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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Leadership Apology

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

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

  3. Ask for their forgiveness.

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

  5. Enlist their help.

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

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

  3. Will you please forgive me?

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wallet Exercise: Values

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

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

The Jefferson Tombstone Exercise

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chinese Food, Teams and a Sense of Urgency

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

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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Leadership in Healthcare: Hospitals, Gangs, and Corporate Health

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tribal Leadership

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Presidential Leadership (video)

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

Learning Organizations

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

Legacy Leadership

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Focus on Results, not Reasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You get what you focus on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

IBD's Top 10 Secrets to Success

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

Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment.
Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
Goals are nothing without action. Don’t be afraid to get started now. Just do it.
Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills.
Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.
Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.
Don’t let other people or things distract you.
Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.
Otherwise, Numbers 1-9 won’t matter.

Quarterbacks and Leadership

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Study on Power

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

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

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

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


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Five Dimensions of CEO Performance to Consider

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Leadership: Fred Smith, CEO FedEx

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

Darden Leadership Speaker Series: Kevin Plank CEO Under Armour

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top Leaders: Extensive Study Reveals Key Characteristics

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

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

How to Protect Your Job in a Recession

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2008

Center for Creative Leadership Podcasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authentic Leadership

Executive Summary from HBR:

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

One Minute Entrepreneur

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

Tony Mayo's Blog

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

TED--Ideas worth spreading

Week of December 06, 2008

This week: New inventions and new worlds: Second Life

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

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Greatness

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Opening Chapter--The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest

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

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

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

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

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