize decisions that need to be made; 2. Assess factors impacting each like who, what, how, etc; 3) Design roles, systems and behavior your company needs; 4. Institutionalize the new approach through training, data analysis, and outcome assessment. Also, check out the chart on p. 122 showing the benefits and cautions of old and new approaches to decision making.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

HBR Briefs: Galvanizing Philanthropy

HBR Briefs (November 2009): “Galvanizing Philanthropy” Ditkoff and Colby argue that foundations and investors have to wrestle with the issues of Getting Clear (selecting strategic anchors like people, problems, values and beliefs and using them as guides to strategic planning); Getting Real (assessing the effort and time it takes to make a difference); and, Getting Better (regularly reviewing the entire funding strategy).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Community Relations and Social Media

HBR Briefs (November 2009): “Community Relations 2.0” (Kane, Fichman, Gallaugher & Glaser) in the November issue of the HBR.

This article tells us that social media has radically changed community relations. Now, within hours, even minutes Facebook, Twitter, and other social media can change the public’s view of your brand. The authors advocate a mandate to have a social media team. At last a cogent strategy! I especially like the outline on pp.48-49…check it out the detail. Until then, here’s the four major categories: 1. Develop a formal social media policy; 2. Monitor external and internal online communities; 3. Engage online communities; 4. Act as first responders.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Would Peter Drucker Have to Say?

HBR Briefs (November 2009) This month’s HBR issue honors legendary leadership guru Peter Drucker, who would have been 100 this month. “What Would Peter Say?” by Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter (one of my favs) says that Drucker warned us about the outrage of executive pay and the future challenge of global competition. He always taught executives to establish a long-term vision and to steer toward it, especially in tough times. Their job is the long-term health of the company, not their own personal wealth. His caution would be self regulate or the government will step in and do it for you. On personnel, he said, “If I put a person into a job and he or she does not perform, I have made a mistake. I have no business blaming that person.”(Wow--there's a new concept in an old bottle!) There’s also a an republication of an 1980 article by Alan Kantrow—that still rings true and five essays by strong leaders influenced by Drucker, including Frances Hesselbein (legendary former leader of The Girl Scouts of America), A.G. Lafley formerly of Proctor and Gamble, and others.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Action Learning: The Coach's Role


This is the FINAL of several posts on Action Learning

So, consider: What if you told a CEO that you could show her/him a process that would solve his/her most difficult corporate problems AND would teach participants leadership and how to work together in collaborative, positive, enabling work teams. I think we all know the CEO’s likely response: Start this Action Learning NOW!

Over this past week, I’ve been providing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

The Coach: The catalyst of the group, the Coach stays myopically focused on the learning of the group—which actually helps the group grow and get better at what they do. Coaches are continuous improvers of the learning process. Reflection remains the Coaches key tool. The Coach asks groups to reflect about what they’re doing, how it’s working, what they’re learning, and other learning and leadership development questions. The coach can be an outsider or one designated member of the group--thus learning as they coach. Some questions that will illuminate the role of a Coach:

a. Why is someone (the Coach) only focused on learning?
--i. While the group must be focused on the problem, the Coach acts as observer, catalyst, and champion of learning—otherwise much learning will go unnoticed and never be internalized by group members. The Coach periodically (appropriately) stops the group and asks them to reflect on such questions as: How are we doing? What’s the quality of our questions…high, medium, low? Is everyone participating…yes or no? These questions, and many others cause groups to interrupt their activity to learn and become problem solvers and leaders.
--ii. Who can be the Coach? Anyone in the group or any outsider. The Coach should be taught the techniques of action learning, but anyone in the group can be shown the methods. In fact, rotating the process can help others to learn and appreciate the role and its value to continuous learning. Of course, trained outsiders offer their own objective value to any such endeavor.

