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Friday, December 30, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #3--A Competitive Advantage

Principle #1. The Happiness Advantage: How Happiness Gives Your Brain—and Your Organization—The Competitive Edge
a. We used to think that happiness “orbited” around success but found the opposite is true. Get happy and watch success happen. Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) analyzed happiness in terms of three components: Pleasure, Engagement, and Meaning (watch him explain this on Ted.com). Simple pleasures of life are only part of the story. Positive emotions are at the core of happiness. Scholar Barbara Frederickson (UNC) identified the ten most common positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Many studies demonstrate that happy workers are more productive, get higher performance ratings, take less sick time, and so on. And happy CEOs create a happier climate that fosters happier, more productive employees. In short happiness causes success, not the other way around.
b. The Nun Study: In a now famous longitudinal study of 180 Catholic nuns (all born before 1917) who were asked to write their bios when they originally entered the convent, amazing results emerged. Over five decades later, researchers coded and analyzed their bios to search for positive indicators in the text. They discovered the “happier” bios led to nuns who lived, on average, 10 years longer than their less happy sisters.
c. Elements of happiness: Scientists have proven that we can improve our happiness set point by doing the following—having purpose and meaning in life, looking for opportunities, developing optimism and a gratitude mentality, and having strong social relationships. Some ways to make that happen:
i. Meditate: Even just 5 minutes a day helps—though most, like me, prefer 20 minutes—breathe in and out deeply and notice how the oxygen calms your mind.
ii. Spend Money—not on objects but on experiences. Go to a great movie rather than buy a gadget. Spend it on a memorable vacation rather than buying a new gizmo.
iii. Find Something to Look Forward to: Planning to do to something you love in the future creates about the same joy and happiness as that of actually doing it.
iv. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness: Commit random and deliberate acts of kindness and watch your happiness mount. Try to do 5 acts of deliberate kindness a week for good results.
v. Exercise Signature Strengths: Figure out what you’re strengths are and try to use them every day and watch happiness mount and depression decline.
vi. Exercise and fill your life with positivity—regular exercise can stave off depression. Also, keeping things around you that give you positive energy has the same effect. I keep a gratitude journal in my medicine cabinet and write down 5 things I’m grateful for each day. Makes a difference in my mindset.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #2--Introduction to Happiness

Introduction: Turning the Switch from Depression to Happiness
a. A 2004 study at Harvard found 4 of 5 students suffered from depression during the school year. Only 45% of workers are happy at their jobs. And depression is 10 times today what it was in 1960. For years, most research was focused on diagnosing illnesses that create depression and unhappiness. In 1988 the ratio of negative to positive psychological studies was 17-1.
b. Medical School Syndrome—You get what you concentrate on. First-year med students study symptoms of many diseases, and many are convinced they’ve come down with those symptoms/diseases!
c. That same year (1998) Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) became the head of the American Psychological Association and strategically shifted the organization toward investigating “positive psychology.” In 2006, Tal Ben-Shahar and Shawn Achor (the author), both professors at Harvard, developed a course on happiness, and nearly 1 in 6 students registered for it…the largest in the school’s history. These most privileged of students sought—needed—to find simple happiness.
d. Researchers did a “meta analysis” (a study of over 200 studies) on about 275,000 people and found that happiness affects every part of our lives for the better, including work, family, friendship, health, energy…you name it. People need to focus on the positive to protect themselves, especially those in certain professions. Consider auditors and lawyers—who are taught to look for flaws all day long. The toll is significant: Lawyers have three times more depression than other professions and law students suffer from dangerous levels of depression. Good news is that people can and do change at EVERY age. Neuroplasticity is the study of how flexible our brains are. For example, blind people’s fingers become more sensitive as does their sense of hearing. In effect, they see and feel with their re-routed brain.
e. The author found 7 positive patterns of success: The Happiness Advantage, The Fulcrum and the Lever, The Tetris Effect, Falling Up, The Zorro Circle, The 20-Second Rule, and Social Investment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happiness Advantage: Post #1--Overview

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (Crown Business, 2010); review/summary by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., December 2011.

Overview: Early on, we’re taught to get an education, find a job, work hard, be successful, and we’ll find happiness. Turns out, like so many things, science and research say just the reverse. Figure out what makes you happy, pursue it, and you’ll find happiness, and a good living to boot. Shawn Achor, a researcher and teacher himself, has pulled together the research of some of my favorite people—Martin Seligman, Carol Dwek, Tal Ben-Shahar—and many others into an enjoyable, powerful text which posits that intentionally investing in what makes us happy might just be the most important investment we make in our lives. He offers seven (7) principles to help us do just that. Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage—How Happiness Gives Your Brain and Your Organization the Competitive Edge; Principle #2: The Fulcrum and the Lever—Changing Your Performance by Changing Your Mindset; Principle #3: The Tetris Effect—Training Your Brain to Capitalize on Possibility; Principle #4: Falling Up—Capitalizing on the Downs to Create Upward Momentum; Principle #5: The Zorro Circle—How Limiting Your Focus to Small, Manageable Goals Can Expand Your Sphere of Power; Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule—How to Turn Bad Habits into Good Ones by Minimizing Barriers to Change; and, Principle #7: Social Investment— Why Social Support is Your Single Greatest Asset.

This book is VERY important for employees, teams, leaders and companies to read. Send a copy to someone you care about.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lean Start Up: #7- Final Words

Recommendation:
If you're starting up a company, innovating in a bureaucracy, or introducing something new to your company, I recommend you buy and read The Lean Startup. Also, check it out on Authors@Google.
a. Authors@Google: Eric Ries The Lean Startup
c. http://twitter.com/ericries
d. eric@theleanstartup.com

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lean Start Up: #6 - Innovation Accounting

Innovation Accounting

a. Accounting: originally invented to evaluate accountability across departments.
b. How to drive accountability with NO history, even no clients?
c. Innovation Accounting: Three learning milestones
i. Establish the baseline (avoid vanity stats…web site hits, etc.)
1. Build minimum viable product (MVP).
2. MVP: What’s the minimum that needs to be in product? In this new model, all we need is what we need to learn to see if our model is sustainable.
3. Measure per-customer behavior.
ii. Tune the engine
1. Experiment to see if we can improve metrics from the baseline towards the ideal.
2. Hypothesis testing: Using Split-Tests—offering two different versions of the product to same type audience to see which one works better.
iii. Pivot or persevere
1. When experiments reach diminishing returns, it’s time to pivot.
2. Schedule a meeting three months in advance to see if you hit predictions. Set a stake in the future to re-evaluate.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lean Start Up: #5 - Build-Measure-Learn

Build-Measure-Learn

a. Goal of entrepreneurs: How to build a sustainable business. Need a system to evaluate and assess. All else is waste.
b. Value vs. Waste: Where learning is really the unit of progress. Cycle time: loop (in software development—turning ideas into code): 1. Ideas; 2. BUILD; 3. Code; 4. MEASURE; 5. Data; 6. LEARN. Can you make it through the sustainable cycle faster? Pivot is one turn through this loop. Minimize time through the loop for greater chance for success. So, what needs to be in version #1 of product is only what’s necessary (the MVP—Minimally Viable Product) to see if vision or plan is right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lean Start Up: #4 - Validated Learning