b.Why questions as the primary method of the Coach?
--i. Questions cause reflection, which causes learning, which causes improvement at solving problems and growing leaders. That’s it short and simple. Questions are respectful, non-judgmental, and cause the group to think and speak.
--ii. Intervention—the Coach can intervene whenever s/he sees fit is one of the only two cast-in-stone rules of Action Learning. The other is questions only, statements made only in response to questions. This deference/power allows the Coach to keep the process within boundaries and to continuously monitors learning as well as results.

c. Why don’t coaches get involved in problem solving?
--i. The Coach’s involvement in the problem can show his biases and shit the group’s thinking. The problem solving can push out the learning and development, thus give up 50% of the value. The Coach would take her/his eye of the learning ball.

d. When do Coaches Intervene?
--i. Beginning. Coaches ask questions to orient the group. Does everyone know how Action Learning works? What exactly is the task or problem the presenter has laid out? Will you write down what you think the problem is so we can compare?
--ii. Middle: Throughout the process, Coaches merely need to condition the group by leaning in to stop the action and ask a question, or lean back to resume it. Questions at this point look like this: How are we doing as a team…OK or not-Okay? What have we done well so far? What could we do better? Is everyone participating?
--iii. End: The Coach ensures that the meeting ends on time and that team members reflect deeply on what happened and what action must be taken and by whom before the next gathering. Questions look like this: What have we learned? How did we do as a team? How can we improve as a team? What have you learned about yourself? What actions will you take before our next meeting?

Final Comments on Action Learning:

1.I can’t remember being as excited about a method since I learned how to be an executive coach. And frankly the fit is so synchronous that it’s amazing. I will find it hard not to recommend this process to every client and company I work with.

2.Having already used the process with clients, I can attest to its effectiveness and efficiency. And, the learning that takes place is palpable and every bit as important as the problem solving.

3. So, consider: What if you told a CEO that you could show her/him a process that would solve his/her most difficult corporate problems AND would teach participants leadership and how to work together in collaborative, positive, enabling work teams. I think we all know the CEO’s likely response: Start this Action Learning NOW!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Action Learning: Individual, Team and Organzational Learning

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the SEVENTH of several posts on Action Learning.

Learning: Individual, Team and Organizational Learning:

At the core of Action Learning stands the very principles of learning and development. The individual participant learns by actively participating in the inquiry and action to solve the problem. The group learns as it faces the problem, answers questions, and adds to its knowledge base. The organization learns as group members spread the learning and inquiry process throughout. Thus, learning is leveraged throughout the company/organization.

Action Learning groups are SAFE places for Leaders to Practice. In professional sports, athletes practice 90% of the time and only play in contests 10%. However, in leadership it exactly the REVERSE….90% playing for keeps and only 10% practice. Action Learning shifts that equation in favor of providing a safe place to practice and learn. Some questions from the author:

a. How does action learning generate learning?

i. Using Kolb’s learning model, here’s the cycle:
--1. Concrete Experience: Group participants actually get experience by working on the problem. They also get experience when they take action (outside the group meeting) and bring back their experience to the group.
--2.Observe and Reflect: Participants learn inquiry and reflect on their own actions. The Coach also asks the group directly to reflect on decisions, actions, etc.
--3. Generalize and Conceptualize: Participants figure out how to apply the learned concepts to new problems. The Coach helps the group identify norms and principles that will help them in the future—transformational learning (Merirow, 1991).
--4. Test and Experiment: Participants pilot test their ideas for success and failure…both teach the group. The Coach helps the group reflects on what worked and didn’t and what the group learned (behaviors and values).

b. What are the competencies learned in Action Learning?

--i.Individual learning: You can’t change a system without changing yourself. Actions change the system and the actors. Key skills learned in the action learning process: reflection, decision making, systems thinking, active listening, self awareness, empathy, presentation and facilitation...to mention only a few.
--ii. Leadership Learning: Much of what’s learned in action learning follows the research and work of Daniel Goleman on Emotional and Social Intelligence: Self Awareness (self observation and understanding of strengths and challenges); Managing emotions (coping effectively with emotions like fear, anxiety, anger and sadness); Motivating oneself (emotional self control); Empathy (being sensitive to the feelings of others); Handling relationships (managing the emotions of others in the context of a relationship).
--iii.Team Learning: Teams learn the following—Shared commitments to solving problems; Clarifying problems;Willingness to work with others to solve problems and develop strategies; Courage to ask the tough question; Respecting others; Willing to learn and help others; Establish trust in the group.
--iv.Organizational Learning: Action Learning helps build a “learning organization quickly in a company or organization. Such a learning organization has 4 components, according to Marquardt:

1. Increased learning skills: groups develop learning skills by learning. The process is recombinant much like DNA…learning creates better, faster learning.
2. Transformed organizational culture and structure: Action learning groups act independently and democratically with a minimum of structure and hierarchy. They create new culture and values (inquiry, experimentation, etc.) along the journey…that infects and affects the organization.
3. Involvement of the entire business chain in the learning process. Action learning can and does often involved customers, suppliers, vendors, etc. in the learning process. Opening up the boundaries—makes possibilities much richer.
4. Enhanced capability and to manage knowledge: Action learning helps members learn and practice the following: acquiring knowledge, creating knowledge, storing knowledge, and testing and transferring knowledge.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Action Learning: Action Strategies

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the SEVENTH of several posts on Action Learning.

Action Strategies: Here it is short and sweet: No action, no learning. Great Buddhist proverb: “To know something, but not use it, is not knowing." There are two general approaches to problem solving: the analytical and integrative model. With analytical model, there is only one right solution to the problem (remember the hammer/nail analogy). With the integrative model there are more than one, often a number of right answers. Systems (or integrative, holistic) thinking in contrast to linear thinking, spots patterns and alternative paths to solutions, rather than THE way. Here's just one of many questions the author asks: What is the quality of problem solving?
The four stages of problem solving:

1. Understanding and reframing the problem. Rushing in to answer a “symptom” not a real problem can just defer disaster—even precipitate it. The coach makes sure that everyone has the same question in mind before proceeding further. The coach asks all to write down their versions of the problem, with the presenter last. Only if they agree does the group move forward. Wonderful quote: “It is better to first put your finger on the problem before sticking your nose in it.” ~Anonymous.

2. Framing and Formulating the Goal: Once you have the problem straight, the group has to decide what to DO. Groups must have courage to tell the problem presenter what the group sees as the real problem and then fashion goals around what the group sees as critical. NOTE: “Focusing on the problem rather than the desirable future generates negative, overwhelming and dissipating energy. Focusing on the desired future, however, creates positive energy (Cooperrider, et. al., 2001).

3.Developing and Testing Strategies. After determining the problem and goal, groups have to look at strategies (what) and tactics (how to) solve the problem. Ask two questions: Is the action appropriate? Is it doable? Rather than brainstorming (a linear, Newtonian approach), the author suggest building on questions of the group, moving from chaos and systems thinking to solutions. Much more effective and efficient….less sidetracking. Multiple alternatives will be developed and need to be tested (pilots etc.) for their impact and leverage.

4. Taking Action and Reflecting on the Action: Groups will lose interest unless they take action. You can’t learn how to swim sitting on the shore only reading books about swimming. At the end of every session, the Coach will ask what specific actions will be taken. These actions should be recorded by the group and tracked. They should be SMART….specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time bound.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Action Learning Components: Questions and Reflection


Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the SIXTH of several posts on Action Learning.

Questions are the lifeblood of action learning—and all of coaching as well. Focusing on the right questions, not THE correct answer, is the magic of action learning. Such questions help surface divergent and very useful perspectives on the same problem to better define it accurately so it can be solved effectively. The author uses the analogy of the seven blind men and the elephant (each having a piece of the elephant without them all knowing they have an elephant and not six different objects). Questions also are “the glue that holds groups together.” Otherwise, when groups are TOLD by experts or forceful participants how it SHOULD think or act…the group can fall into chaos and rancor. Here’s how I would sum it up: A question respects another’s wisdom and knowledge and promotes cooperation—BUT—an unbending answer imposes opinion and fear, then anger. Here are just a few questions that Marquardt raises in this section of the book are:

a. Are we using open, reflective, and probing questions?