Validated Learning

a. The old waterfall method of building something (especially in software development) requires a problem that is known and a solution that is also known. Easy when building the next iteration of something already built. But, not good for starting something from scratch.
b. How to Achieve Failure: Building something that nobody wants and building it on time, under budget! Essentially we are executing a bad plan.
c. Edwards Deming: “The customer is the most important part of the production line.” All we should do is gauge whether the customer cares about it.
d. Agile methods have their origins in IT departments. The problem is known, but the solution is unknown and uncertain. But, what if we don’t know who the customer is or what s/he wants?
e. Steve Blank (a mentor of Ries) tells us to know our customer and use a process, from creating a prototype, to testing it, to validated learning, to innovative accounting.
f. Case Study: What Ries learned at previous company: Customers did not want to use his product to connect with existing friends, they wanted to connect to new people and make new friends. PIVOT—had to make a major move.
g. Lots of code written: 25,000 lines. All had to be tossed because it didn’t appeal to teens—target market. PIVOT…created an IM network instead that attached to existing system.
h. Could have discovered this if he had simply experimented with creating a single webpage…to see if people tried it! Nobody wanted it…so, he didn’t need page 2.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lean Start Up: #3 - Management

Entrepreneurship is management

a. Goal: Create an institution, not just a product.
b. Frederick Taylor: Invented Scientific Management…in 20th century got us thinking about scientific process.
c. We need practices and principles geared to extreme uncertainty—like entrepreneurship that employs a scientific process.
d. The PIVOT: One foot planted in what we’ve learned and changing one thing in the business at a time—using the scientific experimental process.
i. What do successful startups have in common?
ii. Successful startups…had screwy ideas. They didn’t give up OR drive biz into the ground. They made a critical pivot.
iii. Speed wins: If you can reduce the time between making “pivots” you’ll increase the odds of success—before you go broke!
iv. So, how do you figure out how to make a move sooner…aka pivot faster?
v. Pivot: One foot in the known and moving the other foot in a different direction. Like basketball. Pivoting faster makes the difference between success and failure.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lean Start Up: #2 - Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are everywhere
-Ries’ definition of a startup: Human institution is designed to create something (deliver a new product or service) under conditions of extreme uncertainly—uncertainty about the customer, his/her wants, and about sustainability.

- Nothing to do with size of the company, the sector of the economy, or the industry genre.
- Entrepreneur is a career, a calling.
- Startup is an experiment.
--Science of entrepreneurship.
--Stop wasting people’s time!
--Waste: Building things that no one wants.
-Success: Which companies live up to their aspirations, dreams, plan, talent, energy of founders, investors and employees?
- All of us lack a theory of entrepreneurship
- It’s not can it be built, but should it be built. Software—we can build anything we can imagine—but should it be built?
- AND can we build a sustainable business around the product?
- GDP will be built in the future on the quality of our collective imaginations.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lean Start Up: #1 - Overview

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Crown, 2011) from a video of Eric Ries at Authors@Google. Reviewed/summarized by Steve Gladis, PhD, November 2011.

Overview: According to Eric Ries, a startup is “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” As such, an entrepreneur can be anyone working in his/her basement, a team member in a small company, or someone in a Fortune 500 working on something new when conditions are uncertain. Thus, entrepreneurs are everywhere—not just two guys toiling in a garage with a great idea. Lean startup takes its origins from lean manufacturing and focuses on operating efficiently in a world of uncertainty. To do that, Ries points out that any entrepreneurial company tries to build a sustainable business by conducting “scientific” experiments that test elements of vision. Entrepreneurs hold faithful to a build-measure-learn mantra. Build a product, test it with customers and measure the results, and then modify it by pivoting or preserving—adjusting the product to meet customer needs or holding steady with the plan. Finally, innovation accounting helps startups measure and hold themselves accountable for steps moving them forward. Startups need not invest enormous amounts of money and time before making critical changes, thus reaching their vision sooner and remaining intact financially.
Five Principles of Lean Startup
- Entrepreneurs are everywhere
- Entrepreneurship is management
- Validated learning
- Build-measure-learn
- Innovation Accounting

Monday, December 5, 2011

Strengths: Post #7 - Back of the Book

Back of the book: The basic theory of the book is that we all have specific talents. With work and development, we can hone those skills to become real leadership strengths. And, taken together with others on the team, pooling skills results in strong, effective teams that foster engaged, productive and happy employees.

a. Developing Talents: One section in the back of the book describes the 34 themes (or talents) in the Clifton Strengths Finder. Not only do they describe the theme (talent), but they also give specific, customized direction about how that talent can be developed so that people will want to follow you. Thus, each theme is passed through four familiar filters about how to build Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope.

b. Research: This book is based on a lot of research, and the back of the book attempts to summarize that. I especially like the annotated references, which reinforced my confidence in the data. Using such an evidenced- based approach to team building only makes sense. And using this book as a central component of that strategy makes even more sense.

Buy the book, take the StrengthsFinder and have your team discuss it as if it were a roadmap to success—which it is, in my opinion.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Strengths: Post #6 - Follwers Needs

Followers’ Four Basic Needs: Gallup’s research focuses not just on looking at how leaders behave but also on followers. A leader charging forward without followers is just out for a walk! The good folks at Gallup looked at 10,000 followers and asked two questions: 1) What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life? 2) List three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life. The results were remarkably simple and profound. Here are THE 4 things followers want from their leaders: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. Actually, not far off from what our ancient friend Aristotle said 2,500 years ago—people want leaders to have Ethos (Trust), Pathos (Compassion) and Logos (Stability & Hope).

1. Trust: Employees who trust leaders are much more likely to stay around. Things get done far more quickly in high-trust teams. Respect, integrity, and honesty are the results of high trust. Trust happens through behaviors. And, in high-trust organizations there’s more a presumption of trust than a lot of chatter about it. Whereas on low-trust, struggling teams, there’s a lot of discussion about trust. Remember, trusted relationships will “trump” competence any time. Better to be trusted than be the smartest person in the room!

2. Compassion: People want leaders who care about them. It’s that simple and, for some leaders, that difficult. When 10,000 employees were asked what great leaders contributed to their lives, they said: Caring, friendship, happiness, and love. And when 10 Million (!) people were asked whether their supervisor or someone at work cared about them, the ones who answered yes were more engaged, productive and most likely to stick around (retention). Moreover, not only do leaders have to care, the culture of an organization has to “have a heart.” When that happens, employees do great things and hang around.

3. Hope: While people want stability on a day-to-day basis, they want hope in the future. People in the Gallup survey used words like direction, faith, and guidance. When asked if they had faith in their organization, the 69% who answered affirmatively were the most engaged employees in their companies, as compared to a miserly 1% of those who answered negatively about hope in their company’s future. Just the mere act of initiating something new can offer hope in the future for employees. Such hope and optimism gives employees something to live and strive for. Without hope, despair and paralysis take over. However, most managers work on day-to-day problems rather than hope-filled strategies of the future. It’s easier to take a phone call than to plan a strategy for financial growth into the future. Add to that the quarter-to-quarter mentality of many corporate boards and their CEOs and you see how establishing hope in the future is as difficult as necessary.

4. Stability: No one likes constant chaos. And most people like stability—especially in times of threat or crisis. A steady hand on the rudder of the organization calms people down and allows them to make better choices. Those surveys by Gallup used words like security, strength, support and peace. People want stability and confidence. Those who are particularly confident in a company’s financial future are nine times more likely to stay with the company, rather than jump ship. To ensure financial stability, make the numbers open to everyone….be transparent.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Strengths: Post #5 - Common Team Elements

Common Elements of Great Teams
--Conflict does not destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results. Strong teams may well argue as they proceed toward the goal, but they’re all focused on the goal—together. Weak teams argue and tend to personalize their disagreements, thus fracturing groups and driving them away from the goal toward silos and personal interests.

--Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward. Strong teams figure out what’s best for the organization’s health and welfare, focus on that, and subordinate their own interests for the greater good of the organization. This isn’t easy, but it separates the great teams from fair teams and companies.

--Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to work. Members of strong teams commit to their work, their families and their communities. These folks seem to know how to get it all done—without falling into an obsession about work. They work on their families and the community as well—volunteering and making their communities better places to live and work.

--Strong teams embrace diversity. Diversity helps teams solve problems better and faster than homogenous teams, the members of which all see the world the same way. The more diverse the team in age, gender, and ethnicity, the research shows, the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention. Diverse teams look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.

--Strong teams are magnets for talent. The easy way to find a strong team or a weak team is to look at what people are doing to get on or off the team. Strong teams attract the best and brightest. Weak teams start looking like abandoned tenements as people flee to a better place.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Strengths: Post #4 - The Four Domains of Teams

The Four Domains of Teams (think of the word SIRE)
1. Strategic Thinking: People with strengths in this domain tend to force the group to look at the big picture and toward the future—what might be. Always reviewing the data and applying what they learn, strategic thinkers move the organization forward—stretching its members to think beyond what is, to the possibilities of the future. People who are strong in this strategic thinking domain possess strengths in such areas as: Context, Futuristic, Ideation, Input, Analytic, Intellection, Learner and Strategic.
2. Influence: People with strengths in this key domain know how to sell or promulgate the team’s ideas both inside and outside the organization. These people are natural persuaders, inspire others to adopt their ideas, and are vital to moving teams forward in communities. Again, not everyone influences the same way. But people with the following domain-area strengths tend to be key influencers: Activator, Command, Communication, Competition, Maximizer, Self Assurance, Significance, and Woo.
3. Relationship Building: Those with strengths in this domain tend to keep groups together. They’re the social glue, the mortar between the foundation building blocks. They know how to create and maintain groups such that the whole is much greater than its parts. Such relationship builders have domain strengths as follows: Adaptability, Developer, Connectedness, Empathy, Includer, Individualization, Positivity, and Relator.
4. Execution: People with strengths in this key domain know how to rally around a goal and get things done. Differing strengths might dictate the style of getting to the goal, but folks who have strengths in this domain area contribute mightily to execution. Here are those strengths: Achiever, Arranger, Belief, Consistency, Deliberative, Discipline, Focus, Responsibility, and Restorative. Take the StrengthsFinder to find yours and read the book for explanations of all of the strengths.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Strengths: Post #3 - Teams

Great Leadership Teams
--Individuals may not be well-rounded or possess strengths in all areas…a virtual impossibility. --However, based on extensive Gallup research, teams need to be well-balanced across four key domains of Leadership Strength: Execution, Influence, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.
--According to Gallup research, there are 34 StrengthsFinder themes—which sort out into nearly equal sets of the above four key domains (Strategic Thinking, Influence, Relationship Building, and Execution).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Strengths: Post #2 - Engagement

Data on Strengths-Based Engagement
--Only a third of Americans use their strengths areas every day. Engagement with their job leads to employee happiness, productivity, and retention.
--The chances of a person being engaged who is not using his or her strengths is only 9%! Such a waste.
-- Focus on people’s weaknesses and they lose confidence.
--Focus on their strengths and they are more confident, healthier, happier and wealthier over a lifetime.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Strengths: Post #1 - Overview

Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (Gallup Press, 2008) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.,

Overview: The Gallup folks have used their ability to research and analyze data to produce a book worthy of any team or organization reading it. The basic premises: People perform best when working in their strengths areas, and teams perform best when the team itself has a balanced, complementary set of strengths. The research behind this book is prodigious. Gallup conducted over 20,000 in-depth interviews, studied over one million work teams, considered over 50 years of data on the world’s most admired leaders, and studied over 10,000 followers for insights into leaders. Here’s what that data revealed. First, the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. Employees who do not work in strengths areas are only 9% engaged in their jobs vs. 74% engagement levels for people who do work in their strengths. Further, engagement has been proven to substantially increase productivity for the company. Second, the most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team. By nature we all have talents that can be developed into strengths. We also have definite weaknesses. And while no leader is perfectly well-rounded, effective teams must be. Gallup research has developed four domains of leadership strength: Execution (making things happen); Influence (selling ideas inside and out of the organization); Relationship Building (being the glue that holds teams together); and Strategic Thinking (focusing on the big picture and the future). Third, the most effective leaders understand their followers’ needs. The four needs of followers are: Trust (honesty, respect and integrity); Compassion (caring, friendship, happiness and love); Stability (security, strength, support and peace); and Hope (direction, faith and guidance). This book is a team “must-read.” The StrengthsFinder alone is high value; combine that with the research on teams and you have a bible for team development.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #12--FINAL

Sustainability: Taking Inventory of What Is Depleting Your Resources. Harvesting resources in such a way that they never get depleted is what sustainability is all about. This is also true for our own personal energy. If we treat energy as something that can be squandered, our business process becomes unsustainable. It could be a CEO who drives people and never lets up or investors who continue to dump good money after bad in an investment, hoping for a turnaround. Whatever or whoever overinvests, the results can eventually be unsustainable. We all need to monitor the expenditure of our limited resources to ensure that we don’t continue to invest long after we should have said goodbye to “…employees, businesses, and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward,” to quote the author’s subtitle for this important book.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #11--Grief

Embrace the Grief: The Importance of Metabolizing Necessary Endings. We all grieve when something we invested in so heavily is gone. It might be the death of a person, a divorce, loss of a job, or a business failure. Anytime you’ve invested heavily and things don’t work out, grief is our way of taking back the energy we invested to reinvest in something else. Oftentimes, people dive into something new without grieving and then find themselves in rebound situations, where they recreate the very thing they left. The author suggests that we have to analyze what happened, take it apart and look at it as objectively as possible. Then, we need to metabolize it—talk about it, cry about it, and then move on.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #10--The Conversation

Having the Conversation: Strategies for Ending Things Well. Having the “talk” is the hardest part of the deal. We’re afraid things will blow up, that people will go ballistic. That might be true but rarely so. When you decide that something’s over, end it. The author offers a lot of help. Here are just a few tidbits: Start with the bottom line—what do you want to happen after the conversation? Like, you never want to see the person again, or let’s part friends, etc. Practice the “talk.” Just writing down the narrative helps, and role playing with another really helps. Get the tone right. Be respectful and set the tone…your personal wi-fi will help the other person set theirs. Get agreement: Ask the person “What have you heard me say?” Get this question out to find out if they “got it” or not. Depending on the situation, you may need help. So, bring a friend, a mediator, or even a lawyer. Finally, don’t burn bridges no matter how angry the other person gets or how much s/he protests.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #9--Urgency

Creating Urgency: Stay Motivated and Energized for Change. Being able to take the current situation you’re in and project it (with all its warts and gems) forward into the future becomes critical for change. Moving away from the very powerful “status quo” isn’t easy and requires seeing things as they are currently. Then, creating a movie in your head and playing it forward to its logical end will provide motivation and urgency to change. For example, if I continue not studying for tests in high school, what’s the likely result going forward one year, two years, etc? If you keep taking abuse from a husband, how will the future look? Alternatively, if I start walking every day and dieting, what will happen in 6 months or a year? When you create a vision in your mind, the mind starts to work toward that vision. So make it real and concrete…write it down, talk about it, play the movie forward. Set deadlines, create structure, and monitor and measure and results start to happen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #8--Wise, Foolish,Evil