i. Key education researchers (Bandura, Knowles, etc.) believe that deep learning can only occur from reflection caused by questions.
ii. Questions lead to dialogue—a balance between inquiring and advocating. Keeping this balance is crucial to success.
iii. Keep questions are open ended. Ask Who, What, How questions…avoid “yes” or “no” questions.
iv. Ask affective questions: How do you feel about…?
v. Reflective questions: What do you mean….?
vi. Avoid leading questions: Wouldn’t you be better off saying no to that option?

b. Is listening attentive and open, or is it evaluative and inattentive?

i. Listening as we’re thinking of what we want to say cuts of the inflow of information.
ii. Waiting to talk is NOT listening!
iii. Keeping the mind open to options, instead of cutting options off too early leads to learning, tolerance, and team building. EVERYONE wants to be heard not just talked to.

c.Other questions posed by the author:

i. Are we viewing each other as learning resources?
ii. Are we open to new ways of doing things?
iii. Are new insights arising, and are people making connections with the diversity of questions and opinions being offered?

Note: The author asks a number of other very good questions in this chapter...so read the entire text. Well worth the effort.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Action Learning Components: The Group

Over this week, I’ll be presenting an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the FIFTH of several posts on Action Learning.

The Group: The Action Learning group has between 4-8 participants, who are willing to identify and work on a problem that doesn’t have either a simple or an obvious answer, rather a problem that will take work. Depending on the scope, complexity and type of problem or issue presented, the group members can come from the unit, company or even vendors or stockholders. The group helps re-frame the problem for the problem owner—thus allowing fresh insights/points of view and the opportunity to solve the problem when seen from a different angle—through the eyes of another. Remember this piece of sage advice I’ve used with students: When you look at the world like a hammer EVERYTHING looks like a nail! Here are just a few questions that Marquardt raises in this section of the book:

a. What are the criteria for membership in the action learning group?

i. Knowledge: One or more people should know something about or have experience with the problem.
ii.Diversity: Chose people from different departments and/or up and down the organization, depending on the nature of the problem. Perspective is important for complex problems. There’s a great story about how a pizza delivery guy helped solve a tough engineering problem.
iii. Selection: Should be done strategically focused on how best to solve the problem…not just based on who volunteers.

b. What about attendance and size? (I combined a couple of questions)

i. Attendance: The author is pretty clear…everyone meets at all of them. Commit up front to dates and times.
ii. Size: Four to 8 people.

c. Is there a balance between experts and non-experts? (Also, there are related questions about who should or not be involved)

i. Experts—for complex problems, organizational/group diversity is far more powerful than an “expert” who can intimidate members thus preventing them from asking “dumb” but very wise questions! Sometimes these experts push the notion that there is ONLY one solution to complex problem, and they’re more often wrong. Remember that groups ultimately have the power in tough, complex problems…not experts…and there are multiple ways to solve problems. For example, no two professional golfers putt exactly the same way.
ii. Problem Presenter: Should present a problem that is vital to her/him (something that needs solving) and be willing to ASK for help (not always so easy). Present the problem in a clear and concise way. Too much detail can bog down or side track the group. S/he must answer honestly and directly all questions and not be afraid to ask the group tough questions.
iii. Action Learning Coach: Concerned more with group learning and development than problem solving. The group solves the problem; the Coach focuses on what’s learned along the journey. Thus the name Action Learning. The Coach handles the coordination, admin issues, even connection to top management, or problem presenter if not present.

d. Other key questions in this segment of the model:

i. Do we have members from outside the organization—customers, suppliers, dealers, other organizations?
ii. What is the level of accountability and responsibility for the group’s results?
iii. What access to outside resource people will be available?

Note: The author asks a number of other very good questions in this chapter...so read the entire text. Well worth the effort.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Action Learning Components: The Problem

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the FOURTH of several posts on Action Learning.

The Problem (project, challenge, opportunity, issue or task).

As humans, we all respond to problems—especially if they belong to us, or if someone asks for our help. The difference with Action Learning is rather than start by giving advice, we start by asking questions and finding out what the real problem is. Albert Einstein once said to Reg Ravens (the Father of AL): “If you think you understand the problem, make sure you’re not deceiving yourself.” Here’s a conversation between two geniuses and note the caveat: Don’t fool yourself! Often times defining the problem takes the most time. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of energy solving exactly the wrong problem. Here are just a few questions that Marquardt raises in this section of the book:

a. Is the problem significant and important to the organization and/or the individual?
--Remember tough, critical problems raise the stakes, the excitement and the commitment to solve them. Also, the more urgent the problem, the better.

b. Is the problem within the scope, feasibility, and understanding of one or more group members?
--Scale and capacity work here. Is the problem within the capacity of those trying to solve it? Everyone doesn’t need to be an expert, but should have some experience with the problem available to those working to solve it.

C. Will the group or a member of the group have authority to take action?
--Critical question: If the group feels that their action may not be implemented, they can lose energy and engagement, which can lead to group/team disintegration.

d. Do we acknowledge that the presented problem may not be the real or most important problem for the group to solve?
--Researchers note that the initial problem presented is RARELY the most critical one. And only after discussion about the original question does the REAL key problem emerge.

Note: The author asks a number of other very good questions in this chapter...so read the entire text. Well worth the effort.
Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the SECOND of several posts on Action Learning.

Action Learning is a problem solving, team building, and leadership development method…all wrapped around a single method. In short: You learn more by asking questions and listening, than by telling. One of my old professors said, “God gave you one mouth and two ears, so you could listen twice as much as you speak.” Many, many times my wife has reinforced this concept with me! The basic premise of Action Learning posits that 4-8 people working on a problem—if they ask (and respond to) questions to prompt thought in the problem owner—can solve most of our toughest problems. In the process, participants learn a lot about leadership…not the least of which are the powers of inquiry, respect, problem solving, and listening. Action Learning consists of 6 components: Problem, Group, Questions, Action, Learning, and Coach.

This week we’ll explore each one of the six discussed in Marquardt’s book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Action Learning

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the FIRST of several posts on Action Learning.

Besides having one of the longest titles in publishing {Smile} Action Learning (abbreviated for obvious reasons), will be a transformative read for anyone who takes it seriously. It certainly has been for me. It’s like I have rediscovered the obvious…that people learn best when they are engaged and the best way to engage them is to ask questions. Just ask Socrates!

Action learning has been around since the 1940s when Reg Revans physicist, turned management guru, used this technique in England when dealing with the coal industry. Michael Marquardt has not only been a devotee but now is THE Action Learning guru of today. A professor at George Washington, Michael leads a group call the Global Institute for Action Learning. His book will be reviewed this week.

Buy it, try it (action learning) and live by it—great stuff indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just-Ask Leadership: The final two chapters


Over the next week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009).
This is the FINAL of several posts on Just Ask Leadersship.

Just-Ask Leadership: The final two chapters revolve around:

a. Create Better Decisions: Getting the right answers by asking the right questions. Here’s a few questions the author asks and takes a swing at: (Context) Who’s decision is it? When should I pick up a shovel and pitch in? In a crisis, is it better to ask or command? (Clarity) How does dissonance point to problems and opportunities? How can I seek clarification without being judgmental? What questions didn’t I ask? (Objectivity) What causes people to shut down and disengage from conversation? What should I do when I encounter conflicting data?

b. Motivate to Action—Asking for success. Great Jack Welch quote: “Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders [but doesn’t cross the line] of skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with actions.” Here are some great questions in this section: How do I generate a sense of urgency? What would you carve your name into next to the words [I] made this….? How can shared responses energize my coworkers? When should I use How and What questions? What is the difference between challenging and intimidating questions?

c. Final word from one of my favorite guys, Albert Einstein: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Build Unity and Cooperation—Creating a Culture of Trust


Over the next week I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009).
This is the FOURTH of several posts on Just Ask Leadersship.