The Wise, the Foolish, and the Evil: Identifying Which Kinds of People Deserve Your Trust. Wise people are worth holding onto. Even when they are in trouble, they listen, accept, and adjust to criticism. They take feedback in, thank you for it, take responsibility for their performance, show remorse, look toward improving in the future, and don’t let negative patterns evolve. They’re realistic people, whose attitudes will help them improve and adjust. On the other hand, foolish people respond in just the opposite manner. “The fool adjusts the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” Thus, instead of taking criticism, the fool deludes himself/herself into believing everyone else is an idiot, thus, s/he is not the one with the problem. In the face of criticism, the fool blames others and you (as the messenger), offers excuses, gets defensive, and is completely unaware of the pain they cause others. So, the basic strategy is to stop conversing and start giving directions. Setting clear limits and consequences with such folks is the only way. If they disparage an employee in front of others, they’ll be placed on administrative leave. Finally, there are evil people in the world—folks who are basically and unalterably flawed with deep seated malice. For them, you get lawyers and protection. No hope—there is only defense.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #7--Hope vs. Wishing

Hoping Versus Wishing: The Difference Between What’s Worth Fixing and What Should End. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance. This saying is as old and as true as any in human resources and performance management. The key to knowing whether you have hope for an employee or you are merely wishing for improvement is to determine exactly how the person will change. Having a proven change process (like attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), getting an admission of need vs. delusion, observing a self-driven and sustained process toward change, and getting some skilled help to keep the change on track are just a few structural elements we need to have hope in anyone actually changing. Saying they’re sorry and promising to do better isn’t enough. The reality is that, unless something changes, past performance will predict the future.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #6--Prunning Moment

Getting to the Pruning Moment—Realistic, Hopeless, and Motivated. Getting in touch with reality may sound simple, but often it’s one of hardest things to see through our personal biases, including a delusional screen that many leaders have. They see themselves and their companies—including startups—as way above average, despite well-known stats that 80% of all startups fail. One of the big reasons companies succeed and, at the same time, fail is the notion of “hope.”` Hope drives people forward but can also tie them to a rock sinking in the ocean. So, hopelessness (however depressing it sounds), the author contends, can be your best friend if you want to start seeing more clearly. The key question to ask: What reason do I have to believe tomorrow’s going to be different from today?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post #5--Getting Stuck

When Stuck is the New Normal—The Difference Between Pain with a Purpose and Pain for No Good Reason. Your thinking affects your brain. Neuroscience tells us that we create grooves when we think or practice skills or activities. Therefore, we create internal “mental maps.” And people who are stuck in a negative rut have a very different mental map. Such folks often end up in “learned helplessness,” a condition that is characterized by pessimism dictated by three P’s: Personalized (I’m bad); Pervasive (much around me is bad); and Permanent (it’s not going to change). On the other hand, productive, optimistic people see setbacks as temporary, aberrational, and transient. The author describes five mental maps that get us stuck and keep us from moving forward. 1) Having an abnormally high pain threshold—we hang on merely because we can handle the pain; 2) Covering for others—we do more than we should to cover for others not doing their fair share; 3) Misunderstood loyalty—while loyalty is important, it can perpetuate cycles of dysfunction and pain; 4) Believing that ending it means I failed—not wanting to be a “quitter” can keep us in toxic relations long after we should have exited; 5) Codependent Mapping—this is about love and caring that turns to enabling—toxic dependency [sticking with employees too long; spouses sticking with partners way too long after neglect and selfishness have inflicted pain; parents supporting adult kids way beyond a normal interval]. You see much of this in family-run businesses that keep people on the payroll WAY beyond what should be tolerated.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post#4--Normalizing

Normalizing Necessary Endings—Welcome the Seasons of Your Life into Your Worldview. If we view endings as very difficult things, then we’ll avoid them and push them into the background, which causes all kinds of problems and inefficiencies in our life and work. We can correct this by making endings a part of our world view. First, accept the seasons of life. All things are born, grow and die. Second, life makes much more than we can handle. High functioning people have a LOT of relationships. However, brain research tells us that we can only handle relationships with about 150 people. More than that and things slip off the applecart. So, we need to prune off that which is no longer relevant or healthy. As a business, Starbucks did this well. They captured the market by having stores on every corner and then pruned them back. Smart market strategy—capture market share and then make it efficient.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post#3--Pruning

Pruning—Growth Depends on Getting Rid of the Unwanted or the Superfluous. Pruning is all about cutting dead wood, so that a plant or tree can bloom to its highest potential. So too with relationships. We have to decide on what’s going to really bloom and what won’t and be willing to kill off or “end” that which is unlikely to bear fruit. People cannot maintain relationships with everyone they meet. It would take WAY too much energy. So we need to assess who or what is causing more energy than it’s worth and prune back that relationship. And while pruning feels tactical, it’s really quite strategic.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post#2--Endings

Endings—The Good Cannot Begin Until the Bad Ends. Endings are as much a part of life as new beginnings, much like the seasons of a year. Leaves come out in the spring and then die in the fall, only to nurture the ground to grow new leaves during the next spring. However, we all tend to avoid ending relationships (in our families or at work) largely because it’s not easy, we want to avoid confrontation, we hold out false hope, we don’t want to lose someone or something we’ve invested in, or for any number of other reasons. But to go forward and live the best life you can, cutting away the dead wood—having a necessary ending—is vital.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Necessary Endings: Post#1- Overview

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up to Move Forward by Dr. Henry Cloud (Harper Collins, 2010), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., October 2011
Overview: We’ve all hung onto a car, friend, relationship, business, or employee far longer than we knew we should have. And we’ve all known the back-and-forth process that drains our energy, even in the face of a hopeless situation we know is headed for a fall. Emotions, lack of resolve and energy, the draw of the status quo, and so much more keeps us in relationships we should shed for our own good and that of others. Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud gives us a rationale and a pathway to move forward on such endings. He warns us that the good can’t come until the bad ends: Pruning away dead wood—even if there’s still some life there—must happen if the whole tree is to survive; getting out of the new normal of being stuck; learning the difference between hope and wishing; knowing how to spot a wise person, a fool and an evil one and what to do with each; gathering energy to end and finally having the conversation; and, then grieving over the loss and moving into the future. Cloud has written a readable, understandable book with implications for each of us. It’s written more from his experience as a coach and psychologist rather than straight research; nonetheless, given his credentials and how his suggestions ring true, it’s a worthy read that I’ll recommend to clients, family and friends.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Social Animal: #15--Final Social Words

Final Social Stuff: I can’t seem to get enough of this book. The section on “The Leader” was a fascinating recitation about politics. I loved Brook’s description of a stump speech: one section about You (the voters), a section about Me (the candidate), and one section about Us (both candidate and voters going forward)—a simple, powerful formula. His statements on how partisan we are at looking at the world got my attention. In Washington, Brooks noted, the people who write about finance, budgets and war talked to the titans, whereas those who write about family, education and social justice not only didn’t have that access but were also viewed as lesser influencers. About social trust, Brooks notes that markets that are not ruled by an unconscious sort of moral rule give way to overpolicing. And when politics is allowed to polarize, parties dehumanize each other and politics devolves into a boxing match rather than a healthy, honest debate. There’s a TON more in this book. Spend time with it and learn a lot!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Social Animal: #14--Other Social Stuff

Other Social Stuff: Brooks touches on the ups and downs of relationships, including marriage. He quotes studies by famed ‘love doctor’ John Gottman who studies and predicts the health and longevity of marriages. Gottman’s research concludes that to have a strong relationship, couples need to have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Good leaders understand this ratio innately; bad leaders unfortunately do not. One interesting stat—women over 50 initiate over 65% of divorces. And, when it comes to moral/social concerns, key researchers in the field offered five concerns that account for much unconscious moral decision making: Fairness/Reciprocity—equal and unequal treatment; harm/care concern, including empathy; authority/respect relative to hierarchies; purity/disgust that drives us from that which is contaminated, from food to poor relationships; and, in-group, out-group loyalty that produces antipathy for out-groups but strong visceral loyalty to group members and disgust if people violate that loyalty.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Social Animal: #13--Metis


Metis: Part of us is rational and the other part unconscious. The French Enlightenment, with its insistence on the power of rational thought, and British Enlightenment, with its insistence on the power of the unconscious social sense, brought this duality to the fore. Think of Mr. Spock as the example of the French Enlightenment team’s hero and Homer Simpson as the British Enlightenment’s hero—operating primarily on impulses and emotions. Now, instead of thinking of them on different teams, consider how they’d be as roommates—the odd couple. What’s more, our memories are very inaccurate; however, we think they’re precise. Memory happens by reweaving bits of data from various segments of the brain. Each time we remember, we reweave things even if slightly differently and then put back that newly altered memory back into the vault. Moreover, our unconscious intuition is better at solving bigger, more complex problems, but the conscious is better at solving smaller and/or linear problems with less variables. The trick is not to rush to judgment. Rather, “wander” around or hold off judging, especially in complex situations, to allow the unconscious to talk sense into the conscious and vice versa. It’s a necessary dialog.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Social Animal: #12--Grand Narrative

The Grand Narrative: We tell ourselves stories—narratives about who we are. Unfortunately, sometimes those stories are delusional. Overconfidence is one such illusion. For example, 90% of drivers, professors, entrepreneurs and students taking the SAT think they’re all above average! In one study, managers in advertising thought that their answers to industry knowledge questions were 90% correct, but they actually were (on average) only 49% correct. Computer industry folks thought they were 95% correct but (on average) were just 20% correct. In fact, over 99% people in one study overestimated their success. The stock traders—who were the most confident—traded the most and underperformed the market. We have a built-in psychological immune system that makes us delusional—often (if unchecked) allowing us to take in only that which confirms our good qualities, denying that data that attacks our worst ones. Finally, incompetent people exaggerate their competencies more than their better performing peers. So, to say that most people suffer from overconfidence, even delusional about their competence, is an understatement.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Social Animal: #11--Limerence

Limerence: Often associated with infatuation, limerence is a deep desire for harmony—internal and external---whether such harmony is with a person, our work, or an activity. The brain sets up predictive models that when learned move us from difficulty to harmony as we conquer the difficult and make it easy. Often, the concept of “flow” is associated with this phenomenon, where we become “one” with our task and reach a kind of pleasurable state. Same is true with falling in love with another person. This harmonic status explains why effective teams of surgeons, nurses, and technicians are in sync (a kind of biologic harmony of pulse, respiration, and mindset) when working on critical problems effectively.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Animal: #10--INtelligence and Behavior

Intelligence and Behavior: Smart people do well in school. But if we look at successful leaders of companies and organizations or even at Nobel Prize winners, we’re stunned at how many were not the smartest folks but ones with ambition and discipline. In fact, at an IQ threshold of 120 or higher, there’s not much correlation between IQ and performance. When it comes to predicting behavior, a new breed of behavioral economists seem to have a clearer view of reality than traditional, rational economists who think people act only on their own best economic interests. Using “choice architecture,” such behavioral economists can reasonably predict how people will react in certain situations. Here are some heuristics or behavioral rules of thumb that are at work. Priming: Prior to testing, prime people with a set of words around achievement and mastery, and they’ll do better on tests. Anchoring: Show people the most expensive wine bottle or piece of furniture first, and they’ll pay more on average than if you start from the cheapest. Framing: Surgeons who talk about a 15% failure rate with their patients get fewer surgery elections than when they talk about 85% success rates. Expectations: People often live into their predictions—the placebo effect is alive and well. Inertia: A “cognitive miser,” inertia tends to keep us stuck with what we choose for a long time. Arousal: Men react to pictures of women, even in ads for banking. Finally, aversion: People are much more concerned about what they’ll lose than what they‘ll gain.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Social Animal: #9--Culture

Culture: The author gives us a workable definition of culture: “…a collection of habits, practices, beliefs, arguments and tensions that regulates and guides human life…we are embedded in the ‘scaffold of culture’” (p. 148-9). While personal characteristics are very important to one’s success, the context in which people live and work also plays a large role in their cultural success. On a personal level, ambitious people are driven—some by fear, talent, and practice. Often, just committing to a goal will make the difference between high and low achievers. Research on highly successful CEOs showed that MBAs and folks with law degrees fared no better than people with a college degree. The traits that most accurately predicted success were the ability to organize and execute. On a larger cultural scale, Westerners focus on individuals taking action in any given situation, whereas Easterners (Asians) focus on context and relationships. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Asian Americans will graduate from college whereas native-born white Americans graduate at a rate of 34% (for ages 25-29). Cultures within cultures make a difference.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Social Animal: #8--Self Control

Self Control: Kids are born with a certain temperament—basically high reactive or low reactive—essentially they are either anxious or calm. However, the range of this temperament is wide, and kids can evolve within broad limits or bands. Anxious kids will likely be more anxious than calm ones, but over time they can adapt and evolve to be less anxious. Researchers maintain that people who learn self control (whether anxious or calm) will become far more successful over a lifetime. Experiments around children being able to delay gratification are stunning in their ability to project future lifetime success. Athletes, researchers found, engaged in cycles of perception, re-perception, and correction. And star athletes did this better because their brains were quieter (less distracted) than other athletes. Their self-monitoring, called mind-sight, keeps them in control of which inner self they will allow to manifest. The Cherokee legend of the Two Wolves would be a perfect fit for this chapter. Just Google it for the story. It’s worth your effort.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Social Animal: #7--Norms

Norms: Researcher Annette Lareau (Univ. of Penn.) has found that children of well-off parents are surrounded by “concerted cultivation.” These children have incredible development opportunities mostly offered by adults—soccer, piano lessons, karate, flute, boy and girl scouts…the list goes on. In this highly structured world, parents shuttle kids around for these rich learning experiences. Poorer kids play more informally because parents can’t shuttle them about. The line between kids and adults is more defined in less wealthy homes. But, in
well-off homes, kids learn the language of adults—they get nearly four times as many words pushed at them per hour as poor kids. Both represent “emergent systems,” when two (or more) different things come together to form a third. Thus, cultures get formed by a set of forces coming together to form a system. This cultural system pushes back on and affects people. Wealthier kids group up in an emergent system that programs them toward communicating with adults and complex social systems like attending college, whereas poorer kids get programmed in a less sophisticated way—a culture (emergent system) that does not move them necessarily in that direction. The result: Kids in the bottom poorest quartile of the population have an 8.6% chance of going to college. On the other hand, top quartile kids have a 75% chance to earn a college degree. Changing the culture of a school, a group, or a system can lead to significantly different outcomes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Social Animal: #6--Learning

Learning: High school is a classic social learning lab. Just look at the cafeteria and who sits where to understand the sociology of this environment. Geeks sit in one place, football players in another, socialites in another, and Goths in another. Cliques and “gangs” form. They always will—whether in schools, at work or in prisons. During high school the brain begins pruning unused areas of neural activity. Notably the last part of the brain to get cleaned up is the prefrontal cortex—the executive center of the brain. That’s the part that uses good sense to control outbursts and govern the actions of people. It’s one reason that juvenile records are sealed…we know intuitively that kids will act out and don’t want that to affect the rest of their lives. During this period of “hormonal hurricanes,” girls strongly react to relationship stress but boys (with all that testosterone) relate to “status assaults.” Even when boys are fully grown they have arguments about whose car is faster or whose job pays more. Enter good teachers. They possess equal parts of caring and discipline for their students. They force kids to learn, even at the risk of being less popular. They praise students for hard work, never for being “smart.” Such directed praise keeps kids curious and less likely to protect their “smart” status by always opting for the safer choices. Good teachers expose students to stories, narratives that allow students to hang new-found information on. Finally, good teachers give students a pathway to learning that includes reading, thinking, sleeping on it, reflecting, writing, even using teaching itself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Social Animal: #5--Attachment