Build Unity and Cooperation—Creating a culture of trust.

The author argues that if leaders remain the answer givers, not the seekers of truth, the results can be that people lose faith and trust in the leader, which ultimately hurts or destroys the organization. Leaders need to trust the wisdom of the group—when directed at the organization’s best interests. Respect the opinions and ideas of others in order to get their respect, honor and buy in. Heed this advise to give and get respect: LISTEN….LISTEN…LISTEN. Here are a couple of questions from this chapter:

a. How do I get everyone to contribute?

--ASK THEM. A simple answer but it’s not so easy to implement. There are technologies available these days to help that (Turning Point) and others. You can also, have a third party coach collect the data and report it back to you. You can simply pass out index cards and ask for ideas and or solutions. Pick someone from the group to collect them and read them back to you. If you want direct, honest, trusted feedback, start by asking for it.

b. How do I align each employee’s needs with the needs of the organization?

--The author describes what we all know: People want to work they way that they like, not your way. Give them a task that they agree on and believe is both important and doable, and get out of their way. Don’t be like the impatient gardener, ripped up by its roots the young plant to see if it were growing! Ask followers periodically to review the mission, values and vision to see if they agree with them. Fine tuning the organization is not only helpful but healthy for continuous growth and prosperity.

c. Other questions asked in this chapter include (along with neat stories, research and anecdotes): If I have a better idea, should I share it with my team? Why am I the only one who talks in meetings? How can I get everyone to contribute? How can storytelling build unity?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ensure Accountability—Increasing Team and Organization-Wide Performance


Over the next week I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009). This is the THIRD of several posts on Just Ask Leadership: Ensure Accountability—Increasing Team and Organization-Wide Performance

a. Getting co-workers and employees to solve their own problems, the author would argue, is important, no vital, to a successful organization. Setting up he CEO as THE champion knowledge oracle is not only unwise but short lived. Hero-based cultures only last as long as the CEO is right and erodes quickly in fast-changing cultures like that of the 21st century. E.G., how many CEOs know much about social media—and how big is that becoming in our society! Here are a couple of questions from this chapter:

--How often should I schedule performance reviews?

i. Here’s a sequence that moves the monkey off the boss’s back and on to the employee. A couple of days before a scheduled review, ask the employee to provide the list of her goals and detail the progress on each. At the meeting, ask how well the employee did at achieving the goals. If she met a goal, celebrate the win. If she did not reach a goal, ask her to tell you what was the root cause, what got in the way? Leaders should NOT provide answers but probe with questions and then ask the employee to establish an action plan, deadlines and set a follow up meeting. The more severe the problem, the more frequent the follow ups.

--How can I reduce the fear of failure? [Taken from Major General Dick Newton’s (Air Force) advice, the author introduces a German military process of the 1800s that was very successful. Translated it means “mission tactics.”]

i. Mutual trust is based on personal knowledge of leaders and subordinates.
ii. Training and organization of the force and decentralization…ground-level decision making.
iii.Willingness to act…even in the face of potential failure.
iv. Simple concepts (Keep it Simple—Kis principle). Finally, the author notes that it was not failure of an action that the Germans would punish, but failure TO ACT. Not bad for building trust in an organization: Allowing experimentation.

-- Other questions asked in this chapter include (along with neat stories, research and anecdotes:

Who’s to blame—the employee or the job description? Are my team leaders leaving a trail of frustrated people behind? How do I get coworkers to stop repeating the same mistakes? What am I afraid of losing? There are a total of 12 questions asked in this section. Check them out if you’re interested in leveraging your leaders to lift much heavier issues and opportunities in front of them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Improving Organizational Vision

Over the next week I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009). This is the SECOND of several posts on Just Ask Leadership.