Attachment: To have socially attuned children, parents need not be trained psychologists; rather, they simply need to be warm, loving, and good enough to model how they react to the world to show their kids good behavioral models to emulate. Attachment theory also helps us understand how children will approach the world. If the parent, especially the primary caregiver (usually the mother), is in tune with the needs and wants of the child, the two are in a kind of harmonic dance and become attached. Such well attached children can face new or strange situations with calm and flexibility. They see the world as welcoming and inviting. They tend to be more truthful and less boastful…not feeling the need to puff themselves up. Thus, strong attachment in early childhood shapes future relationships for the child throughout his/her life. However, when those initial bonds are weak due to detached or emotionally unavailable parents, those children are said to become detached and model a similar behavior to others in their lives. Children who are more inconsistent emotionally with life tend to be raised by inconsistent parents. These children tend to be more fearful than others throughout their lives. Children also often replicate their parent’s behavior when they have their own kids. But life is robust and not deterministic, and all children are not necessarily doomed to replicate their early upbringing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Social Animal: #4--Mapmaking

Mapmaking: If the world is the ocean, then our minds are the charts and maps we form to navigate it. We take in billions of impressions that sort and give meaning to what we need to survive and thrive. Whether we think about an apple or a dog, our brains form neural networks to help us to understand each distinctively. Such neural networks are the physical results (neural pathways) that get formed by experiences, habits, personality, and practice. We tend to get the “gist” of what’s happening, then combine it with something else and produce a story—that has a narrative arc. Children use this narrative when they play with toys. Adults use it when contemplating the unknown. They tend to live into the narrative they create and, depending on how they view the world, their narrative determines how their life turns out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Social Animal: #3--Mindsight

Mindsight: As social animals, babies, from the very instant of birth, insinuate themselves into the minds of their parents, especially their mothers. Actually, it’s a survival instinct that babies are born with. They’re dependent on their mothers for their very lives and play to that dependency by getting into their heads right away. That’s why even newborns will mimic mommy and daddy—to get fed, changed, and touched. In fact, studies around touch, smell and other forms of interpenetration show that mammals’ brains develop best when interconnected with others. Orphans’ IQs increased after they were adopted by loving parents. “Mirror neurons” in our brains account for much of our interpenetrations with others. Literally we reflect what we see. We interpret others’ behaviors through an internal mimicking and rehearsal of what they’re doing. So when someone licks their lips, we might feel dry or need to do the same. That’s why we will watch a sad movie and cry or watch a comedy and laugh. Our emotional Wi-Fi picks up that of another person or group, making us feel as if we’ve just experienced something ourselves. Indeed, smiling and laughter are instinctive social bonding exercises among people. We laugh 30 times more when around people than by ourselves.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Social Animal: #2--Decision Making

Decision Making: 90% of all communication is nonverbal. So, what we take in lies well below the conscious surface of our minds. Yet that unconsciousness takes command of our minds when we make decisions—the most important of which is with whom we mate. Men are attracted to women based on a number of nonverbal cues like facial symmetry, full lips, full hair and waist-to-hip ratios. Indeed, both men and women are attracted to each other based on kindness and displays of compassion. And language itself fuels the courtship process. We have over 60,000 words but use only 100 words to express 60% of our world and 4,000 to express 98% of life. Emotion, it seems, is at the heart of all decision making. Researcher Kenneth Dodge says, “…emotion is the energy that drives, organizes, amplifies and attenuates cognitive activity and in turn is the experience and expression of this activity.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Social Animal: #1--Overview

Overview: It’s no startling surprise to find out that we’re all social animals, each belonging to our tribes, whatever we call them—families, companies, churches, or political parties. However, David Brooks, vaunted journalist and author, scrapes off the layers of paint atop that old truism down to its bare metal, exposing three key insights: 1) the power of the unconscious; 2) the centrality of emotions; and 3) the deep interpenetration and interconnectedness of our minds. Using the power of a narrative to weave in Brooks’ prodigious experience in politics and people, as well as the depth of his observations and interpretation of scientific research, the reader gets a decent story packed with solid facts. It’s a bit like reading excellent historical fiction; but, this book is about how we live today. Using two fictional characters, Harold and Erica, to carry the narrative and provide the scaffold for his story, Brooks borrows from the tradition of parable and fable, thus weaving extraordinary scientific research into a story we can actually remember. And these two characters emanate from two very different social classes—Harold from the upper middle class and Erica from a family of immigrants. As such, they come at life very differently, yet somehow connect with each other in what might be described as a rich cocktail of humanity. The author raises the old Greek notion that we suffer our way to wisdom. Such wisdom operates below the surface of our conscious in our intuitions, emotions, and biases that formulate our thoughts while we navigate the choices of life. In essence, we’ve all been given a gift of the unconscious—but until now have not realized its power so well. Brooks talks about a lot of skills that operate as we play out these three insights of unconsciousness, emotions, and interconnectedness. This week, I’ll explore his book in detail

Saturday, October 22, 2011

HBR October: Post #7--Coke CEO

Shaking Things Up at Coca-Cola (interview by Adi Ignatius, p. 94).
When CEO Muhtar Kent took over the CEO position at Coke in 2008, he strove to develop a long-term vision and double the business in 10 years—neither of which is a small feat. He also moved toward other supporting issues. For instance, he moved 20% of his media buys to social media, supports sustainable communities, and is pushing Coke to become water neutral…return every gallon of water Coke takes from the earth. Concerning leadership, he contends that CEOs, especially of large companies, have less power than most people think and can only influence people! I find influence a critical element for all CEOs to recognize and practice

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HBR October: Post #6-- Bad Bosses

The Cure for Horrible Bosses (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, p. 42).

We’ve all worked for jerks. Hopefully, only one or two in a lifetime. But the worst, according to Kanter, are disrespectful of your time. They ask for things without a decent deadline or apply more pressure than necessary. The best cure is forming alternative relationships among colleagues to weaken control of the autocratic boss. Oftentimes, such an alliance ensures that people above the horrible boss get wind of his/her style and will control or fire him/her.

HBR October: Post #5--Mentors & Proteges

The Relationship You Need to Get Right (Hewlettt and Marshall, p.131).

The authors studied one of the key relationships in creating successful leaders, the sponsor-protégé model. They discovered in the best of these relationships that the sponsor (or mentor) provides coaching, advocates for protégés, call in favors for them, and makes connections for them. On the other hand, protégés should be fiercely loyal, give 110% to any effort, and reciprocate. Further, both sponsor and protégé should subscribe to the “pay it forward” philosophy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

HBR October: Post #4--Performance

Defend Your Research: If You Want to Win, Tell Your Team It’s Losing (a Little) by John Berger, p.36.

In an experiment, various groups competing with others in “another room” were given different kinds of feedback. One group was told that they were far behind, another that they were slightly behind, and a third that they were slightly ahead. Only the group that was slightly behind substantially (with statistical significance) picked up its rate of performance in the second round of competition.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HBR October: Post #3--Retaining High Potentials

How to Hang On to Your High Potentials (Fernandez-Araoz, et al, p. 76).

Unemployment may be down, but only 15% of companies in North America have the level of high potentials they need. The talent wars are alive and well. In a key study conducted on high potentials, the authors (practitioners and academics) have developed what will become a classic in the field of talent management. They recommend developing a high potential program focused on corporate strategic alignment, a rigorous selection process, a balanced reward and incentive program (both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards). There are lots of specifics, examples, and meat in this article to help guide a company to start or modify its current high-potential company.

Friday, October 14, 2011

HBR October: Post #2--Finding the Right CEO

The Art and Science of Finding the Right CEO (Lafley & Tichy, p.67). The former chairman of Procter & Gamble writes about how seriously his company takes choosing the next CEO. In fact, he started the search for his successor the day he took over as CEO himself! Here’s what they did in a nutshell: PG set up a process for regular exposure of candidates to the board, established clear criteria for selection and measured candidates against those criteria, developed likely scenarios the company might be confronted with and matched candidates to them, identified “crucible” issues facing the company and placed candidates in charge of solving them, and Lafley himself became PG’s chief leadership coach.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Harvard Business Review Oct.: Post #1 Talent Management

Harvard Business Review, October 2011, as reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., October 2011
This month’s issue focuses on Talent Management:

Making Yourself Indispensable (Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger, p. 85). Leaders can become exceptional and indispensable by developing several key strengths, which are also important to the companies. Most execs go right to the latest 360’s weaknesses and chip away at them. Better to look at 16 key strengths for the several that you can take to a significant level…especially if you do a kind of leadership cross training that the authors discuss. This article is one that executive coaches will be discussing with their clients for a long time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #14--FINAL Post

Final Words: Richard Rumelt’s life work has been focused on strategic thought. His book gives us a glimpse into his engineer-academic-consultant’s brain, which is problem-oriented, strategic, and practical. The book is well worth reading by any serious-minded leader.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #13 Strategic Thinking--Keep Your Head

Keeping Your Head: Rumelt provides one of my favorite Rudyard Kipling quotes: “If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….” Rumelt contends that good strategy emerges from independent assessment, insight, and purpose. Bad strategy follows the herd headlong over the cliff. Remember the technology Dot-com bubble and subsequent burst of the 90s? Social herding presses us to accept “what is” because the herd says it is so. Taking the “inside view” (strategy-hypothesis testing), a wise leader pays attention to data and results of tests and not to the “echo chamber” of the crowd.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #12 Strategic Thinking--Using Your Head

Thinking Strategically:
Using Your Head: To use strategy well you must: 1) fight your own narrow (myopic) thinking; 2) question your own judgment; and 3) make and record your judgments. To help these three activities, Rumelt again discusses using the kernel (diagnosis, an overall guiding philosophy, and taking coherent action). He also mentions problem solving as a way of attacking or diagnosing the problem. Next, he offers “create and destroy” as a critical thinking technique. Developing a strong counter to your own strategy—whether a real panel of devil’s advocates or ones in your head—will help vet ideas that can stand up to challenge. Finally, good judgment comes from self knowledge and knowing others, as well as anticipating and testing your own thoughts. Taking a stand, defending, and then modifying your position are important skills for all leaders to learn.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #11 Strategic Thinking--The Science

Thinking Like a Strategist: In this section, Rumelt moves us from traditional wisdom about strategic thinking—putting on the hat of someone else when considering all aspects of a strategy—to taking such thinking to the next level, or “thinking about your own thinking.” Such metacognition can force leaders to consider how their thoughts emerged and were influenced to test the origins and validity of such thoughts.

a. The Science of Strategy: Both strategy and science test hypotheses—logical guesses about the future…what might be if we do this or do that. And like science, strategies must be tested, amended and retested. A good strategy helps us think about what directions will work in the future, and the best people to hypothesize those new paths are those closest to the action. Furthermore, Rumelt’s brief history of enlightenment—from the belief that everything is known, to what we must rediscover in the world around us every day—was enlightening! Galileo’s new hypothesis that the earth revolved around the sun changed astronomy. The Starbucks story about how Howard Schultz rethought his industry by combining the importing of strong coffee beans with the idea of establishing an Italian coffee house in the U.S. was a remarkable and insightful lesson on how hypotheses work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #10--Sources of Power

Sources of Power. Good strategy requires leaders to apply a variety of sources of power to any situation to make it happen. Coherent action comes from focused energy or power. Here are just several he mentions:
a. Leverage: Such power comes from anticipating and having insights into what’s most critical to a situation and then applying (leveraging) concentrated energy to it. Such insight into critical issues comes from practice and disciplined determination. Nothing is intuitive the first time you do it!
b. Proximate Objectives: Every parent knows the advantage of proximate objectives. By setting out achievable objectives, you can get kids from here to there. Kennedy did it with his audacious goal of putting a man on the moon. To do that, he set up goals to first have unmanned exploration, then larger booster rockets, and so on. One reasonable step at a time works.
c. Competitive Advantage: Rumelt argues: “…you cannot expect to make money—to get wealthier—by simply owning, buying or selling competitive advantage.” His point is that wealth increases when you can increase the advantage or when the demand for the resources underlying it increases. Thus, competitive advantage is dynamic and sometimes ephemeral—just ask Detroit!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #9 The Kernel--Coherent Action

Coherent Action: This final step takes the mental state of possessing a guiding policy and puts it into focused action. Ultimately, all strategy has to be actionable, or it’s just a great brainstorming exercise. Great strategy tells you what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to—and that’s no easy task. Furthermore, actions need to be coherent and related. When actions conflict with each other, confusion, disorder and misdirection dissipate focus on even the best diagnosed problems. The author summarizes this section: “Good strategy and good organization lie in specializing in the right activities and imposing only the essential amount of coordination.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #8 The Kernel--Guiding Policy

The Guiding Policy: This step in the process emerges directly from the diagnosis because it outlines a general approach for solving the problems posed in the diagnosis. Gerstner’s guiding approach was reallocation of IBM’s resources from main-frame technology to more customer-centric solutions. Guiding policies are less of a vision and more of a method—a way to approach the obstacle. Guiding policies are not the “what’s going on” but the “how we’ll approach it.”And, guiding policies lead to coherent action.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #7 The Kernel--Diagnosis

The Diagnosis: This step tries to answer the question: What’s going on here? Like medicine, leaders look for emergent patterns when trying to diagnose a problem. And reducing overly complex situations to a story or an analogy can often help leaders from becoming hopelessly stuck. Rumelt uses the Lou Gerstner story at IBM as a way to approach diagnosis. Gerstner determined that IBM needed to move from an integrated IT model to an integrated consulting model focused more on the customer than the technology. That story began to penetrate the market and change the course of IBM’s slump in the mid ‘90s.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #6 The Kernel

The Kernel of a Good Strategy: “Good strategy is coherent action backed by argument, an effective mixture of thought and action with a basic understanding of what I call the kernel.” For Rumelt, the kernel consists of three key elements: 1) A diagnosis—a simplified explanation of the issue or challenge being faced; 2) a guiding policy—an overall approach to face the obstacles identified; and 3) a set of coherent actions—focused actions to implement the guiding policy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #5--Why?