Improve Vision: Gaining insights from all levels of the organization.

a. Improving vision for an organization always starts with looking out at the ideal state: All things equal, in a year or two, where do you as a leader want to be? The author wants you to climb up on the mast of your ship and look out at the opportunities and threats. He also asks a lot of questions and gives some good answers based on his experience as a both a successful business man and executive coach who’s seen his own share of success and failure. So here are one or two questions he poses in each major section of the book with a taste of his observations:What are my values? AND Are my values alignment with the four core human values?

i. OK, so I combined a couple of questions here! But discovering those core values we hold dear is important. You have to start with an inventory of what are the values you (and your leadership team) hold closest. The author talks about the importance of inventorying your own set of values. He also asks about alignment and then quotes a study by Harvard Professors, Lawrence and Hohria in their article In Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices. The authors identify four core human drives: To acquire (food, status, power); to bond (for reproduction, social interaction, and protection); to learn (to accumulate and transmit knowledge to others); and to defend and protect ourselves (by flight, fight, or freeze). If your core values don’t connect with any one of these, it’s likely you’re out of balance.

ii. Other questions asked in this chapter include (along with neat stories, research and anecdotes) : Are our values as strong as our profits? Is there a gap between our stated values and our operating values? What is our organization’s culture? Are my coworkers aware of the importance of their work? There are a total of 18 key questions the author asks of leaders. Worth checking them out and his response to those questions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions


Over the next week I’ll be presenting an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009). This is a book worth buying and discussion with both senior and emerging executives.

This is the FIRST of several posts on Just Ask Leadership.

Introduction: If you have to give an answer or ask a question, just about any executive coach worth his or her salt would suggest asking the question. One distinct problem with very successful people is that they think they already know the answers…all of them! Just ask them. Think of question-based leadership—NOT—answer-based leadership.

Marshall Goldsmith (leading coach in the US, best-selling author, and the fellow who wrote the foreword to my book on coaching) would not only agree but underline that statement in red letters. By asking questions, leaders learn what others are thinking and by doing allow them to grow. Cohen covers 5 key areas of leaders by asking—then answering a dozen or more questions about the following areas:

--Improve Vision—Getting Insights form All Levels of the Organization
--Ensure Accountability—Increasing Team and Organization-wide Performance
--Build Unity and Cooperation—Creating a Culture of Trust
--Create Better Decisions—Getting the Right Answers by Asking the Right Questions
--Motivate to Action: Asking for Success

Over, the next week I’ll cover all five of these areas—and give a few of the many examples Cohen provides.

Monday, November 2, 2009

HBR October: Turning off the Blackberry


Harvard Business Review: This week, I’ll be reviewing the highlights of the October issue of the Harvard Business Review. Worth the read if you’re interested in managing risks in an uncertain economy. Suggest subscribing, especially for senior, strategic teams. Here’s the FINAL in a series of posts:

Making Time Off Predictable
by Perlow and Porter

“24/7” and “Blackberry” have become synonymous and perpetuate a vicious cycle of being always “on" and available. Research by the Boston Consulting Group says that imposing strict rules about time off can make employees even more efficient. Also, merely talking about how to take time off generates a healthy dialog in an organization. In their research, the authors compared typical teams with experimental time-off-oriented teams in categories ranging from “job satisfaction” to “value delivery.” And the experimental teams scored higher... in all criteria.

So, I’m taking the rest of the day off!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

HBR (October): About Mergers

Harvard Business Review: This week, I’ll be reviewing the highlights of the October issue of the Harvard Business Review. Worth the read if you’re interested in managing risks in an uncertain economy. Suggest subscribing, especially for senior, strategic teams. Here’s FOURTH in a series of posts:

Mergers That Stick by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

In recovery, mergers look like bargain basement acquisitions, but buyer beware! Without a heavy investment in social integration and motivation, many such mergers will turn out to be costly losses. On the other hand, taking time and money to respect the purchased company, its people and systems can pay off. Example: French-based Publicis bought Saatchi and Saatchi and adopted their (S&S’s) operating system in what is called a “reverse acquisition.”

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