Why So Much Bad Strategy? To answer this question the author points to three problems. 1) The unwillingness or inability to choose. To create a coherent plan to execute a strategy, you have to say yes to some things, but just as often you must say “no” to others. This gets very hard when executives have pet projects and/or resources they are loathe to give up in service of a new strategy. Unless it’s a dire state, the status quo wins every time. The “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy compelled people in Detroit to keep making big cars long after things changed, but no one could see it or wanted to react to it. 2) Template-Style Strategy: Here Rumelt does a frontal assault on the typical vision-mission-values-strategy templates used by so many consultants with companies, churches, government agencies and nonprofits. One example he uses to show the futility of this approach is Enron’s values: “Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence!” He says: “…template-style strategy frees them from the onerous work of analyzing the true challenges faced by the client.” Thus, by couching issues in the more positive terms of this model, people can avoid the very difficult issues so no feelings are hurt. 3) New Thought: For ages, people have subscribed to the notion that you get what you think about. Rumelt beats up on this idea by offering the fact that we also have to think about not-so-happy thoughts if we want to vet a workable strategy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #4--Bad Strategy

Bad Strategy. Rumelt uses the Iraq invasion under the leadership of George W. Bush as an example of bad strategy. Note that Rumelt could have just as easily used Lyndon Johnson’s entrance into Vietnam as an example. Thus, this is not a disease of any one political party. But having followed faulty, under-vetted intelligence in both cases (Iraq and Vietnam), the U.S. ran headlong into two wars without a coherent policy. The results of such a lack of coherence cost both physical and psychological wounds, as well as a king’s fortune to wage two unnecessary wars. The costs of both wars in terms of death, pain, suffering, loss of national stature and economics have been staggering. Rumelt discusses a number of factors that can lead to such short sightedness and misdirection: Fluff, using indefinite language and strategic buzzwords; failure to face the challenge by not properly identifying real obstacles; mistaking goals for strategy by focusing on numbers, not real challenges; bad strategic objectives based on a disconnect between goals and strategies. On the other hand, a good strategy leverages a company’s strengths to overcome an obstacle to get to its vision.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #3--Power

Discovering Power: I have always loved the story about David and Goliath, which Rumelt uses to make his point. David, a Jewish boy and a shepherd, took on the menacing Philistine giant, Goliath—much to the skepticism of everyone, including King Saul. It was a foregone conclusion that David would be crushed by the massive warrior. However, David’s rock, hurled from his shepherd’s slingshot, hit the only weakness unprotected by armor—Goliath’s forehead. Thus, the little shepherd boy defeated the colossus by applying his power to an opponent’s vulnerability. Wal-Mart did the same sort of thing when it went against convention. Retail wisdom says that a full discount store needs a surrounding population of about 100,000 to succeed. To get into smaller communities, Sam Walton decided to change the definition of store to that of “network” of stores—therefore enlarging his “local” market. Using a coherent, integrated design, he employed bar codes, integrated logistics, just-in-time deliveries, and much more to convert to a strategy that changed the equation. Thus, he created a responsive network, and effectively changed the definition of “store” to “network.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #2: Unexpected

Good Strategy is Unexpected: “A good strategy has coherence, coordinating actions, policies, and resources so as to accomplish an important end.” Rumelt explains how companies like Apple did the unexpected by developing a coherent strategy to cut complexity back to compete better in the future. Thus, Steve Jobs unexpectedly cut developers, designers, and distributors. U.S. Army General Petraeus unexpectedly moved his strategy toward protecting citizens in Iraq rather than attacking Hussein’s troops. Being deft and unpredictable in the moment and being analytical, great leaders put the right emphasis on the right problem and succeed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Strategy-Bad Strategy: Post #1: Overview

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt (Crown Business, 2011)—reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., September 2011
Overview: A CEO’s primary job is to create value for stakeholders of a company—stockholders, employees, and customers. To do that, a CEO has to develop a vision of where s/he wants to take a company and then get everyone on board, focused on that possible future. Such a direction or path only becomes evident with a clear strategy—a way of getting from here to there—despite obstacles, barriers, and missteps along the way. Unfortunately, many companies and organizations either don’t have a comprehensible strategy or have one so full of air, puff, and buzzwords that there is no “there” there. Often, CEOs and other leaders will place a stake in the ground that’s purely a financial marker or hold up a sign that says “we want to be best in class,” whatever that means.
There are rafts of strategy templates to be found on the Web; however, Richard Rumelt—an engineer by training, a savvy academic from UCLA’s School of Management, and a management consultant with solid credentials—pooh-poohs such quick fix, surface treatments. Rather, he provides clear-eyed, practical insights into creating a solid strategic approach: “Good strategy is coherent action backed by argument, an effective mixture of thought and action with a basic understanding of what I call the kernel.” For Rumelt, the kernel consists of three key elements: 1) A diagnosis—a simplified explanation of the issue or challenge being faced; 2) a guiding policy—an overall approach to face the obstacles identified; and 3) a set of coherent actions—focused actions to implement the guiding policy. Achieving success through good strategy requires applying sources of power toward the challenge at hand. Rumelt offers a series of these sources of power in the later chapters, including leverage, dynamics, focus, design and advantage, among others. And, in the final chapters, he takes time to teach us all how to think more strategically, using the power of scientific and independent thinking—despite the powerful sway of the crowd. In all, Rumelt helps us take a new, clear, and intelligent look at strategy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Crossing the Divide #9 FINAL Post

Final Words: Research in intergroup relations is not just about not disliking or decreasing negative feelings toward out-groups; it’s about fostering positive relations with all groups to become productive. Finally, this author quotes Todd Pittinsky, the editor of this edition, in a brilliant metaphor that sums up the entire book: “‘To transform an overgrown lot into a garden, you not only need to pull the weeds. You also need to plant flowers.’”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crossing the Divide #8--Reaching Across the Aisle

Cases in Context
--The final chapters of the book offer stories and cautionary tales about the applications of intergroup leadership. From case studies in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US, the authors give us example after example of how important and complex intergroup leadership is and thus worthy of research and practice investigation into the future.

-- Reaching Across the Aisle: Innovations for Cross-Party Collaboration by Mark Gerzon particularly captured my interest because of the current divisiveness in Congress and its ill effects on the country. Here’s a great quote by U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT): “All of us are here for a common purpose, to make the United States a better place. There is and must be room for all our voices to be heard to achieve our common purpose.” Indeed, the authors warn that to compete globally we need to free Congress from the straightjacket of two-party polarization. Following a variety of offsite retreats to address the issue of Congressional intergroup leadership, the author reports these five solutions toward a more productive governing body: 1) Catalyzing cross-boundary leadership from the inside; 2) Creating incentives for co-leadership that build trust; 3) Adopting ground rules that promote genuine dialogue; 4) Fostering systematic rather than partisan thinking; 5) Inspiring learning and decreasing stereotyping. Finally, could you imagine—if Congress could get its act together—the kind of country we could be?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crossing the Divide #7--Operating Across Boundaries

Operating Across Boundaries: Leading Adaptive Change by Ronald Heifetz. Intergroup relationships occur everywhere in our history from one clan marrying into another, to mergers and acquisitions, to Congress operating. The complex relationships between groups (intergroup) and among groups (intragroup) create a level of complexity and nuance that is required for adaptation/survival in a new and ever changing world. Heifetz is a world-class mind at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who has studied power, adaptation and survival. He notes that, like DNA that’s evolving, social adaptability works best when occurring gradually and constantly. Nonetheless, such change can create a sense of loss—and emotions of resistance that come with those emotions associated with loss. In this piece he discusses three aspects of adaptive work. 1) The commonality of loss. People can accept change, but not loss. Loss of power, status, influence and the like create an emotional wake too big to overcome. Thus, affected people put up decoys to avoid tackling the truly tough issues. And avoiding such tough issues often results in bigger eruptions down the road. 2) The politics of inclusion. Part of adaptive work is defining the problem and the inconsistencies presented and then identifying and bringing together the right parties to solve the problem. Ignoring critical social issues led to the Civil War…where we sidestepped addressing the economic issue of slavery only to turn around and pay an enormous price. 3) Refashioning loyalties across boundaries. Adaptive work requires convincing people to refashion their in-group loyalties to work across boundaries and forge coalitions. They must then, even after reaching intergroup decisions, sell their “new” position to their own constituents—which can be both difficult and treacherous. The author’s examples of the assassinations of Rabin, Sadat and Arafat were stunning cases of just how treacherous constituencies can be. Strategies among diverse interworking groups about how to introduce change to their various subgroup constituencies are often neglected and often fail.

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